Category Archives: People

Front Line Services team

Kent People: Templeman Front Line Services teams

By Christine Davies, Learning Environment Assistant

Can you tell us more about your role?

Together, our teams – Facilities Management, Learning Environment, Service Delivery and Support & Liaison – look after the physical spaces, resources and service points in the Templeman Library. We help users make the most of our physical collections/study spaces and provide in-person/online help with library and IT queries. We could be the person on the phone helping you with a password reset, issuing your carrel key from the Welcome Desk, trundling past with a trolley of textbooks, or handing over a computer to support working from home.

Students are at the heart of what we do, but we also have plenty to offer staff, as well as our local community. A real privilege of working in the Library is our dual capacity for education and leisure. Of the 12 items I currently have on loan (you can borrow up to 40), one is a cookbook, a CD, two are DVDs and the rest a mix of fiction (titles like Golden Hill and The eye of the reindeer) and non-fiction (topics as diverse as running, medieval science and beauty).

How has the pandemic affected your work?

In March 2020, the pandemic prompted a University-wide lockdown and the Templeman closed its doors too. Most of our teams were suddenly tasked with working from home although a handful of essential staff remained to manage building maintenance (Covid-proofing) and book returns (or avalanches, in those early days!).

The experiences of front-line colleagues – including Jon Peacock (Support Supervisor), Nick Goodman (Support Officer), Sally Vinicombe (Welcome Desk Supervisor), Joe Lucas (Learning Environment Team Leader) and Luke Ranger (Facilities Manager) – highlight three distinct phases in the Templeman’s pandemic timeline:

1)    Panic stations (March-July 2020)

Jon: The IT & Library Support Desk had to move entirely online and quickly familarise ourselves with MS Teams and other remote working tools so we could advise others. The first lockdown was particularly busy in fielding calls, emails and online chats from students and staff grappling with remote-working and technology, all in the lead-up to exams!

2)    Covid-proofing (July-December 2020)

Luke: As we planned how to re-open in line with Government guidance, we re-calculated our building capacity and implemented measures to promote safe movement and behaviour. This involved moving/removing furniture to create individual socially distanced study spaces, distributing signage to support a one-way system, and locking/cordoning off areas of risk (like unventilated group study rooms).

Joe: We adapted team operations, introducing work bubbles to limit the spread of Covid. We focused on fulfilling book fetch requests to ensure access to physical resources while limiting visitor footprint. We made retrievals twice daily, processing and storing requested items at a reservation pick-up in the Welcome Hall. We also introduced a 72-hour stock quarantine to delay items moving between users.

Sally: The Welcome Desk stripped everything back to essentials only, suspending our visitor services to prioritise student access to the Library, and switching our approach to advisory rather than hands-on. We handled a wider variety of queries, stretching our own knowledge base and encouraging students to be more self-sufficient.

Nick: We’ve added Perspex screens to the Support Desk and re-spaced the desks to reinforce social distancing for the safety of staff and customers. It’s also been exciting to explore new ways of improving our remote support through MS Teams.

3)    The new normal (January-June 2021)

Joe: From September 2020, we noticed that quarantine had an impact on users, particularly in accessing high-demand items. So we increased our digital offering, reintroduced self-service shelf access and made adjustments to secure everyone’s safety and wellbeing. In response, students were complying with what was once considered unnatural: sitting a desk apart from their friend, studying with a mask and following a one-way system around the building.

How can colleagues make the most of library services?

As lockdown eases, we hope to gradually reintroduce our full range of services over the summer, as well as prepare for an effective Welcome Week. Our bookable study spaces are already available and we hope to reopen our popular Chill-Out Room by September.

If you’re visiting the Library, check out key updates on our website and a whiteboard in the Welcome Hall. We recommend using our online tools to check opening hours, building occupancy, and our catalogue. Library Search remains an invaluable resource, and our Library Collections colleagues have been busy adding more e-resources throughout the pandemic, so do use the filters to check if your book or journal is available online.

