Presidents Blog 28/01/2022

Vegetables, Senate, and Freshers...

Hi Everyone,

Well, what an amazing start to the week! Our Association Conference was fantastic. I want to start by saying a huge thank you to all those involved in making it such a fantastic launch to our 50th year. I have done a separate blog about Conference as there was so much that went on that I would never get to what has gone on this week – so keep your eyes peeled!! If you want to know the results of our governance reforms, you can also find those on our website.

Before I get going on this week can I just mention a couple of things. If you are an OU student or an OU staff member there is a free Future Learn course that I would highly recommend called Union Black. Please check it out and sign up, it is a must as we start to answer questions about things like attainment gaps and how we tackle institutionalised racism in our organisations. 

It is also Freshers for all new starters at the OU so please make sure you check out all the different events that we have taking place. Even if you are not new to the OU you are more than welcome to come and join in. Next week there is a session where you can get to meet your student leadership team, so come ready with any questions that you have. Here are also competitions to win great prizes and lots of digital freebies. 


After a packed weekend, I had a day off on Monday and spent the whole day writing my Tutor Marked Assignment (TMA) that was due that day. I finished it by 5.30 pm and walked away for a bit before giving it one last read and sending it in. It got submitted at 7.20 pm – never have I been happier to see a TMA sent. I do not recommend that way of doing a TMA, in fact, I highly recommend being better prepared and getting them in early. Doing it that way saves on the raised blood pressure!


I went to a disaster recovery workshop, where findings were shared from some workshops that the OU have done on major threats and how to ensure business continuity. Did you know that as well as it being Burns Night it was also St Dwynwen’s Day (Welsh Valentine’s Day). In the spirit of this, I showed some love to my fellow reps, and supported the first Freshers 22 event which was a Welsh Coffee morning – it was lovely!! I spent a lot of Tuesday reading papers and catching up on admin. I met with Rob Avann, Chief Exec of the Association, for our regular catch-up. We talked about various items, including graduation ceremonies. I then took part in another Freshers event with our VP Community, Anca Seaton. It was a welcome to the Association session which was really well attended. 


I got up early as I had a lot of VCE papers to read before my meetings, which started at 8 am. I had a mentoring session followed by a meeting with Liz Marr, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Students. We discussed all the papers going to VCE and I shared my experiences of Conference. After that, I met with Heather Bloomer, Head of DigiComms for the Association, where we discussed the possibility of putting impact reports on the new website as a way of being more open about what we do. She shared a great quote from Terry Pratchet, “Sometimes it’s better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness” – I love the imagery of this!! It was then time for Senate Reference Group. This is where a group of appointed student volunteers give their opinions to the appointed and ex-officio Senate 6 students on the Senate papers. It is useful, when going into Senate, to garner wider opinions on these papers to make sure we see other points of view. It was then time for the Senate 6 students to discuss who was going to raise which issue during the Senate meeting. After lunch, it was time for Senate. Tim Blackman, as Vice-Chancellor, chairs the meeting and gives an update to Senate about what has been happening around the University and what in the external arena might affect us. There was some good news out of the Nation Offices, and he mentioned that OpenLearn has now reached 100 million visitors, which is phenomenal.


I had my introduction to Dewi Price, who is the new interim Chief Information Officer for the OU. It was lovely sharing with him how amazing OU students are, what we do for them as an Association, and also, how important the student voice is to the OU. I then met with Sue MacCabe, Head of Strategy and Insights for the Association. We caught up about what is going into the update paper to Council and the upcoming OU Consultations. I then had a quick catch-up with Dan Moloney, Director of Engagement for the Association. We had a chat about our manifesto for the Northern Ireland elections. I then met with Beth Metcalf, Director of Membership Services for the Association, where we chatted about Conference and plans for the future. My next meeting was a meeting with Klaus-Dieter Rossade, Head of Curriculum in the WELS faculty, and Cin McGuigan, VP Engagement. We are looking at writing a paper about the partnership between students and the OU during the pandemic. 


Although Friday is normally my day off, I am at work because of an amazing meeting. It is the meeting of the Research Strategic Advisory board. It is such a great gathering of people from across different sectors with the aim of feeding into the Research Strategy for the OU. The OU has such a history and wealth of research, and it is great to be a part of its future direction. 

I hope that you all have a great weekend and get some downtime, I shall be mostly sleeping!! Next week the roof is going on to the garden office so I will be able to see the exciting work from the kitchen window, I can’t wait. I don’t know if you have noticed but the nights are slowly getting shorter and my next blog will be in February which means we are getting closer to better weather and springtime, I can’t wait!! It is almost time to plant the veg in the garden, maybe this year I will try Aubergines!! Have a good one everyone and until next time Go Well 😊

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Sarah P Jones


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