University of Essex

People pages

6 July 2017

Social Interaction and Well-Being: The Surprising Power of Weak Ties.

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Research impact — Communications, CER @ 11:23 am

“Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day.”  Benjamin Franklin.

Gillian Sandstrom 200x300

Dr Gillian Sandstrom

In her fascinating study “Social Interaction and Well-Being: The Surprising Power of Weak Ties.” Dr Gillian Sandstrom found that even brief everyday social interactions, from a quick chat with your barista to saying hello to someone you pass by everyday – can have surprising effects on our happiness and wellbeing. Here she tells us more about her work and how we can all benefit from “weak ties”.

  • Can you tell us about your study and its findings – in a nut shell?

I did a postgraduate degree in Psychology after having spent 10 years in the workforce as a computer programmer. I had a strong case of imposter syndrome when I first arrived on campus, since I was 10 years older than the other students, and I didn’t have the same background training that they did (my undergraduate degree was in computer science, and I had only taken three psychology modules). There was quite a distance between the research lab and my supervisor’s office, and that walk took me past a hot dog stand. Somehow I developed a “relationship” with the lady who worked at the hot dog stand; I would smile at her and say hi whenever I walked past. I realized that this always made me feel a bit better, like I belonged on campus. I ended up studying this phenomenon for my PhD.

I asked people to keep track of all of their social interactions – any time they said hi to someone that they recognized (i.e., anyone except a complete stranger) – for six days. They carried around two small tally counters, and clicked one every time they interacted with a strong tie (i.e., a close friend or family member), and another one every time they interacted with a weak tie (i.e., an acquaintance). I found that people who had, on average, more daily interactions with weak ties than other people were, on average, a little bit happier. Also, on days when people had more interactions with weak ties than they usually did, they tended to be a bit happier than they usually were.

I’ve been at Essex for two years now, and almost every time I walk across campus now, I see someone I know. It makes me feel at home here.

  • What can staff do to build these weak ties with students?

Just say hi! I ran a study last year in my statistics module. The students break into three groups for their computer lab sessions, and I did something different for each group. For one group, I stood at the door and greeted students as they arrived. Another group wrote their names on name boards, which were displayed on their desks. The third was a control group, which received no greeting and no nameboards. Students in both of the experimental groups reported higher interest/enjoyment than students in the control group. This is something simple, that any instructor can do. Just make sure it’s genuine; if the students think your heart isn’t in it, it probably won’t be effective.

It’s not just academic staff that can build these connections with students. During my PhD, I stood on the pavement outside of Starbucks, and bribed people to help with my research, by giving them Starbucks cards, which they had to use right away to buy a coffee. I asked some people to be as efficient as possible: have their money ready and avoid unnecessary conversation. I told them that this would be helpful to the barista, who just wants to get through their shift. I asked other people to have a genuine social interaction: smile, make contact, and have a brief conversation. When people emerged from the store with their coffee, I asked them to fill out a brief survey. I found that people who had a minimal social interaction were in a better mood, enjoyed their Starbucks experience more, and felt more connected to other people. This means everyone can make a difference, whether you’re in food services, cleaning services, security, or anything else.

  • How do the students react?

When I greet my students outside of the classroom, at the beginning of the year they seem kind of embarrassed – sometimes they giggle, or look away, as if they can’t quite believe it. But they get used to it, and seem to enjoy saying hi back.  When I did my greeting/name board study, I asked students whether they had ever talked to me, whether I would recognize them if I saw them on campus, and whether I knew their name. Two students who were filling in the survey came up to me and straight out asked me if I knew their names. One of them literally jumped up and down and seemed quite delighted when I told her that I knew her name.

