President’s Blog – 15 and 22 July 2022

Almost... Done...

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to my penultimate blog whilst being President!! It has been a bit of a rollercoaster of two weeks as I have spent 9 days straight in Milton Keynes! I obviously have impeccable timing and ended up staying when there was a red warning of heat – and boy was it hot, the car registered 42 degrees!! I stayed in a lovely place, but it had no air conditioning to escape to, so I was no better than I would’ve been at home! 

Since this update covers two weeks, I am going to give a whistle-stop tour! Next week I will give an update on my activity over the last two years as there is too much to cover in this week’s blog! 

We did manage to host our first (and last) student leadership team meeting of the term. It was lovely to see people face to face. We also hosted our annual dinner; this was so amazing as we got to dress up and make an effort!! I even had my hair done by the Association's resident hairdresser the lovely Danielle Cafearo!! 

As we continue to celebrate our 50th and think about fundraising £50,000 for OUSET I just want to give a huge shout-out to the faculties of the OU who have given a huge boost to the start of this process with wonderful donations. Thank you so very much. We might have some more news on this front in my next blog!! If you want to find out more check out this OUSET link. 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 Open University Students Educational Trust (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!

This month, as part of our 50th we are celebrating all things Student Leadership related. The elected student leaders have been an integral part of making sure that the voice of students is heard right across the university. So, we will be celebrating some of the achievements and also saying thank you to the current team whilst getting ready to welcome the new team. You couldn’t have a Student Leadership Team without the staff that supports them so we will also celebrate them as well. 

We have now managed to produce a version of The Hoot for students in secure environments. This is such a fantastic thing, and I am proud this has happened. To find out more check this out.

If you want to get involved in volunteering, why not look and see if you could volunteer at a graduation? You can find out more here.

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Monday 11th

I got up early to read appointments committee applications as they needed to be commented on before 10am. I started my day with the Access Participation Plan Steering Group and that was swiftly followed by the Appointments Committee meeting. We have managed to appoint students to all the governance committees for the first time which is amazing. I then spent the rest of the day on admin.

Tuesday 12th

Drove to campus first thing before it got too hot and my first meeting was a catch-up with Dan Moloney, Chief Operations Officer. I then met with Danielle Cafearo to discuss the exhibition that we had been working on for the dinner on Saturday night. Next up was VCE papers with Liz Marr, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Students. I had a quick chat with the exams and assignments team and then my last meeting before lunch was my penultimate catch-up with Mark Price, Interim Chair of the Board of Trustees, where we discussed speeches for Saturday night. 

After lunch I caught up briefly with Fanni Zombor, VP Engagement, to discuss our update to Student Voice Steering Group, which was next. In Student Voice Steering Group, we discussed the National Student Survey, ways to engage students in Student Voice week, the survey refresh work and the supporting and improving academic representation work. I then met with Beth Metcalf, Interim CEO to hand over some of the governance items and to run through how Council works. I ended my day with a Coaching session. 

Wednesday 13th

I had my final catch-up with Heather Bloomer, Head of DigiComms before meeting with the former CEO, Rob Avann, for coffee. It was lovely to see him in person, it was our first in-person 1-2-1 of my term on his very last day of work!! Next was the Digital Inclusion Management Group, my final one of the term. I then met with Danielle about the Exhibition and Nicky Powell about training. I then met with Josie Fraser, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, for lunch. It was lovely to catch up with her and do some handovers in person. 

I then attended some training looking at inclusive practices for leaders and ended my day with a meeting of the Association Sustainability Working Group. We worked out the terms of reference ready to hand over to the next student leadership team. 

Thursday 14th

I had my last meeting of the Post-Graduate Futures Steering Group, informing them that it was going to be Gareth Jones, current FBL rep and new Deputy President, attending in August. I then recorded my final podcast, which you can find here, and had lunch with Dasha Ivkina-MacDonald. I used to work very closely with her when she was head of student success in WELS. My final meeting of the day was a coffee with Julie Gowen who works in the PVC student's office. 

