Welcome to July’s issue of Teaching Matters: Alumni Experiences

Image created by Catherine Cordasco. Submitted for United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives – help stop the spread of COVID-19, Unsplash, CC0.

Welcome to July’s Issue: Alumni experiences

Since we received a large amount of contributions for last month’s issue on ‘Student Transitions’, we decided to expand it and slightly shorten this month’s issue that will focus on the ‘Alumni experience and connecting learning and teaching in the workplace’. Through this theme, we seek to understand the role Alumni play in generating a greater sense of community for students at the University of Edinburgh, a community that accompanies them throughout their lives well beyond the classroom…

In Latin, alumnus means ‘foster son’. In other words, the university becomes a student’s adopted home, a place in which she can feel safe to explore, make mistakes, ask questions, dig deep into her potential and take risks, all while being surrounded by people from various horizons who are united in a shared learning quest. Therefore, the university experience is not just a stage in a student’s life but a defining and formative moment that will have a profound, long-term influence. Many students discover their talents at university or make life-changing encounters. This is why the work of the Alumni & Development department is crucial in helping former students maintain a link with their Alma Mater, as a space for connecting and keeping up to date on opportunities, events, news, even 20 or 40 years after graduation. Conversely, fostering a sense community for alumni is important for incoming and current students as it shows that university isn’t a linear journey, with a beginning and an end, but a much wider web of relations, openings and possibilities. The Alumni network evidences to the multiple paths possible after studying at Edinburgh, inspiring new, current and exchange students to be creative and inquisitive about opportunities that lie beyond their university experience.

Today, focusing on community and belonging seems even more important in an era of hybrid teaching and physical distancing. These changes will impact all of the ‘in-between’ moments that make up the student experience: from the hug after a hard test to a festive gathering to celebrate the end of a degree. This is why initiatives such as the ‘Sharing Things’ podcast or the alumni newsletter are precious. They remind students that they are not alone in their journey and that their belonging to a vibrant, international community remains intact, even if some of those encounters might have to take place virtually in the upcoming months.

To this extent, the University’s Alumni & Development page regularly updates its ‘things to share’ section to highlight some of the things that former students from across the university have been doing. For instance, during the covid-19 epidemic, twenty recent social work graduates from the School of Social and Political Science took part in the fight against the virus right after graduating, while students in their last year of medical studies were able to graduate early to join in as well.

This month we will hear from:

  • Sonia Mullineux, Head of Alumni Communications, who will talk about the university’s ‘Sharing Things’ podcast: a series of conversations between former students and staff members on all things ‘Edinburgh’…
  • Various alumni such as Somia Imran, who recently completed her PhD and who will talk about her experience with tutoring…
  • Kerry Balkwill, Alumni Relations Projects Officer, will introduce the improvements made to Platform One, the university’s online meeting place for students, alumni, staff and volunteers…
  • And many more!

I’d like to give a special thanks to En-Chi Liu for her invested help in promoting the series and soliciting posts from alumni.

Previous teaching matters posts that you might find interesting:

Happy reading!

Joséphine Foucher

Joséphine is doing a PhD in Sociology at The University of Edinburgh. Her research looks at the intersection between art and politics. She works with Jenny Scoles as the Teaching Matters Deputy Editor and Student Engagement Officer.

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