Geography students stage first student-staff academic conference
25 January 2017
Four students from the department of Geography used UCL ChangeMakers funding to organise an innovative academic conference where both staff and students of all levels presented their ideas.
Over fifty delegates from across UCL Geography heard seventeen presentations, including seven entirely by students, and one student-staff collaboration, in the department’s first ‘Conversations in Geography’ conference which took place on 9 March 2016.
The conference was organised by PhD students Anna Plyushteva and Joseph Thorogood, and two undergraduate students, Fumika Azuma and Charlotte Collins.
The idea for the conference came from discussions about the limited opportunities which formal teaching spaces afforded for students to engage with the research going on in the department. “We wanted to empower all students to feel like an important part of the departmental community, and to identify opportunities for further closer links between research, and teaching and learning. The conference was a small step towards this – if people could spend time together in a fairly informal setting, getting to know each other’s activities, they could then spot new ways of engaging with the department.”
The UCL Changemakers funding enabled the team to provide catering, and give small ‘thank you’ vouchers to all student and staff presenters. UCL Changemakers staff also supported Fumika, Charlotte, Anna and Joe in organising the venue and promoting the conference.
The four panels which made up the one-day conference were organised around broad themes, and brought together students and staff, research teams and individual projects, physical and human geographers. At lunchtime, conference came together to hear a keynote address by Professor Anson Mackay (physical geography) and Dr Tatiana Thieme (human geography), who co-presented on the topic of ‘Environmental Geographies,’ highlighting the many continuities and complementarities across geographic sub-disciplines. The conference was also attended by representatives from the Royal Geographical Society, UCL Careers and the Bloomsbury Geographer, UCL Geography’s online student-led journal.
One student commented: “The event had a lovely social atmosphere. I got to talk with those who I have less chance to interact with, such as PhD students and professors.” Another said: “Although some aspects were very technical, it was also great to see physical geographers asking questions to human geographers speakers and vice versa.”
The team are pleased with success of the event and are keen to continue the conference as an annual event if possible. Joe said: “We learned a lot about the logistics involved in organising a large event and would be keen to pass this on to another group of students interested in running this event in the future. We would also like to encourage more third year undergraduates to attend; although it is a busy year for them, there is a lot to be gained from the opportunity to interact with students from different levels of study and experienced staff.”
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