It's no secret that student communities are an integral part of the university experience. Whether it's through clubs and organizations, student government, or simply connecting with peers, being a part of a community can greatly enhance a student's sense of belonging and overall college experience. But what many universities may not realize is that the key to a thriving student community is student leadership.

When students take the reins of their community, they are empowered to shape the culture and direction of their university experience. Not only does this foster a greater sense of ownership and investment in the community, but it also ensures that the community is meeting the unique needs and desires of its members. 

So, why exactly should a student community be student-led? Here are a few reasons:

1 Student-led communities foster creativity and innovation 

Students are naturally innovative and creative, and when they're in charge of the community, they can put those skills to good use. When students are given the freedom to take charge of their community, they are empowered to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to challenges. They can come up with new and exciting events and activities. This keeps the community fresh, engaging, and exciting for all involved. Fostering a culture of innovation that can lead to exciting new initiatives and programs that may not have been possible under a more rigid, top-down leadership structure. At Goin' to UCL we've quite a bit of unique groups flourishing throughout the community. Here were the top groups we discovered!

2 Student-led communities promotes diversity and inclusion

A student-led community is more likely to reflect the diversity of its members and promote a culture of inclusion. When students from different backgrounds come together to create a community, they can learn from one another, develop a deeper understanding of different perspectives, and work together to promote a more inclusive environment. According to a report by the American Council on Education, diverse student communities can lead to better learning outcomes and a more positive campus culture.

Sofrina from The Hague University of Applied Sciences - I have an intense fear that once I arrive, everyone will think I’m weird and they won’t be friends with me because I don’t fit in with their idea of a “nice/cool person”. Thanks to Goin’ I was able to connect with students who have similar experiences with me and who face similar struggles. It also gave me a sense of belonging, as I joined groups where people where really nice, accepting and immediately made me feel at ease. It also helped me discard my negative assumptions about my fellow students and brought me to the realization that they’re probably not that different from me…I am now fully convinced that I will, indeed find like-minded people and make friends.

3 Student-led communities give better representation of the students 

When students lead the community, they can represent the needs and interests of the student body much more effectively than any administrator or faculty member. Students are the ones who understand what their peers want, need, and value, and they can make sure that the community reflects that. In fact, student-led communities can be particularly effective in addressing the unique needs and concerns of underrepresented groups on campus. When these groups have a say in the programming and direction of the community, they can ensure that their perspectives are included and their voices are heard. This can lead to a more inclusive and equitable community overall.

Nina from University of Helsinki - “You cannot imagine how the Goin’ app helped me throughout this challenging time. I am really grateful for this! Information shared via Goin' can save you from making mistakes and wrong choices. Personally, I've received the perfect housing offer and the peers from Goin' played a vital role in this. To say shortly, the chance to get advice and share your experience is the most valuable thing!”

4 Student-led communities increase engagement

When students are in charge of the community, they're more invested in it. They're more likely to attend events, participate in activities, and promote the community to their peers. This creates a positive feedback loop - the more involved students are, the more successful the community becomes, and the more students want to get involved. When students are given the autonomy to shape the community, they feel a sense of ownership and pride in their work. They become more passionate about creating a community that is reflective of their shared values, and this sense of passion and ownership can be contagious, inspiring more students to become involved and invested in the community.

Xoacheng from UCL - "I have had a great experience with this application! Without this app, I cannot get in contact with future classmates from other countries’ due to regulations in my country. In addition, the interest part gives me idea about what to talk about. So now I can chat with others with a more approachable topic and I can meet future classmates with similar interests."

5 Student-led communities builds authenticity 

When a student-led community reflects the true experiences of the student body, it feels authentic and genuine. This can create a more welcoming and inclusive environment where students feel free to be themselves and connect with others who share their values and interests. In contrast, when a community is led by faculty or administrators, there's a risk that it can feel forced. Students may feel like they're being "sold" on an experience rather than being part of a genuine community. Authenticity is important for building trust and connection among members of a student community.

Anne Simpson: International Affairs Specialist at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences - "We discovered Goin’ Connect when we were looking for ways to better support the wellbeing and integration of our students. The student feedback has been extremely positive and most have commented how lovely it has been to make friends and get to know your classmates before studies even begin. From our perspective everything has worked smoothly too and we are excited to provide this service to our students. After all, the wellbeing of our students is our top priority and the Goin´ Connect app definitely helps us in making the student experience a great one!"

How can universities facilitate a student-led community?

One way is through community-based platforms like Goin'. By providing an online space for students to connect and collaborate, Goin' allows for student-led groups and initiatives to thrive. Through Goin', students can create and manage their own groups, share resources and ideas, and even organize events and activities. In addition, Goin' also offers features like polls and surveys, which allow for student feedback and input on community decisions. This ensures that the student community is truly meeting the needs and desires of its members. 

Ultimately, the success of a student community comes down to student empowerment. By giving students the tools and resources to take charge of their community, universities can foster a more vibrant, innovative, and inclusive student experience. 

So, let's empower students to lead the way and make their mark on their university community!

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