Since arriving at Essex, I’ve run a study at the Tate Modern art gallery, which is similar to, but the reverse of the one I did at Starbucks. I trained volunteers to approach gallery visitors and start a conversation about a particular exhibit in the Turbine Hall. The volunteers were a bit nervous about it – they usually wait for visitors to approach them, and didn’t want to intrude. However, when we surveyed visitors, those who had been spoken to by a volunteer (vs. those who hadn’t talked to a volunteer) were in a better mood, and felt more connected to the exhibit and to other people. This suggests that both the person initiating the conversation (as in the Starbucks study), and also the person being talked to (as in the Tate study), enjoy these kinds of interactions.

  • What challenges are there to developing these kinds of relationships with students?

Some people are bad at remembering names (because it’s really hard!), and others are bad at remembering faces. In some departments, we do team teaching; we only see a group of students for a few weeks, then someone else takes over. Not to mention that class sizes can be really large, and we have hundreds of new students every year. The whole idea of learning names can seem hopeless, and even pointless. The students do seem to really appreciate it, and I personally think all academic staff should know at least a handful of students by name, but I’m really happy that my research suggests that there are benefits to simply greeting students. Anyone can do that!

  • What are the benefits to weak ties – apart from wellbeing? Are there any downsides?

Besides making both parties feel good, weak ties can provide a sense of belonging. For her capstone project, one of my undergraduate students ran a survey assessing students’ campus involvement, use of support services, and social relationships, and how these were related to interest/enjoyment and belonging. Students who reported that more staff greeted them on campus also reported greater interest/enjoyment and a greater sense of belonging. This is crucial, because research shows that students who feel a stronger sense of belonging are more likely to complete their degree, and demonstrate higher achievement in their studies.

As far as downsides go, I do get asked to write an exorbitant number of reference letters, and it can take me a really long time to get anywhere on campus because I keep running into people. Which is funny, because when I was a kid, a trip to the grocery store with my Dad would take hours, because he always ran into someone he knew. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…

  • What advice can you give someone who feels awkward or self conscious?

One of the things that makes it scary to talk to a stranger is that you don’t know if they will reject you. But both my personal experience and my research find that rejection is very, very uncommon. I have had lots of nice chats after approaching someone who looked lost and helping them find their way. I’m convinced that both of us have left those interactions with a smile on our face. Know, however, that sometimes people don’t want help – they want to figure things out on their own. Don’t take it personally if someone turns down your offer – just try again with the next person, who will probably be more than happy to accept your help.

 

 

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29 June 2017

Meet our technicians – Chief Technician, Steven Brewer

Filed under: Latest news, People pages — Communications, CER @ 2:14 pm
  • Name: Steven Brewer
  • Job title: Chief Technician
  • Which department do you work in?: Psychology

Our team of technicians from the Psychology department. Steven Brewer is pictured third from the left.

  • Are you part of a team?: Yes, including myself, there are seven members of the technical team. The team has grown over the past eighteen months and there are now three Technicians and three Senior Technicians in the Psychology Department.
  • How long have you been at Essex?: I’ve worked at the University for just over two and a half years.
  • What is your role/your daily responsibility?: As Chief Technician, I supervise a team of six technicians. The Psychology Department is spread across two buildings, Square 1 building and the Centre for Brain Science (CBS). I oversee and am responsible for the installation, maintenance and support of all teaching, research and office facilities. This is very wide ranging and includes devices such as eyetrackers, electrocephalography (EEG), biofeedback systems and large computer labs, to name just a few. The team support staff and students in their technical requirements. We regularly develop computer programs for experiments used in research projects. This can sometimes also involve reprographic and video editing work. We occasionally develop small electronic solutions for experiments where off the shelf devices are not readily available or suitable.
  • Are there any projects you’re working on that are particularly exciting/interesting?: Construction of the new STEM building is currently underway. Once complete, there will hopefully be new and exciting opportunities for the technical teams in each department of the faculty of Science and Health to collaborate.
  • How did you get into this role?: I worked in London as a Senior Systems Engineer for a global media company for twelve years. I entered the education industry back in 2013 and was employed at the University in the role of Senior Technician in 2014. I was appointed as Chief Technician in July 2016.
  • What qualifications do you have/ what study path did you take?: I studied Computer Science and Engineering at College where I achieved A-Levels and higher BTEC qualifications. This developed my interest in a wider range of technology. I continued my studies at Ravensbourne in South East London and obtained a HND in Broadcast Engineering and Digital Technology. I have continued studies in various forms over the years. I have completed short courses in Hewlett Packard and Brocade Storage Area Networks, and am an Apple Certified Associate for OSX to name a few.
  • What sort of skills does being a technician require?: Technicians cover a very wide range of tasks. I believe it is useful for a technician to have a broad range of technical skills and an underlying thirst for technology. Good IT skills are very important. Programming experience is also very useful, especially in Psychology. It is also important for a technician to have good interpersonal and communication skills as our role is very customer focused.
  • What advice would give someone interested in becoming a technician?: Having a love for technology is a great starting point. It’s important to pick your area of study carefully as technical roles are very diverse. It’s very useful to keep up to date on the latest technology as you never know when you may need to adopt something new.

