This blog will chronicle the three week internship of Galen Crawford (this will be the only time I refer to myself in the third person) at Anglia Ruskin University in the UK. Why blog about this experience? Well, I'm the first person from the Student Affairs in Higher Education Graduate Program to take this internship voyage. I have been told that there is no formal education for Student Affairs Administrators in the UK, and the hope is that I will be useful with evaluating and improving their training matrix for staff development. Really all I want out of this experience is to understand what makes Anglia Ruskin tick, and how their organizational culture influences student success. Thus far, the extent of my international travel has been two days in Windsor Canada and I have lived a good majority of my life in the Dayton and Cincinnati areas so I'm not exactly a cultural expert on much outside of Ohio. That being said, I am excited about the experience and I am hoping that those visiting this blog will find my updates to be a useful look inside my day to day experience.
Arrival at Last - 11/7/2011
Whew...18 hours of air travel, a 2 hour cab ride, and 3 hours of sleep later I finally made it to Anglia Ruskin University. Upon my arrival I was immediately whisked away by the Director ofInternational Student Support, Caroline Shanahan, for coffee and the advice that I should try to stay awake as long as possible today to fight jet lag. During the rest of our conversation I was given details of the recent shift in the UK higher ed funding model from the state to the individual and the affects it may have on this generation of college-aged students. The projection is that enrollments will be decreased next fall due to annual fees jumping from around £3,000 to £8,000. UK Citizens have not had the time to prepare for this shift or even start a "college fund" in order to support a college education. After this conversation I was oriented and set up with an ID and email account so I will be good to go tomorrow morning when I arrive at work. My internship supervisor, Michele Capes, and I discussed our plans for my stay over lunch as well as more history of higher ed in the UK and the effects of the funding model change on the delivery Student Services. The division will need to increase services and staff in order to meet the expectations of next year's students. Customer service is the new mantra and I was inundated with questions about how Wright State operates. What a wonderful day, it is so good to finally be here.
A brief house tour and summary of day 2 - 11/8/2011
Making a video is part of my internship and, as you will see, I need to improve my recording and editing skills. Enjoy!
Day 3 and I'm finally over the jet lag - 11/9/2011
I started off the day with a breakfast at Anglia Ruskin's cafeteria and was delighted to see they had some toast out for everyone. Little did I know that this 'toast' was really fried bread and probably the most disgusting thing I've had since my arrival. Everything seems to be fried here one way or another and I'm starting to look towards McDonald's as a healthy alternative to British cuisine.
A good amount of progress was made for the training matrix by my synthesizing the information gathered yesterday into an excel report. Also, I introduced the green 'Yes' sign that has been somewhat of an inside joke among a few friends, and most people seemed to love it. The laminated sign is green with 'Yes' on one side and red with 'No' on the other. After killing some time during lunch where I took pictures of students holding the 'Yes' my supervisor, Michele, saw what I was doing and decided that Anglia Ruskin needed a personalized 'Yes' for their department of Student Services. I then created a lavender sign (their department's color) which read: "Anglia Ruskin: Committed to Student Success, Say Yes!" From this came a concept for a staff development training video that I will be making with the goal of improving customer service. This video will include my take on improvements needed to increase customer service, student interviews, and entry-level staff interviews on the subject. To end the day Michele showed me around the Cambridge City Center, and King's College where we were able to sneak through the gates for a wonderful photo opportunity along with afternoon tea and cakes.
All day at the iCentre - 11/10/2011
Today I experienced a healthy amount of student contact at the iCentre of Anglia Ruskin. The primary function of this office is to collect all student assignments and sort them for professors to pick up and grade. After a 40 day period, students will receive notice to retrieve their graded assignments. Though this seems to be unnecessary, the iCentre provides a great service to students as many approach the counter with questions about how to navigate the many levels of university bureaucracy since most service units are less than visible and the iCentre is practically in the center of campus. There are only 5 staff members in the office and they seem to be the most knowledgeable employees of Anglia Ruskin. They are experts in referral to offices due to their deep knowledge of university processes, and they have a wonderful group dynamic and interaction with students. I was stationed at the counter for most of the day helping with assignment collection and ID card replacements while intermittently directing students to other service areas that could better address their concerns. This allowed me to speak with over 50 students and casually probe them about their experiences at Anglia Ruskin. I hope to work again with the team at iCentre and I am pretty tired now so it is difficult to go into more detail. I expect I will be able to offer more insight about the university as a whole sometime in the near future.
Feeling settled in - 11/11/2011
Now that I have been here for nearly a week I am beginning to feel like I belong. This weekend has been full of exploration on foot, bicycle, and by punt (boats akin to gondolas), which has given me an appreciation for the ecology of Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin.
