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27 July 2018

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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15 June 2018

Exhibition on the women’s refuge movement

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, What's on — Communications Office @ 2:02 pm
June Freeman

June Freeman

A fascinating new exhibition in Colchester tells the story of the women’s refuge movement in East Anglia and the tenacious grass-roots campaigners who pioneered these vital oases in the struggle for gender equality.

Interviewers recorded the memories of 35 women who fought against the dismissive attitudes of the 1970s and 1980s to lift the lid on domestic violence, helping to establish nine refuges, including those in Ipswich, Chelmsford,  Norwich, and Colchester, between 1974 and 1981.

The free exhibition, “You Can’t Beat a Woman”, runs from 18 to 30 June at The Minories in Colchester. It is accompanied by an illustrated booklet, a workshop and a free talk.

Thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, Dr June Freeman, an Essex alumna and founder member of Colchester Refuge, spent two years overseeing the oral history project which tells the history of the refuges in the founding women’s own words. June worked with Ravi Thiara, focusing on the campaign to change attitudes to domestic violence in white British and British Asian communities.

Author, researcher and lecturer June explained: “Many of the pioneers of the refuge movement are now in their 60s and 70s, with some in their 80s. If we were to capture the story of the early days of the refuge campaign from the point of view of the women who instigated and were involved in it, we needed to act immediately.”

June adds: “Refuges are now an accepted feature of the social landscape. The dismissive condescension of the 1970s belongs to a bygone age. But, with many refuges heavily dependent on central and local government funding, government policies threaten both the stability and culture of refuges, which were established as organisations run by women for women.”

The challenge for campaigners seeking to establish a refuge was to provide hard evidence of the need for it. Initially Essex’s Social Services department, the police and the local media were unconvinced. A turning point came when the Colchester refuge group liaised with local solicitors to establish how often violence was discussed in their dealings with matrimonial cases.

The group took their story to the press. A 1976 report was headlined “400 wives need refuge from violent husbands”. The article revealed that – in the past year – social workers had dealt with “At least 20 cases of severely beaten women. Two women had broken jaws, two had broken noses, one suffered brain damage, two suffered attempted strangulation and one had 38 stitches in her face.”

The Colchester group also gathered information about women murdered by a husband or partner, uncovering staggering evidence that the criminal justice system was failing to protect them.

In one case, a man tried for strangling his wife was cleared of murder after claiming she was always complaining and had shouted at him with a “vicious look on her face.” Sentencing him for manslaughter, the judge said he had never come across a case where anyone had endured so much provocation and gave him just three years’ probation.

As the campaigning women uncovered more horror stories, a groundswell of public opinion pressurised local councils to find properties they could rent. In the early days these were frequently run-down buildings where the women and their children endured squalid conditions. Campaigners helped to decorate them, appealing for furniture and utensils to try to establish safe, supportive and welcoming accommodation.

Black, Asian and ethnic minority women were a critical part of the struggle for women’s rights and they developed specialist women’s refuges to serve the different needs of their communities. Interviews focusing on British Asian experiences form part of the exhibition, which moves to a gallery in Bethnal Green Road, East London, in January.

‘You Can’t Beat a Woman’ is open from 9am to 5pm from Monday 18 June to Saturday 30 June at The Minories, High Street, Colchester. Admission is free.

A workshop led by Mell Robinson entitled ‘A Woman’s Voice: 100 years of women’s empowerment’ takes place at Firstsite, Colchester from 10am to 4pm on Saturday 23 June. Places are limited and tickets cost £10.50 including lunch.

A free talk by Roxanne Ellis, entitled ‘The Making of the Femicide Census Quilt’ takes place at Firstsite on Monday 25 June from 2-3pm.

For more information, see: www.youcantbeatawoman.co.uk

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4 June 2018

Tribute to Janet Noyes

Filed under: Latest news, People pages — Communications Office @ 5:31 pm
Janet Noyes

Janet Noyes

Janet Noyes first joined the University of Essex in 1964 and soon became busy helping to set up the Department of Electronic Systems Engineering (ESE). In Janet’s case ‘helping’ can be taken to mean ‘leading’ and in 1972 she became the Executive Officer for the Department. Despite her work commitments in the early years she also found time to regularly enjoy playing tennis with a colleague on the courts, that were at that time, by Wivenhoe House.

