Faced with the need to boost student engagement, the Linguistics Department’s Student Experience Committee took a new approach to student inclusion. In this post, Agi Bodis, Jing Fang, Phil Chappell and Iain Giblin, on behalf of the committee, share their experience with creating a connected and inclusive Departmental culture.

Background: students crave inclusion, belonging and engagement

In late 2021, the Department of Linguistics’ Education Leadership undertook some strategic thinking around poor student engagement metrics reported in the Quality in Learning and Teaching (QILT) student survey data. Diving into this data, it became apparent that students were rating their experiences particularly low in the areas of inclusion, belonging and engagement. Furthermore, during student consultations conducted as part of the internal re-accreditation of Linguistics undergraduate courses, it became evident that students wanted to develop a deeper connection with the department beyond the mere delivery of the academic curriculum. The ‘Covid years’, of course, were partly to blame for a general sense of disconnectedness, but by that time, the social distancing and social exclusions were behind us. So, what could we do to address this in our large and diverse department for future years?

A way forward with the connected curriculum framework

A review of the literature in the area of improving the student experience revealed a useful model: the ‘connected curriculum framework’ (Fung, 2017). This framework provides clear guidance in how to connect students to the academic activities that are going on around them in their school or department, particularly to activities related to research and workplace. We found it to be an especially useful heuristic in helping us understand what we could do to foster a stronger sense of inclusion and belonging for our students within the realm of language-related academia. Moreover, it enables us to design interesting and personally relevant activities on campus at Macquarie University.

Connected Curriculum Framework (Fung, 2017, p. 5)

First steps: We set up a Student Experience Committee and organised a Connecting Linguistics event

For starters, we felt it vital that we directly connected our students with Linguistics researchers and the research activities that were going on across Linguistics.

With our newly established Student Experience Committee, we organised our first Connecting Linguistics event in 2022. The aim of this event was to feature some of our ongoing research and to allow students and staff to network.

An important theme that we began with was illustrating to our students the interconnectedness of all our courses, facilitating pathways from undergraduate to postgraduate study, and ultimately to graduate research.

We then had a series of 10-minute presentations covering diverse research areas within our department.

In our first Connecting Linguistic event, the presentations covered the following topics:

  • Monitoring communication success in noisy environments
  • Hybridity in interpreting? The case of Simultaneous-consecutive
  • Language in the news
  • Speech, Hearing and Language in Diverse Child Populations
  • Who said what? – The processing of indexical information in speech

Feedback from students

Feedback from students was extremely positive, especially regarding feelings of inclusion, belonging and engagement. This short (5 minute) video shows highlights from the events and shares a variety of student feedback from the day.

It’s really nice to get the opportunity to mingle with faculty, the presenters and with other students. I enjoyed it.

It was awesome seeing research in action. Normally we see it as happening in the past … the presenters were so enthusiastic. Really happy to be here.

It actually made me think what I should do next, after I finish my current studies. It made me think about what’s out there, what are my options in this university … the professors, the doctors and the students were all sitting in the same space – that makes us feel more comfortable.

Having the opportunity to see what is happening in our disciplines is really fantastic. A lovely opportunity. All in all, we loved it.

Growing student representation in the Student Experience Committee

Running the Connecting Linguistics events wouldn’t have been nearly as successful if it had been organised by staff members only. In 2023, the Student Experience Committee was expanded to include both staff and student representatives. The invitation to include student representation in the Student Experience Committee has ensured that student voices have been heard. Our student committee members include international and domestic students (undergraduate and postgraduate). Following the success of this, in 2024, we invited representatives from all student societies in Linguistics, such as Macquarie University Speech Hearing and Linguistics Society (MUSHLS) and Mac Speech Club, to join the committee as well.

Meanwhile, through continuous reflection, our event focus and structure have evolved and improved over time, reflecting student feedback and an increased collaboration with student societies within the Department.

For example, in Connecting Linguistics in Semester 2, 2023, we shifted the spotlight to the student societies by inviting them to present at the event. This was a collaborative idea from both staff and student committee members, resulting in one of the most successful events so far: the audience interest was high, and during the lunch session, students from Applied Linguistics courses were inspired to start a TESOL Student Society, and made the first steps in establishing it then and there.

2023 Connecting Linguistics event

Furthermore, having student representation in the committee and organising regular Connecting Linguistics events have also brought a flow-on effect to student society memberships, significantly boosting their member numbers as well as participant numbers at their own social events. For instance, MUSHLS has been organising welcome events on campus at the beginning of each semester.

Staff attendance at the welcome events has significantly increased since the Student Experience Committee connected with MUSHLS and advertised their events through Connecting Linguistics and other channels. Staff members attending their functions and mingling with students over a drink at UBar have strengthened student-staff connections, contributing to a healthy and supportive learning environment.

Linguistics staff and students enjoying connection and food.

Next steps: Enhancing the Connected Curriculum Framework

Returning to Fung’s (2017) Connected Curriculum Framework, we are satisfied that our current activities have been addressing the following dimensions of practice:

Initiatives in the Faculty Education portfolio are ensuring we are working towards:

Moving forward, our focus will retain its original lens and also lean towards working with our teaching staff to ensure:

We do want our students to have a say in this strategy. Therefore, we aim to bring these plans to a future Connecting Linguistics event for consultation to strengthen our student-centred connected curriculum design.

If your Department or School is interested in this practice and our experience, please get in touch with us: agnes.bodis@mq.edu.au

Department of Linguistics Student Experience Committee members: Jing Fang (Chair), Agi Bodis, Sriram Boothalinam, Jinhyun Cho, Phil Chappell, Iain Giblin, Sarah Resende (student), Anne Thomas (student), Jie Yang (student)


Crawford, J., Allen, K. A., Sanders, T., Baumeister, R., Parker, P., Saunders, C., & Tice, D. (2024). Sense of belonging in higher education students: an Australian longitudinal study from 2013 to 2019. Studies in Higher Education, 49(3), 395–409. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2023.2238006

Fung, D. (2017). Introducing the Connected Curriculum, Ch 1, pp. 4-19. UCL Press. Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1qnw8nf.8

Further reading

Student success through student engagement (4 pillars)
Learning design that fosters student engagement and autonomy
A course review process to maximise student mental wellbeing and engagement
From confusion to confidence – mapping the journey for first-year students

Banner image: Photo by Foto-Ruhrgebiet on Shutterstock
All other images: Photos by Jing Fang

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