Breaking down cultural barriers to improve student wellbeing and learning experience

The team
Lead: Thao Anh (Tonja) Nguyen, Niloufar Abourashchi.
Support: Eleanor Chen, Tianshu Liu, Brilliant Dennise Wijaya

Statistical Science

What happened?
As students of the Statistical Science department, we discovered strong cultural barriers between students from different countries, which resulted in a disconnect between students. The faculty has also noticed this and created the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) team that focuses to create initiatives to tackle this challenge. This project was created as a continuation of a survey from last year which shows that approximately 50% of the students agreed that their main goal at UCL is to make friends with peers from a different cultural background. However, the majority of the respondents agreed that they could sense a lack of intercultural interaction between students in the statistical department. This project has successfully gathered data on students’ wellbeing and learning experience through surveys and workshops. We are primarily interested in understanding on how we can provide a sense of “belonging” among students especially for international students that comes from various backgrounds. We gained students’ view of the community in the department, how this cultural barrier affects their educational experience and personal relationships, and what changes they want to see, either in the teaching delivery, style of assessments, or just in general. The feedback has been analysed and reported to relevant staff members, which will take this forward and improve the situation in our department. Similarly with last year, majority of the respondents feel that there was a lack of cultural interaction between students. This ChangeMakers project will act as ‘phase one’ of a two-phase bigger project where we will run social events to promote interculturality, and create a student-alumni network, where people can share their thoughts on inclusive community. This aligns with our survey result where it shows that nearly all survey respondents agree that running more social events could help breaking down the cultural barriers.
What advice or encouragement would you give to someone thinking of doing a ChangeMakers project?
We believe that it is crucial to have a clear objectives and goals and determining who are the key stakeholders of your project. You should ensure that the goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Having clear and measurable goal will help you in quantifying your impact. It will help if you could engage with the key stakeholders and gained opinion from them to help improving your project. We also find it helpful to have a project timeline and tracker, it will give clear deadline and ownership to each team member, and it will also making sure them to be reliable to the task that they are assigned to. Lastly, it is helpful to have a prioritisation matrix, to understand what a quick win can be and what will be the long-term effect or strategy from this project.