Presidents Blog 10/09/2021

Leadership, governance, and module websites opening!!!

Presidents Blog

I hope that you have all had a great week. I know that module websites have started opening and for me, this is the point of time where I take a huge deep breath and try and tell myself to relax, you’ve got this. I know for many students this is hugely exciting and for others completely daunting. What we all need to remember is that our student journey is our own and we will think about it and do it the way that we will do it not how another fellow student will. That said, I am now in the hugely excited camp because I am doing the next module of my Masters in Education. EE812 Educational Leadership: Exploring Strategy!! I do want to wish you all good luck and say that you have got this!!

The weather this week has meant that as my monsters started back at school, I barely saw them until about 6 pm when they needed food!! Although Thursday was a bit of a shock with the torrential rain. 

Sunday the Student Leadership Team had a virtual away day facilitated by Beth Yearsley from Nottingham Students Union. We had some productive discussions in the morning sessions around what is leadership and, in our context, how can we be the best we can be. We also had a session around the Governance reforms and more work around our 50th. It was a really helpful day with much to take forward.

On Monday I started by writing some notes for a presentation later in the week. I met with Zoe Fenn to discuss an upcoming project on Academic Conduct, and we had a conversation around priorities from a student perspective. I then met with Sue McCabe, who had just come back from annual leave, to discuss where we were with the upcoming Governance Reform Focus Groups. We also discussed the engagement with the Survey and the Consultation forum. I then met with Klaus-Dieter Rossade, Associate Dean Curriculum in the WELS faculty, and Cin McGuigan, Vice-president Education, to discuss a 5-minute lightning talk we were going to be doing to a RAISE Special Interest Group, on Thursday around student voice and collaboration in the pandemic. Me and K-D went away with what we needed to write and practice! Mine was the bulk of the presentation, yikes! My next meeting was with Gerry Cronin from Marketing and Comms. We had a brilliant 15-minute discussion around a soon to advertised grant that students can apply for!! Kate Dungate and I then met to discuss where we were up to with the DigiComms team and the new website. Some hugely exciting things coming up! Beth Metcalf, Cin, and I had a meeting, and then finally I met with Beth to discuss an issue that had arisen. 

Tuesday started with a brilliant kick-off meeting with the new Website working Group. It was exciting having some time to think about what it might look like and how it could best work for students. I also met with Liz Marr, PVC-Students, and Rachel Garnham from the PVC-students office, to discuss the upcoming agenda for the Student Satisfaction Improvement Working Group. The agenda is packed as we will be discussing lots of things including the NSS data and seeing how some of the task and finish groups associated with the working group have got on. OU Pride, the Association, and the Staff LGBT team (now known as PROUD) have started meeting regularly to make sure we can better support students and each other. If you are in Milton Keynes on Saturday don’t forget to look for the OU at Pride MK. We talked about the role of Gender Identity Champions, did you know that if you phone up student support and you want to speak to a Gender Identity Champion you can do that. Below is what you can expect from a Gender Identity Champion.

If you tell us you would like to make a change to how your gender is recorded on your OU record, we will contact you to discuss the following: 

• Record changes and timeframes for doing this 

• What support you feel you need in relation to your OU studies e.g. 

  • Requesting extensions to TMAs 
  • Tutorials 
  • Exams 
  • Residential schools 
  • Whether you would like a named contact who can support you over a specified period of time

If you wish to make changes to your name or gender after you have completed a qualification you can contact us to discuss: 

• Record changes and timeframes for doing this 

• Requesting changes to certificates All staff are expected to support students in accordance with the principles set out in the Student Charter.

Here seems an appropriate place to put some reflections from Patrice as VP EDI. 

“The last year as Vice President Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (VP EDI) has been challenging and,at the forefront were the many challenges and disadvantages I have had to resolve or relay on behalf of students;highlighting the dire need for EDI (as Practice) to become embedded (both) at the OU and Association. This,being felt across the Associations’ Governance, Structures and Body (including our (recent) Governance Review), meansWe(myself, the EDI Working Group and (the wider) Association collective), are working to actively integrate and implement changes to strengthen our internal and external EDI practices and accountability. Thus, we haveintroduced a (new) EDI Project’s Officer (Staff-role) to support our EDI Groups and (wider) Student community, andwe willbe hosting EDI-specific Events and Consultations (open to all our students and volunteers) atFreshers (September) and Student Voice Week (November) 2021; providinga platform forstudents to share their stories with us; whilstenabling us to listen (more deeply) to and learnfrom them, how we might better meet their differing and diverse needs.

Reiss Millar and I then had a great hour talking about the 50th and some plans for Conference. I am hugely excited about working closely with Reiss on both of these projects, also we are both a bit nerdy about Lord of the Rings!! I had a great catch-up with Patrice followed by the first meeting with Liz Marr of the Academic year where we discuss papers going to the Vice-Chancellors executive. This is a great opportunity for student voice to be included. This was swiftly followed by a regular catch-up with Matt, VP Admin. Tuesday evening saw the first of the three focus groups that I am leading. It was one with the groups – so the DSG, OU Pride, and the B A M E group. It was a really great conversation listening to students’ views on the governance reforms. 

Wednesday was mostly in a conference for Student Governance hosted by Advanced HE. It was an excellent if tiring day. I then had a meeting with Rob and Allan, chief exec and chair of the board of trustees, followed by a catch-up with Beth and another with Tyrrell Golding who works in the school of Education, Childhood, Youth, and Sport and is a huge friend to the Association.

Thursday was another day of being in training. I was on day three of four of a leadership course. Partway through I dropped out to give the talk to the RAISE Special Interest group. It was a really great experience being able to share how important student voice is in the Open University. I then met with Sarah Mander and Kate Lister from the school of Education Childhood youth and sport along with Nichola Connolley, our WELS rep, to discuss the upcoming Primary Education Induction Session.

Friday is a day full of catch-ups with Association staff, Rob, Dan, Beth, Magda and Pooja, Reiss, and Pete. 

Saturday I am helping to facilitate two of the final three focus groups for the Governance Reforms. I love these sessions as it is a way of us connecting with students and asking for their thoughts and opinions. Don’t forget to make sure you fill in the survey. It closes on Monday so there is still a chance to have your voice heard.

I hope you all have a great week whether it is exploring your module websites or enjoying your time otherwise… don’t forget to keep an eye out on our website for upcoming Freshers events and sign up to our newsletter to be kept informed of what we are up to.

Till next time!!! 😊

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Sarah P Jones


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