Category Archives: People

Coronavirus

Condolences for Gary Blundell

The University is very sad to report the death of Gary Blundell who has worked at Kent for more than 30 years – most recently as an operator and service desk analyst in Information Services.

John Sotillo, Director of Information Services writes: ‘Gary joined us in July 1989 and has given almost 31 years of dedicated service to the department and University. Many colleagues across the University have benefited from his thoughtful and measured support and this was recognised on a number of occasions through the departmental award scheme and at a University long service award event in 2014.

‘Gary’s most impressive achievement has been the wonderful feedback from customers. Those he helped really appreciated his patience, care and sense of humour. He was always willing to ‘have a quick look’ no matter what the issue, and as a result always highly appreciated by those he helped. He was an asset to the University and will be sadly missed.’

Funeral arrangements

Gary’s funeral will take place at Barham Crematorium, on Monday 13 July at 14.40. You can view the ceremony via webcast on the day, and for up to seven days afterwards. The login/order ID is 38968 and the password is hxpewadp. Further information is available in these webcast instructions from Wesley Media.

Gary Blundell (centre front, in navy shirt) at his 25th long service celebration

 

Profile: Kent LGBT+ Staff Network

As LGBT Pride month draws to a close, we talk to members of the University’s LGBT+ Staff Network about the network’s role at the University, the importance of Pride, and why inclusion is so important in the workplace.

Contributors include: Jules Andreae, Operations Officer for the Information Services Operations Team; Anne-Marie Baker, the University’s Athena SWAN Project Manager; Bob McKay, Student Success Project Manager, Kent Business School; and Jan Moriarty, Student Success Project Manager at Kent.

What are the aims of the Kent LGBT+ Staff Network?

Bob: I think we have a number of roles – there’s the social/community element, such as organising network lunches and events for people to get together, but there’s also the role of being a ‘critical friend’ to the institution, ensuring that issues with LGBT+ equality are challenged and making sure that queer staff have a voice which is heard.

Jan: We also act as a first point of contact on issues around employment for LGBT+ staff and the impact of new policies and legislation on the LGBT+ community at Kent.

Jules: And we’re a visible point of contact for colleagues who need support or a friendly face to relate to.

What is the Network currently working on?

Jan: Stonewall’s new Workplace Equality Index has just been released, so we’ll be taking a look at that over the summer.

Jules: Members continuously engage with different departments and EDI (Equality, Diversity & Inclusion) teams in their departments.

Bob: We speak to central University leadership teams as well – we’ve recently been speaking to the VC about the University’s response to the government’s reported roll-back on reforms to the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which is a big step backwards for the rights of trans and non-binary people in the UK. We’re also looking forward to the end of lockdown and some events that we might be able to organise for the LGBT+ staff community once we’re able to see one another in person again!

Who can join the Network?

Bob: Anyone! Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans or other… and even straight colleagues! If you identify as LGBT+ or you’re an ally, the Network is ready to welcome you!

Why might someone want to join the Network?

Jan: For me, it’s about representation. We all (staff and students) need to know there’s someone out there whose experiences may be similar to our own. Some of us have to be visible to make that possible. However, I totally understand that some prefer not to be. Even if someone doesn’t want to take an active role, being a member is a good way to keep in touch.

Anne-Marie: One of the reasons I joined the network was because I believe it is important to have visible LGBT colleagues – this was certainly a big help for me when I first started work.

Jules: Growing up as LGBT+, people can be made to feel “less than” or shameful about who they are. The LGBT+ Staff Network gives a community for people to feel pride in who they are, as well as a place to press for changes to make sure the University keeps improving so that it becomes a place all staff can feel pride at work, equally.

How can people join the LGBT+ Staff Network?

Bob: Just drop us an email at lgbtstaffnetwork@kent.ac.uk.

Jules: If you log in to lists.kent.ac.uk, and search for ‘lgbt’ you’ll be able to see the staff network mailing list and subscribe to update emails. You can also join our new Team on MS Teams, by clicking here or by clicking Join or Create a Team from within Teams and then using the code skd6691.

What’s it like working at Kent as an LGBT+ person?

Jan: The various communities represented by the LGBT+ acronym will experience Kent in different ways. We are a diverse community and we have very different challenges. There’s still a lot of educating to do.

Anne-Marie: I decided to be out at work many years before I joined Kent and perhaps it had become a bit of a “so what” for me. The LGBT+ community does have a voice at Kent and it’s been good to be part of that to progress LGBT inclusivity so that others feel supported to be themselves.

Jules: I believe the University is a good place to work. I believe improvements are needed and we should always strive to improve in our areas of the university and push the University to be a leader for inclusivity and equality.

Bob: Honestly, it’s the first place I’ve ever been able to bring my whole self to work. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect by any means… but I love being able to be myself at Kent.

