Accentuate the positives and keep trying to improve

June 15, 2007

Name : Jenni Grundy

Age : 38

Job : Associate director ofstudent affairs, Anglia Ruskin University, managing student support services, student feedback (including module evaluation and the Anglia Ruskin student experience survey), our academic guidance scheme, the development of a studentcommunications strategy, welcome activities, student health provision and sport at our Chelmsford campus.

Salary : Pretty good.

Background/education : My background is in the management of health and social care services, specialising in work with adults who have learning disabilities and additional mental health needs. My academic background is in the field of early modern social history, and I am currently completing my PhD.

I have been in my present post for more than 18 months now and have found my previous experience invaluable in managing the delivery of personal advice and support services for students. It is a new environment for me, and I am still enjoying the constant learning. No two days are the same.

Working hours and conditions : Our university is committed to staff training and opportunities for personal and professional development, so in many ways the working environment is very good. I work long hours though, and am often on the e-mail late into the evening.

Numbers of students you teach/staff you manage : Anglia Ruskin has about ,000 students, and I lead the support services for all our students at one of our two main campuses. This means managing between 45 and 60 staff.

Biggest challenges this year : An ongoing personal challenge is balancing my drive to improve and develop services with the reality that not everything can be achieved overnight. Also, drawing together faculties and support services from across our university to develop a strategy for student communications has been a pretty monumental exercise in project management.

How I solved them : In a large organisation, there will always be pockets of exemplary practice that few people know about. The trick is identifying these and telling others about them. Drawing everyone together means emphasising the positives in what people are already doing and exploring what we can do better. Everyone at Anglia Ruskin is very committed to developing the student experience, but getting a big group to work together is always a challenge. We must be winning because the new student communications strategy goes live in September.

Worst moment in university life : The first few weeks in this current job were pretty grim. The university had gone through a period of major change, and my staff teams had been without direct line management for a number of months. I got the distinct impression that I was not universally welcome.

What is your office like? Small but tidy - at least most of the time. I keep the mottosemper eadem (always the same) on my wall to remind me of the importance of calmness and consistency. We moved into our bright and airy new building in 2005, and it is an excellent space. Most of our floor is open plan, with private interview spaces for advisers to work with students.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with : That is a tricky one. I deal with a number of situations that demandcareful handling - fromstudent complaints to supporting staff who are dealing with some of the very complexdifficulties that students sometimes present to us.

Generally,I believe people do not usually intend to be difficult and that it is important to try and see things from their perspective.

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