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On Wednesday 10th March, Course Rep Michael Riley-Wallace volunteered his time to help other students cope with working at home and switching the mental state from "home" to "work" in a single environment during nationwide lockdowns.
After speaking at the Computing Programs Committee meeting (CPC Meeting) as the course rep for BSc(Hons) Computing & Games Development, I had the backing from my Programme Manager (David Walker), Associate Head of School (Shirley Atkinson) and Associate Professor for Computing (Liz Stuart) to do some voluntary work to help improve the mental state of students during the covid lockdown.
Sadly due to original interviewers from the MOD backing out, things were held back, but after some motivation from the aforementioned people, and Liz Stuart introducing me to Charly Braungardt (Associate Professor in Environmental Sciences and also a major contributor in the Pathway to Success Program), things started to progress and it was decided that I would use the free Wednesday slots on our timetables to do an Ad-hoc lecture. This meant that I had to come up with 2 hours of content and to host this on my own for the first time.
After deciding I would do a Game Giveaway of the fast-selling game Valheim on PC, the structure of the lecture was complete. I would have some informative structure, some sharing of tips, tricks, and wholesome stories during lockdown, followed by a fun activity and then a game giveaway. After that, it was more information, with quotes, tips, and strategies including (but not limited to) the how's and why's of coping at home and switching from "home" to "work" in a single environment.
The first fun activity done together was a 'typeracer', where everyone in the Zoom call joined in the race to see who could type the fastest and most accurate. This was a friendly competition, every person in the lecture competed, and it went on longer than I had anticipated. Everyone who competed in the 'typeracer' got 1 "ticket" for the game giveaway, so it was not about who came first, it was about taking part.
The second activity for another "ticket" into the Game Giveaway was dancing to Cha-Cha Slide. (No seriously!). Everyone had fun, and people were dancing in their chairs, and even one student making space to dance it out, step by step, word for word (Ramon Fajutrao).
"I didn't really feel comfortable speaking up during the lecture about this but I just wanted to thank you. Was a really engaging and useful talk, and the casual atmosphere was nice to be involved in. You're doing good work :)"
- Anonymous Participant
About halfway through the lecture and after a brief break period, Charly Braungardt took over for her 30-minute talk on the Pathway to Success programme and how it helps to unlock the key to success in life and to help break the bad habits and replace them with good habits, plus learning the triggers that lead into bad habits and breaking that cycle.
The lecture overrun by a whole hour but nobody minded. The two copies of the fast-selling game Valheim were won by Reece Tarrant (who then gifted it to fellow student Jasper Cox) and Anthony Davies.
"Michael was able to offer constructive tips and advice for time management and his information catered to all different learning types. It felt very formal and simple to follow due to the interactive slides."
- Zoya Riaz (Year 2 Law student)
"His lecture helped me get myself back to balancing proper working ethics, and helped my mental health"
- Jordan Wilson (Year 2 Computing & Games Development)
Since then, Charly has enrolled every single computing degree into the Pathway to Success programme, which Liz Stuart and Shirley Atkinson were hoping to achieve on their own, but thanks to my simple voluntary work, it was sped up monumentally.
I have been praised high and low by Faculty Staff, Program Staff, Lecturers, Professors, but most importantly, all the students who attended. I would do it for them again in a heartbeat!
"I’ve been hearing good things about your session on Wednesday - many thanks indeed for organising and running it. Nicely done!"
- David Walker (Programme Manager)
"Our Course Reps are in such a unique position to see and recognise the needs of their fellow students and it is wonderful to see course reps making the changes they wish to see! We found out about Michael's event during the Faculty of Science and Engineering Course Rep drop-in session, so If any Course Reps would like support in sharing their skills or setting up support for their cohorts get in touch with the Student Voice Team, we would love to hear from you! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org." - UPSU Student Voice Team