“Connector projects build a bridge between students and university staff”: Ilina Stanimirova, Student Connector
By: Polly Wallace-Kruger
Last updated: Tuesday, 9 February 2021
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 being paid at the same time.
Student Connectors “co-create” with staff, their Connector team and the wider student community 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, and to develop a more connected community of students and staff at Sussex.
Meet Susan Smith, Associate Dean at the University of Sussex Business School and Ilina Stanimirova, Student Connector and Media Studies student. In this interview, Susan describes what it was like working with Connectors and the impact of the project on the Business School, while Ilina explores how the project has improved her employability skills and encouraged a positive atmosphere amongst students and staff at Sussex.
Connector Programme: Tell us about your Connector work – what does it focus on?
Susan Smith (Associate Dean at the Business School): The Business School Assessment Connector project was established to revise the School's assessment criteria. This was to address National Student Survey feedback around assessment and feedback practices in the School.
Ilina Stanimirova (Student Connector): I am working as a Student Connector in the Business School to assess and improve the school's assessment criteria. In this project, we are six student connectors from different years and schools working together with the school staff (lecturers, tutors, technological academic developers) to exchange ideas and opinions and co-create a new assessment criteria that will benefit students and staff.
Connector Programme: What is the co-creation relationship between students and staff like, on the Connector Programme?
Susan: Working with Connectors helped us gain a student perspective which had been lacking in prior work related to assessment and feedback. Rather than simply providing input the students worked alongside a group of faculty to co-create assessment criteria. The relationship was positive and proactive with all team members working to understand each other’s perspectives and develop the criteria, supporting materials, training and communications plan.
“The relationship with Student Connectors was positive and proactive.”
Ilina: What I like about the Connector projects is that they build a bridge between students and university staff and create a beneficial relationship. The Connector projects are usually inspired by student feedback and so as a Student Connector, I felt encouraged to give my opinion on my assessment experience. Lecturers and university staff value the views of the student and it was also very interesting to see how they received our ideas and used them as a basis for the project. Overall, I would say this project helped students and staff see each other in a "humanized" way and encouraged a positive atmosphere for teamwork.
Connector Programme: What impact has your Connector work had?
Susan: The School now has a unified, level-specific set of assessment criteria which students can easily understand. Whilst it is early in the adoption cycle we hope that students will start to see linkages between their performance on different modules and the feedback they are receiving.
Ilina: In September we launched the new assessment criteria and promoted it via the internal channels of the school and through the canvas pages for students. As we are entering the Spring term, we have heard feedback that the new assessment criteria is clear and easy to understand. That makes me very happy as one of our main objectives was to simplify the criteria and make it accessible for everyone. Although the project ended, our team is still in touch and we are all curious to see how much it will affect the learning experience of the Business School students based on the student surveys.
Connector Programme: What do Connectors gain from working on the Connector Programme?
“I got to work in a diverse team and have an intellectual and creative input into something that helps students”
Ilina: The Business School Assessment Criteria connector project was my first project as a Student Connector and it opened a lot of doors for me. I think this project was extremely beneficial to my professional growth as I got to work in a diverse team and have an intellectual and creative input into something that helps students with their academic experience. I feel a part of an amazing community and I have made a lot of new connections that would benefit me both professionally and personally. Lastly, I would say that the Connector Programme has given me confidence in my employability skills and I feel encouraged to keep working on myself and develop my potential.