Orientation week at Westminster: doughnuts, cake, and radical social science

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Dr Naomi Rudoe leads new students to the matriculation ceremony

This week we welcomed new undergraduate students onto the Sociology and Sociology-Criminology degrees here at Westminster. At the beginning of the week, we all got to know one another during our fiendish Sociology quiz, where students tested their knowledge of University, London, 2018, and dead white men, while eating a few dozen doughnuts. Our quiz was followed by the Social Sciences Annual Lecture by Dr Kehinde Andrews from Birmingham City on the subject of radical social science, after which we had a reception and polished off the doughnuts.

During the week, our new students were given presentations from the students’ union, met their personal tutors, and signed up to clubs and societies. On Friday afternoon, they took part in a matriculation ceremony, where new Vice Chancellor Dr Peter Bonfield celebrated Westminster’s spirit of community.

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Sociology Lecturers Celia Jenkins, Umit Cetin, Hilde Stephansen and Naomi Rudoe with Head of School Dibyesh Anand and Vice Chancellor Peter Bonfield.

At matriculation, Head of School Professor Dibyesh Anand spoke about students and academics working together to challenge the neoliberal market in higher education. Sociology Lecturer Umit Cetin gave a speech about education and empowerment, and current Sociology PhD student Nayyar Hussain spoke about the experiences she’d had as an undergraduate at Westminster. We ended the week with more cake back at the Regent Street building. We’re now all looking forward to the start of teaching on Monday!

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Westminster Sociology Anthology 2018

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At this year’s graduation ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall, the Sociology team presented graduating students with the fourth edition of the annual Westminster Sociology Dissertation Anthology, which showcases some of the outstanding and innovative research produced by final year Sociology students at the University of Westminster.

The aim of this anthology is to reward good dissertations, to provide an example of quality work for future dissertation students, and to promote more widely the achievements of our students in Sociology at Westminster.

The anthology includes work by Nisha Waller, who uses depth interviews to explores the experiences of six women who have been the partner of a male prisoner. Mehreen Khan’s contribution deploys an intersectional analysis to explore how South Asian Muslim women have made choices about their education, career and future aspirations. Chloe Payne’s chapter sensitively draws on interviews and ethnographic data to provide an in-depth account of the experience of ‘postvention’, the activities which aim to support the bereaved after a suicide in the UK. Kim Corti provides a critical and comparative examination of the discourses around veganism in UK national newspapers. Finally, Luke Allmond’s dissertation explores sexism in the contemporary music scene in Oxford.

While these five projects are incredibly diverse, they all have qualities that
 make them distinctive of the kind of work our students produce in Sociology
 at Westminster: they engage creatively and passionately with some of the
 urgent issues of our time, they use a finely tuned sociological imagination to
 challenge taken-for-granted assumptions, and they are motivated by a desire 
to understand and challenge social inequalities.

Nisha, Mehreen, Chloe, Kim and Luke are not alone in producing great
 dissertation projects. The Sociology team had the pleasure to read some
 really excellent work. In particular, we would like to commend dissertations 
by Lois Anderson, Neela Khan, Marwa Fichera, and Jake Lovric. Well done to
 you all – we are very proud of you!

Click here to download a PDF copy of the Westminster Sociology Dissertation Anthology 2018

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New online resource for student mental health

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The Students Against Depression website is a free resource to help students who may be struggling with depression or anxiety.

The site offers advice, information, guidance and resources to those affected by low mood, depression and suicidal thinking. Alongside clinically-validated information and resources, it presents the experiences, strategies and advice of students themselves.

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Success for Westminster Sociology in the Guardian University Guide 2019

Screen Shot 2018-05-29 at 10.04.21We’re really happy to see another impressive 5 points rise for Westminster University’s Sociology and Sociology and Criminology courses in the Guardian University guide 2019. At 28 out of 91, this puts us comfortably in the top third of UK Sociology courses.

League tables like this only give a partial picture of a university education, but it’s very gratifying to see that our ‘value added’ is being recognized, which ‘compares students’ degree results with their entry qualifications, to show how effectively they are taught’.

On value added, Westminster is in the top-ten institutions for Sociology in the UK.

For the full Guardian Sociology ranking, click here.

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Sociology lecturers win excellence awards!

 

Many congratulations to Sociology lecturers Dr Hilde Stephansen and Dr Francis Ray White who were this evening awarded individual Westminster Learning and Teaching Excellence Awards. These are a very prestigious award, with only a small number given out each year to the most deserving candidates. Francis and Hilde were both awarded £1000 for career development.

Hilde (pictured right) was congratulated for her research-informed teaching, for transforming the quality of research methods provision across disciplines and for her collegial and collaborative approach to teaching.

Francis (pictured left) was awarded for their work in cross-disciplinary learning and teaching, and was commended for raising the visibility of LGBTQ and gender issues and promoting inclusion and diversity in the curriculum and across the University.

The sociology team is very proud of you both. Well done, and thanks for all your hard work!

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Embedding mental health and wellbeing

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The Westminster Sociology team recently took part in a day-long workshop on embedding mental health and wellbeing in learning and teaching, led by specialists from AdvanceHE.

After being given our Team Award for Teaching Excellence in 2017, we decided to prioritize the issue of student mental health and use our award money to fund this workshop.

Part of the workshop enabled us to develop our understanding of some of the key issues relating to student mental health in Higher Education. While as sociologists we retain a critical stance towards the structural conditions that can negatively impact on mental health, we are nevertheless interested in the ways in which we can prioritise and enhance students’ mental wellbeing. We are keen to work on increasing our awareness of students’ mental health and to explore areas in which we might foster positive approaches to mental health in our teaching and personal tutoring practice.

We discussed how we might heighten a sense of community in Sociology for both staff and students, as well as how we can use contact time in ways that support students to be active partners in their learning, encouraging them to connect with each other both inside and outside of the classroom.

We had a really enjoyable and productive day, and were able to invite colleagues from English, Psychology and Modern Languages to work with us on this important topic. It is our hope that this workshop will provide a catalyst for future initiatives on mental wellbeing at Westminster.

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What are British Values?

Ben had a fun chat this morning with the presenters of Saturday Morning Live on Voice of Islam Radio. His interview starts at 1:21:46.

“When politicians worry about British values they’re trying to suggest that some people don’t fit in, some people don’t belong. And this is where racial and religious minorities get subject to scrutiny and suspicion […] There’s an inflammatory language here that suggests some people belong more than others, and I fundamentally contest that. Britain is not a white nation. Britain does not somehow belong more to white people than racial or religious minorities. That’s something to be fought over and contested. The vision of British values that get articulated often is a very exclusive one”

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