Category Archives: People

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!

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.

Marsh family singing their song 'Totally fixed where we are'

The Marsh family go viral…again!

Dr Ben Marsh of Kent’s School of History, Danielle Marsh of Kent Business School (KBS) and family have once again recorded a song which has gone viral.

Adapted from Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ their version ‘Totally Fixed Where We Are’ reflects on people’s current feelings and frustrations during the third lockdown.

Becoming internet sensations with their first song ‘One Day More’ back in March 2020, the Marsh family have once again appeared on television for an interview with BBC Breakfast.

You can find a link to their video on our Twitter post or watch their latest performance on their YouTube channel.

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 (Ldev@kent.ac.uk) 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: Ldev@kent.ac.uk for general enquiries or L.J.Izod@kent.ac.uk to find out more about Employee Apprenticeships.

Welcome to Philip Pothen, Director of Engagement

Welcome to Philip Pothen as he starts work this week as the new Director of Engagement. For the last 15 months, Philip has been the Acting Executive Director of Marketing and Communications at De Montfort University, with a wide-ranging portfolio including reputation management and communications, having joined the University in 2015 as Deputy Director, and Associate Director of Communications. 

Prior to working at DMU, Philip worked for the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) where he was Head of Communications and Public Engagement.  While there, he was responsible for the promotion of major initiatives involving public policy, the creative economy and the arts and culture sector and for setting up and developing partnerships with the BBC, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Wikimedia and the Cheltenham Festival, among others. Prior to that, he worked for Jisc, promoting the use of technology in higher education and research during an exciting time of change for the sector as it embraced the use of ICT in learning, teaching and research. 

He has qualifications in PR and teaching, having taught in both higher and further education, has a D Phil in Philosophy from the University of Sussex, and authored a recently republished book entitled Nietzsche and the Fate of Art.

Philip says: ‘I’m delighted to be joining the University of Kent at this time and I’m very much looking forward to working with colleagues to help take forward Kent’s exciting ambitions as a civic university. It’s clear there’s already so much great work going on and I’m excited to be supporting this really important area of the University’s work. Thank you to everyone for the very warm welcome!’

Time to Talk

Time to Talk Day: Thursday 4 February

Next week on 4 February it is Time to Talk day, with this year’s theme being the Power of Small’. 

Time to Talk is an initiative run by mental health charity Time to Change. The national awareness-raising day aims to show how small conversations about mental health have the power to make a big difference. 

Although it may be a little different this year, times like this that open conversations about mental health are more important than ever, and there are a number of ways you can get involved at Kent. 

Get involved with Time to Talk 

  • Time to Change are holding a virtual festival 3-4 Feb, a day of online activities that anyone can join – there are also have links to many other things that you can do to help stay in contact with others and support your mental health 
  • On the 4 and 12 February, Talent and Organisational Development have organised sessions on Mental Health for Managers, which are bookable via staff connect   
  • A new online module on Mental Health Awareness will be released to all staff on 4 February via staff training Moodle 

Coming soon 

We want everybody to feel they have the support they need at Kent to feel heathy and well at work, as part of an open culture that recognises and respects the impact work can have on our wellbeing.  

Our Occupational Health team has a number of ways they can help staff with looking after their mental health, with out new ‘One Stop Shop’ bringing together all of our mental health awareness resources in one place so they are easier for staff to access. This includes our Employee Assistance Programme, which offers free, confidential advice to staff whenever they need it 

A project team including staff from across the University are also currently working on putting in place the recommendations from the Stevenson / Farmer Thriving at Work review, which focuses on mental health in the workplace standards. Over the coming months, the team will be raising awareness of resources already in place to support staff across the University, along with establishing networks, training and support so that we create environments where staff feel healthy, safe and supported. 

Kent People: Paul Sinnock, Head of Technical Services

When did you join the University and why?

I joined Kent in 2005 as an IT Technician in the Department of Electronics (now the School of Engineering and Digital Arts). This was an exciting opportunity to support staff and students in a very technically demanding department, which was actively pushing boundaries in its research and teaching. I worked alongside some excellent IT colleagues, as well as subject technicians, who were experts in their fields. I later took up the role of IT Team Manager, before becoming IT and Technical Services Manager and then Director of IT and Technical Services. After a 15-year career providing technical support to students and staff, I am thrilled to be taking up the role of Head of Technical Services leading the profession here at Kent.

What did you do before joining Kent?

I completed my undergraduate degree in 2001 and worked for a large pharmaceutical company supporting their IT systems and staff across the UK. After two years, I made the switch to higher education, becoming an IT user support specialist at Imperial College London. I had always remembered how technical staff had been pivotal in supporting myself and other students during university. They were the unsung heroes who were always on hand when you needed help.