Brenda Brunsdon Occupational Health & Wellbeing Team Manager

Staff Profile: Brenda Brunsdon (Occupational Health and Wellbeing Team Manager)

What’s your background and when did you join the University?

I came to nursing via an unusual route! I had a summer job as a nursing auxiliary while doing my degree in History. I qualified as a teacher but decided I really wanted to nurse. I have worked in Occupational Health (OH) nursing since 1988. I am also a fully trained counsellor.

I moved to Kent from Wales in 1998 and joined the University in 2012. Among my initial aims were to increase counselling and mental health support services for staff. We were able to offer extra resource just a year later, and earlier this year, we were able to launch our long-planned Employee Assistance Programme*, a fantastic addition to staff wellbeing support.

What does your role at Kent involve?

I head up a team of five, responsible for delivering OH and wellbeing services to staff. Part of the Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) Unit, my team advises the University on the health needs of staff. This includes advice on ergonomics and computer workstation set-up, staff rehabilitation and disability needs, and adjustments needed under the Equality Act.

My own role involves individual case management, and writing policy and process documents on OH and wellbeing such as the Staff Health and Wellbeing Strategy Statement and Psychological Wellbeing Standard.

How has your role changed as a result of Covid-19?

Like many others, I’m working from home and have had to speed-learn Teams and Zoom meetings. I’ve now settled into a routine and got to grips with virtual communication – which has underlined the importance of communicating regularly with your team, as a group and individually. It’s a different mindset from being able to pop into the office next door when you make a cup of tea!

What’s worked well and what’s proved more tricky?

The first few weeks were hard. Not only were we dealing with hardware and software challenges within our own team, but we had to ensure colleagues across the University had the best computer set-up while working at home. Careful planning meant that we were able to circulate a home-based Display Screen Assessment, just after the Easter break.

It was also crucial to ensure that all staff had easy access to mental health support as and when needed, and we worked alongside the Communications team to promote this.

Tell us more about the health and wellbeing support that’s currently available to University staff?

There’s a wealth of health and wellbeing support available for staff through Covid-19 and beyond, including:

  • Our chosen Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)* provider Sodexho/Care first offers advice on all types of problems or wellbeing issues – including webinars, free access to expert help, and counselling (currently available virtually).
  • Our Staff Health and Wellbeing website is a comprehensive guide to wellbeing support available at Kent, featuring common health topics and upcoming national health promotion.
  • The Learning and Organisational Development team have put together a series of wellbeing webinars to tie-in with its Belong and Grow Week and Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May 2020).

What’s been the response so far to the Employee Assistance Programme? 

There’s been great support from management and all affiliated trades unions on campus in spreading the word about the EAP. It’s early days, but it seems colleagues are engaging and using the resources when needed – especially over the early weeks of the Covid-19 crisis.

 What other health and wellbeing initiatives would you like to see at Kent?

I am heading up the University’s working party looking at implementing the Government’s ‘Thrive at Work’ initiative. The initiative recommends employers provide a structure for mental health support for all, especially for those struggling with mental ill health problems/disabilities.

Outside work, and out of lockdown, what do you enjoy doing?

Gym exercise, socialising with friends, good food and wine, playing cards and board games, music concerts and visiting relatives in Wales.

What will you look forward to most once we’re back on campus?

Going back to Rock Choir – I haven’t managed to make any of the virtual sessions so far! And going for lunch with my team

[*To access the EAP website, use the login: uokent and password: university]

Geoff Wilcox

Staff Profile: Geoff Wilcox (Kent Hospitality)

What’s your role at the University and how long have you worked here?
I joined the University in 2002 as Bar Supervisor in Mungo’s (Eliot College). I’m currently Food & Beverage Manager for Rutherford Dining Hall, which involves supervising a catering team in one of Kent’s last traditional dining halls – but with a modern twist including a wok bar!

My team of about 30 are multi-talented and can turn their hand to anything from day-to-day cafeteria food to a staff BBQ for hundreds.

How has your role changed as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak?
Rutherford is the only venue on Canterbury campus still offering a catering service – the only other place to buy food is the Co-Op shop. So, we are rotating around 100 staff from different catering venues on shifts – usually around one per week – to help us provide cooked food for around 700 students who are still on campus.

Rosie Ochs preparing food in Rutherford

Rosie Ochs, from Mungo’s, preparing food in Rutherford

 

I’m still trying to lead from the front – I like being hands-on – but also doing a fair chunk of my work from home. I’m one of four food and beverage managers on campus so we take it in turns to lead the team, and work closely with other members of the Kent Hospitality management team.

How easy was it to adapt to the new way of working?
When we first found out about the new social distancing measures – on 20 March – I came back to work that Friday evening and literally helped adapt things overnight. Over the following week, we condensed all our stock – donating food items that were nearer their shelf date to local food banks – and moved everything over to Rutherford.

