Alumni Volunteers welcomed back to continue their own development

Alumni Volunteering Conference 2016Earlier this month we hosted our first ever Alumni Volunteering Conference, giving alumni the chance to continue their own personal development and support them in their volunteering roles.

On Thursday 6 October we welcomed almost 50 attendees, several of whom had flown in especially, back to campus for a full day conference to learn about the current priorities of the University, the impact alumni are having on the University and its students, and to continue their own development through a series of talks and workshops.

The day started in the Alfred Denny Conference Centre with a welcome from Emma Packham, the Alumni Volunteering Manager, before Professor Mike Hounslow, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Engineering, addressed the delegates about the success of the University and the challenges ahead in Higher Education. This was followed by an update on some of the impacts Alumni Volunteering has had on students; boosting confidence, enriching academic events, and helping prepare students to enter professional environments.

Following a networking lunch, an alumni panel shared their thoughts on the University of Sheffield's Vice-Chancellor's Telegraph comment piece ‘Education alone is not enough’, highlighting the challenges of social mobility and the importance for students to get a balanced, well-rounded university experience. The panel also noted how alumni can be a network for students that may not have friends or family in their chosen careers.

The afternoon involved streamed breakout sessions, allowing alumni to select areas that were of most interest and relevance to them. Topics included University strategic priorities such as Widening Participation and Student Employability, and skills based workshops on Mentoring and Coaching, Presenting with Impact and Effective Board Membership Skills.

Alumni Volunteers Conference 2016 - panel debate Alumni Volunteers Conference 2016

Alumni Volunteering Manager Emma Packham explained the reason for initiating the conference:

"It is really important to us that our alumni community feel valued and appreciated for the time they generously give us in their volunteering roles. Students and staff hugely benefit from the work alumni do and the conference was a way for us to invest in our volunteers; provide them with the knowledge and skills to excel in their volunteer roles, support them with their own professional development, and have meaningful discussions to inform alumni engagement."

Alumni Volunteer Paulo Oliveira (MSc Process Safety and Loss Prevention 2013) commented about the event:

“I wanted to thank you for inviting me for the conference and pass my sincere congratulations on a well-structured, thought out and engaging event.

“The Alumni and Volunteering programme is the best example of engagement with alumni I’ve seen, so congratulations and well done! You can definitely keep my name in the list of “willing to help”.”

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Commenting after the event several alumni explained their motivation for getting involved as Alumni Volunteers. Gary Bartles (BA History 1989) explained:

“I initially got involved in volunteering to help the University and the students, what surprised me was how much it helped me.”

“The alumni events and my volunteering experiences have been a welcome change and a breath of fresh air to me. In fact, so much so, that it is only from attending the conference that I realised how much the experience had helped me, both personally and in developing my new product for my business.”

Joanne Lowe also shared what she took from her experience as an Alumni Volunteer:

“I have thoroughly enjoyed mentoring my Law student, and we have remained friends. I leant a lot about the Department of Law, the different courses, and have been encouraged by my mentee to go back into university. I am now studying an MA in International Criminology!

“I think we have both gained so much from each other. I got involved because I care about students and to help them achieve their goals and gain a successful career is a joy to be part of. I strongly recommend for more people to get involved.”

The conference concluded with an optional campus tour, to visit old haunts and explore the latest estate developments, or an animated history talk by the Director of Alumni & Donor Relations, Miles Stevenson, before delegates made their way to the annual Alumni Volunteer Thank You Event & Awards.

To find out more about Volunteering at Sheffield please visit our Alumni Volunteers web pages.

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