UWE Bristol staff stories - Suzanne
Suzanne is the Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity at UWE Bristol.
When did you join UWE Bristol?
"I joined UWE Bristol in 2012, having previously worked at another university. While I was working there I completed a part-time masters in Research Methods focusing on educational inequality in higher education. The masters involved working on research that informed changes in the delivery of services for students and I wanted to continue to ensure that research into differential outcomes and experiences informs the development of better student experiences.
"I was looking for an opportunity to develop my career in this direction when a perfect job came up at UWE Bristol as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer. This involved informing the delivery of outreach programmes for schools to widen access to university."
Whilst studying research methods, what attracted you to this type of research?
"I think that knowledge is really important and gives people power, which then allows them to make decisions to either include or exclude different groups of people. Decisions you make in research about who you might include, what knowledge you’re going to gain, the types of methods you’re going to use all inform the knowledge you get as a result and therefore the decisions you make.
"I wanted to make sure universities were making decisions that were supporting all students to succeed and were not disadvantaging certain groups of students systematically."
What projects have you been involved in during your time at UWE Bristol?
"I have been lucky enough to be involved in some really interesting externally funded projects. I developed a bid for an outreach programme called Future Quest, which is a collaboration involving state secondary schools and universities in the local area. We were successful in getting the funding and now more than 3,000 students each year from over 30 schools in Bristol take part in really interesting activities which we hope will increase their likelihood of studying in higher education. Following on from the Future Quest bid, I was asked to take on the management of a range of other externally-funded projects, one of which helped us to develop our Mental Wealth Strategy. I saw these projects as a way of taking a step ahead and making some big changes within the University.
"I have also been involved for the whole time I’ve been at UWE Bristol with our Access and Participation plan, which is the University’s plan for how we are going to increase the diversity of our students and ensure all students have equal opportunities to succeed. I’ve been able to use my knowledge of educational inequality and higher education policy, gained from my masters, in this work. We have a long way to go still, particularly in improving the experience for our BME students but I’m confident UWE Bristol can achieve this and am excited to be working with so many people who are committed to this work."
What has been your experience of change during your career?
"Change is a big part of everyone’s working life now and can be really exciting. It gives us an opportunity for us to improve, try new things and learn from them. However, at times it can feel really difficult and can lead to self doubt. Everyone feels like this, but generally we don't talk about it. I have definitely spent time thinking “I can’t do this, I don’t know what I’m doing”. However, I kept going despite these thoughts and things have always got better."
Did you have any support when navigating through these changes and what did you find helpful?
"I have really appreciated my line manager for providing support and being there to listen to me. I’ve also got some really strong relationship with my peers, which have helped me and I have developed relationships with people who are more senior than me who I admire.
"I have also formed relationships with people who have different perspectives from my own. I think it’s good to challenge yourself and hear different perspectives. Outside of work, my wife has been supportive and understanding, which has given me huge amounts of strength."
What is the focus of your current role and team?
"I have been in my current role as Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity since January 2019. My team and I have three key purposes, to coordinate and lead the UWE Bristol plan for equality, diversity and inclusivity; to embed inclusive practice within the University; and to bring about step changes in practice through projects.
"One project coming up will involve working with the NHS on their 2030 long-term plan to imbed and improve outcomes for students. Another new project is called Project Search, which will be starting in autumn 2019 and will involve students with learning difficulties from City of Bristol College spending a year at UWE Bristol completing work placements to prepare them for the world of work. In addition, Equity and UWE Cares remain really important projects that test out new ways to support students to achieve their aims.
"My role is to support the team and to make sure we are making enough progress towards our goals. It’s a busy job but it’s really diverse and I like that."
What values in the workplace are important to you?
"The transformational nature and power of education is really important to me and I wanted to help others to get such opportunities.
"My values are very similar to UWE Bristol’s values, such as being inclusive and ambitious as a university. One of the targets in the 2030 strategy is to remove attainment gaps for students and ensure that all students achieve the same level, which I strongly believe we can achieve.
"UWE Bristol has a strong commitment to LGBT+ equality through activities such as its
involvement with Stonewall. I think the best thing about working at
UWE Bristol is that equality, diversity and inclusivity is
recognised as being important."