Rutherford Dining Hall was the obvious choice to stay open – it’s the largest catering space on campus so it’s been easier to put in place a safe-distancing policy. We ask students – usually around 100 per day – to wait in marked out spaces (at most three at one time) and then serve their food in a Bag It box with pre-packed cutlery. Payment is also contactless, so the only thing they have to touch is the takeaway drinks fridge, which we clean on a regular basis.

Rutherford Dining Hall

The new-look Rutherford Dining Hall

 

What’s worked well?
To my team’s immense credit, most of those who were able to were keen to get back to work and their attitude has been “let’s just do it”. Our team atmosphere is better than it has ever been – in my view, they’re all champions!

What’s proved more tricky?
It’s taken a bit of work to sort out communications across the catering team – especially as colleagues have varying access to technology. To ensure everyone’s connected and up to date with both our team and University news, I use a mixture of What’s App and texts. And I’ve made sure that all members of my team have access to and are using their Kent emails.

What’s the atmosphere like on campus?
It’s pleasant, but very quiet! It’s just us, the Security team and a few contractors. You see some unusual sights – the other day, I saw two students in their dressing gowns working in the computer room, at a safe distance of course!

What’s been the response from your customers?
Most of our students seem to be really happy with what we were doing. For many, it offers a welcome bit of normality in the present time.

Our catering service is usually term-based so we’re keen to let all students still on campus know that we remain open. There’s no commercial aspect to what we’re doing – we’re just keen to keep students fed in a safe environment.

We have had to limit what we do a little – the wok bar has stopped unfortunately – but we’re still able to source fresh local vegetables from a local farm and offer a full menu, including meat, fish and vegetable options, every day from 12-6pm.

Mike Sault

Mike Sault, from Sibson Cafe, prepares a Bag-It order

 

Overall, are you happy with what you’ve achieved so far?
Very much so. I am enormously proud of my team – many of them are volunteering to do extra days! I am also proud that we are still able to provide an essential service – after all, for many of our students this is their home.

Professor Karen Cox

Vice-Chancellor’s Easter Message

As we head into the Easter Bank Holiday, I have been reflecting on the extraordinary events of the last few weeks. You will have seen from my update earlier this week the vast amount of work that has been carried out in such a short space of time, I thank everyone for the part they have played in enabling all these things to happen.

One of things I am immensely proud of is how staff and students are responding to the impact of COVID-19 on our local community and beyond. The link to the webpages shows some of the activity that is going on across all our schools, departments and professional services. A number of you are supporting the work of the Canterbury Foodbank and more than 30 academics, postdoctoral researchers and PhD students in Biosciences have volunteered to help perform testing at hospitals across the county. Kent Hospitality has donated surplus stock to Dover Foodbank and we are working directly with the NHS across Kent and Medway to see how we can provide essential infrastructure support.

We are now all working in an adapted and dispersed way. In such an environment, it’s important to get our communications right and I am aware that, in recent weeks, I have been sending out a lot of emails to you all as well as communicating with TEAMS, Zoom and good old fashioned telephone! As we come back from the Easter break I want to ensure you have the right kind of opportunity to engage directly with me and colleagues across the senior team. We are currently looking at the best way to do this and will come back with further details.

I wish you and your families all the best for the Easter break, and look forward to working with you over the coming months as we all navigate our way through this unprecedented time.

Karen

Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President

An image of Lisa Lin winner of a Global Challenges Research Fund / Partnership Development Fund

Lisa Lin produces report on Coronavirus for Channel 4

Dr Lisa Lin, Lecturer in Media Studies, has just co-produced an exclusive report for Channel 4 News exploring the outbreak of Coronavirus in Wuhan.

The report features footage from the epicentre of the outbreak, the metropolis of Wuhan, focusing on the doctors and nurses on the frontline.

The feature is a short sample for a forthcoming documentary titled Frontline Diaries with Wuhan Medics: The Battle against Covid-19 from Ground Zero, which will be released later in the year.

Lisa produced the documentary with her production team in the UK and China.

To view the feature, please visit Channel’s 4 website.

Alzbeta-Kovandova

PhD student Alžběta Kovandová writes for Anima Loci

Alžběta Kovandová, PhD candidate in Film: Practice as Research in the School of Arts, has recently had her essay, titled ‘Of Foxes and Men’, published in e-journal Anima Loci.

Anima Loci provides an interdisciplinary exploration of the ever-changing and often obscure relationship between images and the places they dwell.

Sharing the fabric of our cities with wild animals is the norm. As long as they do not encroach upon the boundaries of the domestic wall, the space in which we live is also that of birds, mice, insects and other species. In London, urban foxes are the most iconic yet fragile manifestation of this inevitable coexistence. Alžběta shares her thoughts and personal experience of these fleeting encounters.

