Our Student Services staff are still working hard – as they always are – to meet the needs of students throughout the current pandemic and enforced time away from campus for all of us. The One Dundee bloggers have been speaking to our Student Services colleagues to find out how they are providing support to students near and far in these unprecedented times, and also to let them tell us a little bit more about themselves. 

Annie McKinney is originally from London but, after graduating from Dundee, decided to stay. She works as the Global Student Experience Co-ordinator (English for International Students, EIS), providing support for international students. She tells us about her work and how lockdown has changed how she supports our students.

Your work

One Dundee: What’s your role at the University?
Annie: I support international students with their transition to the Pre-sessional in English programmes and later with their transition to their main degree courses. Working closely with colleagues in Students Services, Schools and Professional Services,

I support these students as they settle in to life in Dundee,

helping them with practical guidance and wellbeing support.

One Dundee: What do you do at work?
Annie: Much of my role is acting as a first point of contact for EIS students, providing information and referring on to other staff or services as necessary. I support these students at matriculation and during the transition to their degree programmes and help with any non-academic issues they may have, including accommodation issues, council tax, suggestions of places to travel in Scotland – anything!

One Dundee: What gives you satisfaction in your work?
Annie: Working closely with students and helping them to help themselves.

One Dundee: What challenges do you face and how do you deal with them?
Annie: Reminding myself that I can’t fix every problem that students have and seeking help from so many supportive colleagues.

One Dundee: The best thing about your work?
Annie: Spending time with students at events at the Global Room and on Pre-sessional field trips to Edinburgh and Blair Castle.

One Dundee; And the hardest?
Annie: Consoling students who unfortunately do not progress from the Pre-sessional to their degree course. However, many of these students return to retake the programme, so it is wonderful to welcome them back to Dundee.

Working from home

One Dundee: How has the current lockdown/work from home situation affected what you do?
Annie: EIS is currently preparing for our Summer Pre-sessional in English programmes, which will be taught online for the first time this year. Much of the support I provide Pre-sessional students relates to on campus matriculation and induction, and settling in (opening a bank account, registering with a GP). As the new students will be based in their home countries,

I will be focusing on wellbeing support and helping the students build a sense of community while learning online.

One Dundee: Have you found working from home to be more or less effective in terms of work delivery and the job that you do?
Annie: Despite not being able to meet face-to-face, I am in regular contact with current EIS students and, as many students are so familiar with online communication, maintaining contact has been different but hopefully not less effective.

One Dundee: How have the needs and demands of students changed and what are you doing that is notably different from normal in the current situation?
Annie: Some EIS students have returned home but many are still in Dundee, either living on or off campus and each group has their own challenges. The time difference is an issue for those at home. Loneliness is a major challenge affecting those still in Dundee. Simple things like visiting the Global Room or DUSA are not possible during lockdown and students miss that social interaction with each other. I am contacting students on a more regular basis than I would normally do – on campus, students would contact me if they need help with an issue but

during this difficult time, I am reaching out to them and reminding them the University is still here to support them.

One Dundee: Has there been anything particularly supportive during this time?
Annie: I send a regular email to all EIS students, focusing on how to look after your wellbeing (encouraging exercise, taking study breaks, maintaining regular contact with friends and family), highlighting positive stories and suggesting ways to relax during lockdown (online virtual tours, listening to free audiobooks). Students also send me photos and videos to share – one student made a video of local walks around Dundee and another sent photos of a seagull who visited her window!

I am regularly meeting with students one to one on Microsoft Teams and I also organise

virtual coffee breaks

on Teams for small groups of EIS students. This is a really nice and informal way to engage with students, check in with them and connect them to fellow students.

One Dundee: Is there anything new within the current situation that you hope will continue after we return to campus?
Annie: I actually enjoy working from home so it would be nice to maintain an element of home working after the lockdown ends, and combine days on campus meeting with students, with quiet time working from home.

Campus/the University

One Dundee: Do you miss the campus you work on?
Annie: Yes I miss the green spaces like Geddes Quadrangle, and the Global Room and the Pavement Café.

One Dundee: What do you most look forward to doing once you are back on campus?
Annie: Having informal and spontaneous meetings with students and colleagues.

One Dundee: Campus hotspot?
Annie: The Global Room.

General

One Dundee: What do you do outside of work?
Annie: I volunteer at Brownies at Dundee West Church.

My Brownie name is Snowy Owl.

One Dundee: Tell us something we don’t know about you?
Annie: I’m an auntie! I have two nieces and a nephew who I’m missing a lot during lockdown.

One Dundee: Why Dundee?
Annie:

I studied American Studies here and liked the place so much I decided to stay after graduation.

Quick-Fire Round

Tea or coffee? Tea
Facebook or Instagram? Facebook
Pen or pencil? Pencil
Morning or afternoon? Afternoon
Phone or email? Email
English or Maths? English
Books or films? Books
Netflix or Amazon? Netflix
Savoury or sweet? Savoury
Run or swim? Swim