Our time as Student Fellows has come to an end and I have to say it’s surreal to be writing my sign off post when it feels like only yesterday I made my bilt.online debut. It’s been a year characterised by continuous learning, lots of exciting opportunities, and a healthy amount of silly antics over Microsoft Teams. Overall, it’s been a fantastic experience from which I’ve gained so much.
No doubt my biggest undertaking this year has been organising the second edition of the BILT Student Research Journal as part of our ‘Students as Researchers’ project with Rhona. The aim of the project was to encourage students to envision themselves as co-researchers and to value their own work. Rhona and I spent countless hours over Zoom, our record was 7 hours for a single call, meticulously planning the process. Although things didn’t always go exactly as we’d planned, which is inevitable when leading a large cohort of students, our hard work definitely paid off as this year we had 200 applicants to the Subject Editorial Board, with 123 being accepted and a further 200 abstract submissions. The response from students this year has been amazing, which is a testament to how much taught students want the opportunity to showcase their research and to get involved with the academic community at the University of Bristol. It’s been a privilege to work on the journal as Co-Editor in Chief. I hope next year’s Fellows build on this momentum and that the 2022 edition is even more successful.
Of course, I’ve been up to lots of things besides the journal this year, including blog writing, co-running and co-chairing the Undergraduate Research Festival, and working with the Disabilities Network and the Disabilities Service on their experiences of blended learning. In addition to this it’s been my privilege to present at conferences alongside the other Student Fellows as well as being a panellist for this years Bristol Teaching Awards.
When thinking about where BILT and the Students Fellows will go next, of course my biggest wish is to see the journal come back bigger and better than ever. Aside from this, I think the pandemic has brought to light many of the issues that already existed within higher education, and the upheaval to the system provides BILT with the opportunity to empower the students affected and implement positive change. I hope they continue to prioritise the effects of virtual learning on students and the issues the pandemic has highlighted. Having seen the Student Fellow themes for 2021/2022, I think that there will be ample opportunity for the fellows to get stuck into this work, especially through the new themes ‘embedding sustainable development into the curriculum’ and ‘experiences of disabled students’.
My one year stint at the University of Bristol could have been very isolating, considering we’ve spent most of the year learning from home, but working for BILT has allowed me to feel part of the university. I’d like to thank the entire BILT team for making us feel so welcome, for supporting our ventures and providing us with opportunities we otherwise would never have had. I’d also like to thank Ash, our line manager, who has gone above and beyond all year to support us, she’s really the best manager ever. Finally, I’d like to thank Jonny, Sama and Rhona for being the best co-workers and friends. You’ve made my UoB experience and I’m really going to miss you all.
It would be difficult to pinpoint the single biggest lesson learnt during my time at BILT but I will say that I’ve realised the power and weight of the student voice. We have been met with so much enthusiasm by staff across the university in our various ventures this year which has helped me to appreciate how willing the university is to partner with its students to better education. My advice to the new fellows is to not be afraid to think big just because you’re students. Send that email, pitch your ideas and trust your initiative because you have nothing to lose but so much to gain.