The same but different
The UTS Law Faculty and students embrace new ways to attend events, socialise and have fun.
Co-curricular and extra-curricular activities and events are part of the fabric of university life – they help build connections and friendships and contribute to a student’s sense of belonging.
The COVID19 crisis might be preventing UTS Law students from gathering together in person but, on the upside, it’s led to some creative thinking and innovative solutions to keep students engaged and ‘iso-active’.
The Brennan Justice and Leadership Program usually offers a rich array of activities and events across the session and this hasn’t changed - except that it’s now online.
Student Programs Co-ordinator, Crystal McLoughlin says they are taking the opportunity to trial new initiatives including a virtual Justice Talks series, Zoom Information Sessions and social justice Discussion Groups.
Collaborating with the LSS Justice Action Committee, there's been Charity Trivia Nights, Netflix Watch Party nights in, and community volunteering initiatives for those most at risk such as the elderly or those with a disability.
She says students are very keen to be involved:
Creativity has been key and our strong student community bond has meant a surge in online student engagement as students seek the connections that they would otherwise have on campus.
Law and Communications student, Vicky Kuo says it’s not the same as being there but one advantage is that online events are easy to fit into the studying-from-home routine:
For example, I listened to one of the Justice Talks sessions while cooking dinner. I think we are seeing this accessibility reflected in the huge number of attendees that online events are attracting. Although we aren't able to hold these sessions face-to-face, I'm still getting a lot out of them and I think they are really well organised.
Many of the events are run in collaboration with the UTS Law Students Society (LSS)– it’s the largest society on campus and runs a vast number of initiatives each year.
With the COVID19 crisis the LSS was forced to assess every planned activity and event and decide which ones would have to be cancelled and which ones could be adapted for online.
Vicky Kuo is a member of the Society’s executive, as Vice President (Careers). She is focused on making sure that even though students are not on campus, they are still connected to career opportunities and services:
That means adapting events to run online where possible, such as our current Clerkship Seminar Series, but also brainstorming how we can be innovative and creative to make the most out of current circumstances.
As well as information sessions, the LSS offers online wellbeing initiatives including Fitness classes and Yoga classes via Zoom.
LSS socials director, Maddy Sherbon says they are trying to look after first year students who had only just arrived at UTS when the university transitioned to online learning:
When brainstorming our events, we have a particular focus on engaging first-year students as they may not be as connected to their cohort compared to other year groups. We try to make the initiatives fun and to require students to engage and talk with each other to give them a sense of being around other people.
They are continuing the Buddy Project online which pairs first-year students with senior students to smooth their transition into UTS Law life as well as Peer Mentoring sessions which students can access online at their convenience.
And there’s even ‘The Bar’ - to compensate for the lack of socializing and casual conversation among student colleagues, LSS members - Law and Communications student, Justin Cordi and Law and Business student Georgia Dixon - came up with the idea of a virtual conversation.
It’s a weekly podcast which includes a guest and an informal chat about life, uni and the LSS.
Justin says it’s been a great success:
To our surprise, it's actually been really popular and we have been inundated with messages. We might not enjoy listening to ourselves speak, but apparently others do. Either that, or they're laughing at us.
Vicky Kuo says exploring online possibilities is fun and also a valuable lesson in adapting to change:
Running online initiatives has taught us a lot about resilience, innovation, and making the most out of what we've got.
And Justin Cordi says some of the activities are so popular that they might be here to stay:
We will definitely look at what worked well and employ these methods full time, post COVID19.
Upcoming events include:
The LSS Justice Action Committee and Brennan Program's Social Justice Netflix Watch Party - on May 22.