Left to right; our technicians pictured, are:

Jonathan Boalch
Alan Brignull
Steven Brewer
Woakil Ahamed
Elena Broggin
Monika Steinke

 

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16 June 2017

Meet our technicians – Julie Arvidson Molecular Biology Technician

Filed under: Latest news, People pages — Communications, CER @ 1:53 pm
An image of our technicians

Our team of Biological Sciences technicians. Julie is pictured front left.

Our Technicians perform a crucial role. To find out more about their fascinating work, we spoke to Julie Arvidson, Cell and Molecular Biology Technician in the School of Biological Sciences. 

  • Name Julie Arvidson
  • Job title Cell & Molecular Biology Technician
  • Which department do you work in? School of Biological Sciences
  • Are you part of a team? Yes, I’m part of a great  team working in such diverse areas as the Coral Reef Unit, Core Services, Plant Productivity, Proteomics, Teaching Labs and Cancer Biology – which are just a few of the Research and Teaching areas.
  • How long have you been at Essex?  Since 1989, and as you would expect I’ve seen some monumental changes within the School and University as a whole.
  • What is your role/your daily responsibility? My role, along with my colleagues, is to support Research, embed Health and Safety, maintain facilities, teach practical skills to our undergraduates, postgraduates, and visitors. My area is principally Mammalian Tissue Culture, for cancer biology and immunology. I also train my Estates colleagues in Biohazard Awareness.
  • Are there any projects you’re working on that are particularly exciting/interesting? I’m not directly involved with the Research anymore but I find the Research in Cancer Biology very exciting with both Greg Brooke and Elena Klenova developing ways to categorise and destroy cancer cells, and Chris Cooper’s Research into new oxygen carriers to replace blood is amazing.
  • How did you get into this role? My education didn’t quite go to plan so I started working as a School Science Technician for my old school. Fate brought me to Colchester and despite applying for a Plant role I was chosen as an Animal Tissue Culture Technician, working with some inspirational Academics. As my interest in Health and Safety  grew I was asked to train colleagues in Biohazard Awareness as well as looking after the Radioisotope laboratory.
  • What qualifications do you have/ what study path did you take? I have an HNC which I studied part-time before joining the team here, and then was supported by the School to study part-time for a Cell & Molecular Biology Degree from Anglia Ruskin University. I have just completed a Certificate in Health and Safety and I am now continuing with the Diploma course to complement my role. Never think it’s too late to study!
  • What sort of skills does being a technician require? This is a hard question as my colleagues have  a huge variety of skills; from Amanda who has tremendous organising skills, Phil and John who have great skills with complex analytical equipment, Sue who is so green- fingered and meticulous in running our Plant Growth facilities, to Russell whose skills enable him to organise very successful diving field trips to Indonesia and maintain the Coral Reef tanks.  Resourcefulness, observational skills and attention to detail  are all important, but over 1,000 skills have been identified by the Science Council for technical posts.
  • What advice would give someone interested in becoming a technician? This is a fantastic time to think about becoming a Technician as there is a sudden realisation that by 2020 the UK will need around 700,000 new Technicians. There are new initiatives to recognise and support Technical staff with Professional Registration, Apprenticeships and Papin Awards recognising Technical contributions  across all areas.  We are now included in Athena Swan awards and the University’s courses allow personal development as never before.
  • Tell us something unusual about yourself, a hobby, an interest, something we might be surprised by I still own my racy Honda motorbike, Alex, who took me to Cambridge to study for my degree.  I’m planning to get him back into work this summer.

