A day in the life of the LANS Operations Manager

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!

 

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View from the ERI

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 2nd year 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 chal
lenging 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.

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Dr Anna Brown, LANS Operations Manager

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

 

A day in the life of a Liberal Arts and Sciences Administrator

lib arts & sciences 08I joined the team in October 2013, when Liberal Arts and Sciences at Birmingham was in its infancy.  When I say I joined the team, at that point it was only me, the Dean (Professor Cillian Ryan), and an academic lead from each of the Colleges.  In the space of two years the project has grown exponentially: we now have two further professional services staff (an Operations Manager, and a Programme Administrator), in addition to an expanding academic team, and of course four times as many students!  My hope is that this growth in our team shows in the quality and breadth of professional service that we deliver; not only through organising and putting together each students’ suite of modules and academic plan, but also reaching further into the student experience with a variety of cultural activities, social events and beyond.

My days consist of a variety of different projects, punctuated by student enquiries, meetings, phone-calls and all of the day-to-day ‘business as usual’ tasks (if there is such a thing as business as usual within LANS!)  Thankfully at this point in the year I have moved on from the complexities of putting together 75 bespoke timetables, which is a relief for me, and I daresay for all those around me as well!

One of the main projects that I work on within my role is improving student experience.  Student feedback and experience is at the heart of everything that we do within LANS, and we are always looking for ways to improve and excel in the service that we deliver.  In terms of my role this means a variety of things.  I’m involved in gathering feedback, whether from our informal house feedback lunches, personal tutee lunches or SSCs, and putting it together into a coherent structure, and then helping the programme respond to that feedback; for example, I spent a reasonable chunk of my summer remodelling our Canvas pages into the thing of beauty that they are today (!).  I also lead on all welfare issues within the programme, complex as they are with all the different schools that each student is involved with, and play a key role in the face-to-face delivery of welfare support to individual students.  Another area of responsibility, which greatly enriches the LAS student experience, is helping to plan and organise the wealth of events and trips that we run on a yearly basis.

Although life in academic administration can be stressful and trying at times, it’s also an extremely varied job, and I greatly enjoy the mixture of people and paperwork that it entails.  It’s also a real privilege to work with such a bright and (generally) enthusiastic group of students, and feel that in a small way I’ve helped them to achieve their best.  It almost makes all that timetabling worthwhile…

Ruth German, November 2015