From an idea to an award

Karen Sturt

Category: Anglia Learning & Teaching

20 March 2018

My previous thoughts about the Vice Chancellor’s Awards were always that this wasn’t really relevant to me, but something other people were put forward for, and received, for their amazing work.

However, last year by chance I read through the criteria and felt that maybe I did ‘fit the bill’ after all, with a project I had initiated and set up a couple of years earlier and turned into something of a success for our faculty. Also, I had set myself some personal goals; one being to improve my work situation and this seemed like an opportunity worth trying.

My project was the ALSS Buddy Scheme, which I initiated in response to concerns in our 2015–17 Faculty Strategy about retention. Something needed to be done and I thought this might make a valid contribution.

I drafted a plan for a peer-to-peer mentoring pilot and enthusiastically took this to our Faculty Management Team (FMT) to try to persuade them to let me give it a go. After some negotiating it was agreed that I would trial this over the next semester, reporting regularly to FMT. This is what I set about doing. I bid for some end-of-year funds, recruited an intern to help with initial research and set-up, designed the scheme and persuaded Course Leaders to trial this.

The Buddy scheme, from small beginnings, is now rolled out across ALSS and going from strength to strength. I’ve trained well over 100 students as volunteer mentors over the last three years and over 300 new students have signed up to the scheme. The aim – to support new students settling into student life and provide Buddies with vital employability and life skills (through training then mentoring fellow students) ­– has also had wider impact in ARU.

Students sitting around a table, taking part in a buddy scheme

Now, this project might sound very different to anything you have done, but what I learned from the process is that the VC’s award is open to anyone. The main thing you need to prove is that you took initiative, then managed to persuade others that you had a valid idea and made it work. It could be anything, but something outside your ‘normal’ scope of work and has made some sort of impact.

The Vice Chancellor’s Award means a lot to me and, although I am not keen to be the centre of attention, has both boosted my confidence and enabled me to set myself further goals. It also enabled me to create an ‘ALSS Buddy Prize, for outstanding contribution’, with some of the prize money to reward peer-to-peer commitment and encourage aspiration. The prize, initially for five years, will be awarded for the first time at Graduation 2018.

As I mentioned at the start, I never envisaged applying for a VC’s award, but the wonderful support and encouragement received from my ‘sponsors’, the useful experience of reflecting positively on the work I have done and receiving the award from the VC has all been incredibly rewarding.

It just goes to prove the point: there is nothing to lose in trying, everything to gain!


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