Other useful digital tools include our Software finder and E-resources A-Z. Why not check out BOB (Box of Broadcasts), a handy way to catch up on recent TV & radio, our recently-added collection from the National Theatre or Summer Reads chosen by colleagues from across the Library?

You can stay up to date by following our blog and social media channels. Our Support Desk is open through the summer (09:00-18:00 weekdays, 12:00-18:00 Saturdays), and you can reach us remotely during these hours by phone (01227 82 4999), email (libraryhelp@kent.ac.uk) or via the “Chat to us” that appears on most library webpages.

Coronavirus

Condolences for Will Simpson

Words by Helen Buhler

The University was very sorry to hear of the death of Will Simpson on 7 July 2021.

Sadly, and unexpectedly, Will Simpson, the University of Kent’s second Librarian, died on 7 July  at home. Since succeeding Stephen Darlow, Kent’s Founding Librarian, after four years as his Deputy Librarian, Will’s time in the best office on campus was characterised by forward-thinking and efficient management, together with a deep dislike of red tape and paperwork. He was a major figure in the development of KLACS, Kent’s online circulation system, written by the Computing Lab’s Rod Saunders, which came into use in October 1976, and was the first in a British university library. This was eventually replaced by Cambridge’s cataloguing and circulation systems.

Will was also instrumental in fostering a relationship with the Cathedral Library, and was (together with Naomi Linnell and David Shaw) involved in the Cathedral’s online catalogue of pre-1801 printed books. The Templeman’s extension on its eastern side owed its initial planning to Will, aided by Margaret Smyth.

Always approachable and helpful, Will made the Templeman a very pleasant place to work. I have happy memories of those years. Needless to say, his retirement was marked by the Templeman’s best and biggest party!

Our condolences and thoughts go out to June and to their children, Harold, Lucy, and Victoria.

May Will rest in peace.

 

Coronavirus

Condolences for Dr Jingqi Miao

The University was very sorry to hear of the death of Dr Jingqi Miao on Friday 2 July.

Dr Miao was appointed as a Lecturer at the University in 2001 and she retired two years ago. She was a valued member of the School community and the sad news of her death has been deeply felt across it.

Dr Jingqi Miao

Jingqi joined us at a challenging time, when subjects like Physics were facing a shortfall in Higher Education funding. After taking up her academic post at Kent, Jingqi was immediately confronted with the task of increasing undergraduate student recruitment in Physics and Astronomy, a role she relished and made her own. The increase in recruitment that she helped generate set up the School on a path of substantial growth over the next decade.

She was successful in making a powerful case for renewing funding from the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council to establish “Space School” which quickly became an annual SPS tradition. This event ran in the summer every year from 1999 (and was only suspended in 2020 due to COVID).

Jingqi’s research was appreciated across the world. Her work on the origin of stars, using computer simulations, will hold a special place in the future development of the subject. Her enthusiasm for her research was unwavering and transmitted to her students and collaborators.

All of her colleagues will always remember her as kind, modest, hardworking and devoted to her family. Well-liked and respected by all, she was the kind of colleague that made the School a better and happier place to be in.

A fuller tribute to Dr Jingqi Miao, by Dr Silvia Ramos and other members of the School of Physical Sciences, is available on the School website.

Lynne Regan

Kent People: Lynne Regan

Lynne Regan, Disability Adviser and Student Support and Wellbeing Administration Manager at Medway campus, tells us more about her role.

When did you join the University and why?

I joined the University in January 2008, initially in an administrative role within what was then the Disability and Dyslexia Support Service. I have stayed in the same department – what is now Student Support & Wellbeing, part of the Student Services Directorate – changing over the years from an administration role to a Disability Adviser role, alongside managing the office and administration for the Medway team.

Before joining Kent, I worked in freight forwarding for 10 years until leaving to have my children. I then held various home-based admin roles, which meant I did not have to return to the workplace until the children were older.

Can you tell us what your current role involves?

My current role has two elements. As a Disability Adviser, I support students with physical/sensory disabilities, long-term medical conditions and Autistic Spectrum conditions. This includes talking to students about their support needs, writing Inclusive Learning Plans, and helping students with their eligibility for support from the Disabled Students’ Allowance. I also handle enquiries from academic division staff and other central services, and present our services to new intake students at the start of each academic year.

