Presidents Blog 14/10/2021

Save the date, BBC partnerships, and lots of papers!

Hi Everyone,

I hope that you have all had a good week. It has been unseasonably warm in Bristol which has had many interesting effects, being able to get the washing dry outside and my strawberry plants have produced ripe strawberries. Good job they didn’t produce blueberries because that really would have been an interesting effect of the warm weather!! It also gave me the Autumn dilemma of how many layers did I need to wear!! I find that the biggest challenge!! #FirstWorldProblems

Talking of interesting things, I was amazed to see that Captain Kirk, AKA William Shatner (Denny Crane!!*) finally made it into space and became the oldest person to “Boldly Go” where no one older had gone before!! For someone like me who loves Star Trek and most things Space, this was so exciting. Nearly as exciting as my boys both having awards evening for their cricket teams and getting medals!! Whilst I am talking of space do you know about the OU’s amazing partnership with the BBC?? I remember when I was younger my Dad used to record the programmes during the night and we would watch them at the weekend and on school holidays, nowadays I love watching all the Natural History programmes that the partnership produces. Why don’t you have a look here, you might be surprised, I know I was! 

*If you know you know, it’s not a legal defence!

There has been a lot happening this week, including the announcement of the Student Voice Week timetable, please come along and sign up for any sessions that you are interested in. We also have several roles that are coming to their closing dates. If you want to be part of Student Voice within the University, please have a look and see if any of these roles interest you. 

The Student Leadership Team have been sharing their highlights from September so I thought I would share a couple of them here. Fanni, VP Engagement, is celebrating being able to edit the OU and You newsletter, that all students receive, with the student’s audience in mind for the first time – so hopefully you all like the new look. Anca, VP Community, has talked about how amazing it is that we have offered over 40 sessions for students in the two weeks of Freshers, I hope that you enjoyed them as much as I did. Gareth, Faculty rep for FBL, co-chaired his first FBL Student Huddle of the year with the Associate Dean for Student Experience.

Before I get on with my week I have two bits of exciting news, you have until 17th October to apply for one of the £500 Santander grants, it will take you moments!! AND, although the official notification has yet to go out, we would love you to save the date and keep an eye on our website for further details. The dates will be… 21st-23rd January 2022!!! This will kick off our 50th-year celebrations in style!!

Saturday and Sunday were our Central Executive Committee (CEC) meetings. We spent all day Saturday discussing papers and Sunday we had a session discussing Psychological Safety, it is important for us all to have Psychological safety in the groups we are in so that we have the confidence to speak up. 

Monday, I spent all day reading Board of Trustee papers and Senate papers. I also caught up with lots of admin and went to the CEC huddle, where we had some really interesting discussions around various OU policies such as the Tutorial recordings Policy. We discussed pending results, the nation’s volunteer panels and we also discussed some wider Higher Education issues. 

Tuesday, I went to my first meeting of the Digital Inclusion Management group, that I am deputy chair. I chaired as the chair was unavailable and we looked at Terms of Reference for the group and what the project would and would not cover. This has come out of discussions around digital poverty that really raised its ugly head during the pandemic and what the university could do to help students. I then met with Liz Marr and Sally Hayes from PVC Students. We discussed Essay Mills and the increased level of Academic Conduct cases and lessons we could learn. Liz also recognised the Tutorial Recording policy needed to be looked at. Reiss and I then met to catch up with information around the 50th project, Conference and my LinkedIn profile. Tuesday afternoon was the Board of Trustee meeting for the Association. We had a lot of great papers to discuss, amongst others was a paper on the finances, which along with Matt, VP Admin, I have to sign. We also discussed the Governance review recommendations, and the date of the next conference was agreed upon. The conference Steering committee was next. We needed to agree on objectives and decide how we wanted to proceed now that the date for the conference has been agreed by the Board of Trustees.

Wednesday I met with Graham, who is my mentor for my Masters. Really helpful to have the insights of someone who has been there and done it before. Then I went into senate day. Senate day starts with the Senate reference group who are students who read all the senate papers and give the student senate members a wider view to take into the senate meeting. The 6 student senate members then meet over lunch and decide what we want to say and on what paper. This information is then emailed to the governance team so that we get a chance to speak in the Senate. Then Senate runs all afternoon and this time there was much to discuss and decide. We spoke on most papers and it was good to see that our voice was listened to. We had a presentation about the OU/BBC partnership that has been going about 50 years. It was great to see all the work that is done and the influence we have in this space. 

Thursday started with a meeting with me Matt and Reiss to discuss the Conference Steering committee and what we need to focus on going forward. I then met with one of the Association staff members Diane, who is working with the conference comms team, to talk about comms for the conference. Student Voice Steering group is always a great meeting to chair. It was good to hear about how the Student Voice Week timetable is shaping up. There was also discussion around the Student Voice Action Pan and the Student Engagement Standard. Alison is the head of finance for the Association, and I met with her so she could talk me through the accounts so that I had a greater understanding of them, really helpful!! I then met with Dan, Director of Engagement for the Association and Fanni to discuss some H.E. policy implications. Reiss and I then met again to further discuss the 50th and get some plans set in stone around a steering group and an away day. My next meeting was a regular catch up with Allan, head of volunteering at the Association. We discussed the building of relationships with the Graduate school and how we can more include PGR students and PGR representation. Leanne White, our England rep, and I had a quick catch up to discuss H.E. and how she can be more fully involved in things that are happening.

Friday is starting with my third Covid Jab. Although I know it’s not going to be fun, I am weirdly looking forward to it! I am also meeting with Reiss and Beth and a potential guest for the conference! I am so excited!! 

I hope that everyone’s studies are continuing well. I hope you have all had a great week, until next time 😊

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Sarah P Jones


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