Presidents Blog 10/06/2022

Graduations, Celebrations, and goodbyes!

Hi Everyone,

I hope you have all had a great couple of weeks. 

This month, as part of our 50th we are celebrating our connection with supporting students in our LGBTQIA+ community. We take great pride in having our OUPride group and in the podcast this month you will hear from the founder members and the current chair. 

As part of our 50th birthday, we are aiming to raise £50,000 for OUSET; we now have a Just Giving page if you would like to give any donations. We also have some merchandise in our shop, all profits will contribute towards that £50,000 so go and check it out. You can now also passively give to OUSET if you shop at Amazon. If you sign on to Amazon Smile and search for OUSET you will be able to know that with every purchase, you will be supporting other students!

If you want to get involved in volunteering, there are lots of opportunities now. If you would like to use your student voice, why not become a student representative on the Senate Reference Committee or on a different committee in the University? Find out more here, and whilst you are at it have a browse at what else is out there

Graduation season is in full flow again and it is amazing to hear everyone’s stories. I attended my own graduation whilst I was on Annual Leave and it was absolutely the best day ever, the team in OU in Wales really looked after us all and made the day incredible – they even turned on the sunshine! I have just attended the 4th graduation celebration this week and have 1 more left. I cannot tell you how uplifting they are and how happy families are to celebrate with the graduates.

In other news, Rob Avann, our chief executive, is stepping down at the end of next week. He is moving on to another incredible job after giving 10 years to the Association. I would like to take this opportunity to say that he will be missed and what an incredible job he has done over the last 10 years. I know that we would all like to wish him all the best, next week there will be tissues at the ready. Beth Metcalf, our current director of membership services, is stepping up into the CEO role for 6 months with the support of Dan Moloney, director of engagement. I am sure that she will do a sterling job and wish her all the best!!

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Mostly caught up with emails and everything that had been going on whilst I had been on Annual Leave. 

The first big thing about today was working in our new garden office for the first time!! The second big thing was taking a call from James Nicholson, director of strategy, planning, and resources in the faculty of Wellbeing Education and Language Studies. He was informing me that as a faculty they wanted to make a very generous donation towards the £50,000 target we are raising for OUSET. So publicly – thank you!!!

I met with Lidia Dancu to start the discussion around the student mental health agreement – we covered a fair amount in 15 mins!


I had a very early start to my day. I left the house at 4 am to catch a flight to Dublin. The airport was heaving, and the flight left late but despite me arriving 3.5 hours before my flight and having no checked baggage I nearly missed it!! I stayed at the Croke Park hotel, a lovely place for my afternoon meetings.

I met with Liz Marr, PVC-Students, to catch up and discuss the VCE papers. It was lovely to see Liz as she has been really poorly so I for one am really happy that she is on the mend.

I took a quick call about a colleague who had been unwell and then had my 1-2-1 with Rob Avann, CEO, we had a really good discussion about what is next for both of us. It feels weird that Rob has been my main support for such a long time and he is finishing before I do!! 

Tuesday evening the team in OU in Ireland/Northern Ireland had put on a fantastic drinks reception to celebrate our 50th birthday. It was lovely to celebrate with staff and students who were going to be graduating and be able to give a speech about the difference that the students association had made in the lives of everyday students. This was followed by a lovely dinner with the OU staff. I spent the whole of the dinner talking to Anna Henderson, Director of Assessment, Credit, and Qualification, and John D’Arcy, Director of OU In Ireland. It was great to talk not just about work for a change!! After my very early start, I made sure I had an early night!!


After a lovely breakfast chatting with OU staff I went into a meeting with the strategy and insights team to discuss 50th events. Amazon Smile is up and running now so we can measure how much passive giving is put through this channel as well as the 50th merchandise. It will be interesting to see how much impact is made through each channel on fundraising.

Next, it was the student-led projects catch up. We had a really useful discussion about which team this will sit under when it becomes business as usual, and we also discussed impact reporting on the projects. This was followed by a two-minute catchup with Matt Porterfield, VP Admin, to discuss OUSET.

I met with Lidia Dancu for our third or fourth attempt at a meeting to discuss the student mental health agreement report. We finally managed to cover all the points that we needed to.

Next up was the main event!! It was time for the Dublin Graduation. It was an incredible experience to be here and cheer some amazing students on!! I loved every minute of it – and there were even strawberries and cream afterward!!


I had meetings with the PGR Futures steering group and the Future Delivery of Exams working group before meeting with Reiss Millar, 50th Project Manager. We caught up about fundraising and the new achievements video. We also discussed the budget and terms of reference of the 50th steering group. It’s exciting to see how much we have done so far but even more exciting to see what is coming up!

My next meeting was with Allan Musinguzi, Head of Volunteering, we discussed volunteers for the committees, graduation volunteers, and the onboarding of the new Student Leadership Team. 

My final meeting of the day was with Sue MacCabe, Head of Strategy and Insights. We discussed what was going to go into the slides for Senior Team next week and we also looked at building business plans and strategies. 

I flew back to Bristol this evening, but it wasn’t much smoother than my trip out as the flight was delayed, and the landing was somewhat sketchy! I spoke to my husband about it and he said that any landing is a good landing and any landing that has the plane in one piece is a great landing!


I had a coaching session and a meeting with some outside consultants. I also had a quick catch-up about some work in Wales with Gareth Jones, Faculty of Business and Law rep. Apart from this, I plan to sleep!! 

I hope you have had a good couple of weeks. Have a great weekend and try and rest up!! Hope the sun shines!! See you on the other side, but until then, Go Well!!! 😊

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Sarah P Jones


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