As Student Support & Wellbeing Administration Manager for Medway, I manage a team of Educational Support Assistants and Administrators at the Medway campus, and work with the Head of Student Support & Wellbeing and Team Managers in Canterbury to ensure an equal and effective service for all students. I also oversee the running of the Student Services office at Medway, which includes the Mental Health and Specific Learning Difficulties Advisers for Medway, Study Skills Tutors and Mentors, Counselling team and the Careers and Employability Team.

Gillingham Building, Medway

Gillingham Building, Medway, where Lynne’s team is based

How has Covid affected your work and what sort of measures have you taken to overcome these extra challenges?

Covid-19 restrictions have changed the way we work in Student Support & Wellbeing and across the Student Services Directorate. Where appointments were previously in-person, we have had to adapt to providing support remotely. Some students benefit from this support method, whereas others have struggled with not being able to meet support staff in person.

Most of the Student Services team at Medway are currently working from home, with the exception of the Mental Health Adviser and Specialist Mentor. As Admin Manager, I have kept in weekly contact with the Administrators and we have a WhatsApp group for the Student Services team at Medway – mostly for social chat and daily challenges – which has helped to keep us all connected throughout this time. It also helps us keep up-to-date with changes in the University’s response to Covid where this has an impact on our service. 

Looking ahead, what are your plans for the next year or two?

To continue supporting students at Medway – hopefully, resuming in-person appointments soon – and supporting the Student Services team at Medway who do a fantastic job.

Away from my role in Student Support & Wellbeing, I have been actively involved, along with Medway Student Services colleagues, in Green Impact/Green 15/FutureProof, working on sustainability projects.

Biodiversity garden, Medway

Biodiversity garden at Medway

Our biggest project at Medway is plans to bring a little bit of biodiversity to our rather concrete campus – by way of a woodland walk (through woods that have, until recently, been totally inaccessible), accessible seating areas, plants and other additions to help improve wellbeing and provide staff and students at Medway with somewhere nice to sit, gather, contemplate and enjoy the nature around us. After a false start and funding issues due to Covid interruption, this now looks as though it will be going ahead and I’m looking forward to being involved in the planning and development of this exciting project.  

Covid-restrictions permitting (!), what are your interests away from work?

I am a serial-studier! I started studying with the Open University in 1994 and have completed two undergraduate degrees and a postgraduate degree there, and also an MA in Higher Education at Kent. I am currently in the final stages of completing a Doctorate in Education at the Open University, with my research investigating the experiences of transgender students in higher education. Aside from this, I enjoy live events such as concerts and theatre, and I am looking forward to filling my diary with events again once Covid restrictions are lifted.

Lynne Regan graduation

Lynne receiving her MA in Higher Education

What would be your idea of a perfect day?

Spending time with my family, something that I’ve missed over the last year and that I am looking forward to, hopefully, this summer.

New Director for Division of CEMS

Welcome to Professor Ben Cosh who joins the University as Director of our Division of Computing, Engineering & Mathematical Sciences in September. 

Ben is joining us from the University of Reading where he is currently Head of the School of Mathematical, Physical and Computation Sciences. 

Ben completed a PhD at Goldsmiths, working with Bill Jackson on Vertex Splitting and Connectivity Augmentation in Hypergraphs, before starting his career in FE teaching maths to students on BTEC, GCSE, A-Level and International Baccalaureate courses. 

On returning to Goldsmiths as a Lecturer, he taught undergraduate courses in Mathematics, wrote a Foundation Year programme for Computer Science and took significant responsibility for teaching quality assurance. 

In 2004, Ben joined the University of Reading as Programme Director for the Science Foundation Year. He was appointed Faculty Director of Teaching and Learning (in 2008), Head of the School of Systems Engineering (2010) and Dean of the Faculty of Science (2014), before becoming Head of the School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences in 2016. He has served on the University Boards for Teaching & Learning and Research, the Senate and the governing Council, and contributed to committees and working groups on all aspects of the University’s operation. 