The first, and subsequent heads of department, relied on Janet and in the early days Janet often made decisions that would now be taken by a head of department. In all Janet led the Department through 12 heads of department.

Janet was efficient, clear and organised. One past student of ESE noted how he and his “feckless fellow students”, were fond of Janet and her efficient way of organising them. Other past students and colleagues, “held her in high esteem”. One current member of the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering kindly remembered, as a probationary member of staff, how Janet “explained how this place worked to me’. Another Professor remembers how Janet would provide carefully prepared documentation for meetings, including briefing notes highlighting the important matters to be emphasised at the meeting. Janet reflected an earlier, no-nonsense time.

When Janet first joined the University, she lived with her parents and their Boxer dog. After her parents had passed away, Janet’s family became her colleagues, her friends outside work, and her animals. Janet had a love for animals, and on retirement acquired cats, of course in modest numbers, never having more than three. Janet loved her cats, and their personalities. She treated all living things as if they were human, the cats often being chastised for chasing birds in her beloved garden. Janet spent many hours in her garden on retirement and her efforts created a splendid place, admired by her friends. Summer would always involve friends being entertained in the summer house, with Janet delivering tea, and her homemade cake from the house. Her cakes were only one element of her culinary skills. She also regularly made marmalade and her own Christmas cake each year, to complete a pheasant Christmas dinner taken with her cats. All completed in time for the Queen at 3pm.

In her spare time Janet helped, several days a week, at the Hospice Bookshop. She enjoyed the atmosphere there, and it brought her company and closeness to books. In her last few years, health issues kept her close to Frinton. She did, however, find time and energy, to attend the monthly Arts Society lectures in Colchester, always rushing away afterwards to tend to her companion cats.

Janet died on May 1 after slipping into a coma after a stroke. Former Essex colleagues stayed in contact with her and just the day before her death she had been visited by two dear colleagues from ESE. Everyone who knew Janet will remember her with great affection. As a retirement gift her colleagues made her a quilt with every member of the ESE Department contributing to the project as a mark of their appreciation. Janet was a true English lady.

Janet’s funeral took place on Tuesday 5 June 2018.

This tribute to Janet was prepared by her friends and colleagues from the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering.

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11 May 2018

A new vision for our wellbeing services

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Student experience — Communications, CER @ 11:16 am

Angela Jones is our Head of Student Support. Here she tells us about the new vision for our wellbeing services.

We have a new vision for our well being services which will mean a better service for our students.

We have a new vision for our well being services which will mean a better service for our students.

What sort of changes are going on in the wellbeing team/service?

Our team is made up of dedicated staff committed to student wellbeing – we are always reflecting on our services and thinking about how we can make them better for our students.  We’ve recognised that changes in society and growth in student numbers mean we need to develop our services. National (and international) research has identified new ways of supporting and promoting wellbeing and we want to be able to implement these innovations. We are therefore reconfiguring our offer – while we will continue to provide or support the services we offer at present, we are proposing to expand into new areas. We want to work proactively with the Students’ Union, Occupational Health and other internal and external partners to support prevention and help our students thrive and get the most out of their time at Essex.  Our new vision is, as part of the Healthy University Sub-strategy, to create a healthy and inclusive community in which every student has the tools to enable them to succeed:

Are these physical moves/changes?

No.  Our service will continue to be provided in Southend, Loughton and Colchester and accessed via the Student Hub is each of these locations.

How will the changes impact on staff/students?

The whole reason behind the changes is to respond to student need and demand.  Feedback via the SU change week has identified a clear desire for more interventions, a wider range of support and more counselling.  Feedback from students with individual needs has identified as need to make our community more inclusive.  Responding to this feedback, our proposed restructure will increase significantly the volume of counselling we can offer as well as create roles dedicated to launching new activities and working with academic colleagues in departments to improve inclusivity and support students.

Is there a period where we will be directed somewhere else for support? For the majority of students no.  Services will continue as normal. If changes may affect individual students eg, for some DSA funded provision,  we will work closely with them to support them through any change.

How will this impact support that students receive?

