Social change, innovative teaching and engaged students? Yes please!

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When I heard that there was the possibility Lancaster University could send students to Paris for the World Business Forum I didn’t hesitate to get stuck in! I thought I should use this blog post as an opportunity to explain the reasons why this trip aligns so well with our values and ambitions in the Students’ Union:

Sustainable Social Change:
Starting with the purpose of COP21: the connections with LUSU and our contributions to Green Lancaster (Edible Campus, Exodus, Green Lancaster Week to name a few) should hopefully be obvious! Over the last two years we have involved over 2000 students and staff in hands on experiences designed to make people question their behaviours relating to sustainability and to help make Lancaster as sustainable as possible: We grow vegetables on campus with students who have never seen a vegetable grow before, let alone sow the seed, pick the produce and sell it at market; our team of students who deliver the Exodus project over summer prevented 40+ tonnes of waste from student Accommodation going to landfill; our recycled bike sales and regular maintenance stalls make cycling accessible to even more people.

We believe that hands on, practical experiences are the only way to truly make people question their own behaviours and to learn about sustainability in a memorable and engaging way. I’m not sure you get more practical or hands on than physically going to COP21 and I’m not sure you get more memorable or engaging either.

World At Lancaster:
Since taking 6 students to Delhi in 2010 we have grown our overseas programme to a scale that sees approx. 200 Lancaster students travel to Asia, Africa and North America; nearly 300 visit Lancaster from countries including Pakistan, India, Nigeria and Palestine; and a programme of events throughout the year to encourage international integration here on campus and celebrate the diversity of cultures we have studying here! Last year saw a big step in enabling students to travel through their department: Psychology students visiting Kuala Lumpur and PPR & Entrepreneurship students travelling to Boston & New York.

We deliver this programme because of we believe that today’s students benefit immeasurably from building an international network, considering their role as global citizens and pushing themselves out of their comfort zone to truly discover their bigger potential. We are extremely excited to be working with OWT to deliver this life changing experience this December.

Academic Partnerships & Curriculum Innovation:
For a long time we have been trying to develop more and more collaborations with academic departments to enable Lancaster students to volunteer, travel and and deliver their big ideas through their degree. Not only does this make these invaluable experiences that are such an important part of the Lancaster experience more accessible to those who previously didn’t have the time to access them but it also enhanced the experiences in many ways! Students were able to engage with the local/global community, develop workplace skills and consider their own aspirations and values in a way that was relevant and contributed to their academic journey rather than it being presented as something separate that was not relevant to their studies.

We started doing this first with our schools volunteering and very early on noticed a marked difference in quality between those students visiting schools as part of their degree and those not. Those volunteering through their degree were often more dedicated, more confident and more reflective. This was not just because they were being graded on their performance but because they could see the relevance to them and were volunteering in an area that they were passionate about, be this geography, linguistics or psychology! We have now grown to being involved in over 18 modules, ranging from those going to schools to campaigning about sustainability on campus, conducting memory research in Kuala Lumpur and delivering art events in the local community.

This trip is the next step in all of the above journeys and aims for us and I cannot wait to see the passion, knowledge and energy of these 8 students in practice in Paris!

Joe Bourne, Student Engage Manager, Lancaster University Students’ Union

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