Fiona Sunderland, former SUSU Vice President Activities and now MSc Biomedical Engineering student, looks back on her internship as Student Insights Coordinator with the Arts team at University of Southampton, sharing what she has enjoyed and learnt.
After what seems like no time at all, my three-month internship has already come to an end! I’ve been working closely with the Arts and Culture Team, including our venues Turner Sims and John Hansard Gallery, to help communicate the University’s broad cultural offer to our student community – from creative student societies, to events presented by different faculties – in consultation with students over the summer. Whilst my internship may now be over, I hope to keep working with the team as I continue with my studies.
I have had the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects, helping to represent student viewpoints. This has varied from contributing to the development of the ‘Home of Creativity’ student communications campaign, creating Welcome resources for the 2020 cohort, and embedding the student voice into long-term work.
Right at the beginning of my internship I was tasked with developing what has evolved to become the Home of Creativity campaign. The initial concept was conceived as a way of increasing student awareness of the arts with the aim of increasing engagement in extra-curricular cultural and creative activities at the University. I designed a consultation framework to get input from students. I organised and led a series of student focus groups, asking participants for their opinions, perceptions and general experience of engaging with the arts. We spoke with students from different backgrounds, different courses and with varying levels of interaction with the arts. The responses we got were great and really shaped the direction of the campaign.
As we were finalising the campaign, I worked with the team to ensure the student voice was at the centre of the ‘Home of Creativity’ campaign including in developing the themes: ‘Relax’, ‘Explore’, ‘Take Part’, etc. Finally, we launched the Home of Creativity campaign at the beginning of term and it’s really exciting to see something I worked on being put into action.
Following on from the student focus groups, I have put into motion the creation of an Arts and Culture Student Consultation Group so that there will be more regular opportunities to feedback throughout the year and get more students involved in the arts.
My most enjoyable job has been creating the Treasure Hunt as part of the 2020 cohort induction. This year has been challenging (for obvious reasons!) and planning welcome activities to engage new students has been particularly difficult. With every department planning ‘virtual’ tours and entirely online content, I was very keen to organise something that allowed students to feel integrated into the city and that actually involved physically exploring whilst still being safe. Despite having lived in Southampton I’ve really not got to see all that the city has to offer and putting this together gave me an opportunity to explore all the arts and culture we’re always talking about. I really hope that students take part and get to know the city they’re studying in – even if most their study is online!
It has been a pleasure getting to work with the Arts Team as well as the venue teams and developing relationships with staff that I had only met briefly in my previous role. I really learned to appreciate the importance of student engagement with the arts and I hope that my time has helped with integrating this more fully into the structure of the arts offering.