Reflecting on student welcome

Posted in: students' union, support, transition, welcome

I started writing this blog in mid-October and suddenly realised it was November and this semester is quickly flying by! However, even though it might now feel like a distant memory, I think it is important to stop and take a moment to reflect on all the amazing welcome activities that took place in late September and early October to welcome new and returning students to Bath. For many of us we probably only see a small part of induction, whether it is helping with accommodation arrivals, departmental induction activities, or seeing the SU Freshers’ Fair. There is such a wide breadth of activities going on across all departments and the SU that I can’t possibly cover them all here, but I just wanted to highlight a few. 

Julian (PVC Education & Global) and I had the privilege of introducing University Life talks over arrivals weekend hosted by colleagues in Student Support and the SU. Each of the 15 talks is attended by hundreds of new taught students invited by accommodation groups (including a session for new students in private accommodation). The buzz of excitement at these talks is overwhelming as many of the students have met for the first time that day and are starting to get to know each other. It is a real privilege to see them at the start of their journey here at Bath. 

While the University Life talks are a well-established part of induction, there were several new and innovative initiatives being piloted this year. The new Global Citizenship Award was piloted with three cohorts and included delivery of workshops on consent, wellbeing, harassment prevention and climate literacy – all themes and values at the heart of our university community. Students that complete all four sessions with be given recognition in the form of a Global Citizenship Award as evidence of their shared commitment. Another pilot focussed on our new PGT students, during welcome week five PGT Buddy Schemes ran across the Faculties of Science, HSS and School of Management in partnership with the SU Peer Mentor Team. New PGT students were matched with other new students on their course and invited to events to get to know their buddy. The aim of the scheme is to encourage greater peer-to-peer connectivity during the students’ transition to study at the university. What is so great to see with both pilots is the positive collaborative approach taken by professional services, academic departments, and the SU. I look forward to seeing the outcomes and evaluation of both pilots, and how we can develop this work. 

A huge amount of welcome week is supported by SU activities. The SU recruited and trained over 100 Freshers’ Week Captains this year, gave out 2,000 FW t-shirts, and sold 1,800 Freshers’ Week wristbands. Over 60 individual SU-led events were held, ranging from inflatables day, pub quizzes, vintage fairs to city tours, not to mention over 150 student groups taking part in fairs, offering ‘give it a go’ sessions, and attending Sports Day and SU Groups Day. The SU Peer Mentor team held 21 PM welcome events in collaboration with academic departments across the Faculties/School. The SU also ran a PG-focussed suite of events including a cheese & wine night, a pub tour, Bollywood night and visits to local attractions and Bristol Habourside. It cannot be underestimated the amount of time and effort that goes into all these events so thank you to our students and SU staff who make it possible! 

While some welcome activities are large in scale, others are more bespoke such as ‘Beginning at Bath’ which is held in mid-September, well before Welcome Week, and provides a transition programme for new students with autism. Organised by the Disability team in Student Support, the event kicked off with students participating in a treasure hunt, led by student ambassadors, to familiarise themselves with campus. This was followed by workshops on Moodle and Academic Skills, as well as a library tour. Students also met representatives from the Students’ Union, Social Networking Group and Disability Service during the two-day event and had the opportunity to spend the night in campus accommodation. 

Moving into new accommodation can be intimidating for many students, particularly when moving away from home for the first time. This is where the ResLife Ambassadors make such a big impact. They help with key collection during arrivals and undertook around 400 household visits in halls during welcome week. Their support does not stop there, over 800 students have attended ResLife events so far, with 39 events happening since arrivals weekend. ResLife also launched a new website in July ahead of student welcome, providing dedicated event information, peer driven content by ResLife ambassadors, and articles helping students get the best from their time in halls. In September 2023 the pages had a staggering 31,718 views! 

I also want to mention induction for our new doctoral students. The annual Doctoral Welcome Reception took place on Thursday 12 October. This event enabled students across disciplines to network with each other and meet staff, which is so important for research students who may not get the same opportunities as taught students to meet peers. There was also the opportunity to meet and find out about doctoral groups and networks, and Doctoral Development Facilitators, a group of current doctoral students, were present to greet new students, answer any questions and run a networking and engagement activity to help students get to know each other. 

I think we can all agree there is a staggering amount of work and dedication that goes in to providing all these events for our new students – I want to thank all the students and staff who contribute to making Bath such a welcoming community.  

Finally, I want to reflect on the fact ‘welcome week’ is not actually just a week. Not because it takes months of preparation (which it does), but because induction does not end when teaching starts…. Students will be grappling with lots of new things throughout their first semester and year here. Whether it is finding their way around campus, getting used to lectures and labs, or perhaps feeling homesick or like they don’t fit in. It takes time to find your way when living, studying, researching, and working in a new place. I hope students feel like they can reach out at any time to ask for the advice and guidance they need, whether from their Peer Mentor or Buddy, Personal Tutor or Supervisor, ResLife and Security, or Student Support.  

Posted in: students' union, support, transition, welcome

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