‘One might argue that seeing a fox is the same as seeing a cat or a pigeon. Well, not for me. It was unexpected and somewhat surreal for me to meet an animal that I associate so much with wild nature in the streets of London’ writes Alžběta. ‘They are not very common in Prague; and in Liverpool where nature bursts through the city only very hesitantly, it is rather rare to encounter any animal passing through the streets. I, therefore, strongly associate foxes with London and these wild non-human city dwellers, with their amazing ability to find a home in the concrete jungle, have influenced my perception of the city’.

The full essay can be read on Anima Loci’s website.

KVSS

Kent Voluntary Severance Scheme – Phase 2

In light of the University’s financial situation and the need to make significant savings in our staffing costs this yearwe will be reopening the Kent Voluntary Severance Scheme from 9 March – 24 April.  

This Phase Two of the scheme will only be open to specific groups of staff, including those in areas where we know that savings will need to be made. The full Scheme details are available on the HR website, including more detailed information and FAQs. Any staff put at risk of redundancy as a result of subsequent changes under Organising for Success in June 2020 will have a further opportunity to apply for KVSS at that stage. 

We recently held a series of briefing sessions with managers so that they can answer any questions you may have regarding the Scheme. There will also be a series of drop-in sessions for staff where you will be able to discuss this directly with an HR representative – these are divided into hourly slots, and you can just turn up to whichever one suits you: 

  • Tuesday 10 March – 14.00, 15.00, and 16.00 in Keynes Seminar Room 2
  • Thursday 12 March – 12.00, 13.00 and 14.00 in Keynes Seminar Room 1 
  • Wednesday 18 March – 14.00, 15.00 and 16.00 in Grimond Seminar Room 1
  • Friday 20 March – 10.30, 11.30 and 12.30 in Kennedy Seminar Room 9
  • Tuesday 24 March – 9.30, 10.30 and 11.30 in Darwin Seminar Room 14
  • Thursday 26 March – 13.00, 14.00 and 15.00 in Keynes Seminar Room 20
  • Wednesday 1 April – 11.00, 12.00 and 13.00, venue TBC
  • Friday 3 April – 10.00, 11.00 and 12.00, venue TBC

More details on both the scheme and support available to staff will follow in further communications ahead of the Scheme opening on Monday. 

Organising for Success – Project Update

Organising for Success brings together work that will empower staff to transform our students lives, helping us meet our Kent 2025 strategy and ensure a future we can be proud of 

As preparations to launch new divisions in September take shape, a number of key proposals will go to the 11 March meeting of Senate – these can be read via the links below, with more information to follow after the meeting itself. 

Other updates across the project: 

Strand 1- Executive Leadership 

Consultation has now finished on the new leadership structure for central professional services, with final changes shared with affected staff shortly. These will also be shared more widely later in the month ahead of the new structure coming into effect in April. 

A well-attended series of ‘Town Hall’ briefing sessions for managers led by Learning & Organisational Development took place throughout February, with personal development programmes continuing for new members of Executive Group as they take ownership of their areas.  

Strand 2 – Establishing academic divisions 

Outlines of academic leadership roles are being presented to Senate for discussion, with the outcomes then shared more broadly across divisions ahead of expressions of interest to key leadership roles.  

Work is also ongoing on division branding and preparation for launch activity ahead of September. 

Strand 3 / 4 – Divisional operations and professional services design 

Follow-up workshops are taking place between Directors of Operations and central professional service leads to support the development of proposed team structures ahead of these being shared with affected staff in June 2020. 

Workshops are also ongoing to map key processes in order to identify and manage potential risk as we transition into the new structure. In doing this, we will also look to identify any areas of improvement we could implement in the short term to help with activity over the summer such as admissions and clearing. 

Strand 5 – Standing down Faculties 

Considerable progress continues, including drafts prepared for a number of key regulations and Codes of Practice to reflect the move from faculties to divisions. These will be refined as necessary following the outcome of Senate.

Latest updates are on the Organising for Success website 

a group of graduates in their graduation clothing

Research Symposium on Graduate Outcomes

You are warmly invited to the Research Symposium on Graduate Outcomes: How can universities best prepare students for life after university?

When: Wednesday 25 March 2020 from 13:00 – 17:00.

Where: Grimond Lecture Theatre 3 and Aphra Foyer

To book your place, please sign up via Eventbrite by 18 March 2020.

While the UK higher education sector has been paying more attention to students’ employability in recent years, HESA’s revised measure of graduate outcomes now enables a broader view of how well students are doing 15 months after university. This symposium explores what academics, staff and students can do to best prepare graduates not only for employability, but for personally-fulfilling careers and lives.  Based on recent research, each speaker will take a different perspective on the symposium’s title question. This event is sponsored by the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Kent, with support from a grant from HECSU.

For further details please visit the CSHE website