Friday 15th

I spent the morning looking at table plans, writing my speech for Saturday and making sure that everything was sorted ready to head over to Horwood House for the weekend celebrations. Once there I had a meeting with the Fundraising Consultants and caught up with everyone as they arrived ready for the weekend. 

We all had a lovely dinner together where I got to sit with Margaret Greenaway, the new President, and just catch up with her. It was so lovely that we all ended up sitting outside until it went dark just chatting. 

Saturday 16th

We started the day by creating some content for the website and social media – doing videos and taking photos. After lunch, we went over to campus to plant the tree for 50 years of OU students. We also did a tribute to the amazing Cherry Day, who passed away recently. She was one of our incredible volunteers who worked tirelessly in the EDI space in the OU. Her legacy lives on. When we got back to campus there was time to do a handover with the new student leaders before the annual dinner in the evening. We launched our new Association achievements video and awarded Honorary Life Membership to Danielle Smith, Sue MacCabe, Jitan Patel, and Billy Docherty. We also awarded Honorary Vice President to outgoing CEO Rob Avann.

Sunday 17th

We had our final student leadership team meeting. It was lovely having it face to face, although some of the team couldn’t attend, they joined in a hybrid fashion. After lunch, we all went our separate ways. A couple of us were staying through for a few days so we met with Mychelle Pride, Associate Dean Teaching and Excellence in WELS. It was lovely to see her after such a long time. 

Monday 18th

I was officially off work, so I only took one call before heading back to bed to catch up on some sleep. In the afternoon I went to the cinema to find somewhere cold!! I watched Thor, which made me laugh!! Then in the evening went out for dinner with Sue MacCabe.

Tuesday 19th

I had coffee with Liz Marr, I have really enjoyed having some ‘last’ meetings with people face to face! Most of my other meetings were cancelled so I got on with some admin. 

Next up was my final Board of Trustees meeting. We covered a lot of ground, and it was good that the new trustees were able to observe and see the things that we cover. Straight after I caught up with Mark Price for the final Chair-President catch-up of my term! 

Wednesday 20th

My first meeting was with Dan Moloney followed by a meeting with Sally Hayes, Director of Students. I then met with Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor. We met in his office in the Geoffrey Crowther building, one of the few that I haven’t been in during my time as a student rep. We wandered over to the hub to carry on chatting and Mary Kellett was there, she was the previous VC of the university, so it was lovely to see her. Tim and I got into a big discussion about the future of the university before we had to finish and when we did, I had a lovely big hug from him, which was great!! My next meeting was with Jhumar Johnson, Tim’s chief of staff. Again, just so lovely to see her in person! 

In my last PVC-students-Association meeting where we discussed the Student Charter and handover. I then met with Marcia Wilson, Dean of EDI, to catch up, as my last meeting on campus before I drove home after 9 days away! I finally got home just before 8!

Thursday 21st

It was time for my final Senior Team meeting, it was really lovely to be able to do the Association update with Margaret and give her the opportunity to introduce herself. All of the nations and faculties gave updates as well as updates from Liz Marr around the B3 and TEF. MarComms and AL contract progress were also updated on. I then met with Rachel Garnham to discuss committees that needed to be handed over and had my final coaching session. It was then my final catch-up with Reiss Millar, 50th Project Manager. There has been so much work done on fundraising and planning that it is in good shape to hand over. 

Friday 22nd

I met with Rachel Garnham to finish off our conversation around committees, then I met with Laila Burton to discuss the Digital Inclusion work within the University. The final thing is to drive to Cardiff to attend an OU in Wales event that has been arranged to support students who have just finished their modules and want to discuss what is next as well as celebrate their successes.

This is my final regular blog as I will be finishing very soon so next week, I will do a blog special that is all about what has happened over the last two years. Meanwhile, I am going to spend a weekend with my monsters and get some sleep!! 

See you on the other side, but until then, Go Well!!! 😊

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Sarah P Jones

One Comment

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  1. You’ve been so busy, maybe you can slow down a little now soon for a while before going on to pastures new. I’m sure you’re family will appreciate the extra time with you, especially as it’ll be summer holidays from school, lots of cricket too 😉. Thank you for all of the hard work you’ve both done and enabled over your term as President.