Author Archives: Wendy Raeside

Becky Verlin in front of ATS, Canterbury campus

Kent People: Becky Verlin, Housekeeping Manager and ATS Manager

When did you join the University of Kent and what did you do before?

I arrived at Kent in May 2011 for a 12-week agency cover, which became a permanent appointment as Housekeeping Manager in January 2012.

I previously worked for the NHS as a Site Coordinator at Sheppey Community Hospital and Sittingbourne Memorial Hospital, responsible for Community Hospital buildings and Fire, Health & Safety, as well as smaller clinical service outlets. I managed reception and office staff as well as portering and domestic teams. I was also a bereavement officer and staff rep for the local units. I loved the diversity but, following a restructure, my role became more about buildings than people. I chose to leave but got bored after three months (!) so joined an agency.

What does your current role(s) involve?

That’s a good question! My main role, as Housekeeping Manager, involves managing a brilliant team of professional cleaners and handy persons who ensure that accommodation is ready for students and maintain it while they’re here. In the summer, we switch over to a hotel-style service. Currently, I am responsible for Park Wood with its 1,938 bedrooms and 355 kitchens. In total across campus, we have something like 4,858 bedrooms and 787 kitchens. I think people would be surprised to know that the team of domestics not only look after the accommodation but also academic buildings– they are a very proud bunch. I have been involved in many accommodation refurbishments, which I love as you can really engage with the students and find out what they want, as well as trying out new colour schemes and ideas.

I am also currently Site Manager for the Asymptomatic Testing Site (ATS) on Canterbury campus. It’s been amazing to help build a new and brilliant team which, in normal circumstances, might never work together. It’s been really good to know we are doing something worthwhile in supporting students and staff to maintain some kind of normality during what has been very trying times.

Last, but not least, is my role with the Joint Staff Negotiating and Consultation Committee (JSNCC). When that first meeting agenda and the volume of papers arrived in my inbox, I couldn’t help but think I was out of my depth! But everyone was so welcoming and taught me little tricks (that will remain secret!) on how to get through it all. The role is about supporting staff and change and being a voice for those who may not always be heard. It’s truly rewarding to know you are in some way making a difference for your colleagues.

Tell us more about who’s who within your team?

There are four Housekeeping Managers, Tracy Rogers, Karen Keen, Lynne Banks and myself, as well as assistant managers who help with day-to-day matters, and supervisors and charge-hands. It’s the domestic team who are very much on the frontline. They are from all over the world and, in better times, we have had some really good cultural days where staff would bring in food representing their culture and we would talk about ‘home’. I love these moments – it reminds me what we represent.

In the ATS, we have worked together as a team since November when we first opened the site. The frontline team are from departments/centres across the University, including Gulbenkian, Sport and Catering. They are now skilled in the testing process and can answer many questions on this. In the beginning, we had some long days, yet they still returned. They choose to be here, which makes them special.

What are your immediate plans/priorities?

Making sure students want to come back to campus when they can and. that when they do,  they enjoy it. If that means keeping the ATS going, and having staff available to do the testing, that’s my priority. If that means making sure their accommodation is ready, that becomes my priority. So really, it’s about making sure we are ready for whatever is needed. I work best when I have challenges as I am reactive and love to get stuck in.

Covid-19 permitting (!), what are your interests outside work?

That’s easy, family is the most important thing to me. I have five grandchildren with my two daughters and their partners and, of course, my wonderful husband who puts up with a lot. I just love spending time with them all – even on the bad days, you can always find a bit of fun.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

My favourite, and one I’ve been known to use, is: “Don’t be telling everyone you’re unhappy, tell the person that can make a difference” A manager gave me that advice in my first volunteering role at the hospital and it has stuck with me ever since.

LGBT+ History Month – This is Not My First PANDEMIC

The University of Kent LGBT+ Staff Network is pleased to invite you to the final event in our series to mark LGBT+ History Month 2021. ‘This Is Not My First PANDEMIC – The LGBT+ Community Response to AIDS & Covid: then & now’ will take place on Thursday 25 February from 18.00-20.00.

