The Academic Council at UCM
At UCM we are more than just a cohort of students who partake in learning. At our university the quality of our education and the activities we provide for our students is extremely important and the only way to create the atmosphere that we want is utilise our main audience: the students themselves. For this reason we have a few organisational boards made up of students that deal with the development of UCM. While one of these groups, Universalis, is extremely well known as our study association, dealing with many extracurricular events and organising our committees and societies – there is more that takes place behind the scenes with other student boards such as the Academic Council. For new students and those who are not familiar with UCM the function of this council is little spoken about and for this reason I invited two members of the Academic Council, Sinan Akkurt (the Chair) and Deborah Koll (the events coordinator), for an interview to discuss their work in developing the UCM experience.
N: So if you could first give me a clear explanation of who the Academic Council are in UCM and what they do?
S: Well, the Academic Council mainly has two functions that they fulfil. The first function is representing the voices of students in the Board of Studies and the Management team. In this we work on improving the quality of the courses here at UCM by going through every course evaluation form and discovering trends in student feedback to then be given back to the course coordinators. This is really important actually, I think people might get the impression that the course evaluation forms are not important but we really do make noticeable changes to courses following the feedback rounds.
D: Oh yeah, we especially read every word of the comment section at the end of the form so any constructive criticism is welcome it really helps make courses even better for future students. We also get our graduates to fill out an evaluation form of UCM and those are extremely useful in advising us on what we are doing well and what we need to work on.
S: The second function which we fulfil is the organisation of events that are made to compliment the curriculum. For example we do guest lectures and we have an exchange running with University College Freiburg and we also run support groups for new and current students.
N: What kind of support do you offer for new students coming into our university?
S: We organize the mentor program where new students are grouped together with other freshmen and two older students (the mentors). Then they regularly meet in casual settings for example for dinner to talk about getting started at UCM, the best things to do in Maastricht and stuff like that.
D: Also we offer course advise from our student perspective for new students before they come to UCM to talk about their very first courses that they take.
N: Tell me more about the events you coordinate. I recently went to a guest lecture as part of your series on Journalism, how do you go about planning these?
D: Our guest lectures are actually planned in advance for the year. In order to actually choose the topic of these events we sometimes get people to vote using a poll on Facebook. However, for this series on Journalism we picked the topic without the help of other students.
S: When we come up with ideas for topics we think about what will add to our education or what is missing from our courses that students here want to know more about that they can access in the format of a lecture or workshop or even a field trip.
D: To find the lecturers we really utilise the contacts that our UCM tutors have themselves. We can also contact alumni to come and talk or they may have some contacts. Although obviously the people we contact have their own lives and jobs to do so obviously scheduling can be quite tight. Sometimes it just comes down to googling people and sending out emails.
N: This is an obvious question but why do you see these events to be important?
S: Doing these kinds of events offer students really useful insights into different careers. Liberal Arts is very broad and being students, it is hard to get an idea of what we might like to do following our education. With these lectures and workshops that we offer we can cover overarching topics and demonstrate how the academic skills we learn in an interdisciplinary education is useful in the field.
If you want to know more about the Academic Council and the work that they do then you can follow this link to their website: http://ucmsauniversalis.com/academic-council/
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