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.

Stephen Smith, originally from Perth, used to be a student at the University of Dundee studying Psychology. He now works for the Careers Service as a Student Development Manager. Stephen tells us more about his role and why he loves working with students and helping them to flourish.

 

Your Work

 

One Dundee: What’s your role at the University?

Stephen: My role is quite diverse which I really enjoy – I work on various projects and also support other member of the wider team when and where I can. However, a large part of my remit is managing the portfolio of Dundee Plus awards and the School Tutoring Programme. This involves work with students, colleagues, employers, local primary and secondary schools across Dundee, Angus, Perth and Fife so I get to speak to a large number of people within my role. If it involves student engagement/development I am always keen to be involved where I can.

One Dundee: What do you do at work?

Stephen: I work within the Careers Service and I am based in what we call the Garden Flat which is essentially the basement in our building – 1 Airlie Place for anyone who is wondering.

One Dundee: What gives you satisfaction in your work?

Stephen: Lots of things! In particular, I would say it is seeing students develop and flourish throughout their time at the University. As I manage the Dundee Plus portfolio of awards and the School Tutoring Programme I get to see a huge wealth of skills students are developing through a vast range of activities and given the variation of the way we assess students within our awards programmes I get to see these in many different formats from blogs, pictures, videos, presentations and the age old application form. It is inspiring and reminds me why I chose the University of Dundee when I was a student (back in the day!).

One Dundee: What challenges do you face and how do you deal with them?

Stephen: I think challenges at work are great – they keep us on our toes and aim to strive for the best. If I have a challenge I tend to just deal with it and move on to the next one. It is a part of life and work so I don’t tend to fret too much about them.

One Dundee: The best thing about your work?

Stephen: I think I probably answered this one. Seeing students develop and flourish. It makes you realise that what you do is truly worthwhile.

One Dundee: And the hardest?

Stephen: I would say the hardest thing is when a student has submitted an application for an award and I have to advise them that it requires further development. However, the great thing about our awards is that we provide detailed feedback on how to improve their submission and give them with the opportunity to re-submit. So, while it can be difficult to provide the ‘initial bad news’ most students welcome the feedback as an opportunity to develop and do in fact re-submit a high quality application so it generally leads to a positive outcome – which is good!

 

Working From Home

 

One Dundee: How has the current lockdown/work from home situation affected what you do?

Stephen: I have been quite lucky as I have been able to do a lot of my work from home as I can communicate electronically and continue to manage award programmes and various projects remotely – it is times like these that we truly value our digital literacy skills (although I am still always learning). It has obviously removed the face-to-face contact with students, colleagues and employers so I have just tried to maintained those positive relationships electronically as best as possible.

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?

Stephen: I wouldn’t say it has been more or less effective but I do feel that while technology is a blessing in the current climate it can also be what infuriates us the most from our Wi-Fi playing up, the VPN losing connection, or in my case trying to coordinate a number of meetings while my flatmate also has meetings in our now shared office (the living room!).

One Dundee: Has there been anything particularly supportive at this time?

Stephen: Working in the Careers Service is a blessing. There is always a member of the team just a phone call away from particular support with a query I may have or just a catch-up to keep engaged, spirits high and less isolated. Additionally, there has been continuous communication from management within the service letting us know we are doing a great job and to get in touch if we need any support which I think is invaluable during such unprecedented times.

One Dundee: Is there anything new within the current situation that you hope will continue after we return to campus?

Stephen: While I do not think that ‘working from home’ is definitely not something I would want to do on a permanent basis, it would be good to see some more flexibility around working from home as and when required.

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?

Stephen: While the current situation continues, I have noticed that our University of Dundee students are still striving to get involved and develop their skills – even though there has been a lot of changes for students – for example, applications for our Leadership Plus programme have soared and to make sure we are keeping up with demand we are proactively recruiting mentors who will be able to help our students on their leadership journey next year. Due to the current circumstances we will be asking students to complete an online video interview simulation, which many may have never completed before, so this could generate a need/demand for support with this type of interviewing but here at the Careers Service we are always more than willing to help students throughout such a process. We have an online video interview platform which University of Dundee students can practice at any time. 

Additionally, with everything going on at the moment we have taken the proactive option to open our applications for our Dundee Plus award programmes early this year – we normally open for applications at the beginning of Semester 1 however this year we are opening them this week (W/C 18 May 2020) so for any students just finishing up before graduation looking to gain some final recognition for the skills they developed during their studies they have another opportunity to apply. Smiley face! For any non-final year students it is a great opportunity to get a head start over the summer!

The Careers Service may be working remotely at the moment but we are always here to help students and graduates with their needs so if you need support during or after the current situation you should definitely get in touch. We are a friendly bunch – I promise!

 

Campus/the University

 

One Dundee: Do you miss the campus you work on?

Stephen: Yes, especially at this time of year when the sun is shining and it is a great opportunity to get out and enjoy the weather and scenery on campus during lunch.

One Dundee: What do you most look forward to doing once you are back on campus?

Stephen: I would say it is the simple things from being able to order a coffee to having some banter with the rest of the team. Those little parts of the day that break it up and keep you motivated.

One Dundee: Campus hotspot?

Stephen: If it is not my desk, I would probably say Dalhousie as that is where I tend to deliver most workshops.

One Dundee: Someone at the University who inspires you?

Stephen: If I had to name one person as opposed to a team (and no naming the careers team is not biased…I think) it would probably be Graham Nicolson, Director of Student Services. When I was in my 2nd year as a student at the University of Dundee I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life/career and I therefore opted to take the elective ‘Career Planning’ module in which at the time Graham was my Module Tutor. The module truly helped me to think about my future, enabled me to effectively research my options and gain a place on a competitive postgraduate course which ultimately led me to a fulfilling career to date. And for that, I will always be inspired by Graham (and the wider careers team).

One Dundee: How would you describe the University to someone who doesn’t know it?

Stephen: It is a great place to work! Everyone is very friendly and wants to do their best. A community (it may be a large one, but a community nonetheless).

 

General

 

One Dundee: What do you do outside of work?

Stephen: Outside of work I really enjoy travelling when I can – whether that be visiting friends and family around the UK to a City Break in Europe or a nice sunny holiday. In recent years I am also an avid concert goer! I love music, travelling and spending time with friends and family and concerts often allow me to combine these loves into one.

One Dundee: Tell us something we don’t know about you?

Stephen: I’m a Gemini. Did you know that? In no way am I hinting at the fact my birthday is approaching…

One Dundee: Who would you invite to a dinner party?

Stephen: I am a huge Masterchef fan ( including but not limited to Masterchef UK, Celebrity Masterchef UK, Masterchef UK The Professionals, Masterchef Australia, Masterchef USA, Masterchef USA Juniors) so I would probably invite a bundle of celebrity chefs and ask them to cook a feast for me!

One Dundee: Why Dundee?

Stephen: Why not? It is close enough to my home town that means I can go back and visit my family but also far enough away that I don’t feel like I am constantly at home. Also, the development in Dundee over the last few years has been amazing – it is a wonderful city to live and work in.  

 

Quick-Fire Round

 

Tea or coffee? Coffee

Facebook or Instagram? Facebook

Pen or pencil? Pen

Morning or afternoon? Afternoon

Phone or email? Email

English or maths? English

Books or films? Films

Netflix or Amazon? Netflix

Savoury or sweet? Savoury

Run or swim? Swim