Ben is married to Amy, and they have two boys aged 9 and 7. In his spare time, he enjoys walking in the Lake District, playing the guitar and piano, and failing to keep up with his wife in CrossFit workouts! 

On his new role at Kent, Ben says: ‘I am thrilled to be joining the Executive Group as Director of CEMS and I am very much looking forward to working with the Division’s outstanding staff and students.’ 

Juliette Patterson, Athena Swan Chair

Kent professor appointed Athena Swan Chair

Congratulations to Professor Juliette Pattinson, Deputy Director (People) in the Division of Arts and Humanities, on her new role as an Athena Swan Chair for Advance HE.

Juliette’s appointment by Advance HE reflects her commitment to promotion of the EDI agenda. Specialising as a gender historian, she has three degrees in Women’s Studies and History. She sits on the Editorial Board of Women’s History Review, and has previously served on the Steering Committee of Women’s History Network (2009-12) and co-edited its Women’s History journal.

As Deputy Director (People) at Kent, Juliette leads on probation, promotion, mentoring, appraisal and career development and is acutely aware of the pressing issues of equality, diversity and inclusivity.

As Head of the School of History (2015-2020), Juliette worked closely with colleagues in the submission of an Athena Swan Bronze, which was successfully awarded in 2017, making it just one of eight History departments in the country to hold the award. Her EDI work has also included organising International Women’s Day events, as well as women’s history outreach/aspiration-raising/recruitment events and helping the University to mark Black History Month, Disability History Month, Holocaust Memorial Day and LGBT History Month.

Commenting on her new Athena Swan Chair role, Juliette says: ‘I am delighted to have this opportunity to work collaboratively together to advance gender equality in the Higher Education sector and I hope this role will be to the benefit of the University of Kent in preparing future Athena Swan submissions.’

About Advance HE

Advance HE is a member-led, sector-owned charity that works with institutions and higher education across the world to improve higher education for staff, students and society. It has a particular focus on enhancing teaching and learning, effective governance, leadership development and tackling inequalities through its equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work.

You can find out on the Advance HE website.

Alumni Stories – Jaime Blakesley

Article by Rhys Higgins, Support Engagement Officer 

Alumna and University of Kent in America board member, Jaime Blakesley (Eliot, 2000), tells the story of how she became a volunteer vaccinator in her city, Chicago.

On December 15, 2020 Phase 1A of the City’s vaccination plan began. This included long-term care and other residential healthcare facilities and healthcare workers, most being vaccinated in January.

At this time there was a call out to all departments within the City for volunteers to work “on loan” from their regular duties to assist with the vaccination plan. Volunteers are from a wide range of City departments and sister agencies as well as non-for profit health and community organizations. It is a real citywide team effort organized by the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Over the December holidays volunteers were trained, Point of Distribution sites (PODs) were setup, logistics and other important details were put into place. By mid January six PODs located within currently unoccupied City College buildings were in operation five days a week.

Patient flow is in one direction to eliminate cross contamination. Volunteers take on various roles at each site and are trained to be as versatile as possible for tasks that are non-clinical such as registration and observation post-vaccination (all the vaccinations themselves are administered by nurses, paramedics, or clinical staff), for 8 hour shifts. Everyone is devoted to the mission of vaccinating as many clients as possible. I have been working on average two days a week at the clinics since January and have enjoyed meeting and assisting the healthcare and essential workers, senior citizens, and the members of the public that have come to the vaccination sites to date. It’s also been a fun change of pace from my regular duties as an environmental scientist and I have enjoyed getting to know my fellow volunteers from other sectors of City departments; from librarians to public planners to accountants.

As of March 3rd, the PODs had administered over 562,000 vaccines. I originally agreed to volunteer for 6 months or until needed. So many of us felt helpless during this pandemic that I was keen to accept an opportunity to contribute towards the effort to end it. I’m proud to have a small part in helping my colleagues, friends, and neighbours gain access to this vital vaccine and look forward to a return to some semblance of normalcy again soon.

