Alumni engagement and philanthropy

VOLUNTEER ‘THANK YOU’ WEEK AT QUEEN’S 2020  Volunteers Week 2020 - collage of graduate volunteers against background of hands in different colours

09 June 2020

From 1st to 5th June, the Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO) at Queen’s celebrated and thanked the University’s many graduate volunteers, for the unique gift of time during what is usually UK Volunteers’ Week.

Normally a celebration of the contribution of millions of people across the UK to a broad range of organisations, charities and universities – curtailed this year due to the coronavirus – Queen’s focused on some of the many hundreds of graduates who have participated in volunteering during the last 12 months.

Head of Alumni and Supporter Engagement, Ian Moore said: “Each and every one of our 468 alumni volunteers over the last year has played an integral role in the life of Queen’s.

“Whether it’s providing support and guidance to the University on its journey, encouraging and motivating our students to pursue inspirational careers through mentoring or work-related placements or simply keeping the University family connected around the world through our graduate associations, alumni volunteers make such a difference.

“We are hugely grateful to every one of our volunteers for the gifts of time that they give to Queen’s.”

Throughout Volunteers’ Week, we looked at how graduates could become involved with Queen’s, through a variety of volunteering activities:

Natasha Sharma, the University’s Alumni Relations Volunteer Manager, who has been working with graduate volunteers at Queen’s for almost a decade, commented: “The power and contribution of alumni volunteering never ceases to amaze me! 

“Last year, we had nearly 600 instances of volunteering, some of which took just an hour, while others lasted for the whole 12 months. As a Queen’s graduate, the sense of community which is prevalent even in these times of coronavirus isolation is truly uplifting.”

“And with an estimated value of £220,000 volunteering is making a huge contribution to life at Queen’s.”

Volunteer of the Year

Queen’s volunteers are recognised in many ways, one of the most important being the annual Alumni Volunteer of the Year Award. The current Volunteer of the Year is Professor Gerry Gormley, a Queen’s medical graduate (MB BCh BAO, 1995).

Professor Gormley balances his time between being a GP in Carryduff, and carrying out his role as a Clinical Professor in Simulation and Clinical Skills within the Centre for Medical Education at Queen’s. 

He has tirelessly supported DARO over the past three years on the development of a new simulation and experiential learning centre – attending events at weekends and in the evenings; giving tours to groups and individuals; hosting visits to the existing facilities and leading an event in London for potential donors. 

Speaking about this latest recognition, Professor Gormley said: “It is a huge honour to receive this award. Working alongside colleagues in DARO and the many generous donors, we are able to realise our ambitions to further advance our world-class educational experience for health and social professional students at Queen’s, and the members of society they will serve.”

The KN Cheung SK Chin Intersim Centre will be one of the few in the UK to truly champion simulation based education. Medical, Nursing and Midwifery, Dentistry and Pharmacy students will train together in interactive scenarios that closely replicate the clinical setting.

Call for graduates to get involved

“During Volunteers’ Week 2020, we wanted to call on our graduates to emulate the likes of Professor Gerry Gormley by giving some of their time to Queen’s,” said Natasha Sharma. “This coming year, and given the social distancing restrictions of the coronavirus, we’d be particularly keen to hear from graduates who might be able to provide important virtual (or indeed actual) placements or intern opportunities for our current students.

“A virtual placement can often be just as good one where the student is there in person, and it allows the individual to get most of the benefits without leaving home!”

Creating such a virtual opportunity for a student can also provide benefits for the graduate providing it.

“For our alumni volunteers,” continued Natasha, “volunteering can also be a really great way to develop their own transferable skills. It can help broaden and expand personal networks, and in most cases it has a really positive impact on the individual’s mental health and wellbeing.

“And the more you do it, the greater the buzz!” she added.

For further details on becoming a graduate volunteer at Queen’s University Belfast – such as becoming a career mentor, providing a work place learning opportunity, or assisting with student recruitment – please contact Natasha Sharma, Alumni Volunteering Manager. 

For general enquiries about this story or to submit a graduate news item, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen’s University Belfast.

Volunteering opportunities:   

Volunteering can take many forms. Sometimes graduates may not even realise that they are volunteering, or even see themselves as volunteers!


1. Profile provision

Providing a profile photo, along with details of a graduate career path, can have massive benefits. The University can use this information in prospectuses or on our website to inform prospective students of the value of a Queen’s degree. If you would like to volunteer in this way, please draft 300 words (max) outlining your career path and send this, along with a recent high-res profile photo, to Natasha Sharma


2. Associations

Alumni associations and chapters bridge the gap between Queen's graduates and the University all around the world. These groups – and the events and activities they organise – are run by alumni volunteers, who find it a mutually beneficial way of staying in touch. For more on joining, or becoming involved in the running of one of our alumni groups at home or around the world visit our associations web page.


3. Mentoring

Volunteer mentors make themselves available as sounding boards for current students and younger graduates. For current students, finding out how best to prepare for the world of work – and how to make progress once they get there – can be life changing. For younger graduates too, having a chance to talk to someone who has already been down the same career path can also be hugely beneficial.

Mentors help increase employee knowledge and improve existing skills; they can be hugely beneficial in terms of professional and personal development while improving employee satisfaction and retention. For more on mentoring opportunities, please contact Natasha Sharma.  

4. Placements

When alumni introduce us to their organisations, it enables our Work Related Learning and Placement Offices support staff to uncover the potential opportunities by understanding the company needs. By implementing a system that’s been operating for more than 25 years, the right students are then matched to relevant opportunities, such as placements, careers fairs and company visits, to the mutual benefit of both parties, creating long-standing positive relationships with our engaged corporates. Work related learning can even occur virtually, with individual or groups of students. To discuss providing a student placement, please contact Natasha Sharma.   


5. Recruitment

Many of our graduates give back in another special way, by sharing their positive experiences of Queen’s - and their career path since - with a student holding offer for, or considering applying to, Queen’s. In this way, the graduate adds real credibility to our efforts, as the potential student can hear about the value of a Queen’s degree directly from someone who has attended the University. As a volunteer in this key area, the individual graduate may speak at online recruitment events, stand with us at careers fairs or network with potential students at virtual events. To discuss becoming a recruitment volunteer for Queen's, please contact Natasha Sharma.   


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