School of Law launches ‘Community Hub’
The Community Hub aims to create a positive space for students from all backgrounds to share experiences, make connections, inform policy and challenge stigmas.
In October 2021, our Director of Student Support, Rachael O’Connor, asked School of Law students to come forward if they self-identified as underrepresented for any reason and wanted to discuss their experiences with fellow students in a safe space.
So was born, as it is now known, the “Community Hub”. Since then, supported by Rachael, a diverse group of students have been meeting to discuss their experiences and come up with ideas together about what could be done in the School and wider University to better support and engage students who share feelings of underrepresentation.
My background is an important part of who I am and who I’ve become today. I’d like our students to also think about this in their own contexts and to create platforms and spaces for their voices to be amplified in our School and across campus.
The desire to set up this group stems from Rachael’s own experience as an alumna of the School who comes from a working class background and was the first generation in her family to go to University. As Rachael puts it, “even now as an academic and formerly as a practicing lawyer, I’ve always had a sense of not fitting in to the norms traditionally expected of people in these roles. However, instead of letting it hold me back, I celebrate it and I want our students to do the same.”
In April 2022, the Community Hub ran its first School-wide event in the Liberty Building.
First year students on the LLB Law graduate programme Tianyi Gu and Hailan Zhang shared their experiences as international students coming to the UK for the first time part-way through their degree.
Rachael told us “There were some really touching experiences shared, particularly the joy of getting involved in the local community through community engagement projects and travelling around the country, meeting a diverse range of people. There were also some funny moments talking about the challenges of having to eat bland, British food!”
Second year LLB Law student Caitlin Deacon shared her perspective as a student who commutes to University and comes from working class roots. Caitlin is a founding member of the Hub and shared a lot of positive reflections about what the Hub has done for her so far and how she hopes to see it develop in the future, informing School and University practice and policy around working with underrepresented students.
First year Criminal Justice and Criminology student Tracy Abbott, another founding member of the Hub, talked to the group about her experiences of accessing support as a mature student and provided some constructive messages to the attendees about the importance of asking for support and not being afraid to do so.
The Hub was also treated to a poetry reading from Dalton Harrison (first year BA Criminal Justice and Criminology student) from his recently published collection. Much of Dalton’s poetry draws on themes of underrepresentation, change and belonging and the reading nicely drew together many of the issues and challenges discussed within the Hub over the last six months.
On behalf of the School, Rachael would like to thank each of the students noted above for sharing their experiences so openly at the launch event, as well as, Adrian Smith (first year BA Criminal Justice and Criminology student and founding member of the Hub) and Sedek Abrahem (first year LLB Law student) who supported in advertising the event and its content.
Rachael adds “a huge thank you also to all students who have been part of the Community Hub to date. The launch event was the first in hopefully a series of activities we will run as a Hub over the next academic year. This is a student-led initiative, supported by me and it is crucial that we have a diverse range of voices to inform what we do so please get involved if this article has rung any bells with you!”
If you want to know more about the Hub’s activities or are a student in the School of Law who is interested in joining the Hub, please contact Rachael O’Connor (firstname.lastname@example.org).