Left to right; our technicians pictured, are:

  • Julie Arvidson
  • Lynwen James
  • Farid Benyahia
  • Julie Double
  • Phil Davey
  • Jackie Maidwell
  • Gregor Grant
  • Elizabeth Welbourn
  • Amanda Clements
  • David Knight
  • Tania Creswell-Maynard
  • Sue Corbett
  • Sally-Ann Sharp
  • Giles Ward
  • Chris Clow
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Advancement team scoop two prestigious awards

Filed under: Latest news, People pages — Communications, CER @ 10:18 am
an image of the cover of Essex Effect magazine

Our award winning alumni magazine

Our Advancement team have scooped two prestigious awards – one for their Click crowd funding platform and another for their new look alumni magazine Essex Effect.

  • The alumni magazine was recognised with a Silver Award in the CASE Circle of Excellence Awards. The magazine is published annually and read by over 50,000 alumni worldwide. It received the award for improvement in magazine publishing and is the only UK publication represented in the Awards. The judges praised it’s creative design and compelling content and said it reflected the unique character of the University.
  • Click was awarded the Gold prize in the Challenge Grant & Matching Gift program category. Not only was Essex the only UK university recognised in this category, but Click was the only crowdfunding program worldwide to receive any prize at the CASE Circle of Excellence awards. Click was awarded the Gold prize in recognition of its hugely successful matchfunding program for student fundraising. Click uses money raised from alumni and friends of the University to match the fundraising endeavours of students, £1 for £1. The scheme has helped 118 student groups raise a total of £161,000 towards a wide range of student experience projects, encompassing arts, sports, societies, volunteering, internships and student entrepreneurship.
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1 June 2017

One Essex – meet our design winners

Filed under: Latest news, People pages — Communications, CER @ 3:51 pm

Our county-wide One Essex inclusivity campaign kicked off with the Students’ Union Hate Wall event. The event was a great chance for us to show off the branding of our campaign. The unique look and feel of the brand is all thanks to our fantastic One Essex competition winners, whose combined design ideas can now be seen as the brand for the campaign.

Here we hear from each of our winners about why the One Essex campaign and inclusivity is important to them.

Francesca

Francesca

Francesca:

  • What is inclusion to you?

Inclusion is when everyone is coming together. All is equal in a united front. Everyone is in peace and love. When there is no war, no drama

  • Why is inclusion important?

Inclusion is important because when everyone comes together, there is no hatred, there is no crime.

It upsets me that down the line when we have children, I don’t want them to have to live in an environment where no one gets along just because of their age, sex and everything like that. I want them to see that everyone is equal.

  • Can you give us examples of where inclusion has made a real difference?

I think because I have been in the University for almost a year and I haven’t been to a university before and I work here, as far as I can see around here, it seems that this University is a very united place where everyone gets along. People really come together here as one.

  • Do you think inclusion is under threat at the moment and if so, how can we best combat it?

I think it is slightly because how the UK is coming out of EU and how things are changing. It’s affecting many people and Europeans themselves are also unsure of what is going to happen so I think at the moment yes it is.

And hopefully we can do something about it because it looks as though there are things that are coming into place to sort this issue. But I know of a lot of projects to sort things out. This University really does resemble togetherness. I feel we need to aim in making others feel like they are at home. To not feel like they are an outsider.

This is why this University is good – no discrimination towards educational background especially when I have never been to a university to study before and I was worried.

But I felt welcomed here.

  • Where would like to see inclusion in 5 years’ time?