  • Availability for student counselling at Colchester Campus will increase by 30%
  • By increasing appointments with a wellbeing assessor, we will reduce the waiting time for students to be seen
  • More one to one and groups will be available – tell us what you think would be most useful to prioritise

Why is wellbeing so important?

Physical and mental health is important for all of us.  We all experience periods of feeling great, and times when we are below par.  In order to thrive and get the most out of life, we need to take care of our health.  That is why we are proposing to tackle the issue of wellbeing in a holistic and proactive way- we don’t want to wait until someone is unwell to act – as part of the broader agenda of being a Heathy University, epitomised by our new HUSS, we want to help our students be well, stay well and get well. We can then play a part in making sure every member of our community is given the tools to achieve their full potential.

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6 April 2018

In memory of Perci Abrahams

Filed under: People pages — Communications, CER @ 12:24 pm

It is with great sadness that colleagues in Academic Section announce the death of Perci Abrahams; the University’s timetabling officer, from 2006 to 2015.

Perci was well known across the University, and respected for his helpful and unstinting work to support students and colleagues in managing the teaching timetable and room bookings.

Perci took ill health retirement at the end of 2015, which enabled him to enjoy time with his family. He died peacefully at home.

Perci’s funeral will be held at:

Requiem mass at 11:30am on Wednesday 18 April

The Catholic Church of St Teresa of Lisieux

16 Clairmont Road, Colchester CO3 9BE

Followed by a service at:

The Colchester Crematorium

Mersea Road, Colchester CO2 8RU

There will be refreshments after this in the church hall at St Teresa’s.

Everyone is welcome to attend any or all of these occasions.

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27 October 2017

Zero tolerance of sexual violence, harassment or hate crime

Filed under: Campus news, Latest news, People pages, Student experience — Communications, CER @ 3:14 pm

The University of Essex does not tolerate any acts of sexual violence, harassment, or hate crime.

Zero tolerance means that we will take action and that the action will be proportionate to the circumstances of the case.

We recognise that the issue of sexual violence, harassment and hate crime is a global problem, but we are doing what we can  to tackle it here – and are working hard to put a stop to it in our community.

In March our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, set out our commitment to being an inclusive community with a zero tolerance of hate crime and sexual violence.

Since then, work has progressed. Here’s an update of what we’ve achieved so far:

Progress on the Tackling Sexual Violence, Harassment and Hate Crime Project

We have a high level University Action Plan. Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty, is the senior lead for this work, and the Director of Human Resources and the Academic Registrar are the people responsible for delivering the actions, all of which will be completed by the end of the academic year 2017–18.

A Project Officer has been appointed until July 2018 to support the implementation of the University’s Action Plan, and to work with colleagues from across the University and the Students’ Union to embed activity to shape the institutional culture in relation to sexual violence, harassment and hate crime.

Prevention

The university now offers bystander intervention awareness workshops. Bringing in the Bystander® is a bystander intervention workshop with a robust evidence-base. Rather than focusing strictly on the roles of perpetrator and victim, the highly interactive curriculum focuses on what you can do to intervene. It teaches bystanders how to safely intervene in instances where sexual violence, relationship violence or stalking may be occurring or where there may be risk that it will occur.

Book your place online now.

Watch our #ItEndsNow videos on YouTube and Vimeo

These workshops will help students, academics, professional services staff and community members to:

  • IDENTIFY behaviours on a continuum of violence
  • DEVELOP empathy for those who have experienced violence
  • PRACTICE safe and appropriate intervention skills
  • COMMIT to intervene before, during and after an incident of sexual abuse, relationship violence and stalking occurs

Read our guidelines for dealing with harassment and bullying.

Reporting and support

Contact itendsnow@essex.ac.uk for information and support. If an assault has just taken place and you are not in a safe place, feel at risk, or have any injuries that require urgent attention, call the emergency services on 999.

If you are on campus, please follow the guidance available online about emergency contacts.

If you are living in University accommodation on the Southend or Colchester campuses, Security can alert senior on-call Residence Life staff.

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3 October 2017

Missing home

Filed under: Latest news, People pages — Heather Leathley @ 5:04 pm

Manda and Heather, who write our friends@essex newsletter, are empty nest survivors, who appreciate that friends and families will have a lot of questions as they watch new undergraduates head off to university. Manda’s daughter has just started at Liverpool and Heather’s daughter has completed her degree at Essex.

