Using social events to provide informal support for students

Cat Jones, School of Mechanical Engineering Sciences

In the School of Mechanical Engineering Sciences (MES), a variety of events have been held for all students and staff in the school. Regular events have included tea/coffee drop-ins, jigsaw and boardgame afternoons, lunch meetups, outdoor games, and lunchtime walks. Some of these events have been open to the wider FEPS faculty too. There have also been one-off events, such as the Guildford Ghost Tour and a pizza night.

People eating pizza

Turn out for events has been variable – sometimes with just a couple of attendees, whilst another time there were nearly 100 – though the average attendance is around 20-30. There has also been a selection of events open to just PGRs and staff in FEPS, including lunchtime yoga classes, walks, and coffee mornings. Additionally, a Seminar Series has been held for staff and PGRs in MES.

One of the great things about the events is that they have created a space for students and staff to have a little fun together. Staff and students have chatted in a relaxed setting – away from lectures and exams and had the chance to talk about anything, laugh and play games together. It has been a great way to informally get students’ perspectives on their experience of the course and university, as well as to listen to them and their ideas for improving their course and university experience.

People playing in a field

It has been heart-warming to hear students sharing their problems, listening to others, and offering advice and support to people (they only just met)! It has also been lovely to see students making new friends, having a laugh, and sharing experiences with staff and students across the year groups, schools and departments.

People walking by a river

Organising these events has been very rewarding, with many students (and staff) expressing their gratitude for the opportunities the events have provided them with. Students have mentioned how much fun they have had attending the events, as well as how helpful they have been for them to meet new people and make friends!

People doing a jigsaw

Lectures and tutorials can be packed with so much formal teaching, that there is little time for the relaxed chats about students’ careers, futures, concerns, and dreams. Providing weekly drop-in sessions and regular social events creates a space where these conversations can happen easily and in a relaxed environment. These informal chats and relaxed environments can be a great way to develop strong relationships with our students.

Shelf of games

One of the great things about offering a range of events is seeing how different students attend different events. Some students are not interested in rounders, whilst others are not interested in pizza or tea and coffee. Some like jigsaws, some opt for a walk. By offering a variety of events, on different days and at different times, I hope we can appeal to a diverse group of students. Going forward I hope to continue to further diversify the events and activities on offer. Of course, many students do not have time to attend these events, though my impression is that many do appreciate the thought, regardless.