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SEC 2022: Belonging and Student Voice


Natalja Nassonova is a Student Research Assistant for LITE. Her role is to support LITE fellows in carrying out their research and to provide the student voice of reasoning to discussions and ideas.

This year we invited her to attend the University’s Annual Student Education Conference (SEC) and to offer her reflections from a student perspective.

Here what she had to say……


The annual Student Education Conference is organised by LITE to bring together the community of staff and students who are committed to positive change to the learning and teaching experience at the University through research, scholarship and innovation.

The theme for this year’s SEC was Belonging and Community. Student voice plays a particularly important role in this theme. The Opening Plenary for this event featured 5 students, including myself, sharing our vision and experience of what the sense of belonging means for us at Leeds, as well as our lived experience of discovering where we belong at the University and how we are implementing positive change there. It was a particularly interactive session, and I thoroughly enjoyed the level of communication we maintained with the attending University staff members, throughout the session. We answered a wide range of questions from a broad identity of “an international student” to how extracurricular activities can support students in future workplaces.

Being a student, it is very important to know that my perspective is valued and informative to those who teach me.

The event took place over two days and included welcome sessions, a series of sessions about the research projects related to the theme, poster exhibitions, and other interesting sessions, such as the keynote presentation by Eric Mazur, Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics from Harvard University. As a student, I was impressed by the teaching method Eric has developed over the course of his more than four decades-long careers at Harvard and would be supportive of the implementation of this approach in teaching at Leeds. The story he conveyed throughout the presentation was structured in a way that kept attendees intrigued and therefore focused on his narrative. By the end of his presentation, Eric gave us a short physics lesson, so we could understand the logic behind his method and how it works for students.

Overall, the conference was very interactive. 'Gathertown', a web-conferencing platform with virtual “rooms”, where researchers presented their posters and conversed with attendees, made the conference feel very “present”, regardless of the fact it was conducted online.

The second day of the conference started with an introduction from LUU Executive Officers Natasha Fowler-Ekar (Equality & Liberation Officer) and Beth Eaton (Wellbeing Officer). Several important matters were discussed during the welcome session, some of which resonated a lot with me, such as the importance of diversity for shaping a comprehensive learning experience, the value of lived experiences and the validation of subjective interpretation, and how it impacts the sense of belonging we have as students.

Another fascinating aspect of the conference was parallel sessions featuring versatile research projects around student education. As a student, I was impressed to see advancements in a range of different aspects of teaching, such as building learning communities and creating belonging in digital spaces. I look forward to seeing these research findings implemented in practice, as we move towards digitalising education.

Bearing in mind the conference is held to improve the teaching and learning experience, I hope that student engagement in the Student Education Conference will increase over time, serving as a platform for open discussions between students and staff to find solutions together and strengthen the sense of belonging within the university.