"Student Connectors have shaped every aspect of the Spirit of Sussex Award": Maddie Taylor, SOSA Manager
By: Polly Wallace-Kruger
Last updated: Tuesday, 26 January 2021
The Spirit of Sussex Award celebrates our students' extra-curricular and voluntary achievements. By taking part in different activities, such as part-time work or volunteering, students can gain points towards either a Bronze, Silver or Gold Spirit of Sussex Award. These will be awarded at their Graduation ceremony. The award can help students feel involved with life at Sussex; make friends and build a wider network while with us; and get a job after their studies by showcasing all their achievements to future employers.
The Connector Programme is a way for students at Sussex to inspire and actively make change at the University, developing leadership, teamwork and communication skills – and getting paid at the same time. Student Connectors work in partnership with staff to find strategies and implement ideas that will enhance student life in different ways. The aim is for Sussex to better represent students and provide what they really want and need at university.
Meet Maddie Taylor, Spirit of Sussex Award Manager and Abby Aladesuru, Student Connector and Engineering student. In this interview, Maddie describes the impact of Student Connectors on the development and progress of the Award, and Abby explores the benefits of co-creating with staff and building a sense of community with other Connectors.
Connector Programme: Tell us about your Connector work – what does it focus on?
Maddie Taylor (Spirit of Sussex Award Manager): I work with a team of seven Student Connectors who work with me to design, shape and deliver the Spirit of Sussex Award. From the very beginning of the project we knew that it would be important for students to co-create the Award; by having student input we can be sure that the Award is relevant, exciting and accessible for all students.
Abby Aladesuru (Student Connector): I am a Spirit of Sussex Award Connector; I have been focusing on getting ready for the Award’s launch. I worked on planning launch events with my fellow Connectors. It has been difficult given the current circumstances; with so much uncertainty in the air, planning events hasn’t been an easy task at all. I originally planned events which would occur on campus, however this was unable to happen. My team and I have had to plan events, then contingency plans to these events and create a whole new scheme of events catered to the new virtual world.
Connector Programme: What is the co-creation relationship between students and staff like, on The Connector Programme?
Maddie: Working with the Connectors has been (and continues to be) a fantastic experience! The students bring such a fresh and unique perspective to the Award and have been responsible for the design and development of some really crucial elements. Working with the Connectors in a co-creative relationship means that we all approach our tasks with shared responsibility, input and power to make decisions. Students feel empowered to make meaningful changes to projects that affect them, and as a staff member I hand over trust and responsibility to students in a way that I haven’t in other staff-student relationships.
“Students feel empowered to make meaningful changes to projects that affect them.”
Abby: Working with staff as a Connector isn’t just helping the staff complete their tasks. Instead, it is working alongside staff to create ideas together and even creating your plans then contacting staff to see how they can help you to further your plans.
Connector Programme: What impact has your work with the Connector Programme had?
Maddie: The Connectors have shaped every aspect of the Spirit of Sussex Award, from how many points activities are worth, to the visual identity and branding. The students working on the Award have had an opportunity to develop their skills and experiences across a range of different areas such as communications, social media, campaigns, website design and events management. The success of the Award has benefitted greatly from having student input; there are so many ideas and initiatives brought to the project by students that I never would have considered!
Abby: I have been proud of the impact I have had on the sense of community amongst Student Connectors through the development of the Connector committee. The committee was made to bridge the gap between the many Connector teams working on different projects. It has been nice to see the committee have a place where they can socialize with other Connectors especially given the current pandemic circumstances. It has also been nice to create a forum for the Connector groups to understand what each group has been working on, and to create an area for communication so Connector groups can collaborate.
“I learnt that I shouldn’t hold myself back from sharing my opinions because I’m younger…A good idea is a good idea.”
Connector Programme: What have you learnt from the Connector Programme?
Maddie: My top tip to staff considering working with Connectors would be to invest in the development of, and place trust in the Student Connectors working within your team and you’ll reap the rewards!
Abby: A lesson that I didn’t expect to learn is that the divide that we assume to be between students and staff isn’t as big as we’d expect it to be. Sometimes its daunting to step into work environments which are surrounded by people who are much older than you, but as a Connector you work with people from a vast range of ages. You learn that when you have something to say, people will listen. I learnt that I shouldn’t hold myself back from sharing my opinions because I’m younger than everyone else in the group. A good idea is a good idea.
The Connector Programme: how students and staff make positive change together.
If you have a question about the Connector Programme or would like to get involved, email the team at email@example.com