The 1st of August saw the start of a new Central Executive Committee term. We are the student leadership of the Association, looking after the strategic direction of the charity and although our role remits vary massively, we all have one goal in common- to make the OU student journey better.
All the leadership is grateful for wonderful handover periods from predecessors and the staff team alike, as it set us up for a great start to the term, with all of us ready to hit the ground running. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been part of this process and the 2018-2020 leadership team.
To find out more about the leadership team, please visit our website here.
The first month of a new term is always interesting; picking up the projects from the previous leadership team, creating our own team and individual initiatives and for some people, being introduced to what feels like hundreds of people and committees. Well, this time around is no different, although a lot of attention has shifted from business as usual to pandemic response and being available for students.
Faculties hold all the fun
Our Faculty Association Representatives look after connecting the faculties, the Association and students.
Gareth Jones- Faculty of Business and Law
I knew it was going to be a busy start, but I don't think I was fully prepared for just how busy it has been. The first few weeks have felt like I am jumping from one meeting to another. However, despite being busy, it has been amazing, and I feel like i have already made a positive contribution already.
I would like to pick out some personal highlights. Being involved in the recruitment process for the new Head of Business School has been an intriguing process, and really helped prove to me the value that is placed on the Student Voice. Whilst some attention is now being turned towards Freshers, I have been encouraged at how my attempts at better integration have been received, and look forward to hosting a combined Student Association, Faculty and Societies event as part of Freshers!
Verity Saunders- Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and language Studies
August has been an exciting month, on my end. With COVID - it has been a tricky yet enjoyable start to my new role on the CEC.
I have been getting to plan events for freshers and start getting to know committees and learn exciting skills. A highlight has been getting a wonderful welcome on all ends from the majority if not all OU staff I have spoken with. I am beginning to settle into a pattern and manage demands well too! I am excited to continue this journey ahead into the unknown and look towards the first full committee meetings that I have to attend as WELS rep on my own.
Le Grand Fromage and her right-hand
The President is responsible for making all the big decisions together with the leadership and being the main contact for the university. The Deputy President chips in on this and looks after volunteering and all the miscellaneous business not covered by others.
Sarah Jones- President
It has been a very busy first month as President. I have been meeting various people within the OU and Association getting a feel for what the new role encompasses. Meeting people for the first time online is much harder than in person but I have been making the best of it as has everyone else. It has been really exciting talking to the new Central Executive Committee to find out their plans for the next two years.
I have been involved in speaking to the OU on behalf of students who have had issues with their results and communications around this. This is a complex issue and has taken up much of my time and the time of other student reps.
I have also had the opportunity to speak on a student panel for a new student leadership conference. The discussion was around the use of digital technologies. It was great to share how we as an Association have been able to support students throughout the last few months and plans that we have to continue that support.
Ian Cheyne- Deputy President
Just a few thoughts for the benefit of our OU student community since we all embark on the ‘Road Less Travelled’ which is the OU and distance learning, often without knowing what lies ahead. But even more often achieving remarkable success.
I've been asked to say something about what I’ve been doing during August. August, historically a month when nothing happened, as far as newspapers and television were concerned— ‘The Silly Season’, as it was called. Quite a few things have happened for me in my new role as Deputy President. Most significant would be finding out where to go, and who to ask, in order to get information, and establishing an organized approach to handling ongoing projects and responding to ad hoc issues.
But none more important than my being reminded of our shared journey, and the communities we meet with and share with along the ‘Road’.
Make the world go around
Area Association Representatives ensure that all accents and languages are part of our student community.
Lorena Fontan Grana- Wales
The Wales Volunteer Panel met for the first time at the beginning of August. In the next few months, we will be working on writing a response to the consultation for the regulator of HE in Wales. During the meeting, we also discuss plans for Freshers and for online monthly meetups.
I have been in regular contact with the OU in Wales and they are very keen to build up a good relationship between the Welsh students, their office in Cardiff and the OU in MK. I have been busy interacting with Welsh students on social media and on the forums. When it comes to building a Welsh community is a lot of work to be done but I am really looking forward to seeing what the next few months are going to bring starting with Freshers activities already being planned.
Ray Adcock- Continental Europe
I can honestly say that my first month as an Area Representative has been everything I hoped for! Whilst I had no prior experience as a volunteer, my new CEC and staff colleagues have been wonderfully supportive and very forgiving of my naïve questions, meaning that I have learnt a lot in a short while – including many acronyms! I would emphasize to any would-be volunteer that you will be extremely well briefed and welcomed should you take the plunge.
I attended an online ‘teams’ meeting with him and other OU students in Greece to discuss concerns regarding the lack of official recognition of OU qualifications in that country. This, and the many other meetings, working groups, briefings and online events since July mean that am already recognizing how much needs to be done and I am really looking forward to the rest of the term.
