Being connected to one’s roots is important for people and institutions alike. For Queen Mary, this is about remembering the university’s original mission of serving the people of East London, and ensuring that the core mission of helping underrepresented university goers is reflected in contemporary initiatives.
Stephanie Marshall, Vice Principal for Education at Queen Mary University of London (Queen Mary), spoke to Kira Matthews, GoodCourse Community Engagement Lead, to discuss her journey into HE, student co-creation and more.
I’m the Vice Principal for Education at Queen Mary, based in Tower Hamlets. When I was a student, I was first generation, and I didn’t find it an easy transition, because so many of the students were so confident and I felt that many seemed more experienced than me. I felt like an outsider, and my parents had just moved back from the states where I’d lived for 10 years. At the time, the university I went to didn’t have a mix of nationalities.
Queen Mary is primarily state-educated kids, 50% first generation and over 170 nationalities. You can be from anywhere and feel part of our communities, so this suits me beautifully.
Both staff and students were thrilled — it was a real team effort from many institutions that have collaborated to open opportunities to those that live in East London. In part, it’s in our DNA, as this was our beginning. We make sure our values are embedded in everything we do, for example, our curriculum is inclusive so that all students can see themselves within it.
We make sure our values are embedded in everything we do, for example, our curriculum is inclusive so that all students can see themselves within it.
I’m so proud of so many of our graduates that go into amazing jobs and really show they have achieved their potential.
We’ve co-created that by listening to the student voice. I’ve been at Queen Mary for 4 and a half years now and it was my aim from the outset. We listened to what had worked well and what hadn’t worked so well. They thought we’d done a really good job with online lectures and being able to prepare for the week ahead, as well as rewind and listen again. In the past, the best bit was the social element — meeting up with your friends on campus.
We’ve got a big library infrastructure project going on at the moment to increase the library space, and we’ve built in more peer-led team learning as well and introduced more interactive learning like quizzes. So many of our students want to volunteer too which is great.
We’ve got a transition programme that we introduced a year ago, after our concerns about what it would be like for students to be back on campus. We started working with students that might be considering Queen Mary a lot earlier than we might have done in previous years.
As soon as people had put us down as a choice, we started things like online buddying systems, reading groups and so on, and I’m amazed how those took off. It was really effective getting students involved in group activities that start virtually but end up face-to-face.
Something unique about Queen Mary is that we have residences on campus, and we’ve got student reps that facilitate social activities in the evening. I met with them last week and discussed what they were going to do to ease new students in, to make sure they felt supported. I was so impressed.
Retain your passion. Don’t forget what it was that enticed you in the first place. A big prize for me is seeing the students come out the other end on graduation day. I feel so proud of students that didn’t have confidence and that came from non-conventional backgrounds.
Jessa Rogers, an aboriginal academic leader in Australia. Her research is amazing, and focuses on the EDI space. She is very inspirational, and the Australian government has used her to advise on inclusivity framework. She’s made an amazing impact.
Strategic Leadership of Change in Higher Education, edited by myself, but the authors are amazing. Jessa Rogers has a chapter too, and Patrick Dean’s chapter is also amazing.