The December member spotlight is on David Gilani, Head of Student Engagement and Advocacy at Middlesex University London. David is the Network Coordinator for our Student Experience and Engagement themed network.

David was previously the Deputy Network Coordinator for the network and was our member spotlight for April 2020.

Why do you do it?

I stepped up as Coordinator for the Student Experience and Engagement network in December 2020 after a roughly a year as acting as Deputy Coordinator. The network itself is relatively new, only having been set up in 2019 and so it’s just been great to finally have a space to bring together those within the world of student experience and engagement. I love being involved in this network because I’ve personally benefitted so much from professional networks throughout my career. They provide an opportunity not just to share good ideas, but to combat the potential loneliness experienced as HE roles become ever more specialised.

Connecting and meeting up with others around the sector helps us to realise that we’re not in this alone. We’re all facing very similar challenges and stressors. Feedback from members who get involved in the various activities that we run as a Network is always very positive, so in that sense it makes the role of Network Coordinator very rewarding and meaningful.

What has been the best bit so far?

Since taking over the Network Coordinator role, it’s been great to be joined by two fantastic Deputy Network Coordinators (Siobhan Dumphy from Kent and Chris Whitehead from Surrey). Between us, we came up with the idea of running a monthly coffee break series, so that those working in student experience roles around the sector could get together in a more informal way. Each session is loosely focused around a related topic, but mainly is just a chance for people to catch-up and connect. So far, we’ve covered how universities were celebrating graduating students in the pandemic, mental health and wellbeing, international student support and welcome activities.

These monthly coffee breaks are always great because you can tell how there are so many people working in student experience roles who are bursting with examples and case studies to share. The sessions always feel like they have to end too early, as there’s so much to discuss. If you want to join for any of our future monthly coffee breaks, then you can find details on our AUA Network page.

Would you recommend the role?

Absolutely! As a Network Coordinator (or even Deputy Network Coordinator) you hear so many good ideas and initiatives from other universities just by being part of the various events, blogs or initiatives that you’re organising. As another example from our Student Experience and Engagement Network, we’ve recently set up an interview series as a way to highlight the different focuses that people have in student experience related roles. I’ve learned loads and taken lots of good ideas from just the few interviews that we’ve published so far. You can read them all on our AUA Network page and please do get in touch if you’d like to take part in the interview series yourself.