Reflections on the Marjon Change Maker project

change makers logoWay back in the autumn last year I saw an opportunity to apply to be a Marjon Change Maker. Reflecting on the last seven months or so, it has to be one of the best decisions I made in my time at Marjon.

What is a Change Maker? Well, for those who don’t know, it is a Marjon student employed by the university with one task. To improve the student experience. Eight of us were luckily selected by a panel of interviewers and each was assigned with a different project to deliver.

I will come onto what each project was, but first, I want to talk about what this role meant to me. I saw an advert to develop my skills, be my own leader, create something that will positively affect my peers and get paid for it. I was sold, just like that. As a trainee journalist and soon to be Journalism graduate, it’s all about getting experience and I clearly made this case in my interview. That’s the beauty of Marjon, if you are passionate about something, it will be recognised and embraced.

I was offered the position to work alongside Marjon’s employability team, Marjon Futures. This was a role that required improving their voice on social media and tackling issues surrounding attendances to the Futures alcove drop-in sessions.

To have dedicated time and effort to put into a project that brings about change is so rewarding, and I am grateful for being treated with such professionalism. To improve Futures’ social media, I made some graphics and animations which were used to promote various events the team were running. This was an excellent transfer of skill for me. My dissertation was on social media promotion and I got to gain some extra experience in creating content that engages an audience online. It was the perfect opportunity to specialise in something.

Trying to achieve the project from home was undeniably difficult for everyone and for the last three months, that’s what we’ve all had to work with. I wanted to run focus groups, do investigative interviews and really tackle the issues presented to me. Of course, that wasn’t meant to be. But a couple of online surveys and respectful feedback later, the alcove drop-in sessions that Futures spend good time preparing, will now be accessed in a student-supported way. They voted that they wanted course specific employability advice and for the sessions to be timetabled. You know Marjon, they’re obviously pulling through.

As you can probably tell, I can’t sell being a Change Maker enough, it truly was a brilliant thing to do. But it isn’t all about me. Following the completion of our projects we got to celebrate what we had achieved over the last seven months. So, as we do in today’s world, I opened my laptop, accessed my emails and I got in contact with my fellow Change Makers. I asked two important questions; why did we want to do it and why should other students take an interest as well?

Third year Youth and Community Work student, Joe Lynch, brought change for student support. He developed The Listening Post, a student-led support and advice platform. He said: “I really enjoyed the experience, being able to work to a set goal and take up a leadership role really helped me to understand the process better.

“I wanted to become a Change Maker, because I already had this idea that now has come to life and being able to work closely with the university allowed me to receive the guidance to deliver it.”

Mature student Change Maker, Geraldine Gillies, wanted to better the university experience for mature students. Her hard work and dedication to getting results has now seen Marjon working towards improving access for older students on campus.

On reflection she told me: “I came to Marjon from a private sector business and making adaptations into university life was difficult. Working on my project showed me that age is no barrier and enabled me to get my confidence back.

“I know what the Marjon family is now and it is great to be a part of it. The Change Maker project has been a really positive way to get students involved and it was so rewarding to see their enthusiasm for change.”

The positive responses kept coming in and the next was from Hannah Smith. Hannah is a Sports Therapy third year at Marjon and this has been more than just a project for her. Hannah has worked towards identifying how student colleagues can be recognised for their contributions to Marjon:

“I applied to be a Change Maker, not only for the opportunity to go outside my comfort zone and gain new skills, but the chance to create something of my choice.

“I really enjoyed the whole experience and if I’m honest I wish it went on for longer. Seeing the positive impact we made on the student experience is something I would definitely recommend. Push yourself, you won’t regret it.”

Like myself, we had another journalism student on the team, first year, Georgia Large. Georgia broke boundaries when she launched Marjon on social media platform TikTok. Her thoughts were:

“I chose to be a Change Maker because I wanted to improve my skills, as well as giving something back to Marjon. I have loved every minute and have learned so much over the last six months.

“Being a Change Maker is so good to the point I have continued my role on a volunteer basis.”

Final year Outdoor Education student, Alex Williams, wanted to make the university’s woodland area safer to use. He said: “I wanted to effect change for the future at Marjon and getting feedback from staff and students showed me the motivation is there to improve the space.

“I thought my project went well and was largely data collection based. I hope the woodland area can be changed using my findings.”

Second year Education Studies student, Alex Brodey, researched into how the Chaplaincy’s break room could be better supplied for use; including cutting the budget on a previously rejected plan. His words were:

“The Change Maker project allowed me to make an impact on a university I adore all while making personal progress. I’ve gained so much confidence and the ability to talk in public.

“I truly feel that I have made a difference and I am proud of myself for what I’ve achieved.”

Last but definitely not least, another final year Outdoor Education student, Aaron Thawley. The unlucky one. Aaron’s project was put on hold, because he was looking to make better use of the green space in the campus village. Thanks coronavirus.

The final Change Maker said: “My motivation was to share my ideas on how to improve the Marjon community.

“It’s a great opportunity to engage the university, whilst also developing useful skills throughout the process. I hope it continues; every student should have this opportunity to available to them.”

Yes, that’s right, the Change Maker project will be back next year and if you’re a Marjon student there should only be one option now you’ve hit the bottom of this post. Apply. Not one of us has a bad word to say about the experiences we’ve had. Be your own leader, run your own project and make change for somewhere you love.

Creativity, confidence and credibility are all things a Change Maker can say about themselves. We’ve loved every minute of it, from those who smashed it out the park to those who coronavirus got in the way of. Everyone was successful in their own right and that’s what it’s all about.

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