I would like to see (not just in university) where people are allowed to go to any country and feel like they are at home and are welcomed. I want to see policies in place stating that discrimination is not right, gender discrimination is not right. Everyone is equal. It’s hard to imagine how we can do it.

Stephen

Stephen

Stephen: 

  • What is inclusion to you?

Making sure we involve everybody in the community regardless of their background and the most important is to consider where that person is now and how they can contribute to the community. Be that in university or town, or the country as a whole. The most important thing is involving everybody.

  • Why is inclusion important?

It is important that we don’t exclude anybody or miss their needs so they can get the most out of where there are.

But including everybody, we can ensure that their voices are heard and different needs are met so that we can create a university, a country that works for everybody and not just for one group of people.

  • Can you give any examples of where inclusion has made a real difference?

I think it’s this University – I have been here for just three months and it’s already quite apparent here that everybody has a voice. And everybody can have their voice heard and I think that does contribute to a wide international community that can be listened to and where people understand one another. This University is a very good example of inclusion. Being English and living in an international community is brilliant – it gives opportunity to embrace experiences and cultures that I otherwise wouldn’t have come across. Food for example, out on the squares with the markets, the international food is probably one of the things that I wouldn’t have had the chance to try if it weren’t because the University being so inclusive. I wouldn’t have the chance to meet different people as well.

  • Do you think inclusion is under threat at the moment and if so, how can we best combat it?

I wouldn’t say that it is under threat at this moment in time, but I would say that the future is definitely uncertain after the political developments of last year. Brexit for example – the discussions can be quite dangerous as it doesn’t seem to include everybody and we are already seeing signs of that. The best thing we can do is to continue to ensure that our voices are heard and ensure situations like Brexit do work for everybody and do work for the whole community. I would say there is definitely a danger going forward but it’s also an opportunity to make sure that everybody’s voice can be heard and it can work for everybody.

  •  Where would like to see inclusion in 5 years’ time?

Hopefully we can get to a point where we won’t need to discuss it anymore because it’s a given thing and it’s something that occurs naturally and it’s already happening everywhere. That is the ideal where everybody can have their voice heard.

Yasmin

Yasmin

Yasmin Abdullah

  • What is inclusion to you?

Inclusion is a feeling of solidarity. While we may come from different countries, practice different cultures and live different lifestyles, we are all human beings and relate to one another in a host of ways – be it through our kind actions or emotions. We should exercise compassion always and strive to recognise humanity in any shape or form. Inclusion in the University of Essex should strive to include each and every Essex student to ensure that their voice is heard and their needs met.

  •  Why is inclusion important?

Inclusivity is crucial to build a tight-knit, supportive and loving community. A feeling of solidarity and one-for-all is proven to help motivate young people to strive for excellence and build strong ties between them and their community. We are only as strong as our weakest link; and if we exclude anyone, we will fall as a collective society. Not only that – inclusion makes all the difference in making Essex feel like just another institution of education, or a place to call home.

  • Can you give any examples of where inclusion has made a real difference?

Being a part of the International Students’ Association of the University of Essex (ISA) has definitely made me see that inclusion is a great factor in getting people to open up and share their own views and opinions. The ISA strives to create a space where internationals not only feel comfortable in their own skin, but motivated to share their culture and traditions with other Essex students. The International Concert and Cultural Gala are success stories that amplify the voices of International students and gives them a platform to thrive.

Moreover, I believe the Students’ Unions has done an excellent job in providing opportunities and events for all Essex students regardless of whether they are a Home, EU or International student. We are all encouraged to promote the causes we believe in and easily have access to contribute to the local community by the act of volunteering, which creates a feeling of inclusivity and solidarity that goes beyond the gates of university.

  • Do you think inclusion is under threat at the moment and if so, how can we best combat it?

As a student, I wouldn’t consider it under threat, but I do believe that political uncertainty brought on by the Brexit vote does create a cause for concern. More regulations for foreigners will reduce the number of international students who attend British universities, which offsets their aim and derails UK’s efforts of being an educational global hub.

