Geographical Society President, Chiara Aylett, shares her thoughts on leading the society, and how students can benefit from joining their departmental society.

The benefits of departmental societies

After recently celebrating its centenary, over the summer Geographical Society (or Geog Soc, as it’s more commonly known!) affiliated with Students’ Union UCL. The experience of being a committee member and leading a society has taught me many things already but perhaps the most important of these is just how important departmental societies are here at UCL.  

Departmental societies are cornerstones of academic communities, bridging the gap between the acquisition of knowledge in the classroom and applying this knowledge, primarily by giving students multiple forums to do so.

From expanding their academic learning through speaker events and panels, developing their career opportunities with sector workshops and employer insight events, to meeting more people in their cohort or those who share their interest through social events, they are the means by which students can put knowledge into practice. They support students to engage in their studies, their future opportunities, and their student community. 

In my department, I understand there to be a three-tiered approach. This includes departmental teaching staff and associated academics, our SSCC and Geog Soc. Geog Soc acts as the unifying element of this structure. Our society not only circulates the current research by our academics and advertises SSCC student consultations, but also allows an opportunity for students and staff to interact at social events and academic events led by lecturers in our department.  

Leading a departmental society

From a personal perspective, I applied to be president of Geog Soc as I saw many opportunities to develop the role of the society. I wanted to continue the fabulous legacy and traditions left by my predecessors through our annual events like our summer and winter Intercollegiate balls, but reshape the society by making it more active and diversifying our activities to cater for both our department and the wider UCL student body.  

Being involved in the society has also allowed me to develop my own community and meet people I would not have done if not in this position. The team spirit created within a society leadership is like no other

While everyone acts as a cog in the machine, we all unite over big goals and events. Whether it’s bouncing ideas around, celebrating a successful project or thinking outside the box and working together to problem solve, a tight-knit Geog Soc community is forged with us all striving for the best outcomes for members. 

Developing key skills

However, don’t let me fool you into thinking it is all smooth sailing! There are always near disasters. Speakers dropping out, venue let downs, miscommunications, personality conflicts. But it’s how you overcome them that makes being a society leader so rewarding. The skills and resilience you develop to constantly solve challenges prepare you for many situations in the real world.

It might be developing the confidence to negotiate with a difficult venue manager, learning how best to manage particular personalities, or managing a large budget, the employability skills you develop are endless. So far, I’ve developed skills in project planning, teamwork, organisation, finance, administration, leadership, marketing, social media communications management and negotiation, and there is still another 6 months of my presidency to go!  

I would recommend getting involved with a society at leadership level to everyone. If you have an opportunity to join a society linked with your discipline, then even better! You get a new perspective on your subject, a head start on developing some amazing employability skills to put on your CV, and you develop as a person with all the new experiences you face. Everything you do as part of the society enriches your studies and is a great platform for your future opportunities.

It’s important to remember that being involved with a society revolving around a subject you love is so rewarding and great fun. Everything else you gain by being in the committee is a bonus!

Want to find out more about departmental societies and how you can get involved? Visit this page.