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

My new role has come about following the University’s pledge to support the national Technician Commitment, a sector-wide initiative led by the Science Council to help address key challenges facing technical staff working in higher education. Universities and institutions who sign-up to the commitment agree to improve and safeguard vital technical skills. The commitment ensures greater visibility, recognition, career development and sustainability for technicians across all disciplines. My role will lead this work and ensure these principles remain embedded here at Kent. My vision is to build on the already exceptional work undertaken by technical colleagues throughout the University. Our aim is to deliver a truly customer-focused, innovative and professional technical service by highly skilled, diverse technical experts, utilising leading technology, equipment and facilities, to provide the very best experience to our students and staff.

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

I am fortunate to work with some exceptionally talented colleagues at Kent. Technical service staff operate across almost all our subject areas, from science and laboratories to arts and theatres. I will be working closely with divisional and departmental Technical Managers to deliver that positive change and to support the University’s strategic ambitions. I am also working closely with colleagues in other professional service departments, including IS, Estates and the Safety, Health and Environment Unit. By continuing the collaboration of technical staff and professional service teams, we can create a consistent experience for our students and colleagues.

What are your immediate plans for the new team?

Over the next 12 months, I will be working with colleagues to produce the first technical service strategy. This will include our Technician Commitment action plan and a three-year roadmap that delivers against the principles of technician visibility, recognition, career development and sustainability. I will also be working closely with technical managers and divisional management teams to support the transition to the new divisional structure, and wider collaboration of technical services within and across divisions.

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

I love spending time at the beach with my wife and our two children. I also enjoy cycling and keeping active. When the weather’s not great, you’ll find me doing some form of DIY. My latest project is using my Amazon Alexa to automate the lighting in my house – much to my wife’s frustration who, rightfully so, doesn’t see the problem with a traditional light switch! I guess once a technician always a technician…

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

The best advice I have been given was from my Dad (which he borrowed from someone more famous): “The harder you work, the luckier you become.”

 

Paul Allain

Kent People: Paul Allain, Dean of the Graduate and Researcher College

When did you join the University and why?

A Senior Lectureship in Drama came up at Kent in 2000, which was rare those days. With my eldest son about to start primary school in London, a move to Canterbury with its excellent schools and a bit more space felt like a positive step. The drama department was then, and still is, among the biggest and best in the UK. I joined Kent in September and was fortunate enough to begin with a term’s externally funded sabbatical – a soft landing.

What did you do before joining Kent?

I started a PhD in contemporary Polish theatre in autumn 1989, an interesting time to be researching there. I performed with a Polish theatre group about whom I was also writing, which led to work as a Movement Director in companies such as the RSC and the Royal National Theatre. I collaborated with some very famous actors, though to list them would be namedropping!  I gained my first permanent 0.5 position in 1993 and continued to mix academic and theatre work for a few years until I decided to give my all to research and teaching.

Why has the new College been created and what’s its remit?

I have now been Dean for four years. From the beginning, I saw benefits in joining up our excellent support for postgraduates with that for research staff, especially postdocs who were ‘falling between the gaps’. I commissioned a report which confirmed this problem and gave us clear guidance on what was needed to support all staff who research across the whole academic lifecycle. 

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

Within the Graduate and Researcher College, we’re a very small team and there’s been a lot of change over the last year, from people departing through KVSS to maternity leaves. But it’s all good, and we’re finding ways to adapt as a team so we can deliver on our expanded remit. Core team members are sustaining and enhancing our PG activity and support, in particular with the Global Skills Award for Master’s students and our Researcher Development Programme, while a new post will work closely with myself and colleagues on rolling out our programme for academic researchers.

What are your immediate plans for the newly formed College?

The imminent task is to sustain what the team has been doing so well for our postgraduates, while incorporating new workshops, activities and networks for academic staff, ultimately all geared towards improving our research performance. We signed up to the Concordat to support researcher career development in June 2020, so can’t shirk this. We are also active in several UKRI-funded postgraduate consortia which has been very preoccupying during Covid, ensuring we help our research students fairly with the limited resources we have. Inevitably, this is rumbling on… 

Why do you think postgraduate education has a pivotal part in Kent’s future success?

Delivering quality postgraduate taught courses and offering excellent research supervision has to be a priority for any institution that is serious about conducting research. As a REF panel member (in 2014 and imminently for REF 2021 in subpanel 33), I see clearly how vital postgraduates are to academic life.

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

Not surprisingly, I enjoy live events such as concerts and theatre, overseas if possible, and often in Poland. Is that not work though? In case it is, I also play tennis. I’m a bit of a fidget, so that burns some energy.

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

Engaging your legs can greatly enhance your serve!