Since then I have started work as the POD Coordinator at the United Center federal vaccine clinic location a couple days a week. The United Center site is one of four identical ones being helped by the Army in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The 101st Airborne Division is part of a 222-Soldier team, helping to administer close to 6,000 vaccines per day at the center for what was originally planned to be eight weeks; but was extended a few weeks longer. It is coming to a close next week.

I represent the City of Chicago as the POD Coordinator for the combined interagency effort with federal, state, and local government agencies on-site. Most of my daily tasks are assisting clients with appointments and checking them in before sending them through to the medics for their vaccination and also train and supervise volunteers. More than 289,000 shots have been administered at the United Center site. It’s been an honour to collaborate with everyone there, a true team effort.

Welcome to Chris Sleeman, Interim Head of Admissions

From Simone Davies, Director of MORA 

I am delighted to welcome Chris Sleeman, Interim Head of Admissions, to MORA (Marketing, Outreach, Recruitment and Admissions).

Chris joins us from Regent’s University London, where he was Head of Admissions and held a variety of roles during his 10-year career at the institution. Prior to entering Higher Education, Chris worked in business development and business support/consultancy, building networks, and implementing process improvements.  Over the coming months, Chris’s focus will be on leading the team, post a review of admissions, to improve processes and services to benefit our applicants and the University.

I am sure you will join me in welcoming Chris to the University of Kent.

Simone Davies | Director of MORA

Students on grass at Canterbury campus

Kent People – Education and Student Experience Managers

Our Education and Student Experience Managers within each of the Divisions – Natalie Conetta (Arts & Humanities), Chris Barron (Computing, Engineering & Mathematical Sciences), Bob McKay (Kent Business School), Charlotte Ransom (Human & Social Sciences), Siobhan Dumphy (Natural Sciences) and Emma Spiller (Study of Law, Society and Social Justice) – tell us more about their new role and how it’s going so far.

Why has your role been created and what’s its remit?

As part of Organising for Success, a defined education and student experience portfolio was created in each of the new Divisions to ensure more cohesive working between school-level professional service teams. Our new roles as Education and Student Experience Managers are pivotal to delivering this. We manage all Divisional matters associated with the student journey, ensuring we follow the University’s codes of practice and that our students are offered the best possible experience from the moment they arrive to when they graduate. 

Education and Student Experience Managers (Top, from left: Siobhan Dumphy, Bob McKay, Natalie Conetta. Bottom, from left: Emma Spiller, Chris Barron, Charlotte Ransom)

What does a typical day for each of you involve at the moment?

There is no such thing – for most of us, a large strong coffee in the morning is the only constant! It’s a cliché but every day is different and sees us ensuring that “business as usual” keeps happening through the staffing changes brought about by O4S, developing Divisional strategies, or working with professional service departments to develop frameworks for future collaborative working. Every day presents new challenges, and that’s without mentioning Covid-19!

Are there any particular challenges you’re all facing – eg Covid! – and how are you overcoming them?

There are so many challenges at the moment, the biggest of which is bringing together a team that covers such a large portfolio, whilst working remotely and still ensuring we are providing a great level of service for our colleagues and students. We are overcoming this by finding new ways to stay connected, creating a supportive working environment which is understanding of the challenges we are facing both at work and at home. We are in awe of the pace of our teams’ learning and their resilience.

There is an ESEM for each of the new divisions – how are you all sharing best practice as a cross-division team of professionals?

We’re actually a really tight team! We meet on a weekly basis and have a vibrant Teams chat where we discuss how we are approaching processes and talk through the most streamlined way of working. From the very outset, we all understood the need to work collaboratively, and this has had a really positive impact on our progress across all our divisions. Often, one or two of us will represent the six at committees and meetings and so clear communication between us is key. We’ve transferred this model to our teams through the creation of ‘Leadership Groups’ which is enabling the managers within our ESE teams to share information and best practice more fluidly too.

As an ESEM team, what are your immediate priorities?

Our immediate priorities are supporting our teams to be able to offer a great student experience. This year has been challenging in so many ways and our teams have worked incredibly hard so having a focus on their wellbeing and ensuring they feel supported and happy and are working well is really important to us.