The Programme

During the Teams event, we will hear from three speakers about the impact of the AIDS and Covid-19 pandemics on our community, drawing parallels between the two:

  • Jose C. Mejia, HIV Peer Support Manager, METRO Charity – ‘Insight on the experiences of people living with HIV during the COVID-19 pandemic: activism, triggers and vaccines’
  • Dr Ken Levine, Faculty Member, Department of Communication at Michigan State University – ‘From AIDS to COVID-19: examining the impact of messaging on the two pandemics’
  • Hilary Cooke, CEO of Medway Gender & Sexual Identity Centre, Chair of Medway Pride, founding member of Medway Pride Radio – ‘Trans realities 2021: health care, support, discrimination and hate crime’

This will be followed by a panel discussion and Q&A.

Attendance is free and open to all. Please register your intention to attend via Eventbrite.

Kent logo

Covid-19 update – 18 February 2021

Students’ return to campus

The Government is expected to publish its latest guidance on 22 February 2021 concerning students’ return to face-to-face teaching. We anticipate that the guidance will cover how institutions should prioritise particular students’ return and how the regular testing programme should be managed on campus. At this stage, we know that the Government is likely to recommend a phased return which may centre on those subjects needing access to specialist equipment and final year students.

We know that many of our students are keen to return to campus. However, it is important that we manage expectations and ensure they do not make firm travel plans until all information is available to them. This is particularly important for any students needing to travel from other countries as the Government has announced strict new regulations concerning travel into the UK.

Our priority has been, and will continue to be, the safety of our community and ensuring we can adhere to social distancing regulations on campus. Divisions are currently working on their plans for teaching for the remainder of the academic year; these plans include requesting timetabled events where students require access to specialist equipment or spaces. Further information will be available once the Government guidance has been published.

Update on the Covid-19 Hardship Fund

The University has received £588,000 of hardship funding from the Office for Students to support students disadvantaged through the effects of Covid-19. Most of the funding is to be prioritised for “rent related hardship” and must be dispersed to students by the end of March 2021. Working in partnership with Kent Union, we have launched a scheme to support disadvantaged students who can apply to the Covid-19 Hardship Fund for a one-off payment. In phase 1, students can apply for a £500 award using a simple online form and, if successful, will receive their money in 10 working days. As of 17 February, over 1,000 students have applied to the scheme, a large percentage of the 1,200 applications that it will be possible to fund. Once that funding has been allocated, a second phase will open later in the term.

The University continues to support students in hardship in a variety of different ways, with 271 laptops distributed and 41 currently on loan to students needing technical support to study effectively. Any students needing financial support can contact the Financial Aid team, or Kent Union’s Advice Service (Canterbury) or GKSU’s Advice Centre (Medway) for more information.

BAME Staff Network – all staff survey results

The University’s BAME Staff Network shared the initial findings of its 2020 all staff survey at a live online event on 10 February, attended by over 60 academic and professional services staff.

You can watch a recording of the event by clicking the link below:

Dr Heejung Chung and Hyojin Seo (both from the Division for the Study of Law, Society, and Social Justice) undertook the first stage of the data analysis and shared this with attendees. This indicated some significant points which will be helpful in addressing the University’s EDI objectives. Further analysis of the data will be completed in due course.

Please visit the BAME Staff Network website to keep up to date with the full analysis, as well as to join the Network.

Colleagues can also email the Network’s Co-chairs at

Marking International Women’s Day on 8 March

The BAME Staff Network at the University of Kent is honoured to host the Right Reverend Dr Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Bishop of Dover, as keynote speaker at this year’s International Women’s Day on Monday 8 March 2021.

Dr Hudson-Wilkin is the first Black woman to become a Church of England Bishop, and was previously Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow. The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day campaign is: #ChooseToChallenge, and Dr Hudson-Wilkin will be sharing her thoughts on issues of gender and race.

The event starts at 5:30pm to 6:30pm and will be via MS Teams through the Link below:

International Women’s Day with Dr Rose Hudson-Wilkin

We look forward to seeing you there.

Vanisha Jassal, Dave Thomas, Dr Barbara Adewumi and Dr Bridget Ng’andu, Co-Chairs BAME Staff Network, University of Kent




Covid-19 Update – 11 February 2021 

Students’ return to campus 

According to the current Government guidelines, universities have been required to suspend face-to-face teaching for the majority of study programmes until at least 8 March 2021. New guidance is due to published during week commencing 22 February 2021. We expect this updated guidance to recommend a probable phased return to campus, prioritising students who need access to specialist equipment or facilities. Divisions are currently developing plans outlining which cohorts of their students should be prioritised for return and will be completing this work shortly.

Our teaching spaces are being reorganised to allow for two-metre social distancing, and this will significantly impact the number of students that can be taught face-to-face in any single session. Assuming the Government does allow students to return to campus, preparatory work will take place in the fortnight before to organise accommodation, HR policies, on-campus facilities and other student-facing areas.