The best the University could do is to strongly present themselves as a supportive and inclusive institution for international and EU students regardless of the political uncertainty that enshrouds us, be it through reassurance or show of solidarity. The Vice-Chancellor has done an excellent job in welcoming internationals in years past through his close involvement in the ISA’s activities. We are one of the most international Universities in the world, and it rests in our hands to continue being that way.

  • Where would like to see inclusion in 5 years’ time?

Personally, I hope to see the University and the UK embracing strength in diversity and encourage a world without borders. Talented students of any nationality should be welcomed anywhere across the world without having to fear political turbulence and its consequences on their future. We should encourage cross-country education in order to build a more open and welcoming generation.

The One Essex campaign is looking for more people to come  forward and share their story of why inclusivity is important to them. If you have a story to tell, get in touch with our team and be part of our campaign to spread inclusivity, diversity and respect. Contact Benita Ganeva;  bdgane@essex.ac.uk

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Meet our new SRES School Manager – Sarah Mumford

Filed under: Latest news, People pages — Communications, CER @ 3:11 pm

Sarah Mumford has been appointed as School Manager for our new School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences (SRES). Here she tells us more about herself and about her exciting new role. 

  • Have you worked at the University before? If so where and for how long?
Sarah Mumford is School Manager for our new School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Science.

Sarah Mumford is School Manager for our new School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences.

Yes, I started working at the University in 2009 in Essex Business School until 2014. I then went to the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering (CSEE) followed by my last role before this one in Philosophy & Art History. So I have worked in different faculties in departments of varying sizes. All of these have been student facing roles in which I have had a number of different responsibilities, from overseeing coursework and attendance monitoring processes to managing the student facing offices, and arranging Welcome Week and Applicant Days, among other events. I am looking forward to taking this experience into my new role.

  • Have you now started your new role?

I have now started in my new role as SRES School Manager, although the School does not officially open until 1 August.

  • What interested you in the role of SRES school manager?

I was interested in the chance to create a whole new department and manage the recruitment of a new professional services team. The opportunity to merge processes from two existing departments Health and Human Sciences (HHS) and Biological Sciences (BS), and possibly create new processes, also appealed.

  • This is a brand new role in a new school starting from scratch – what will you want to tackle/work on first?

Recruitment of the new professional services team is the priority, along with the implementation of standardised processes across the degrees coming from HHS and BS, which are Sports and Exercise Science, Sports Performance & Coaching, Physiotherapy and Sports Therapy. Another priority is ensuring that students coming from these departments and new first years feel a part of the new School. We will hopefully be helped in this by a Frontrunner and Project Worker.

  • After that, what will your priorities be?

One of the next priorities will be ensuring the professional services team work well together, and with academic staff, to deliver consistently excellent customer service. Increasing student intake and establishing the School as a world-leading department in both research and education is the overall aim, and this may be facilitated by the introduction of new courses at some point.

  • Is there anything you want to do differently? In a new way?

I want to introduce more flexibility in roles and responsibilities across the professional services team to promote cross-skilling and collaborative working.

  • What should students come to you for?

The existing space and contacts are still in place in HHS and BS, however, any students transferring to SRES are welcome to come and see me with any concerns or questions about how the move might affect them going forwards.

  • And where can they find you?

I am currently sharing an office with the Biological Sciences School Manager James Norman in 3SW.4.06. By the opening of the School in August the School Office will be set up in room 5A.131 while we wait for the completion of the new Sports Centre.

  • When do you move to your new office?

The School office and academic staff offices will be located in the new Sports Centre upon its completion at some point in Spring term 2018.

  • Tell us something unusual or quirky about yourself – e.g. have you any interesting hobbies or pursuits? A passion for something unusual?

I used to be a biker and commuted to work at the University for two years before I eventually got my driving licence!

