As part of the AUA’s Student Experience and Engagement network, we’re conducting interviews with those who work in the field. A wide variety of roles and teams support the improvement of student experience and engagement within universities. Our interview series helps to shine a light on those who are working in these roles, so that others can learn more about the many different ways that we’re approaching this area of work across the sector.
In this edition, we hear from Lizy Holder, Student Experience Project Manager at Bath Spa University.
What does your team do and where does it ‘sit’ within Bath Spa?
I am part of the wider Student Experience department at the University, which includes teams such as Student Wellbeing Services, Library and Learning Services and Careers and Employability. My role sits outside of these three distinct areas and looks at cross-university projects and communication with current students.
Why did you want to work for Bath Spa University?
I had worked with the University in my previous role at a PR agency and loved the culture and what it stood for. I had also made relationships with the staff there that I had worked with and knew it would be a great place to work.
What’s the thing you’ve achieved since starting at Bath Spa that you’re most proud of?
I took on the organisation and development of SPA (Special Projects and Activities) Week when I first joined. It was a brand new week long initiative that would involve the whole University community and it was really rewarding to bring it to life and watch it grow. I was able to put my own stamp on it as it had never been done before, and have since created relationships with staff from across the University as well as external companies and individuals who have contributed to the weeks.
What’s one project you’re currently working on / about to start that you’re excited about?
I am working with our External Affairs Unit to create a suite of welcome pages for our new and returning students for the start of the new academic year. There is so much information that new students in particular need before arriving, and this has only increased with COVID. It’s a really important piece of work, as it sets our new students up for a smooth transition into University life and involves academic colleagues, as well as many of our professional services departments who all contribute to the pages.
In what ways are your students different from the ‘typical perception of University students’?
Creativity is at the heart of our students, as well as being entrepreneurial and environmentally aware. Many of our campuses are rural and our students are really dedicated to the wildlife – a team of students and staff recently worked together to raise awareness of hedgehogs at our Newton Park campus, and make changes to the environment as a result. Thanks to their hard work Bath Spa University is now a recognised Hedgehog Friendly Campus having been awarded a Bronze Accreditation by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
Diving a bit deeper, are there any unique / special student events that take place at Bath Spa?
SPA Week, which has now evolved to become SPA Sessions, is unique to Bath Spa. It’s a series of events and workshops run throughout the academic year, aimed at providing students with opportunities outside of their course. It focuses on five key themes of wellbeing, career enhancing, inspiring, socialising and upskilling. Events could range from adobe InDesign workshops to a forest school taster session, and we’ve even had diving!
What communications channel gets the best engagement with your students?
Definitely Instagram in the last couple of years in terms of social media, but students still want important information over email.
Have you ever done any collaborative work with people from other universities?
In Bath we have a Student Community Partnership that works across both Universities in the city to connect students and the local community and enhance the relationship. I am part of various sub groups that look at river safety and personal safety and as part of these groups, ideas and initiatives are shared across the two Students’ Unions and universities which works really well and ensures a joined up approach to big issues affecting all students in Bath.
Are there any examples of projects where you’re collaborating closely with students?
We have just released a dedicated postgraduate publication called Postgrad Post. The idea started based on student feedback from our postgraduate reps, and I have worked very closely with one of our current postgraduate students who has taken it on and written it, with input from her peers. We hope it continues into next academic year and becomes a trimesterly publication solely for postgraduate students.
Onto the questions about you! The person who has influenced you the most is…
My husband, as he is someone who always works hard and goes out of his way to be kind and helpful to anyone he meets.
Work life balance – what leisure activity do you enjoy the most?
Most recently, walking our new puppy Crumble!
Superb name! What is a piece of wisdom you would pass on?
You can never be too organised.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
The cast of Harry Potter!
And finally… what would your superpower be?
To fly, so we could cut down the length of time it takes to get to Norfolk to visit family!
If you work in a role related to student experience and engagement and would like to share your story, then please get in touch with the Student Experience and Engagement Network Coordinator – David Gilani