Wendy Reid- Ireland
I've been dealing with issues involving Student Finance NI for several students who contacted me early in August regarding their failure to secure their grants for their next year of study. This is ongoing as these authorities continue to work from home and the delays in responses are frustrating, to say the least. Fortunately, I have the resources at work to deal with these issues.
I wrote to the Minister for the Economy here suggesting that the cap on OU students in Northern Ireland may need to be lifted. This has since become an issue right across the universities in recent weeks following the fall-out from the A-Levels controversy. I will continue to press the Minister on issues of numbers and financing because here universities fall under the Dept of Economy, not Education. The next 12 months will be challenging for the three universities in Northern Ireland.
Presidents of the vices
Vice Presidents have a wide-ranging remit, which are all totally different, to cover all aspects of the Association activities.
Matt Porterfield- Vice President Administration
Alison Lunn, Deputy Chief Executive and I have set up fortnightly meetings and discussed what we would like to achieve in the finances and resources area.
This is a busy time of year in the financial calendar of the Association as the year-end audit has to be planned, stock counted, decisions made on how best to use our assets. We are finishing the year with more funds than planned due mainly to the online Conference and suspension of Face to Face meetings. Consultation has now started on how this should be utilised, some are obvious like funding initiatives in our agreed strategy, but others are up for discussion. Other activity includes having a refreshed chart of accounts (well, accountants will be excited) which should give managers more useful information on how their budgets are being spent. Many other plans, but I think that is enough excitement for one month.
Anca Seaton- Vice President Community
It was business as usual at OU students Community HQ in August. Our usual chats and activities continued, attracting more new students, which is always a bonus. We had a new role advertised - Association online events host. A good number of students applied, and they already had the training, so now expect to see a variety of events happening throughout the academic year.
But this time of the year is always busy - we are planning the Freshers' Fortnight. It's a great event, spread over two weeks, and brings together all sides of the Association and showcases our work, what we do to support our students and how to make distance learning less lonely. Keep your eyes peeled - the offer this year is bigger and better than before. Clear your calendar, 28 September - 3 October is Freshers' time! All new and existing students welcome.
Fanni Zombor- Vice President Engagement
I started this term, by figuring out what the role name change meant for me. When planning my priorities for the two years ahead I focused on two areas, Student Voice and Communications and set up priorities accordingly.
In terms of Communications, my focus has been creating surveys for the website development project and other consultation activities. When it comes to Student Voice, I have spent time planning and preparing for the Student Voice week, due to take place in November. The week will involve both OU and Association initiatives and I am very much the in-between person liaising on this.
August is all about planning to my mind, so I have had a lot of induction meetings with OU staff as well as looking ahead meetings with Association staff. I had been part of things like library referencing, Student Hub Live and other shorter projects.
Cinnomen McGuigan- Vice President Education
Although August was hectic, my role started in July- planning for Student Experience Links and briefing OU staff on working with student reps.
Highlights of some August activities:
- Emergency Management Team meetings for Covid-19 response including Module Results and drafting a joint statement.
- Periodic Quality Review for the Association, conducting focus groups with stakeholders.
- Named lead on Individual Representation Project- particularly excited as it’s a manifesto pledge of mine.
- Planning and implementing CCR online training and starting Student Voice forum for student reps in the spirit of One Team culture and to enable the team to come together.
- Started discussions around credit transfer to allow early graduation to enable taking up further study and employment (including new cohorts).
- Alongside making sure student voices are listened to at every level, I engage in community initiatives like Student Hub Live, hosting Book Club monthly and Carer and Care Experienced projects.
Alison Kingan- Vice President Student Support
My August highpoint is live cricket returning to the BBC after 21 years.
August was quieter than of late because I no longer have some Association roles I'd recently held, including a student trustee on the Board of Trustees and member of Senate (senior OU Academic Committee).
July and August involved increasing our numbers of Peer Supporters who provide a listening ear to students. This will continue into September because Supporters undergo training before supporting students. One of my election pledges is to expand this service to enable more students to benefit.
I had various meetings with OU staff where I raised issues but also gleaned information, including that the OU Study App is increasing the number of modules available on the App. It seems an improvement on OU Anywhere. As my next module is available, I will be trying this App out.
Patrice Belton- Vice President Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
My first month has been fulfilling and heavy, including my final EMA writing and a heightened but uncertain Higher Education environment, with no exceptions at the OU. Therefore it was spent supporting and challenging reforms, strategies and implementation decisions (within various OU EDI groups and the Association) to ensure our promises for openness and inclusion, to (both staff and) students are not only upheld but practised, across the board.
Some highlights: collaborating with the BME Staff Network to shape this year's 'Black History Month’ celebrations and; supporting various OU EDI initiatives (e.g. the (latest) Athena SWAN drafting and, helping the Gender Equality, Student Mental and Community and Sense of Belonging Working Groups, to refine their Terms of Reference and activities, to be more inclusive for students and to better partnerships with the Association, from this early stage. Supporting proceedings for the (new) Dean of EDI appointment was a solemnizing experience.
Vice President Engagement- on behalf of the Central Executive Committee