Hello everyone! I’m Siyang, the Postgraduate Access, Education, and Participation Officer - a bit of a mouthful, but I like to think it reflects the exciting variety this job has to offer. As does this peek behind the PG AEP curtain, which has ended up quite long, so without further ado...
I usually start work between 9 and 10am, depending on when I have my first meeting of the day! Today it was 9:30am because in classic lockdown fashion, the President (UG) Ben and I have started trying to exercise together in the morning before work; he had a meeting at 9am and I went to have a shower. If I have time before my first meeting I check my emails and messages, send any urgent / quick responses, and put the rest on my to-do list. Responding to students’ queries is an important part of my job, but I also like to make sure that I can manage it alongside all the other things I need to do.
This is a popular time for internal SU meetings, which is quite nice; working from home can make it hard to really get into gear, and I like to properly kick off my day by interacting with colleagues in the virtual workplace. On Wednesdays we have alternating regular meetings to update on two of our long-term SU projects - the Lent elections (woohoo) and our response to COVID - while every Thursday I meet with Esme, Kate, Phoebe, and Jodie about the Student-Led Teaching Awards. I also usually have a few irregular meetings for planning other ongoing projects and campaigns; this week, I had meetings about the doctoral supervision research project, our exam and assessment mitigation work, a survey we’re producing about postgraduate funding, and a forthcoming campaign on student private renters’ rights during the pandemic. There’s quite a lot going on, but one of the best things about the sabbatical officer role is the diversity of work we get to do on projects we care about and have a lot of control over!
It’s usually a good idea to schedule a break between meetings, so I can follow up what’s just been discussed and add any actions to my to-do list for the week. As soon as I have some time to myself, I like to check the list of tasks I need to do that day, prioritise them from most to least urgent, and get started as soon as possible! I may seem a bit obsessed with my to-do list, which is actually the case; I have ADHD and generally struggle with time management, so it’s very important for me to identify, prioritise, and schedule specific tasks within week-long and even day-long timeframes.
On Mondays we have Shout & Share! All staff across the SU get together, and we give updates on what we’re doing this week, if there’s anything that would be of interest to other staff, and if there’s anything we’d like help with. Especially when we’re working remotely, it’s really valuable to stay up to date with what’s happening in other parts of the SU that we don’t work with so closely on a routine basis. We also have weekly meetings with University staff in Cambridge’s Education Quality and Policy Office (EQPO) at this time on Wednesday, and every other week with Cambridge’s UCU branch to work on joint aims. Esme and I also have a monthly meeting with Graham Virgo, but unfortunately for us he tends to prefer a 9am start!
The best time of the day - lunchtime! I try to take an hour’s break and stay away from my work laptop if I can - having lunch at your desk, especially when your desk is also in your bedroom, is a little bit sad. I’m spending much less on buying lunch than I would in the office, but it does take a bit more time when you add cooking into the mix. If I’m lucky I’ll have leftovers to reheat (or Howard will have already made something), but today I had one of my go-to quick lunches: instant noodles jazzed up with some vegetables and a fried egg (Nissin Demae Ramen or Indomie Mi Goreng, accept no substitutes). It’s nice to all have lunch together when we can - especially with our fourth housemate, who doesn’t work at the SU and therefore keeps us grounded. If not, I might watch an episode of The Untamed or some chess analysis videos, which are genuinely very thrilling...
The AEPs sit on quite a lot of University committees, and I’ve found that 2pm (or thereabouts) is quite a popular time for my committees to start! On Wednesdays there’ll often be either General Board, General Board Education Committee (GBEC), or Academic Standards and Enhancement Committee (ASEC) from 2-4pm; Graduate Tutors’ Committee (GTC) meets two Thursdays per term at 2pm; and Senior Tutors’ Education Committee (STEC) meets two Fridays per term at 2pm. There are also others at more irregular times which are often decided by Doodle poll. Sometimes they’re pretty exciting and sometimes they’re not, but it’s generally worth reading the agenda beforehand to see what’s coming up, and attending if I have time to keep on top of all the many many things that are happening with access and education at the University. Outside term-time, there are a lot fewer committees so you have more time to focus on other work (and take some holiday)!
At 3pm on Monday I have one of the most important meetings of my week - my 1:1 with Kate, the Student Rep Coordinator, who is my main staff support contact. We can use this time however we like, but what I find most useful is updating Kate on what I’ve been doing and how this relates to my Term and year goals; talking about my plans for the week ahead and identifying where I might need extra support; and discussing any issues I’m having or anything I’d like her input on. It’s also just really nice to have a chat with her!
After my 1:1, I spend some time making my aforementioned to-do list, and then get back to work on my tasks. Monday.com currently rules my life.
I usually try to stop working and log off between 5 and 6pm depending on when I started work. However, this is also quite a popular time for student-facing events, which tend to happen in the late afternoon or evening. Every other week during term Esme, Kate and I run academic rep forum until 5:30pm; this week we have a special academic rep forum with Ben to discuss his workloads project, and on Friday I’m hosting a Postgraduate Access Group meeting to plan a campaign on the postgraduate application fee. This Thursday at 5pm I’ll also be at a drop-in session for students who are interested in running in the Lent elections, and if you’re reading this and you have any questions, you should definitely come :)
I try not to work in the evenings, but sometimes democracy calls! During term we have SU Exec at 6pm and SU Council at 7pm on alternating Mondays, which can last until 8:30pm. When this happens, I’ll take some time off on another day to make up for it - work-life balance is important!