Looking back on the #OUStudents22 Conference

Sarah Jones, OU Students Association President, looks back on a jam-packed conference weekend.

So, Conference! Join me as I look back on our biennial conference, held from 21 – 23 January 2022.

What a weekend! It was full of fantastic guests and interactive sessions for delegates. 

I started with the introduction to Conference and the business results. After which there was an amazing session ran by Emma Greenstein discussing a Wellbeing Toolkit. We also had a quiz on Friday evening, after a session explaining what the Student Association can do for you. I didn’t do as badly as I thought I would on the quiz thanks to a round at the end that gave 5 points per question.

Saturday started with an interesting session on how to zone your study space and some interesting DIY tips from DIY Guru Jo Behari. A follow-up article of more tips from Jo will be released tomorrow.

Next, we had Dr Caroline Ogilvy come and talk to us about the incredible partnership with the OU and the BBC.  

Next, whilst our Wales Rep Hanna Silk led a panel discussion with our Nation Directors, I went to the first of four coffee and consolations that will help us form a manifesto for lifelong learning. 

The Saturday afternoon sessions started with an engaging session with the incomparable Jackie Weaver. It was really interesting listening to her talk about kindness in politics and how she got into local government politics, and she has answered some more delegate questions in a Hoot article since, too.

Next up the OU Library ran a fascinating and engaging session called evaluating facts, memes and current events, examining fake news

There was supposed to be a Desk Yoga session but due to technical difficulties it had to be recorded later rather than shown live, and was sent to delegates the following morning. 

Alongside the second Coffee and Consultation we had an inspiring talk from Jasvinder Sanghera, former CEO of charity Karma Nirvana. She shared her story surrounding forced marriage and honour-based violence. 

Nick Braithwaite, exec dean of the STEM faculty, then did a session on the OU and sustainability and one of our elected reps Nichola Connelly ran a session on Mindapples. 

Next up was a brilliant session with our Vice Chancellor, Tim Blackman. There were a range of questions put to him around the OU and Higher Education in general and then there were a couple from left field like ‘what is your favourite vegetable?’. Tim answered with good humour! Apparently, it’s any vegetable that you can grow yourself, diplomatic to the end! 

The last session of the afternoon was the University Challenge session. This went down well when the Association team won!

Saturday evening saw the Virtual Pub. This was held on Microsoft Teams and students were put into different pub rooms so they could spend time chatting and getting to know each other. I hear talk that there was a lock in late into the night! Thankfully it was a bring your own booze.

On Sunday morning, alongside a Virtual Café some of our elected reps ran a session around the future of exams at the OU. They managed to gain lots of views that they can now take back to discuss with the OU. 

Next up was a lovely mediation session. 

At the OU we have amazing Post Graduate Research students, and it was good to hear from two of them what it is like to be one as it is very different from being an Undergraduate student. At the same time, it was our third Coffee and Consultation session. 

Next up was our Societies showcased some of what they do, and we had our Student Insights session, exploring Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.  

Sunday afternoon Lopa Patel, who is one of the OU’s lay Council members, came to give a really interesting talk about Women in STEM. It was fascinating to hear about her determination and her journey as a woman in STEM. We also had our final Coffee and Consultation session. 

Next up we had a session about Coaching for Success and some of our students sharing their experiences of being a student. 

Chloe Burroughs came and ran a great session on study tips, which I know even now I need! We also had two politicians join us to answer some questions and tell us a bit about their roles – Daniel Zeichner MP and Baroness Garden of Frognal. 

And then the final session to say thank you and remind everyone how they could get involved in what has been an amazing start to our 50th year!

I want to extend a huge thank you to everyone who joined us, from those that organised it and took part to those of you who came as delegates. Without you all it would not have been possible, and it would not have been the success it was. So, here’s to the rest of our 50th year!

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Sarah P Jones


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