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How to connect to the community

How to connect to the community
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As a student representative, it’s important to connect to your community. In this video, we will explain how we try to establish a good connection. As a student participating in the governing body of an institution, be it elected or assigned, you represent a certain group. The group you represent might be fellow and future students of your study programme when you are a member of the programme committee, or even all of the future students at the university when you’re a member of the University Council. Let’s start by discussing how to make connections in general. As a student representative, it is very important to know who you represent. Once you do, the first step is to get to know them better.
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If you are a member of a programme committee, you might meet the students during a class. Or if you have a seat on the University Council, connecting with student associations might be a good way in. Associations like the Sports Association, for example, represent a specific part of the student population, and the board members are generally interested in what you have to say to them. Once you are acquainted with the group you represent, you can start making a good connection. Representing a group you are part of, benefits tremendously from having a good relationship with that group. Connecting works in two ways, informing the group about relevant topics, and getting informed on new issues.
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When informing students, you can give students insight in what you’re doing or plan on doing. When doing so, it is important to talk about topics that are relevant to the students you’re talking to. For instance, when you’re talking to an association of the law faculty, the upcoming renovation of the law library will be very relevant for them. Speaking to people face-to-face is the best way to explain matters clearly. But you often have to deal with a lot of complicated matters that are not easily understandable for everyone. Furthermore, challenges arise because we have to deal with a lot of policy language and abbreviations.
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This makes it difficult to properly inform students, and in turn, to get informed about their views on the matter. Accreditation is a good example of the challenge. The term accreditation will ring a bell for most people, but only a few will be able to explain what it means. Generally, we try to explain the term by saying that accreditation is a review process in which an independent review committee from outside the university comes in to evaluate study programmes. Accreditation is important to ensure the quality of the programme and consequently to ensure public funding. It might happen that a programme receives a negative review.
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If that happens, we believe it is important to inform the students about it and to get their opinions on how the programme could be improved. But in that case, we would have to explain more about the complex nature of the accreditation process to them. But how to do this in the best way? We could explain more about Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders, about the committees that check the study programmes, about the label they can give, and about the consequences. However, we always have to consider whether the information to be shared is relevant for students. Do they really need to know all of this in order to give their opinion about the quality of their study programme?
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We believe it is necessary to give enough information to explain the matter to the students without boring them too much with the details. We just explored how students can get informed about what the governing bodies do. But how do you, as a member of a governing body, get informed about the pressing issues in the student community? First of all, conversation is key. Talking informally with students at parties and other social events is a good first step in finding out what the issues in the community are. Besides that, we also use social media like Facebook and newsletters to encourage students to raise their voice. A lot of student associations have general member meanings.
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As a student representative, you can attend those meanings to find out what the talking points are. And last, but not least, being a member of a democratic body of the university means you have to be elected. If your campaign points do not connect well to the community, you will probably not be chosen. To conclude, establishing a connection with the community works both ways. In this video, we explained how we try to establish good connection with our community. In the next video, we will demonstrate how a good connection is essential by pushing for a proposal to be implemented.
In this video, Sebastiaan and Rowanne will explain how they strive to represent the interests of their fellow students as well as possible.
Establishing a connection as a student representative with the student community works both ways.
Find out how by watching the video.
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