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Belonging at the university

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Published: March 15, 2019

Hi, my name is Matty and I am a former student of the University of Sunderland. I am currently employed in the Wellbeing team as a Student Engagement Officer tasked with fostering a greater sense of community among students.


I felt I was a good fit for this role, as during my time here, I didn’t feel any particular sense of affiliation to the community within this institution. As a student I lived at home with my parents, meaning I didn’t live in shared/private accommodation and instead had an hour commute every day. Between lectures I often had to sprint between St. Peters Campus and City Space Campus due to studying combined History and Psychology and to top this all off, I had a good group of friends at home who did not attend university.

All of these factors combined to create somewhat of a ‘barrier’ between me and the University. I did what I needed to academically and I really did find my course fascinating, but looking back at my time as a student, I essentially came in for my lessons and then left, resulting in me not really having a strong connection to the University.

Therefore, because of my circumstances as a student and witnessing the impact a low sense of belonging can cause, I am delighted, more than ever to inform you about the new ‘Belonging Project’.

The University formed the Belonging project upon a growing body of literature that found a sense of belonging and community is key for student retention, success and wellbeing.

The need to create strong communities here at Sunderland is of even greater importance due to the diversity of our students and the diversity of their lived experiences as a university student. It is our aim to strengthen the feeling of belongingness students have with courses, departments, faculties, schools, the SU and the University more generally. But going beyond this, we wish to enhance the sense of community among those students who are not bound by disciplinary boundaries, such as mature students, commuter students and students with caring responsibilities to name just a few.

The scope of this project is massive and because of this we have recruited members of staff from across the university and SU into our team, but we want students directly involved too.

This is why we are looking for two student representatives to join the Belonging project. If you are interested in getting involved, or even if you think you have an innovative idea that could foster a community ethos at the University of Sunderland, please do get in touch. This goes for staff too. I will be getting out and about talking to students as much as I can, but please do pop into the Wellbeing department located in Edinburgh building if you fancy a chat about all things belonging.




Matty McKenna

Student Engagement Officer



Topic: Advice and tips, Equality, diversity and inclusion