 

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17 May 2017

Emeritus Professor highlights films from the margins for LGBT+ TV

Filed under: Latest news, People pages — Communications Office @ 11:32 am

Image from Tales from the MarginsProfessor Rainer Schulze has created a new film series for LGBT+ TV looking at films from around the world.

Professor Schulze said: “Tales From The Margins is a different kind of LGBTIQ film programme: it is not only showing films on LGBTIQ issues from around the world, but I am also talking with the filmmakers about their films: why they made them, the problems they faced and the impact their films had.

“The programme has a global outlook and focuses on struggles and issues which LGBTIQ communities in the western world often believe, rightly or wrongly, they have long overcome. It includes both documentaries and narrative films, short films as well as feature films, and over time it aims to cover all the six letters of L, G, B, T, I and Q.”

The first introductory series comprised films on LGBTIQ communities in a number of African countries and is now being repeated. It opened with the disturbing Ugandan feature film ‘Outed: The Painful Reality’ which, based on a true story, looks into the life of Vida, a man outed by a Ugandan tabloid as one of the “top homosexuals” in the country and as a result loses his job and his house and is hunted by the authorities.

Professor Schulze said: “The next series of Tales From The Margins will shift the focus to South Asia where LGBTIQ people are also still struggling for legal equality and social acceptance. Tales From The Margins wants to stimulate discussion, create solidarity in our global community and, hopefully, be entertaining as well.”

  • Tune in to Tales From The Margins, Mondays and Fridays at 9.00pm on LGBT+ TV, Virgin Media 159, Freeview 7 or thelatest.co.uk
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10 May 2017

And the winners are…

Filed under: Latest news, People pages — Communications, CER @ 2:31 pm
Julie Storey won a Windows tablet. Congratulations Julie!

Julie Storey won a Windows tablet. Congratulations Julie!

As part of our Celebrating Excellence events this week, our Finance and Procurement teams ran competitions.

And the winners are:

  • Winner of the Windows tablet was Julie Storey – the correct answer to “How many printers on campus” was 870, Julie’s answer of 857 was the nearest.
  • Winner of the STA Travel vouchers was ticket number 72 drawn by Keith Miller and the winner was Kate Beckwith.
  •  Winner of the Afternoon Tea for Two was Kai Yin Low – the correct answer to “Total value of assets insured for the UoE at 1st August 2016” was £724.5 million, Kai Yin was the nearest with £750 million.

Finance/Procurement would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who kindly donated prizes and stationary, including: Wivenhoe House Hotel, Print Essex, STA Travel, Stone Computers, Office Depot and Dell Computers.

The teams would also like to say a big thank you to Event Essex, and all those who visited our stand and entered the competitions, it is through you that this was such a great success.

Kate Beckwith won the STA travel vouchers. Congratulations Kate!

Kate Beckwith won the STA travel vouchers. Congratulations Kate!

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27 April 2017

Meet our Subject Librarians

Filed under: Latest news, People pages — ckeitch @ 9:37 am

Our team of Subject Librarians are based at Colchester and Southend. Between them, they cover all of the schools and departments at the University. We caught up with Esther Wilkinson (EW), Sandy Macmillen (SM) Ai Gooch (AG) and Greg Bennett (GB) to find out more about the team and their work.

An image of our subject librarians.

Some of our Subject Librarians.

How many Subject Librarians are there? (EW): There are four of us based in Colchester – Ai Gooch (responsible for Business and Law), Greg Cadge (responsible for Sciences) and Sandy Macmillen (responsible for Economics, Government, Sociology and the Edge Hotel School). I’m responsible for Humanities.  Greg Bennett is based at our Southend campus and covers Health Sciences, East 15, the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies and the Education Business School in Southend.

What are the main responsibilities of your role?

(EW): In a nutshell, we liaise closely with our respective faculties/academic departments to make sure that the library meets their learning, teaching and research requirements. This includes developing and delivering information and research skills training for their students, as well as identifying relevant print and online resources for purchase. The training we deliver covers a wide range of different areas, from referencing and reference management software to advanced research skills.

