Keeping It Civil: How One Society Ran an Engineering Debate


Written by Riccardo Stone 

Edited by Holly Barr

debate

Anybody who has ever put on an event will understand the time and effort needed to make it successful. This is important enough where the event is a standard template (such as an Otley run, or an event like bowling or visiting the cinema). It takes even more commitment and dedication to create an event which isn’t usually done; but that’s exactly what the Civil Engineering Society have done this year in setting up a Civil Engineering Debate.

The debate was the brainchild of Ann Ahmed, a Civil Engineering student and head of the Civil Engineering Society. Ann had been involved in debating for seven years while she lived in Qatar. In 2011 she even judged a debate herself.

“I wanted to create a platform for future engineers” Ann said when she was asked to talk about how this debate came about. “Somewhere to network with other students and members of industry, and connect their knowledge to an industry setting. And debating was not a new thing for me.” In many ways, a debate is the perfect format to foster networking and professional connections.

A great idea is nothing without a plan; and her plan was ambitious. The debate was conceived as a knockout competition between Leeds Beckett, University of Bradford, University of Leeds, and University of Sheffield. Even when this was scaled back to a straightforward debate, there was still a lot of work and effort required to make it happen. And not just the debate itself, but the various meetings and workshops and marketing pushes that paved the way for the main event.

Fortunately for Ann, she wasn’t on her own. She had the support of her committee, as well as the Students Union and one of her lecturers, Josie Rother. And one of the first pieces of advice she offered was to “get the right team and do not hesitate to ask for help, from the SU or from anyone else.”

As Ann put it, “every part of the debate presented its own set of unique challenges.” Whether it was dealing with unresponsive universities, booking a venue, or simply finding the time to keep on top of everything, running a big event is not an easy thing to do. But for Ann, and many other society leaders like her, the effort is worth it.

“I got to learn more, and to refresh skills I already had.”

Ann’s overall experience was an overwhelmingly positive one, and she hopes that other students will follow her example. “Set your aims for the event first” She said. “Organise your steps. And don’t be afraid to be flexible with your plans if something does not work. At the end, you will learn some new things or found the best strategy or your own strategy that works for your event. Be open, be motivated, and believe that it is possible to do whatever it is you’re doing. The SU and staff will be there to help you with your events every step of the way.

The Civil Engineering Debate was held in the Mock Court Room in Portland, City Campus, on Friday 17th March from 5:30.

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