Skip to main content Skip to navigation

We are Chemistry Case Study

We are Chemistry

How an initiative to build community post-COVID has led to innovative inclusion initiatives.

In the period emerging from the pandemic Warwick Chemistry staff Tom Ritchie and Adam Alcock found themselves with a similar question to many – how to rebuild an in-person department post-COVID restrictions.

The resulting ‘We are Chemistry’ initiative combines a student-led approach with informal sessions designed to break down barriers and encourage honest discussion. Over the past year, the programme has fostered a real sense of community across the department and led to major developments in student welfare and inclusion.

Informal discussion; concrete outcomes

Initially, Tom and Adam focused on free ’low risk, high value‘ events that would get students through the door and break down barriers, including free food, professionally taken LinkedIn headshots and therapy dog sessions to reduce exam stress.

“It’s amazing what students talk to you about over a slice of pizza – all of a sudden the barriers drop,” explains Adam.

The weekly sessions triggered conversations it would be difficult to have in passing, around welfare provision and inclusion.

“We started to have some really interesting conversations last year around neurodiversity,” says Tom. These conversations resulted in inclusive education guidelines, revised exam preparation timetables and changes to the curriculum to better reflect student need.

Building with students

One of the key reasons for We are Chemistry’s success is its ethos around ’building with students, rather than at them’, according to Tom. Early in the process, they hired a student representative to ensure the initiative remained centred around student voices.

Another avenue for student engagement has been the multidisciplinary ‘Designing for Inclusion’ programme, in which staff and student teams designed solutions to facilitate inclusion at Warwick. As well as being an opportunity to develop valuable design-thinking skills, some of the projects will be implemented across the university over the coming months.

Building for the future

In its first year, the programme ran and supported 82 free activities, reaching 4,400 attendees and increasing engagement with social media channels by 2,000%.

Right now, the team are collaborating on a free campus larder to help those affected by the cost-of-living crisis, and there is plenty more planned for 2024 and beyond. High on the agenda is the creation of off-campus study spaces for students living in Coventry and Leamington Spa to reduce time and cost burdens associated with commuting to the main campus.