Development & Alumni Relations Office 

SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE AT QUEEN'S - VOLUNTEERS’ WEEK 2020  Volunteer Week 2020 - student recruitment collage against backdrop of coloured hands

05 June 2020

As we reach the final day of our week-long focus on volunteering at Queen’s during this 2020 Volunteers’ Week, we examine the important role our graduates play in the life of the University through student recruitment.

Queen’s alumni give back to their alma mater by sharing their experience and details of their career paths with prospective students and offer holders for degree pathways. This invaluable contribution from alumni adds credibility to our efforts so potential students can hear first-hand from graduates and make a decision to come to Queen’s.

Speaking ahead of Volunteers’ Week, Head of Alumni and Supporter Engagement, Ian Moore said: “Each and every one of our 468 alumni volunteers over the last year has played an integral role in the life of Queen’s.

“Whether it’s providing support and guidance to the University on its journey, encouraging and motivating our students to pursue inspirational careers through mentoring or work-related placements or simply keeping the University family connected around the world through our graduate associations, alumni volunteers make such a difference.

“We are hugely grateful to every one of our volunteers for the gifts of time that they give to Queen’s.”

This week, across a broad range of volunteering areas, we have been concentrating on some of the many hundreds of graduates who, during the last 12 months, have given the gift of time in support of the University.

Queen’s offers a variety of volunteering activities, each with varying levels of time commitment but each making a huge contribution to the lives of current students:

Today, we are look at those who support the University’s recruitment teams, giving their time to ensure that we attract the next generation of students from home and around the world. 

“At this time of year, we usually welcome alumni volunteers to speak to rooms filled with offer holders, attend careers’ fairs and network with potential students and parents at home or around the globe,” said Natasha Sharma, the University’s Alumni Relations Volunteer Manager.

This year, student recruitment activities look a little different, in the face of a new and unprecedented situation amid COVID-19. Many events have been postponed or removed from campus since our closure, including Law Pathways Opportunities Programme events for Year 13 and 14 students who were preparing for their A-Level exams, earlier this year.

Four alumni volunteer speakers, instead, attended a fantastic virtual session on 7 April 2020; a great success broadcasted to 50 virtual attendees. We were delighted to welcome our alumni to our new virtual environment.

Alan Hunter, former Chief Executive of the Law Society NI, spoke to the students about his career journey, from his memories of Queen’s, to starting out in the field of law, right through to his involvement with the Law Society at the University. Alan inspired students by speaking about the combination of ‘determination, ambition, and opportunity’ in his own path, instilling fresh confidence in many future students.

Participants also heard from three recent Queen’s LLB graduates: Max Brankin (pictured bottom right), Emily McGleenon (above right), and Courtney Doherty (bottom left above). All three had been involved as academic guides on the Law Pathway during their degree programme.

“Each of our graduates shared their experiences at Queen’s during their undergraduate degree and gave invaluable advice to students regarding all aspects of life on campus and the world of law,” said Natasha.

“We are now looking forward to hearing from our next cohort of alumni volunteer speakers in the July online event.”

Student offer holders for the incoming class of 2020 are no longer able to visit campus, meet academics and staff, or attend an event in person; a challenge the University has never faced before. Getting information to these individuals and offering virtual events as quickly as possible was, and is, an important way of ensuring we can provide the best service to these potential students. Virtual offer holder events give these students a chance to connect with current students, academics, Queen’s staff and alumni before they join us in September 2020.

One such offer holder event took place on Wednesday 3 June, when Sinead O'Sullivan (pictured top left), a BEng Aerospace Engineering graduate (2011) and MIT research fellow, told students about her own positive experience at Queen’s, both academically and socially, in her involvement with various clubs and societies. Sinead explained how her career journey unfolded and how Queen’s helped support her personal and professional development. Amid talking about her latest exciting projects, she gave advice to students thinking of applying to the University:

“It is vital that potential students are able to make informed choices on the best path for their future, at this critical time in their lives.

“When I was asked to speak at the offer holders’ event I jumped at the chance, as I really benefitted from my time at Queen’s, and I would encourage others to take full advantage of what’s on offer.

Sinead, who is now working at MIT as a Senior Research Fellow at the Schwarzman College of Computing and is CEO of a high-growth behavioural science tech company, found the experience invigorating.  

“Volunteering in this way makes me feel great, that I was able to help someone, and I have offered my support in other volunteering aspects too.”

The Univeristy is grateful to volunteers such as Alan, Courtney, Max, Emily and Sinead, who are supporting Queen’s in these challenging times. Over the coming months, we will be calling on many of our loyal volunteers and new supporters to come forward as we make the transition to higher education as smooth as possible for incoming students.

From live virtual events, podcasts and Q&A sessions, to online panel discussions and pre-recorded videos, we will strive to equip students with the information they need to achieve their full potential and access higher education.

“For our alumni volunteers,” said Natasha Sharma, “volunteering can also be a really great way to develop their own transferable skills. It can help broaden and expand their personal networks, and in most cases it has a really positive impact on the individual’s mental health and wellbeing. “And the more you volunteer – the more student placements you provide for example – the greater the buzz!” she concluded.

For further details on assisting at virtual student recruitment events or to volunteer in any other way to support the University, please contact Queen’s Alumni Volunteering Manager, Natasha Sharma.

For general enquiries about this story or to submit a graduate news item, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen’s University Belfast.

Volunteering opportunities:   

Volunteering can take many forms. Sometimes graduates may not even realise that they are volunteering, or even see themselves as volunteers!

1. Profile provision

Providing a profile photo, along with details of a graduate career path, can have massive benefits. The University can use this information in prospectuses or on our website to inform prospective students of the value of a Queen’s degree. If you would like to volunteer in this way, please draft 300 words (max) outlining your career path and send this, along with a recent high-res profile photo, to Natasha Sharma

2. Associations

Alumni associations and chapters bridge the gap between Queen's graduates and the University all around the world. These groups – and the events and activities they organise – are run by alumni volunteers, who find it a mutually beneficial way of staying in touch. For more on joining or becoming involved in the running of one of our alumni groups at home or around the world, visit our associations’ web page.

3. Mentoring

Volunteer mentors make themselves available as sounding boards for current students and younger graduates. For current students, finding out how best to prepare for the world of work – and how to make progress once they get there – can be life changing. For younger graduates too, having a chance to talk to someone who has already been down the same career path can also be hugely beneficial.

Mentors increase employee knowledge and improve existing skills, can be hugely beneficial in terms of professional and personal development and improve employee satisfaction and retention. For more on mentoring opportunities, please contact Natasha Sharma.  

4. Placements

When alumni introduce us to their organisations, it enables our Work Related Learning and Placement Offices support staff to uncover the potential opportunities by understanding the company needs. By implementing a system that’s been operating for more than 25 years, the right students are then matched to relevant opportunities, such as placements, careers fairs and company visits, to the mutual benefit of both parties, creating long-standing positive relationships with our engaged corporates. Work related learning can even occur virtually, with individual or groups of students. To discuss providing a student placement, please contact Natasha Sharma.   

5. Recruitment

Many graduates give back in another special way, by sharing their positive experiences of Queen’s - and their career path since - with a student holding offer for, or considering applying to, Queen’s. In this way, the graduate adds real credibility to our efforts, as the potential student can hear about the value of a Queen’s degree directly from someone who has attended the University. As a volunteer in this key area, the individual graduate may speak at online recruitment events, stand with us at careers fairs or network with potential students at virtual events. To discuss becoming a recruitment volunteer for Queen's, please contact Natasha Sharma.   


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