"Trust, creativity and confidence" in the new Graduate Connector role
By: Polly Wallace-Kruger
Last updated: Monday, 8 November 2021
Over the past four months the Student Engagement and Enhancement (SEE) Team has been supported by a team of dynamic and thoughtful recent Sussex graduates, who were hired as Graduate Connectors. In the SEE team we run a variety of initiatives, including the Connector Programme, Spirit of Sussex Award, and Welcome Week. The SEE Team aims to champion inclusivity and togetherness and build a community where every student feels that they belong. We welcomed the Graduate Connectors into our team, and they were invaluable to our work over the four months.
The Graduate Connectors had all previously been part of the Connector Programme in varying roles and applied for this paid opportunity to develop further professional and personal skills. The Graduate Connector role was created so that those who have worked as Student Connectors in the past can further develop their experience of collaborative working and gain the experience and responsibility of working in a busy staff team. Each Graduate Connector worked in partnership with a staff member who manages different initiatives, so all our areas of work benefitted from valuable insight into the student perspective.
Christy Bishay, graduated Criminology Student and Student Experience Connector, was the Graduate Connector supporting Eileen Laffan, Student Engagement Officer, on student engagement activities with a particular focus on international students. Read about their experiences here:
Being a Graduate Connector was an overall great experience which presented me with many opportunities to develop my personal and professional skills. If I had to decide what my top achievement was during this role I would have to say that it is how much I have developed my public speaking skills, and the many opportunities I was given to present to large audiences. One way I specifically achieved this was when our Graduate Connector team was offered to attend a two-part public speaking course. This course undoubtedly helped me build my confidence when it comes to speaking in front of crowds. I managed to learn a lot more about effective ways to get your message across when presenting to people, which became evident in all the presentations I did following the end of the course.
The one moment that specifically stood out to me was delivering sessions in Welcome Week and speaking in front of crowds of as many as 300 students. During Welcome Week I also especially enjoyed delivering the international student focused sessions as I was an international student myself, so I found it really fulfilling to see new students benefitting from the sessions we planned specifically for them.
Another part of this role I particularly enjoyed was working alongside a very supportive and positive team. I was always given the creative freedom to come up with my own ideas, and once it was time to carry those ideas out, my line manager and other staff members were always offering up ways to help and support me. Additionally, I got the chance to briefly collaborate with other Graduate Connectors which was also very encouraging and enjoyable.
As for my future plans, I realised through this role that I do genuinely enjoy working in student engagement and specifically working with international students. So following this role I am hoping to find some more job opportunities in this field of work.
I had the opportunity to work with Christy as a Graduate Connector, working with international students and related issues. It was an absolute joy to work with Christy and she provided amazing insights from her experience as an international student. Co-creating with Graduate Connectors brought such creativity to the work we were doing, and it was fantastic to see the skills they were learning being put into practice. Christy took the skills from a public speaking training course and put them into practice delivering sessions during Welcome Week.
Working with Graduate Connectors especially during the Welcome period is so critical as they bring their student perspective and we can co-create sessions for students led by students. If I was to think of three words from this working relationship it would be trust, creativity, and confidence; the trust we built together, the creativity of ideas and how this role helped Graduate Connectors grow in confidence.
We want to say a huge thank you to Christy and all the Graduate Connectors for everything they have contributed to our team, and wish them all the very best for the future!