Distance tutor in a close-knit team

July 8, 2005

Name: Pat Beaton.

Age: 52.

Job: Tutor on the distance-learning course in the department of volun-tary sector studies at the University of Wales Lampeter, teaching interpersonal skills for volunteers.

Salary: Academic-related scale. What is your background? I left school early and then worked in an office.

I gained a joint honours degree at 43 at Lampeter and was involved in the formation of the voluntary sector studies department.

What are your working hours? I work three days a week and I am usually busy the whole time. Marking assignments and keeping in touch with students is the main focus of my work.

What students do you teach? Our students are part-time distance learners and for many, our courses are their first taste of academic study. They all have some relationship with volunteering and are fitting in study with very busy lives. Our department is quite small and my colleagues are all easy-going and friendly - we have a genuine team spirit.

Biggest challenge this year? Having just finished writing a study skills unit, I managed to delete the whole lot and save a blank sheet. It was some shortcut on the keyboard that I never want to meet again.

How did you solve it? I spent the whole day rewriting it.

What has been your worst moment in university life? At a general meeting, doing a "blue-skies thinking" exercise I misspelt something. I remember feeling rather small.

What is your office like? The old university building dates back to 1822.

It is in a lovely setting and has a very friendly atmosphere. My building is a prefab, so it's cold in winter, hot in summer. My office looks out onto grass, a student residence, a rowan tree and a fir tree. In autumn, I watch thrushes devour the rowan berries.

What university facilities do you use? I sometimes go to the student film club to see good movies as they are free and there is no cinema closer than 20 miles away. I also enjoy the annual food festival.

Do you socialise with people at the university? This is a very friendly university so most people have a nodding acquaintance with each other, but my socialising generally is minimal.

Who are your most difficult customers? Students who do not take note of feedback on assignments.

Do you interact much with other parts of the university? Our department is a little out on a limb so this is often difficult.

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