We also support students on a one-to-one basis through our Book a Librarian service, which we launched last year. This service has been really popular so far. It basically means that our students can get personalised help with their literature searching and finding relevant data, which they really appreciate.

(SM): We also contribute to other areas of the library’s work, which in my case includes the special collections and archives, and helping with space issues involving shelving, books and library furniture.

How do you make sure you’re up to date with the latest research coming out of our departments?

(SM): It’s important to try and keep up to date with teaching and research in our departments and more broadly in Higher Education in the UK and overseas. There are various formal and informal channels for ensuring that this takes place.

It’s equally important that research students and academic staff are aware of what the library is doing on their behalf and for their students on an ongoing basis. I make sure I’m in regular touch with all of my students, so that they should all know who I am and what I can do for them, and that they can contact me at any time with a question.

(AG): I think communication with individual academics is a key for me to understand their current research interest. I find that departmental meetings are quite useful. I also monitor book suggestions from researchers

(EW): The students we meet during our one-to-one sessions, particularly the postgraduates, are also helpful points of contact, as their research is often related to that of academic staff.

What difference does this make for our students?

(GB): It helps the students greatly if the resources we buy for the library are up to date with current trends. Also, our teaching of students and helping them to find the key information in their subject areas is far more effective when we are aware of things at the cutting edge of our subjects.

As Subject Librarians, what are you most proud of?

(EW): Historically there has been a focus in the library on collection development, but we’ve come a long way over the past 18 months in building relationships with academic departments and other professional services to develop the information and digital skills training that we offer, thereby equipping our students to succeed in their academic studies and increasing their future employability.

We try to make our training as interesting and engaging as possible, and we make use of audience response software and even Lego! In fact, Greg Cadge has recently been shortlisted for a national information literacy award, in recognition of the work he has done in developing sessions for first year Psychology and Sociology students. Although there is still more to do I think this is definitely something we should be proud of.

(SM): I know from experience that the input of subject librarians can be critical to students’ work and I think the thing we are most proud of is when we see that this has made a big difference to the quality of students’ work.

(AG): Like Sandy, I feel proud when I see our work has positive impact on students’ and researchers’ work and beyond. We have been actively trying to incorporate innovative approaches to our teaching and I believe we made quite a difference in the period of two years.

Tell us something funny or unique about yourselves?

(GB): We are a pretty diverse team of people. Esther is a keen Scottish country dancer, Ai used to practice Kickboxing but now enjoys Zumba and I have three different passports, but unlike Jason Bourne, they all have the same name.

What is your one tip for working at the University?

(EW) Always be open to opportunities for collaboration. Also, take advantage of the beautiful campus we have here. I know that’s two tips – sorry!

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5 April 2017

Meet the Wivenhoe Park Nursery team

Filed under: Latest news, People pages — Communications, CER @ 3:33 pm

Our Wivenhoe Park Day Nursery offers childcare for children aged between nine months and five years. Its team work hard to provide great childcare in our beautiful campus surroundings. Here Nursery manager Heleanna tells us more about her work and her team.

Heleanna and some of the nursery team

Some of the Wivenhoe Park Nursery team

Name Heleanna Phair.

Job title  nursery manager.

How many members are there in your team?  46

How long have you held this position at the University?  10 months.

What are the main responsibilities of your role? Arranging staffing, developing the performance of the nursery, managing staff performance, maintain financial targets, increase occupancy.

What is the main purpose of the team? To care and educate children aged between 0-5.

Tell me something funny or unique or unusual about yourself  I literally never stop eating when I am at work.

What big projects do your team have coming up? To develop out outdoor learning space.

What projects are you all most proud of? Development of the learning environments, the rooms are now natural colour and have natural open ended resources.

How did you get into this sort of role? What other roles/organisations have you worked for? I have always worked with children since leaving school; my bossy proactive nature led me into management. I have managed other settings and my previous nursery was graded outstanding.

What is your one tip for other working at the University? Network and make the most of the things on offer at the University, it’s a great way to meet people.

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