What else have you got in mind for the longer term?

We are all looking forward to being able to be more strategic and less reactive; being able to move away from the issues that the pandemic has presented and building on a long-term strategy with students at the forefront.

How can colleagues get in touch/find out more?

We have a catchy distribution list for anyone wanting to work with us as a team:
div-edstudex-managers@kent.ac.uk.

Otherwise, if you are in a Division, just come and ‘speak’ to us (virtually at the moment, of course) and we’ll be happy to help!

Phil Robinson volunteering

Helping others: Phil Robinson, Learning Technologist, KBS and LSSJ

Phil Robinson is a busy man! Not only does he have two day jobs – Learning Technologist for both Kent Business School (KBS) and the Division of Law, Society and Social Justice (LSSJ) – but he volunteers much of his spare time for good causes.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, Phil, who is General Secretary of Lions Clubs International British Isles as well as Treasurer of Thanet Lions Club, has helped:

  • provide PPE and other equipment for local hospital staff at the QEQM hospital, Margate, as well as care homes and funeral directors
  • support University colleagues making PPE equipment, including visors
  • manage parking at the local (Thanet) Asymptomatic Testing Site (ATS)
  • raise and donate money for food bank equipment and hot food deliveries.

Phil says: ‘My voluntary work with the Lions is the best thing in the world to do. When you help people, you get more back than you can ever give’

PPE supplied by Thanet Lions to QEQM staff

Volunteering role

Phil first became involved in volunteering with Lions Clubs International 21 years ago, but became more active in 2010 when he retired as an Area bank manager for Santander in Kent. Phil rose through the ranks, becoming Chairman of the British Isles and Ireland from 2014 to 2015. His Lions roles have taken him as far afield as Belarus (after the Chernobyl disaster), Sri Lanka (following the 2004 tsunami) and the Philippines (post the typhoon in 2015).

‘After my early retirement from banking, my wife Jackie and I became even more involved with Lions Clubs International, the largest voluntary service organisation in the world with 1.4 million members. Since then, we’ve been lucky enough to get involved with projects ranging from supporting the Kent Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance to helping to build an eye hospital in Ghana. But much of our activities are about helping people in our local Thanet community.’

Now as General Secretary, Phil also has a management role, which includes overseeing a small office team based in Birmingham and representing Lions at international meetings around Europe, and is a Trustee for the Lions UK Charity Foundation. ‘My role in Lions usually takes up more time than my now full-time job at the University!’ he jokes.

At local level, for the Thanet Club, much of the recent effort has focused on the community response to Covid-19. Phil says: ‘Most of my recent weekends have been spent overseeing the carparking for our local Covid Vaccination centres, which often means going home cold and soggy. But it’s so rewarding actually doing something to help us all.’

Phil’s wife Jackie presenting equipment for QEQM staff areas to Theatre Assistant, Steve Griggs

Kent role

Phil first joined the University in 2010 working in all sorts of roles for the temp bank. ‘I had retired after 30 years of banking and got bored after a couple of months so returned to work!’, he said.

Initially, he worked as a finance officer on the JISC project for the School of History and EDA, but for the last five years, he has supported distance learning via Moodle and film editing for the Tizard Centre. Following the Organising for Success restructure, he has moved to his full-time shared role with KBS and LSSJ.

‘I’ve gone from four days a week to full-time even though I’m retired,’ said Phil, ‘but I really enjoy what I’m doing. And my work at the University enables me to volunteer at the level I want to.’

Getting involved

Lions Clubs International is always looking for more like-minded volunteers. ‘We welcome support from anyone keen to support their community,’ said Phil, ‘whatever their interests or background.’ You can find out more on the Lions Club International website.

As well as clubs across Kent, there is also a newly formed Canterbury campus club for any interested University students. Find out more by following them on Twitter: @ukclionsclub

Kent staff who give up their time for Lions and/or other organisations may also benefit from University support for volunteering activity. Find out more on our Staff Guide pages.

If you know any other Kent colleagues who are going “above and beyond” in helping others, please let us know at communications@kent.ac.uk. We’re keen to celebrate their good work!