Here Heather talks about coping with her daughter’s homesickness.

Heather, left, and Manda, right, have both had children go off to university.

Heather, left, and Manda, right, have both had children go off to university.

Our daughter had secured her place at her first choice university. She was on the brink of an exciting next step, a journey of discovery.

But, as is often the case, once she’d arrived she was struck by a bad bout of homesickness. As a parent, nothing had prepared me for that first phone call when I couldn’t t hear any words down the phone because my daughter was crying. As parents it came as rather a shock. Our confident, outgoing offspring was miserable. And we’d only dropped her off at her lovely, brand new student flat a few hours beforehand.

To begin with, whether we were Skyping or telephoning, nothing my husband or I said seemed to make her feel any better. Steeling ourselves not to dash up the motorway to pick her up was exhausting and at times made us feel like bad parents.

Neither my husband or I had gone to University, and we had both left home as teenagers to start our careers so we weren’t really prepared for how daunting it can be to try to carve a niche for yourself among thousands of peers. It’s a real balancing act – walking the tightrope between being an interested or an interfering parent, and there were times we were in danger of crossing the line, as we put forward lots of different options, none of which seemed to make any difference.

Thursday night of the first week was particularly bad. Fortunately we were away on business, otherwise I know that is the time we would have leapt into the car and whisked her back home. But, if we had done that, the regrets and recriminations would have lasted a lifetime.

Because, I’m pleased to say that just the next day, the storm began to break. She met some fellow students from her course and began to make friends. She even went on to share a flat with two of them for her second and third year of study.On the Saturday of that first week, at Freshers’ Fair, she signed up for several societies and went on to be President of one and Secretary of another.

Over the next few weeks her grandparents visited Campus with some of her favourite meals for the freezer, which went down a treat and her friends and ours sent little gifts in the post, which raised her spirits. She also quickly found a job on Campus and kept working throughout her three years.

All this activity kept her busy and introduced her to loads of new friends from all areas of life that she still keeps in contact with today. I’m delighted to say that three years later, we were there to watch our radiant, smiling daughter receive her First class degree at graduation and land a fantastic job. So, the brief, initially painful stage was most definitely worth it.

And she’s got friendships and memories she’ll treasure for the rest of her life.

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Give your wellbeing a work out

Filed under: Campus news, People pages, Sport, What's on — Communications, CER @ 10:53 am
To join the Wellbeing Workout programme: contact Jayde on jhubbaa@essex.ac.uk

To join the Wellbeing Workout programme: contact Jayde on jhubbaa@essex.ac.uk

If your wellbeing could do with a work out – why not join the Wellbeing Workout Programme?

This special wellbeing initiative is looking for new recruits to take part in three different activities over the course of the year. They are:

  • Circuit based gym sessions
  • Green Exercise
  • Mindfulness sessions

You can also get involved in green exercise sessions:

Next Session: Tuesday 10  October (the sessions are weekly – each Tuesday until 14 November)

Time: 11am (the duration of the activity will be 1 hour and 15 minutes for each session)

As part of the research you will be asked to fill out a short questionnaire.

For more information and to sign up – please email our post-grad researcher Jayde on jhubbaa@essex.ac.uk

The University of Essex will moderate comments and there will be a delay before any posts appear.

28 September 2017

We know how you feel!

Filed under: People pages, Student experience — Heather Leathley @ 2:40 pm
Heather and Manda, our "empty nest survivors"

Heather and Manda, our “empty nest survivors”

As two ’empty nest survivors’, Manda and Heather, who compose our friends@essex newsletter, appreciate that friends and families will have a lot of questions as they watch new undergraduates head off to University.

Manda’s daughter has just started at Liverpool and Heather’s daughter has completed her degree here at Essex.

