Kent People – Education and Student Experience Managers

Students on grass at Canterbury campus

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:

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!

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