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May 31, 2017

Campus Developments

I have just read our Students’ Union President-elect’s blog about how Hope and student representatives are working with University service departments to make improvements to study spaces on campus.

Everyone who has been to Warwick over our fifty-year history will be able to remember the construction, the roadworks, the refurbishments that signify improvements on campus. This year alone, we’ve completed the Oculus, our fabulous learning and teaching building, and the Slate, our conferences venue; we’re working on new student residences, a new sports hub, the extraordinary National Automotive Innovation Centre; the Wolfson-funded mathematical sciences building; a new biomedical research building; and we’re soon to start an enormous redevelopment of the Arts Centre, periphery car-parks and our new Arts Faculty building. I’m not sure there has ever been a time when we haven’t had a crane on campus somewhere.

It can be easy to forget about the impact of smaller, localised or ‘business as usual’ improvements when we see such major new buildings, spaces and infrastructure. But, actually, as Hope says in her message, we need to continue to listen to our students to ensure we’re continually enhancing the campus in all the ways that genuinely meet their needs. This is just as important.

As a world-leading University we seek to attract the best staff and students from around the world. And we need a superb, dynamic campus to do this: buildings that support excellent teaching and research; facilities and public spaces to make it a unique and welcoming destination, refurbishment to refresh older facilities, supporting changing expectations and requirements.

Constant change, improvement and renewal means occasional disruption for the community, no matter how much we seek to mitigate it. But, it makes for a world-class campus too.

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February 08, 2016

Reflections on my first week

They say that a week is a long time in politics. Well, it can seem a long week in other areas of life too. Last week was one of the busiest of my life…and one of the most intense.

Following my message to all last Monday morning, I received over 400 messages during the week. I have worked hard to reply to them all…. if I haven’t yet replied, please bear with me! There were messages from staff and students, and also a number from alumni, which was heartening. I only had one negative comment…that the text was too long to read on a mobile device. True! Sorry for that.

qt.jpgOn my first evening in my new role, I took part in a SU Question Time event, hosted by the SU President, Isaac Leigh. I won’t pretend that it was an easy discussion to have on my first day in post, but it felt like an appropriate way to open up communications with our students and get their direct feedback. I had some very positive conversations with students straight after and in the following days.

Whilst many of the issues raised cannot be resolved overnight, I reported back to the rest of the executive team and progress has already been made in some areas, for example, I can confirm that our new Teaching and Learning building will house gender neutral facilities, and the new National Automotive Innovation Centre will have unisex private cubicles. We will also take this into consideration in future building projects across campus. Other issues raised, concerned access to buildings for disabled people, access to facilities for musicians, and how we support elite sport. I am looking into all of these at the moment.

On Thursday afternoon I met with a group of students in the Students’ Union who had been holding a protest in University House. The meeting was a starting point for future conversations, and more details will become available in the coming days and weeks. Earlier that day, I had spent some time in the Students’ Union building, I met colleagues throughout the building and have some discussions to take forward with the Advice Centre and Warwick Volunteers about the wonderful work that they do.

Understanding the views of students is of course really important in a university. One additional way in which voices can be heard is through the National Student Survey, and I would also urge any final year undergraduate students to complete it.

While at the SU, George Creasy and Alex Roberts presented about the beating heart of our campus; sports and society involvement and I was amazed to hear that over 15,000 of our students are involved in sports and societies; and also the scale of activities (including financial scale) that students organise themselves. I hope that many of you will be supporting your teams during the upcoming Varsity competition. I even committed to having my picture taken with our mascot, so watch this space…

I’ve always been proud of Warwick for accepting and celebrating all members of our community and if you’ve passed University House this week, you may have seen the LGBT flag flying alongside our own Warwick flags. The flag was raised on Wednesday by Ken Sloan in celebration of LGBT history month. I have no doubt that this event will continue to grow over the next few years.

On Friday morning, I met colleagues based in Argent Court in my first staff visit. Many of these roles are part of the critical engine room that make our campus run smoothly, and aren’t always highly visible to many of us. I spoke with colleagues from all departments based at Argent Court, and the pride and dedication staff take in their roles was really evident.

So how did my first week go? It was a week of learning, a week of sharing and a week of meeting some of the people who bring this campus to life. And it was intense… Whilst I’ve only met a fraction of you, important questions have been raised and conversations started about how we can work together to face any future challenges and opportunities.

Overall, a good week… surprisingly topped off by Aston Villa beating Norwich 2-0! I’m now looking forward to what the next week will bring.

Thank you for your support, it has been most appreciated and I look forward to talking with more people in the coming weeks and months.

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