22 Apr 2024

Belonging is the focus of the Diversity Initiative 2024. At the start of the series of events during the summer semester, Vice President Biagini and members of the LMU community talk about what belonging means to them.

Vice President Francesca Biagini: “Inspiration and innovation thrive in an atmosphere of trust and openness.“

LMU Vice President for International Affairs and Diversity, Prof Francesca Biagini | © LMU / Gandalf Hammerbacher

What does “belonging” mean in the context of diversity in a university setting?

Since 2019, my commitment is to promote diversity through annual initiatives and different kinds of activities and measures. It is a matter of particular importance to me that all of us with our different needs and backgrounds feel valued and appreciated at LMU.

Encouraging a sense of belonging is paramount to help our members to realize their full potential as inspiration and innovation thrive in an atmosphere of trust and openness. This contributes to LMU’s overall excellence as a university.

Which events and measures are planned as part of the initiative Belonging@LMU?

To provide a varied and attractive program, we closely collaborate with LMU’s faculties and departments as well as our cooperation partners, such as pme Familienservice (pme Family Service) . The activities include talks, awareness workshops and working groups to encourage dialogue and reflection about inclusion and participation. In collaboration with the Munich Student Union we offer events and services for students with disabilities.

One highlight of this year’s initiative will be a high-profile panel debate on the subject of AI and participation. The event will be held on 4th of July at the Seidlvilla here in Munich.

I am especially delighted about the recent establishment of the Facharbeitskreis Inklusion und Teilhabe (Expert Panel on Inclusion and Participation), which brings together the expertise of existing contact points, external partners and members of the faculties. The aim is to foster collaboration and promote measures for an inclusive university. Anyone who is interested is very welcome to actively contribute.

More about 2024's diversity initiative "Belonging@LMU"

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How can the initiative contribute to create a more inclusive environment for all members of the LMU community?

We want to strengthen people’s sense of belonging at LMU through a number of awareness-raising measures, workshops, lectures and courses. The initiative is designed to foster a dialogue between the members of the LMU community, and thus to facilitate open discussions about experiences, needs and concerns relating to inclusion and participation. At the same time, we also strive to develop and implement concrete measures to promote equal opportunities and inclusion at LMU.

Our members are cordially invited to take part in this manifold program. I would like to take the opportunity for thanking all contributors for their active participation as well as the Central Diversity Management team for the coordination.

Above and beyond this initiative, what else does LMU do to strengthen people’s sense of belonging?

One important aspect of our efforts is the WeCare@LMUprogram. It provides a variety of services and information about contact points that offer all-round support for students and staff in the case of problems, crisis situations and psychosocial challenges. LMU is strongly committed to promote work/life balance. Accordingly, we also offer services and events about family and caring responsibilities for children and relatives.

Additionally, LMU runs an Inclusion Tutor program which aims to support students with special needs and to facilitate their inclusion in everyday life of the university. The recently established Expert Panel on Inclusion and Participation will add to improving the coordination and collaboration between the different contact points and thus in identifying and solving problems.

Through these manifold services, LMU constantly strives to ensure that all members feel seen and accepted. It is important to join forces and actively advocate the shaping of an inclusive university community.

Find out more about the Diversity Initiative 2024 Belonging@LMU and take part in the diverse program of events until 4 July.

Logo diversity initiative Belonging@LMU

What does Belonging mean to me?

What does it mean to really be part of a community? How does this feeling characterise daily life and academic work? The answers are as diverse as the LMU community. Academics, students and staff share their personal experiences and insights to show what diversity and inclusivity at LMU means to them.

Loreen Böckeler - Commitment can create a sense of belonging

Inclusion tutor, Loreen Böckler | © privat

"I came to LMU in the winter semester 2020/21. In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. It was very difficult to identify myself as an LMU student. I didn't know anyone and any socialising seemed very intimidating to me. You usually didn't stay in contact with people you got to know through courses for long either.

In 2021, I became an inclusion tutor and shortly afterwards also an assistant at the advice centre. Here, I felt very much on the same wavelength as my fellow participants and very welcome. And even though the assistants change quite quickly, I felt and still feel very connected to all my colleagues here. We're all just quirky in a similar way.

I took this self-confidence with me into my studies and in my first semester on campus, I learnt to get to know people again. Even though I still sometimes find it difficult to approach others, I now know a lot of people at university who I like and trust.If I don't have to think about what I want to say or ask, then that's good for me. If people take me seriously and enjoy talking to me, then that's belonging."

Prof Silvija Markic - Conveying a sense of belonging in teaching as well

Professor of Chemistry Didactics, Silvija Markic | © privat

"We are all different, but depending on our function at the university, we share common goals, as does our group of students. However, this group is very diverse. Even if the students choose the same degree programme, their motivation and interest in the individual subjects, their previous school knowledge and their language skills vary.

Furthermore, their ideas about studying are also different, as are the financial requirements for completing a degree programme. In order to convey a sense of belonging, it is important for us as lecturers to address this diversity in our teaching and offer inclusive university teaching."

Romy Hoche - Creating a sense of belonging together

Romy Hoche

Academic Student Counsellor for Barrier-Free Studying at LMU Munich, Romy Hoche | © LMU

"From my years of counselling, I know that students with disabilities often experience the feeling of not belonging. Since the pandemic at the latest, however, pretty much everyone has experienced this.

Let's learn from these experiences and work towards a university environment where differences are normal and even beneficial, where we treat each other with respect and where the LMU community is more than the sum of its parts. Because inclusion and participation always affects everyone."

To the services offered by the Counselling Centre for Students with Disabilities

Angelika Brunner - To feel accepted and seen

To the services of the Central Diversity Management

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"For me personally, belonging means having a place where I feel accepted and seen. As a former student and now employee at this university, I feel a connection to our community. Through my work at Diversity Management, I experience belonging as an active process that we foster through our work and that allows me to come together with many different people. It's an ongoing journey where we work together to ensure that everyone here at LMU feels heard and valued."

Angelika Brunner, Central Diversity Management Team

Read more about accessibility and diversity at LMU:

Mixing AI and empathy - Interview with Prof Zentel
"A new perspective!" - Inclusion tutors in profile
"Between the world of the sighted and the world of the blind" - a portrait of doctoral student Menahil Tahir

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