Spotlight on... Elena Besussi

This week we talk to Elena, a lecturer (teaching) in the Bartlett School of Planning. She takes us through her work with UCL’s Community Engaged Learning Service, where students work with external partners as part of their research, and shares her love of cycling.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I’m a lecturer (teaching) at The Bartlett School of Planning. I am module leader for several project-based postgraduate and undergraduate modules. Project-based teaching brings the profession and practice of planning to life and is very rewarding for students to translate ideas into tangible proposition for real places.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

In this role, since 2012. Before that I was a Postgraduate Teaching Assistant and I was providing technical support and advice to local community groups engaged in planning and development.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

Introducing collaborative learning opportunities where students and neighbourhood planning forums worked together to co-produce content for neighbourhood plan. Since 2014, our postgraduate students have collaborated with 15 neighbourhood forums. That is about 10% of all neighbourhood forums in London!

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

I am starting a 1-year project with the UCL Community Engaged Learning Service as a Community Engaged Learning (CEL) Bartlett Fellow. Community Engaged Learning (CEL) is experiential learning where students collaborate with external partners to address real-world challenges and opportunities as part of their assignments and research. The goal of the fellowship is to build capacity within the Bartlett to embed more CEL opportunities in our teaching, and to support teaching staff who want to work with community partners. There are already several examples of collaborative teaching in the Bartlett Faculty and I look forward to learning from them and supporting them.

As a CEL Bartlett Champion, I am hoping to further enrich the advice and support offered through the Community Engaged Learning Service at UCL, as an enabler of the Connected Curriculum Framework. 

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

Novel (last 10 years): Milkman by Anna Burns
Album: In Rainbows by Radiohead
Film: A Sunday in Hell by Jørgen Leth

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Friends from my life before I moved to London 20 years ago.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t worry about what people think and exercise more!

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I am a keen road cyclist. I cycled up Mont Ventoux!

What is your favourite place?

Sanremo (Italy). It’s my family holiday place.