I’m a newbie in the Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences team – I started as LANS Operations Manager in November 2015. So far so good … it’s a great team to work with and a really interesting concept as an undergraduate degree.
It’s the sort of degree I would have loved myself! And, despite the work in progress of the new library, the view is a vast improvement on the brick wall and pigeon mess I looked out at in my old job!
My days are very variable but at the moment because it’s a new role there is a big backlog of paperwork to catch up on – for example programme specification documents for the Natural Sciences exit degree, module specification documents for a new and exciting 4th year Entrepreneurship module, a collaboration agreement with UpRising (who will provide campaigning training for the 2ndyear core module later this semester), a job description for a Birmingham Undergraduate Internship to join the LANS team …etc. I’m nearly there with all that and hopefully we will be able to share more information with the student body soon. I’m also getting to grips with the budget and doing lots of financial planning to make sure that the day-to-day stuff, the improvements, and the extra-curricular trips and events are all covered.
I’ve also spent the last few months having lots of meetings with the other departments and services across the university to understand their processes (for example, timetabling, study abroad, planning, finance) and to talk about the unique and usually challenging requirements of the Liberal Arts and Sciences programme. Some of my focus over the next few months will be to work with these departments to improve our interaction with them and therefore the outcomes for our students. For example, if we can put together a new Birmingham Liberal Arts package and marketing to attract overseas students to come and spend a year or semester abroad within Liberal Arts and Sciences at UoB, then we can open up more spaces for UoB students to go abroad which will help with the placements for LAS students.
This is the first role I’ve had in the university dealing directly with undergraduate students and it’s great to be reminded why we all work here – Chamberlain’s radical vision of a place of learning for students from all backgrounds. Ruth (LANS Programme Manager) and I have been hosting a series of ‘feedback lunches’– for me this has been the first chance to get to know our students (they’re a lovely bunch!) as well as seeking feedback on the experiences of Liberal Arts and Sciences students. Feedback is important to us, and we will listen and, wherever we can, act on it.
Following student suggestions last term we have reconfigured the LANS hub area to give individual study carrels with PCs as well as a smaller group meeting area in the ‘glass box’. A further five PCs are on order and we are working with IT to get printer access. More recent suggestions for pinboards and maybe artwork for the pink wall will hopefully complete the new look and feel of the space. But we’d like students to keep the suggestions coming!
I’m really glad I took on this role – steep learning curve and challenges not withstanding – and I look forward to meeting more students and to feeling like I’m really making a difference to the experience of a Liberal Arts and Sciences degree at Birmingham.
Dr Anna Brown, LANS Operations Manager