Here are a few of their top tips for getting through the first few weeks:

  • It’s a real balancing act – walking the tightrope between interested and interfering parent.  And when students are heading off to university, even the most laidback of parents have their moments when they are in danger of crossing the line.
  • When you get to the new bedroom, prop the door ajar while you unload.  If you keep the bedroom door open in those valuable first few hours, it’s a welcome sign to all the other flatmates, who can pop their heads in to say hello. All the bedrooms have fire doors, so wedging the door open shouldn’t become a habit.
  • You may be planning a big supermarket shop before you head off.  There’s a large Tesco near the Colchester Campus and the best advice is to get there as early as possible.  By mid-afternoon on arrivals day it can be very chaotic.
  • In Southend, there’s a large Sainsbury’s supermarket opposite University Square, so no car required.  It is open 10am until 4pm on Sundays. In each kitchen at University Square you will find some cotton tote bags which can be used to carry back the shopping.
  • Disappear for an hour or so for a cup of tea and then come back to say goodbye. It doesn’t make that farewell too final and gives you both time to compose yourselves. It’s one of the reasons we now offer free tea and scones at Wivenhoe House on Arrivals Day, Sunday 1 October between 11am and 3pm.
  • In Southend you can blow off the cobwebs with a stroll on the promenade. It’s a good excuse for an ice-cream!
  • Let your student be the first to make contact, after you’ve departed for the journey home. It’s their moment to spread their wings and you don’t want to cramp their style by calling every 10 minutes, especially if you are having a whale of a time at home.
  • Be tough if you get that gut-wrenching homesick call. It will be one of the hardest things you have to do as a parent, but you have to do it, otherwise it could lead to regrets and recriminations on both sides.
  • If you head back during term-time for a visit, make a few frozen packs of a favourite family meal, in individual and group size. But whatever you do, don’t turn up unannounced!!!
  • A few silly little presents through the post can be a nice touch, even the most stoical of students will welcome the odd surprise gift or two.

Just remember, Christmas isn’t that far away.

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19 September 2017

Meet our new head of the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering

Filed under: Latest news, People pages — Tags: — Communications Office @ 4:43 pm
Professor Anthony Vickers

Professor Anthony Vickers

Professor Anthony Vickers is our new Head of the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, so we thought we’d catch up with him and ask him about his new role.

How long have you worked at Essex and what roles have you had?
I have worked at the University for 32 years, in the Department of Physics, the Department of Electronic Systems Engineering, and now in the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering (CSEE). I have held many academic positions within those departments, including Head of Department (ESE), Director of Education, as well as a University role as Head of Study Abroad.

What is the best thing about working at Essex?
I have always enjoyed working at Essex due to the friendly, cooperative, and professional way of colleagues across all areas.

What are your plans for the School?
The School is currently in a strong financial position with a rich portfolio of courses and research activities. The plans are to further strengthen our education and research excellence. We are currently recruiting new academic and professional service staff. Eleven new academic staff will have joined us during the Autumn term, with more due in spring and Summer. New professional service staff will strengthen our administration of degree apprenticeships and international partnerships. New, internationally competitive research and education laboratories are planned, including visualisation, neuro engineering, embedded systems, and games AI (artificial intelligence) laboratories. The School is introducing a new Week 2 for all first-year students as a transition week, with the emphasis on ‘build something wonderful’. This initiative is part of a larger initiative to encourage our students to focus on creativity and imagination, in the use of the skills they acquire with us.

What is your area of research/expertise?
My research activity is mainly in the physics of optoelectronic materials and devices, focusing on novel materials for photodetectors and Terahertz emitters/detectors. Photodetectors are the receiving element of fibre optic systems. Our research aims to develop new more efficient detectors to reduce costs and increase sustainability. Terahertz emitters and detectors are used in the development of instruments to study proteins for future drugs. The aim is to be able to design drugs, through simulation and experimental studies, to reduce drug costs and make them more widely available. I collaborate on this work with Dr Phil Reeves and Professor Chris Reynolds, from the School of Biological Sciences.

Tell us about any student achievements you are particularly proud of?
The School has an excellent record of providing students to the local, national, and international community, with a graduate destination record which has hovered around 90% for the last three years. The School is also proud its showcase Capstone Project Day at which over 30 company representatives see and discuss our students’ achievements, giving both students and company representatives, an insight into each other’s work. Finally our MSc and PhD students develop into our colleagues, with many of them taking research positions, either with us, or with other universities.

Describe in a sentence what makes CSEE special?
CSEE is a friendly School, with dedicated students and staff, all with a strong emphasis on creativity and imagination.

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