BILT Student Fellow Reflections: Rhona Wilkinson
I don’t know how to sum up my experience with BILT in this one blog. I would honestly say that being a part of BILT and being a Student Fellow has made my year. I was nervous to start – especially with it being online. I didn’t even really know what Microsoft Teams was until I started! But the work excited me, I had so many ideas and passion and I couldn’t wait to get started.
This year we worked on all of the themes together – enhancing our cooperation and teamwork. I think this really allowed us to form a strong community feel amongst the team. I looked forward to our weekly catch-ups – laughing at Ash’s John Barrowman and mugs obsession, talking about reality TV and of course, doing some really exciting, meaningful work.
Me and Chloe took the reigns in leading the development of the second edition of The BILT Student Research Journal (of course with the help of our team). This was a project relating to the ‘Students as Researchers’ theme which we are really passionate about. We decided to expand the journal to include taught postgraduates along with undergraduates – seeking to provide a platform in which student’s work from all years can be celebrated together, a space where we can learn from one another. The first task was an extensive communication strategy to recruit editors to the board and when I say extensive, I really do mean it (we even had a colour coordinated spreadsheet!). Our work paid off – we had a team of 123 people in 14 subject boards and over 200 students submitted their work to be published on a wide range of issues that they are passionate about. Running the journal has been so rewarding – we are providing an opportunity for students of all ages to be empowered, to recognise their work as meaningful research and a platform for people to connect with one another.
The other theme that I worked on was decolonising the curriculum. I wanted to help contribute to the process of critiquing what is being taught – what is included and excluded – and igniting debates and discussions. This is so important to ensure that teaching and learning can be inclusive and we can truly understand our society and the world. We thought it would be effective to establish a ‘Decolonising the Curriculum Interview Series’ – providing platforms for those who are doing research and work on the issue across the university. It was a nerve-racking experience in which I had to push myself out of my comfort zone to take initiative to organise interviews and ask questions. I even had to try and learn how to work Audacity to edit podcasts!! However, with the help of Sama, we were able to engage in such interesting and exciting conversations, learning from so many amazing people and contributing, even in a small way, to the important (and needed) decolonising process. Me and Sama are continuing to collaborate with BILT throughout August to develop a Decolonising the Curriculum Resource Hub on the BILT website – something I am so excited to get stuck into and continue our work on decolonising!
I want to take the opportunity to say thank the BILT team for being so supportive. When I was struggling with my laptop, BILT offered me a new laptop and Amy Wilson walked to my house to drop it off!! You guys honestly care about us so much and want the best for us and I am so grateful. To Chloe, Jonny, Sama and Ash, thank you for being helpful, kind and funny. I honestly love the connections we have made with each other and thankful for the opportunity to work with you. Ash, thank you for being the best line manager; your above and beyond support has truly been incredible.
My advice to future Student Fellows would be to have confidence in yourself!!! I know it can seem so daunting sending emails and contacting those at the university who may seem ‘high up’ but remember; the work you are doing is important, people want to hear about what you are doing and help contribute!! Believe in yourself and your position as a student – we have power and this role allows you to use it. I would also say, use the opportunities this role opens up to you! Attend conferences, go to seminars (or webinars) etc. Doing so has allowed me to connect with people throughout the university and I was even invited to talk at an Academic Conference on Education for Sustainable Development which was incredible and empowering. This role is a platform for you to not only work on amazing, significant projects but also truly develop yourself personally, academically and professionally. Pushing yourself put of your comfort zone is scary, but is so worth it.