Any additional staff required to work on campus will be contacted by HR at least a week in advance so they can make the necessary arrangements. Further information regarding returning to work on campus is available on the Staff Coronavirus webpages.

Regular testing for Covid-19 

As the number of students and staff accessing campus increases, it is vital that regular testing for Covid-19 takes place. The Government recommends that individuals without symptoms are tested twice each week and you can do so at our campus testing facilities at both Canterbury and Medway.

There are currently no reported positive cases of Covid-19 at the University; however, with many students still living off-campus or at their permanent homes, this may not necessarily be an accurate reflection. It is important that all positive cases are reported via the Student and Staff procedures so do please encourage all students and staff to do so.

Since 7 September 2020, there have been 392 reported positive cases among our student population and 33 amongst our staff. These cases reflect community spread rather than transmission through any University teaching and learning activities. This is testament to the hard work and commitment of our whole University community to keep each other safe.


Learn how colleagues are creating and delivering sessions online

The E-Learning Team are pleased to announce that the next event in our series of ‘Digitally Enhanced Education webinars’ will take place on Friday 5 March, from 10.00-12.10, with the theme ‘Pedagogy and Practice when Teaching Online’.

Please find the agenda for the event below:

10.00 – 10.05 – Dr Phil Anthony: Introduction

10.05 – 10.20 – Sideeq Mohammed (University of Kent): Lessons Learned from Teaching a 550-Student Blended Learning Module

10.20 – 10.35 – Pip McDonald (Royal Agricultural University): Indiana Jones and the Temple of Zoom. A Transnational Online Pivot Adventure

10.35 – 10.50 – Dominik Lukes (Oxford University): What should educators know about User Experience and User Interface Design: Lessons for learning and teaching

10.50 – 11.05 – Joseph Berry (University of Birmingham): Digital Fieldwork During Lockdown

11.05 – 11.20 – David Bedford (University of Kent): How academic departments and librarians can work together to help students develop important skills

11.20 – 11.35 – Terese Bird (University of Leicester): Learning Medicine Mobile, Online, Blended, and Hybrid

11.35 – 11.50 – Debbie Holley & John Moran (University of Bournemouth): Creating, supporting and sharing: moving value-based learning online

11.50 – 12.05 – Future Teacher project: Lilian Soon (University of York), Alistair McNaught & Ron Mitchell: Supporting skills in online delivery by modeling good practices

12.05 – 12.10 – Phil Anthony: Wrap-up

If you would like to join the webinar series, please express your interest by enrolling on the Digitally Enhanced Education Webinars Moodle module, or by requesting access to the Team ‘Digitally Enhanced Education webinars‘ linked to the webinar series.

We hope to see you there.

Dr Phil Anthony
Learning Technologist | Division of Natural Sciences & KBS

Kent People: Talent and Organisational Development team

What’s new in your team and why have you changed your name from Learning & Organisational Development?

We used to offer learning and development at Kent in a trusted and traditional way, with a heavy reliance on classroom training. We’re now moving towards a ‘blended’ model. There will still be plenty of opportunities to engage with colleagues in bite-sized training sessions but also greater access to e-learning. This means we can reach more colleagues, giving them the freedom to learn away from the classroom, at a time that suits them.

So ‘Talent & Organisational Development’ better represents our support for the University’s strategic plans and what’s happening elsewhere in our profession. It’s important to make sure learning and development isn’t a standalone activity, but part of a more holistic approach to people development at Kent.

Who’s who within your team?

From top left: Claire Chapman, Loretta Izod, Amy Terry; middle left: Clemence Marest, Lyn McBriar, Kitty Fairweather; bottom left: Jena Dady.

The first person you’re likely to meet is Kitty Fairweather, our T&OD Co-ordinator. Kitty manages our team email box ( and is always happy to respond to general enquiries. As well as co-ordinating learning and development activities, Kitty works on a range of T&OD projects including communications and budget.

Our team is headed up by Clemence Marest, Assistant Director. Clemence is the strategic lead for our full T&OD remit, including Employee Apprenticeships and equality, diversity and inclusion. Clemence has a particular interest in how we can best develop talent and maximise the potential of staff across the organisation. She ensures that best practice and current thinking, both within and outside HE, are reflected in the design and delivery of our leadership development.

