Presidents Blog 29/10/2021

Leadership, Climate Change, and Half-term...

Hi everyone,

I hope that you have had a good week. It’s been a full-on half term here at monster central. My monsters have decided that this is where their friends come every day so trying to work and study in chaos has been rather interesting this week. Thankfully they are back at school on Monday. We have still been doing lateral flow tests as the case numbers have risen quite a lot, as they have in other areas, and the schools recommended that we keep going through the holidays. It is hilarious seeing the bigger monster sneeze uncontrollably whilst doing them!! 

No further building has happened as the concrete in the trenches has needed to set but we are ready to get going for next week! We inspected the concrete on Saturday and there were fox prints all the way around! I am sure there is now a poor fox with concrete on its paws wandering around the back lanes. I don’t know about you, but I have really noticed that Autumn is hitting and it’s getting much cooler! It is time to swap my summer clothes for my winter ones which means I can get my OU hoodies back out again! If you have ever wondered how to get OU branded merchandise just go to our shop and have a look. 

As it’s been half term it has been a fairly quiet week for meetings and so I have had the opportunity to attend the ‘THE Leadership and Management Summit’ in-between meetings. It has been interesting listening to the experiences of leaders in Higher Education (HE) across the globe. There was a really interesting discussion around how research has moved at pace to give practical impact to societal issues over the last 18 months. It struck me that if we can do this for Covid, how many more societal issues could we solve if we work together. This brings me to another theme that came out of the conference, one of collaboration and openness. Openness and Collaboration are two of our values as a Students Association, these values are held in high regard across the global HE sectors and that excites me!! I have also attended the ‘THE Climate Impact forum’ and seeing HE leaders around the world with one goal of making a difference is inspiring and has challenged me to make changes and advocate for those changes. 

Monday started with the first of the sessions from the ‘THE leadership and management summit’ one speaker discussed HE as a catalyst for recovery and how tertiary education needs to be accessible to all. They also said that education needs to link to broader societal needs, meaning there needs to be stronger links to research, policy, and design; more collaboration rather than competition will help to move this agenda forward. The call to action was around sustainability, in all its guises and this needs to be adopted by all HE institutions. This theme was also followed in the ‘THE climate impact forum’. I met with Matt (VP Admin) and Reiss (Project manager for 50th and conference) to discuss the agenda for the conference steering committee meeting. It is helpful to bounce ideas off each other and help prioritise timings for the discussions. Reiss and I had an ‘away half day’ Monday afternoon to discuss and create an outline plan for the 50th. It is going to be a year-long project starting January 1st, 2022, and ending December 31st, 2022. We have now got a steering group and we are due to meet for the first time next week. We identified some themes for each month building off ideas that we have already collected from two previous focus groups. There will be another event in Student Voice Week to obtain more ideas from students and another session at Conference. We want to have as much student input as possible as this will be a celebration of 50 years of the Students Association. It was a great afternoon and we now have a Teams site populated with ideas and plans that we need input from the steering group on. I also started to judge the Writing Competition that was promoted in Freshers, there are 51 amazing entries, and it is going to be a tough job, thankfully there are another two extremely capable judges on this too.

Tuesday was day 2 of the summit. Two of the sessions that I attended were ‘confronting racism and social justice in universities’ and ‘safe spaces; rethinking wellbeing post covid’. Some interesting challenges were around being prepared to adopt an experimental approach to working and prioritising well-being. The main takeaway for me from these sessions was having a manifesto on holistic wellbeing – a call for improved wellbeing in all our spaces. I then had a great meeting with Lindsay O’Dell who is the academic director of the graduate school. It was lovely to have a virtual tour of the offices of the graduate school as the staff are back in the office to support the postgraduate research students who have to be on campus. We discussed the successful induction for 60 students and also discussed holding a session at conference about ‘being a PGR student’. It was then time for the conference steering committee. We had some great discussions around potential sessions, guests, and the timings of the weekend. 

Wednesday started rather early as the first session of the summit was at 7.45, this was due to speakers from across the globe. I dipped in and out of the summit due to other meetings. The Culture review working group, which met next, has grown out of the culture review undertaken by Pecan for the Association in 2019/2020. The work undertaken by this group relates to our policies, codes of conduct and behavioural governance and also looks at how we work and collaborate as one team. I then had a quick catch-up with Fanni (VP Engagement) around a meeting with the OU on student engagement. Me, Reiss and Matt then had a debrief around the conference steering committee, to discuss how to take forward outcomes. The first meeting of the Association position statement working group took place, this group was formed out of a need to be more agile in responding to situations and a desire to be proactive in producing any position statements for all our reps to be able to refer to. We discussed our mode of working and terms of reference. Dan (director of engagement) and I will work on a paper for our student leadership team so that we can get an agreement on how we plan to work. We also discussed any upcoming events that we may need to have statements ready for. I then had another quick catch-up with Reiss around some more suggested conference sessions.

Thursday started with a short online course on workplace wellbeing; how to build confidence and manage stress. It has so far been really interesting; I am halfway through as its only about 2 hours long so I can finish it later. It was then the start of a daylong THE Climate Impact Forum. It started with a link with the COP26 event happening in Glasgow later this week. Hearing how other HE institutions are looking at sustainability and climate change and how they are taking action is inspiring! I am dipping into it throughout the day around the meetings that I have. Qualtrics have been helping with some information gathering around student experience and satisfaction; my next meeting discussed the outcomes and next steps. Thursday lunchtime is my normal meeting with Sue (strategic projects and change coordinator for the association), we discussed strategy planning and the annual membership survey. I then met with Tim Blackman (OU Vice-Chancellor). I always enjoy catching up with Tim, today we talked about some policies that could impact students and Conference. We also discussed the Climate forum and the Leadership Forum. I always come out of meetings with Tim challenged to do more for our students. After my meeting with Tim, I caught up with Reiss about some further details for the conference.

Just as a quick reminder that if you haven’t already looked at the Volunteer roles available please do now, as most of them end on the 31st, and if you haven’t already, please check out the announcement to save the date for Conference 2022 and whilst you are there make sure you have signed up for our newsletter. I will be busy cracking on with my study this weekend and spending some time watching Avengers: Infinity War, as I have been watching all the marvel films in timeline order with the monsters, obviously I am only watching them because they want to 😉!!! I hope that you all have a great weekend and if you can, get some downtime. Rest is really important to retaining information – or at least I have been told!! Have a great week and I will catch you all soon 😊

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Sarah P Jones


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