YUSU’S Community Conference: A ‘Festival for Academia’

Vision reports from the first ever York Community Conference, hosted by YUSU on the 9th February 2024

(Image: Kaitlyn Beattie-Zarb)

Last month as many students undertook their journeys back to York for the start of the new semester, the University of York hosted its first-ever community conference. Located in the modern and chic Church Lane Building, the event gave students and staff a chance to interact with and learn about different aspects of academia.

All staff and students were welcome to attend any part of this event, making for a diverse turnout throughout the day. From talks on AI to unique new academic Hackathons (which are rapid and collective conversations on a range of unique topics), and of course a delicious and enormous lunch spread, the day provided a number of opportunities to get involved in a different side of university life, and learn a little something too!

According to Meely Doherty, YUSU Academic Officer, this conference had been in the works since Summer 2023, and was led by the Student Voice Team from YUSU. 

Starting the day with a keynote speech from Doherty, and introductions from the organisers, attendees then chose which scheduled activities they wished to attend in each session. Kaitlyn headed off to try out the new hackathon regarding AI in academia, and whether we should be concerned. Meanwhile, Charlotte attended a talk about imposter syndrome, led by Gabby Morgan from YUSU. Later in the day Charlotte also heard from Connor Briggs and Jasmine Pledger about Fears of Rejection, while Kaitlyn gained new leadership skills in an activity run by the Careers team. 

We, of course, couldn’t miss the immaculate vibes coming from UoY’s marketing team during their drop-in vibe check session, and we ended the day with a fascinating roundtable about Academic Representation – led by Meely and her team of Academic and course reps. It certainly gave us many new ideas for future articles in this rich area of academic progress and debate. 

Central to the conference was the theme of AI, particularly in Dr Stephen Gow’s popular talk about AI’s impact on the future of higher education. Covering everything from AI in assessment to tactics to limit the societal impact of AI, and how to utilise its strengths, Gow’s presentation was a unique chance to learn about a new area of academia in a fun and engaging way.  

Ultimately, it was a day filled with interactive, interesting and unique realism of academic exploration, students and staff alike left with exciting new ideas and enough leftover cake to get them through the next semester of university, that’s for sure! 

In the final panel of the day, when speakers were asked to reflect on their favourite part of the conference, Meely Doherty responded, “I really loved watching students talk about what they’re passionate about”.

Student Contributor and panellist Emel Küçük likened the event to a ‘festival for academia’. She eleborated “It’s nice to have more informal chats and get that opportunity to network.”

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