President’s Blog 18/03/22

Graduations, meetings and more meetings

Hi Everyone,

I hope you have had a great week. It’s lovely to see some sunshine and blossom on the trees. 

At the end of last week, I went to Belfast for the first face-to-face Graduation the OU has had since the beginning of the pandemic. As someone who has shielded throughout the pandemic, as some of you have, I had to build up to doing this… BUT HOW AMAZING! The journey to Belfast was an experience as this is the first time I have visited there. Belfast, and the people who live there, are really welcoming and it looks like a beautiful place to visit again when I have time. Even eating dinner with Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor, and his wife was completely surpassed by the most joyous thing I have been part of in a long time – the graduation ceremony! I haven’t clapped so hard or smiled so much ever!! Seeing 300 graduates walk across the stage at Northern Ireland’s biggest in-person graduation was incredible and knowing that 105 of them were nurses was just brilliant. Seeing how proud each graduate was and hearing the support and cheers from their families was fantastic. So, all I want to say is a huge Congratulations to all OU graduates and for those of you who are still studying, keep on going you can do this, keep your eyes on the prize as the saying goes!

In association news, don’t forget that there are opportunities to volunteer at graduations and keep your eyes open as our Elections nominations open next Tuesday. To find out more check out our website. 

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I met with Olivia Kelly who is doing some research into how students use Twitter. It was a really interesting conversation thinking about how I use social media. 

I then had a catch-up with Gabby Cull, head of executive support and staff welfare, to discuss the next CEC meeting which is a meeting of all the Student Leadership Team. We also touched on the plans for the July meeting as well. 

Gareth Jones, FBL representative, has had some ideas that he wanted to chat over with me, so we met to talk them through. 

The next meeting was the meeting of the Digital Inclusion Management Group, which I chaired. We discussed where the various initiatives were up to and the next steps.

I then had my first catch-up of the week with Reiss Millar, 50th project manager, this was followed in the evening by the Student Leadership Team Huddle. Amongst other things on the agenda, we had Joan Simons, Associate Dean for teaching in Health Wellbeing and Social Care and Maria Kantirou, Head of Academic Strategy and Planning in the Vice-Chancellors office, come and talk to us about the University’s new Teaching and Learning plan. It was really helpful to have this opportunity to feed in our comments. 


I originally had no meetings in my diary as I had a lot of admin to catch up on and it was my husband Dave’s birthday, but my day ended up getting quite full, and the admin pile is still high!!

I caught up with Reiss about fundraising and the objective groups for the 50th. I caught up with Beth Metcalf, Director of Membership Services. Then Reiss again to do some Diary planning. Gareth, about a paper for the student leadership team meeting and finally Liz Marr, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Students, about an email that had been sent to us both.


I had a coaching session first thing followed by a meeting about communicating with students about the new Exams and Assignments software. 

The Culture Change working group met next, and we had updates about the Behaviours and Values Campaign, and progress with one of our strategic projects. Beth showed us a fantastic graphic that is going to be used during elections to explain the Association’s structure. It was really clear and hopefully it will help students to understand how we work. 

I then had a meeting with Rachel Garnham, Senior Manager Student Voice, to look at the priorities for the rest of my term and also the relationship agreement that the Association has with the University.

My next meeting was with Kate Wells, representative for international students, and Kieran Costigan who works in Marcomms looking at international students. We discussed how we could encourage not only new international students but the continuation of international students on to their next modules. We suggested various ideas, and it will be interesting to see where this is headed.

Melanie Key works for Students Organising for Sustainability. It was a really interesting and timely meeting with her to discuss the various campaigns they have as the University is keen to work with them. We have just set up a sustainability group within the Association to discuss sustainability and what we can do to further these agendas. 

I then had a catch-up with a student and then my final meeting of the day was a Student Consultation. This was my second of these and it was great to see so many engaged students giving their opinions to the university about the different topics up for discussion. 


I had a quick catch-up with Reiss before Senior Team. Tim Blackman started by sharing the sad news that former university secretary Jonathan Nicholls had died; Tim has written to the family on the University’s behalf to share our condolences. Tim went on to cover the university’s response to the crisis in Ukraine and the support being offered to staff and students. He also talked about the graduations, the different policies and consultations affecting us within the HE sector, and the Council report. There were updates from the nation directors, a brand strategy, research, and apprenticeship updates, followed by a presentation by people services. As ever with these meetings my favourite parts were the updates from the nation directors. It is just so encouraging to see what is going on for our students in all parts of the 4 nations. 

I had my regular catch-up with Sue MacCabe, Head of Strategy and Insights, and at the end of it, she introduced me to a new member of her team Sam Smeraglia. 

Next, me and Reiss had the pleasure of meeting with Chris Walters (nee Roworth) who was on the student leadership team a while ago and had some great information for us as part of our 50th project. 

I then met with Rob Avann, Chief Executive, and Allan Blake, Chair of the Board of Trustees. We had quite a lot to catch up on as Allan has been off for a few weeks. This was swiftly followed by a quick phone call with Gareth.


I am starting Friday with a coaching course, a meeting with Steph Stubbins, STEM representative about our sustainability group. A meeting about the Future delivery of exams. Outcome and impacts measures training and finally a meeting with Gareth to finalise his paper.


I am involved in my last student consultation!

I hope that you have all had a good week and that you’ve managed to keep sane!! Have a great weekend, see you on the other side, but until then, Go Well! 😊

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Sarah P Jones


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