I am still hung up on the iCentre and am wondering why it is necessary to add a level of bureaucracy to the collection, evaluation, and return of student assignments. I understand this is meant to make the process fair by creating a uniform method of collection to relieve the instructor of liability, but I wonder if there are enough cases of dispute regarding the receipt of assignments to merit the additional personnel and costs associated with this method of operation. I will continue to explore this thought tomorrow while I experience the Chelmsford campus iCentre. When speaking with Leah, the post-doc researcher living across the hall from me, it was revealed that there is some variation of a formalized assignment collection process at most English universities, though she admitted to never wondering why it had been set up this way.
I was happy to have the opportunity to speak with Julie Walkling, Director of Student Services, at length on Friday about her experiences and perceptions of Student Services in the UK and what it is like to sit at the table with directors of academic sectors while being treated as a second-class citizen. She had some wonderful insight to offer about the past, present, and future of student services in the UK and how their role may be modified with the impending changes to the funding model. I also had the pleasure of meeting the President of the Anglia Ruskin Student Union, and will be speaking with him this coming Friday to trade ideas and processes about student advocacy and campus programming.
Chelmsford - 11/13/2011
After a 50 minute drive southwest of Cambridge one will arrive at the Chelmsford branch campus of Anglia Ruskin. Chelmsford is spread out and modern while serving a population of traditional and non-traditional students as one would expect from a community college. I began my day by interviewing Nigel, the Chelmsford iCentre manager, who was rather energetic and insightful when speaking of the campus student population and their needs and wants regarding student services and academic expectations. Since this campus does not serve as many students as Cambridge there is a great opportunity for them to reach out to the students and hear their concerns about the structure and processes of both academic and administrative functions of campus. Relationship building was the sentiment that Nigel often spoke of, and how he and his staff are well respected to the point that most see them as an intermediary between the students and faculty/staff. There are times when Nigel has acted synergistically with the Student Union to report student concerns to the Deans in a way that achieves the attention of campus administration to improve upon the current method of business. Nigel was optimistic that when online submissions become the norm, he and his staff will have more of an opportunity to connect with and serve the Chelmsford Students.
Later on in the day I had the opportunity to sit in on the Senior Management Team meeting where Julie Walkling, Michele Capes, Belinda Lennon, and Jane Mu discussed budgeting, strategic planning, current projects, and staffing concerns. Here I had the opportunity to ask pointed questions about current assessments and budgeting models in a non-judgmental environment. Julie also told me that I made her "good news" portion of an earlier meeting because many are excited about the opportunity of partnership with Wright State, and they are planning on visiting our campus and many others in the area during April or May of this year.
Oh Happy Day - 11/14/2011
I believe this is only the second time I have seen blue sky since I have been here and it was a welcome break from the grey drizzle that usually defines Cambridge weather. On this bright sunny day I had an opportunity to catch up on the training matrix project while spending a majority of my time thinking about how I will present myself in the video that will be shown to the 180 staff members of the Student Services Department during a staff development day.
After speaking with the Asst. Director of the Student Services, Michele Capes, at length about the video we came to a consensus that I will need to send an upbeat and positive message that reinforces innovation and an increase in student relations, engagement, and satisfaction. There is a some apprehension from staff members about the impending change that will occur next fall and there has been some sweeping changes made over the past 18 months with regards to staffing and organizational re-focusing which has led to a greater aligning of the department with Anglia Ruskin's mission which is "to extend and facilitate access to higher education by reaching out into the community, particularly to areas where take-up is low, and to people who could benefit from it but for whatever reason(s) encounter obstacles to entry."
In reviewing Anglia Ruskin's Corporate Statement, and Customer Service Excellence documents I found myself a bit turned off by the idea of referring to students as customers. After a bit of research I found that this is a hot-button issue and has been discussed and analyzed from many sides over the past few years. My sentiment is that the word 'customer' carries a certain feeling along with it and I would feel as a higher education customer my money would be valued over my development as a student and budding professional. Also, when customer is used I feel that a certain sense of entitlement comes along with it and some students may think since they are paying they should receive a certain grade regardless of the work that is submitted. Tomorrow at the Senate meeting I am hoping to speak with the Vice Chancellor about his justification for referring to students as customers and I am quite interested in what he has to say. I think it is OK for senior staff to internally refer to students as customers since they are primarily concerned with keeping an institution financially viable but I am hesitant to believe that all students, faculty, and staff would interpret the designation as the senior management would.
Senate and Meeting the Vice Chancellor - 11/16/2011
As you will see I focused on the editing process a bit more in this installment.
Projects, Projects, and More Projects - 11/18/2011
Happy Friday! I have begun to see results of the work that I have taken on as part of my internship. The sign that appears to the left is the basis for the staff development video that I recorded today. There is some heavy editing needed to piece everything together, but I am sure the finished product will not disappoint. I hope you have seen some progression in my video-editing skills. The most recent addition being that of my ride home from campus today. I made sure to use many functions of iMovie that I had not previously explored to try and broaden my knowledge of the program to create higher quality videos. To gain a better understanding of the context that Student Services at Anglia Ruskin fits in, I created/updated an organizational chart that can be found below this post.
