Proud Moments – CEC members and Association staff look back upon the 2020-21 academic year

Looking back to the 2020-21 academic year, Sarah Jones has compiled a collection of our proudest moments.

A little while ago I started to ask Association Staff and Elected reps for their proudest moments of the 2020-2021 Academic year. 

I have been reminded of these as we have been collating together what we have been up to in that Academic year for the Open University Council. Once year in November we do a big report about our activities for Council. 

It is an opportunity to really showcase the projects we have been involved in and the difference we have made for students.

Verity Robinson, Head of EDI and Student Welfare, shared her proud mention:

“Library Study Volunteers! If you don’t know what a Library Study Volunteer is no need to look any further. 

“Set up in January 2019, the Library Study Volunteer service aims to help students in a secure environments access library resources via student volunteers. Unfortunately, as students in prison and secure hospitals don’t have access to the internet, they do not have access to the OU’s extensive library. The student makes a research request through their institutes education officer and we then pass it on to our volunteers who source the information and pass it on to a team who print and send it direct to the student. So far (since January 2019) we have had 240 requests.

“We have had a record number of request even though between March 2020 and September 2020 we didn’t receive a single request due to prison lock down. We are also working with the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences who have used the service to justify opening up more modules to students in prison from 22J (October 2022).”

Fanni Zombor, Vice President Engagement, shares hers: 

“My proudest moments last year were definitely Student Voice Week 2020, because it’s a pretty perfect model of how we can work in partnership with the OU to make a big difference for students. It’s also a very accessible way for students to engage with everything going on because by giving up 1-1.5 hours as a one off they all had the opportunity to make changes to the way things are at the OU.

“I was also really proud to present at JiSC CAN conference about SVW 2020 because it allowed us to shout about the way we do things here to the wider HE sector and make ourselves more known.

“I was also very pleased with how The Hoot advent calendar went- regardless of whether someone celebrates Christmas, it was very inclusive for anyone to get involved. For 25 days we gave something new to our students (discount codes, top tips or asking for feedback) and especially with all the lockdowns happening across the world, students told us it made them feel connected to the festive season and each other.”

Kate Dungate, Head of DigiComms, shared that her proudest moments were to do with the online Conference:

“An organisation-wide achievement in the summer of 2020 was to hold the first online-only Conference. 

“Ordinarily the online conference is accompanied and complemented by a face-to-face event over the weekend. 2020’s event was a great success. It garnered a positive response from delegates in their post-event survey and included some truly inspirational speakers talking directly to OU students and being interviewed.

“The biggest name of the event was household name, physicist and Professor of Particle Physics, Brian Cox. This was particularly noteworthy as the Conference was repurposed as an online-only event in record time. Staff weren’t phased by the change – hopping to it and working long and hard to ensure the event was memorable and enjoyable for all involved and allowed us to deliver Conference business requirements which are essential to the running of the organisation”

Cinnomen McGuigan, Vice President Education shares another exciting proud moment:

“[I’m] massively proud of the launch of the Individual Representation Pilot, Amy has worked like an absolute Trojan on this, and I have been there with her every step of the way. We are so excited to see this make its way out into the world”

Lara Munday, Projects Officer (Student Community) shares hers, too:

I’d say what I’m really proud of is what we’ve all done to build the online OU student community over the last year. All the events that our wonderful Association Online Hosts have been putting on have been so well received – and have provided a space for students to chat to fellow students and feel a part of something bigger in a very tough year for many. New events have been started that provide an online community space that was lacking before, for example the International Students Online Meet-Up. Our online spaces have brought students together who may not have otherwise met

And now for mine…

As President my proudest moment of last year are numerous but I think most noteworthy is one around community, how our reps and volunteers keep turning up despite adversity and support the wider student community. By putting themselves out there and giving up their time and their energy to be the voice of the student community to the OU has made immensely proud. 

So, I would like to say a huge thank you to anyone who has given up any pf their time to volunteer on behalf of students. Also to the staff of the Association that support us and the staff in the University that work with us. 

So thank you!

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Sarah P Jones

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