Hearing from Elliott Lancaster on his experiences of CAN

Elliott Lancaster
Photo of Elliott Lancaster

Here is an interview with Elliott Lancaster who has been part of the Change Agents’ Network for a few years! He tells us about his experiences and what he thinks of the CAN conferences!

1. So, tell us about yourself, what do you enjoy doing?

I really enjoy getting involved in youth empowerment projects, providing others the opportunity to make a difference. As part of this, I am strategically involved with several charitable organisations, in order to make sure the voices of young people are effectively sought out and acted upon.

2. What did you study at Keele University and how did it lead you to where you are now?
My undergraduate degree was in Accounting and Finance. During this time, I was heavily involved as a Student Voice Representative of the Students’ Union. This gave me the opportunity to be actively involved in course changes, including the process of co-founding, co-design and co-implementation.

3. Tell us more about your career.

After my degree, I was elected to the role of Education Officer at the Students’ Union. This allowed me to become more involved in setting education policy at Keele, such as quality assurance procedures and academic student support. This led me to becoming a Jisc Student Partner, through wanting to provide feedback on how to further support student engagement. Currently, I am completing a PhD in Management at Keele, researching responsible enterprises. This further builds upon wanting to provide policy support for organisations that want to help others.

4. When did you first get involved with the Change Agents’ Network?

I first got involved with the Change Agents Network during my time as Education Officer. In conjunction with the Keele Institute of Innovation and Teaching Excellence (KIITE), I was involved in the co-founding and co-design of the Elective Pathways project. Fundamentally, this was aimed at supporting all Keele students with access to interdisciplinary learning opportunities. The Change Agents Network was recommended as the perfect platform to disseminate the lessons learnt from this curriculum design process. Therefore, a proposal was submitted, in order to discuss the benefits of the project and challenges faced.

5. How did you get so involved in creating the conference from being a speaker?

The conference at the Open University was such a memorable experience, which was effective in providing a supportive and collaborative environment between all students and staff members. I found the experience presenting as a speaker thoroughly enjoyable and I wanted to help support the legacy of the conference by encouraging more people to get involved. Therefore, I submitted a proposal that Keele should host the Change Agents Network, as to further grow the conference with a new dynamic.

6. Tell us about the Journal you are a part of that gets published after the conference.

The Journal of Education, Innovation, Partnership and Change is a key part of the conference’s legacy. It provides a unique opportunity to discuss your ideas in a variety of ways. All conference presenters are encouraged to submit their work, as it enhances the dissemination of the ideas discussed. As the lead author of a previous article, I would thoroughly recommend getting involved. I found the editorial team very supportive, through the suggestions offered.

7. How has COVID-19 affected you and your work? How quickly have you had to change and adapt your working ways?

The research aspect of my PhD has remained largely unchanged, due to reliance on cloud-based technologies to share my work and collect questionnaire data. I have found the use of Microsoft Teams extremely useful in being able to coordinate my project in a coordinated manner. I have also been involved in sessional teaching, through the delivery of tutorials in a blended medium. Thankfully, the support offered by the university made this transition as smooth as possible, due to the training offered within the school. This included the opportunity to explore all necessary digital tools.

8. This is the first time it is all going to be online, does that feel a bit strange for you?

The online nature of the conference is certainly different to previous conferences. I believe that this will provide greater outreach for the conference, through giving more people the opportunity to take either present or view sessions. This is due to more people across the world having the access to attend an online event, which will further enrich the ideas discussed. In addition to this, the financial barrier of an online event is significantly lower. Therefore, I see a number of benefits to the structure of this year’s conference. I can’t wait to share this exciting experience with you.

9. What is your biggest takeaway from the conferences?

The Change Agents’ Network is collaborative to the core. The way in which it brings together students and staff to discuss a broad range of issues and innovation is inspiring. This provides all delegates the opportunity to reflect on their own experiences and embed substantive and meaningful changes.

10. If you could summarise CAN conferences in 3 words what would you choose?

Captivating, poignant and rousing.

11. Those reading this are hopefully looking to send in their submission, so what would you say to them to make sure they get involved with us this year? And what can they expect when they sign up for this?

We are currently at a pivotal moment of educational scholarship, due to the nature of the challenges being faced. The Change Agents Network is a needed open environment, supporting us to learn off each other and their submission is most welcome. There are a variety of ways which you can present your work in the way most effective to you. Once we have received your proposal, our panel will read it with great interest and see how we can best disseminate your work. The conference has a long-lasting legacy and there will be further opportunities, such as with the journal submission.

12. Finally, where do you see the Change Agents’ Network in 5 years?

I believe that the Change Agents Network still has a great amount of potential and will continue to grow these next 5 years. It is expected that the rapid growth in members will continue, reaching a broader audience. This includes a focus on students who are unlikely to engage in education scholarship activities. It is exciting to see students become more involved in the organising of the conference at a strategic level. This will add depth to the range of proposals submitted. Due to these developments, it is a really exciting time to get involved in the Change Agents Network.

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