Why will no one make eye contact with me? This has been going on since I arrived on the island and was pretty unsettling at first. It has been explained that this is just what the British do, especially in the cities, which was really prevalent in London this past weekend. There is a way around this anti-socialization with strangers though. I have started conversations with just about anyone and it has only failed me once. Basically, I go up to someone with the green Yes sign that I received from my UVC training and ask them to take my picture. If anything, people ask what the sign is all about and I just say that it is about embracing the positivity of life and looking for the bright side of every situation. Once I explain myself most people love it and want their picture taken with it as well so I have a good amount of pictures of happy Brits holding my Yes sign. It's not like I have it with me all the time though. When punting on the River Cam I came withing close proximity to many people on passing punts. At first I tried saying hello as they passed and I was ignored a majority of the time so I decided to change strategies. I guess when someone has an open hand slowly moving towards their direction the general reaction is to make the high five happen. Success!
Aside from trying to make friends everywhere I go I had a wonderful time this past weekend as I explored more of Cambridge by way of Kettle's Yard and the Fitz William, both of which are beautiful art museums. On Sunday I made the trip to London and spent the day with my 'tourist cap' on to see all of the major sites. The highlight of my day was at Trafalgar Square where many street performers displayed their talents in front of the National Gallery.
Today, I finished editing the motivational video for Anglia Ruskin's Away Day and am waiting to hear back for necessary revisions. I think it can be improved upon and will most likely do so anyway, even though it is weird seeing a video of myself that is intended to address the entire department on a giant projector screen. Other than that I am pretty much done with the projects and am shadowing as much as I can with anyone who will allow me. The goal of this week is to take in as much as possible of Anglia Ruskin's discrete functions as well as organizational culture.
Academic Integrity 11/23/2011
Today it was a happy coincidence that there was a mini-conference on campus with a mix of academic and support staff to have a conversation about the academic integrity policy, best practices from other universities, and the current climate of academic integrity at Anglia Ruskin. I was particularly interested because this subject was an area of great attention for me last year as a Graduate Assistant for Community Standards and Student Conduct. The goal of the day was to have a genuine conversation to bring all constituents together to consider policy revision or creation for academic integrity. I was impressed by how the day was set up with most attendants having a specific topic to speak about as the topic relates to their job function within the university. Currently, there is a great lack of consistency with how academic violations are addressed by different faculties (colleges). It became clear that an increased centralization is needed, and I am curious as to what tangible outcomes will form from today's discussion.
In order to give me perspective from all levels, I had the opportunity to lead a staff focus group to collect thoughts and perceptions of training and management communication. I found this hour and a half session to be rather enlightening mainly on the subject of how staff at all levels perceive the current organizational culture and change. It made me think of how easy it is for different levels within an organization can interpret a situation and react to the current direction they are heading.
Wrapping up on 11/24 and 11/25
While wishing all of my colleagues a Happy Thanksgiving I spent the day applying finishing touches to my motivational video for the Away Day, reports to be sent to the Senior Management Team, and working in the iCentre. The iCentre became my usual hang out when I did not have much official business to tend to. I really enjoyed the team there and their light and practical attitude towards their work. Most understood quite clearly what the transition would mean for them and the possibility of their expanding services due to an increased expectation from students for the services they deserve.
Thanksgiving was a wonderful experience, and was spent at the Wrestler pub with Julie, Belinda, Michele, her daughter Eliza, Jane, and two other people I can't quite remember the names of at this moment. We all went around the table and gave thanks for that which we were thankful for at the moment. At this time I was introduced to the English reserve, meaning they do not like to reflect on or speak highly of themselves too much. Their humor is indicative of this as it is quite self-deprecating. If I remember correctly, I said something like: "Today I am thankful for the privileges opportunities and support of family, friends and colleagues that I have received as a result of culture in which I was born. I am thankful to share the joy and grief of those whom I love, and for the opportunity to expand by self-awareness and global perspective."
As of Friday the 25th I had completed my internship projects and spent the afternoon in the iCentre because there were 10 module submissions due that day, many of which had over 100 students. The atmosphere was quite hurried as it became close to 5pm though most students had their work in on time. I did, however, see one man who came late with an extreme sense of disappointment about him. His assignment was not to be collected and he would receive no credit for his work.
Reflection of my experience
Throughout the internship I really enjoyed the autonomy I was granted, mainly because of Michele's busy schedule, which allowed me to experience Anglia Ruskin through many angles. My chief interest with any university is its organizational culture and the project I chose allowed me to delve into a culture like I had not done before. Hearing the perspectives from the senior management, middle management, and staff collectively granted me the opportunity to pick apart the hurdles that needed to be overcome in order to influence a less tumultuous transition by acting as an intermediary between all parties. As I seek to find a place within higher education, I believe a position that will allow me to act similarly as I did at Anglia Ruskin will be the best fit. I am very fortunate to have had this experience and I am looking forward to applying the knowledge I have gained to my career in creating environments of success in higher education.