In 2020, we created two exciting new posts for Talent & Digital Learning Specialists. We were delighted that Jena Dady (previously L&OD Adviser) secured one of these posts. We also welcomed Amy Terry, who joined us from Saga. Jena and Amy have been working hard developing and shaping our new digital content and modules. A great example of this is our Future of Work e-learning suite on Staff Training Moodle. Here, you’ll find practical tips and guidance on working remotely, managing remote teams and support for staff wellbeing.

Loretta Izod, our Employee Apprenticeships Manager, offers specialist advice and guidance to the University regarding Apprenticeships and, in particular, how Kent can maximise the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy. Loretta is the ‘go to’ person for those interested in the opportunities Apprenticeships can open up for divisions, departments and individuals.

We have two T&OD Consultants, Claire Chapman and Lyn McBriar, who provide specialist professional learning and development support. Claire and Lyn work closely with the new academic divisions, central directorates and networks of partners to support the identification, design, delivery and evaluation of an expanding range of learning and organisational development initiatives.

Can you tell us more about your immediate plans?

Since our new structure went live in September last year, our focus has been on rationalising and prioritising how we deliver our service to staff.

As well as the new e-learning content, we’ve refreshed and updated many of our mandatory training modules (like Unconscious Bias). We’ve also introduced new sessions such as Assertive Communications and Trans Awareness.

We’re continuing to translate our leadership and management training into engaging and accessible format (for example, our Crucial Conversations and leadership programmes).

From an EDI perspective, we’re committed to doing all we can to ensure an environment and culture that support a balanced, inclusive and diverse community

What else do you have in mind for the longer-term?

We’ve lots of exciting projects planned for the future!  

For example, we’ll be continuing to develop our digital offer on Staff Moodle and also making the most of opportunities offered by Employee Apprenticeships.

We also have a number of University-wide projects underway to update our Induction and support career development and mentoring partnerships.

In time, many of these key projects will feed into the development of a talent development strategy for Kent. This will help us ensure that University leaders are supported, and that future leaders are identified, nurtured and developed to confidently take on relevant strategic leadership roles.

How can interested colleagues find out more/get involved?

We’d love to hear from you! Do connect with us and we’ll continue to keep you updated as our own plans and services develop further.

To get involved, you can:

  • Check out our blog for our latest news and what’s happening in the world of T&OD
  • Explore our range of e-learning sessions on Staff Training Moodle
  • Join our Staff Training Teams channel so that you won’t miss out on news of upcoming sessions, including those provided by our internal and external partners
  • Book onto training via Staff Connect – you can check out a short video explaining how it works and another video showing how to book
  • Follow us on Twitter
  • Email us at: for general enquiries or to find out more about Employee Apprenticeships.

BAME Staff Network All Staff Survey: Online feedback event – 10 February

Thank you to all of you who completed the All Staff Survey 2020 organised by the BAME Staff Network.

Please join us for a presentation and discussion of the survey findings on 10 February from 14.00-15.00.  This event is for all staff – academic and professional services.
Click here to join the meeting

If you have any questions about the survey to email the Co-Chairs at:

Thank you and we look forward to seeing you on the 10th!

Bridget, Dave, Barbara and Vanisha, Co-Chairs of the BAME Staff Network

Reclaiming our Past: LGBT+ History Month blogs

A series of blog posts championing influential films, music, authors and historical figures has been launched to mark LGBT+ History Month.

The blog posts published so far on our EDI pages feature:

  • the inspirational author and activist Audre Lorde, written by Dr Stella Bolaki, Reader in the School of English
  • James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, described as a ‘stunning and startling piece of literature’ by Dr Declan Kavanagh, Senior Lecturer in the School of English

LGBT+ History Month, originally the idea of an American teacher in 1994, has been celebrated in Britain since 2005. Sue Sanders, who has spoken at the University, was one of the co-founders. It is held every February, marking the first attempt (in February 2000) to repeal Section 28, a highly discriminatory piece of legislation which made it an offence to ‘promote’ homosexuality.

The History Month serves as an important opportunity to celebrate LGBT+ histories and cultures, raising awareness by recovering the stories of those who are often erased (or ‘straight-washed’) from popular memory and making visible the achievements and obstacles overcome. Its remit is about ‘Claiming our past. Celebrating our present. Creating our future’.

Staff Network events

A series of events run by our LGBT+ Staff Network include LGBT in Lockdown – Wednesday 17 February from 18.00 and This Is Not My First Pandemic – Thursday 25 February from 18.00.