Presidents Blog 05/11/2021

Conference, 50th and Trustee Week

Hi all,

Hope that you are well. It has turned really quite chilly here in Bristol but that has meant not much rain – so I am happy with that!! We are seeing real progress with the building this week so every chance I get I am popping into the garden to see what has happened since last time. The monsters haven’t quite worked out how cold it is and are still going to school without coats!!! Even though they are reminded and reminded!

It has been COP26 this week which has prompted lots of thinking about sustainability and climate change. We are looking at how we can incorporate these themes into Conference and our 50th celebrations. Since it has also been Trustee week, I hope that you have been able to look at what we have been doing to share the work of our Board of Trustees. If you want to know more about our Trustees, please take a look here. Whilst I am talking about Trustees, I want to say a huge thank you to all our Trustees and for the work that they do for us. Thank you!!! 

On Monday I had a few exciting meetings around Conference and our 50th starting with a meeting with Reiss (project manager) and Heather (head of digicomms) around the new branding that we are hoping to launch next year. We also had some discussion around creating a 50th microsite. I then met with Magda (head of operations) and Reiss to discuss how we raise the ambitious target of £50,000 for OUSET over our 50th year. We have lots of ideas and suggestions, so we needed to discuss viable options. I then had my regular catch-up with Reiss to continue discussions. Pete (head of community), Reiss, and I then met with an external person to discuss potential guests for Conference. It is starting to feel real now! Verity (head of EDI and student welfare) and I met up to discuss reports that will need to go to Conference and some issues that were affecting students. The Stela Operations group is one of the two groups that Cin (VP Education) and I sit on that is dealing with issues around alternative formats. Although we are aware that the situation isn’t fixed it is good to see that there are visible improvements this year. Dan (director of engagement) and I meet about every two weeks to catch up. Today we discussed how I can make some videos, the position statement working group paper for the Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting in December, the Council paper, other Higher Education matters, and some link-up work that we could do with Athabasca University Students Association in Canada. I left Dan with a long list of things to do!

Tuesday was another great day; I met with Reiss and then we had our first steering group of the 50th planning! It was encouraging to see the engagement of everyone in the room and to be able to discuss the events and how to link them all together. I am really pleased to see the planner coming together on this. If you would like to have your say on how you would like to see us celebrate please join in the Student Voice Week Session here. I then had a further catch-up with Reiss, can you sense a theme of my week?? I also spent some of Tuesday reviewing scholarship bids for the PRAXIS scholarship centre in WELS. Rob (chief exec) and Gabby (head of executive support and staff welfare) then had a meeting with me to discuss the plan for CEC weekend in December. I then met with Reiss (again) to discuss a students insights session and papers needed for the Board of Trustees and CEC. The Governance Reforms Comms team met to address various issues including the session that is taking place in Student Voice Week. On the evening of Tuesday, I joined other reps for some training on how to deal with difficult situations online, such as mental health and suicide. It was challenging but extremely helpful. If you want to find any support for this, please look at our website for further information.

On Wednesday Heather and I met to discuss 50th branding and how we can raise the awareness of our 50th. We also discussed the possibility of me doing an Instagram takeover! I then had a meeting with Nichola Connolly (WELS rep) and Claire Saunders (head of PRAXIS) to talk about scholarship, what it is and how we can get more students involved. It was then time for the disclosure checks working group. Wednesday afternoon I met with Rob to catch up – as we do every other week. We discussed the 50th, Conference, Annual reports, Council, face-to-face events, and diary management! It was then time for an OU Brand Strategy immersion session for Council members. 

On Thursday I met with Carla Williams from the OU in Wales to introduce her to what we do at the Association and to discuss The Skills Factory work that she is involved in. I also attended the early part of an amazing Digital Exhibition, which if you are interested, I highly recommend you have a look at. It is the work of an OU Ph.D. student looking back at the history of Ph.D. students at the OU. It was then time for the PRAXIS project funding application panel. I talked about the scholarship applications that I had read earlier in the week and this is the meeting that decided who got the money. I had a quick catch-up with a new member of staff Gabby Willis who is going to be working on The Hoot, she is also going to be helping me learn how to do TikTok content to be used on our TikTok channel!! Apart from another brief catch-up with Reiss I then spent the rest of the day working on my part of our Annual Report that goes to Council. 

Friday morning was spent working on a position statement, the Annual Report, and this! I had a quick meeting with Pete and Reiss to discuss further guests for Conference. Notifications of which will be going out very shortly so please keep your eyes open if you want to put your name on the ballot to attend.

We do have an opportunity for you to get involved in our Student Leadership team so please have a look and see if you can fit the bill. And as a special treat – since it is Bonfire Night – why don’t you have a go at this Hoot quiz and see if you can do better than I did!! I hope that you all have a great weekend and that your studies are all going well. See you next time 😊

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Sarah P Jones


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