AUA North Wales and North West Regional Conference | AUA Blog

My Reflections of the AUA North Wales and North West Regional Conference.
Leadership, Challenges and Change within HE

Dean Marshall AMAUA | Education Placement Administrator, University of Cumbria

The day started with a mixture of trepidation and excitement – will the months of planning pay off, will everything run to time and more importantly will delegates enjoy what the day ahead has to offer? This was to be the first time I had organised a conference so I was unsure what to expect, not to mention this being the first time the University of Cumbria had hosted an AUA event so the pressure seemed that much greater to deliver! However, having Colleagues and fellow Advocates on hand to help provided a great sense of reassurance.

The first of our delegates arrived and made their way to the reception desk. After passing over their delegate pack and a quick chat more delegates arrived, and the room’s atmosphere quickly became lively with eighty five enthusiastic colleagues from across the network engaging in conversation over a brew, excited for the day ahead.

The day began with Professor Julie Mennell, Vice Chancellor at the University of Cumbria, giving an insight into the challenges the HE sector faces; a speech well received amongst attendees and an excellent way to kick-start the days Twitter feeds. What then followed was the start of non facilitated workshops covering a wide range of themes including Improving Team and Individual Performance, Peacocks ‘Vs’ Penguins, and the much anticipated Leadership Through a Hollywood Lens, which I believe was a great hit amongst its attendees.

Lunch provided fellow colleagues and myself a chance to recharge, ready for the afternoon ahead; and while presentations are of course an integral part of the conference, the day needs to facilitate networking, and lunchtime provided the perfect opportunity. Again, the room was lively and it was nice to see so many colleagues come together and engaging in interesting conversation, sharing ideas and expanding their professional network. Colleagues had clearly enjoyed the morning by some of the feedback that had started to appear via Mentimeeter, alongside the odd suggestion of a delegate list and biscuits on arrival! Both of which will be on my ‘to do’ list next time, should the opportunity arise.

With everyone fed and fuelled it was time for the afternoon sessions to commence; the afternoon was again filled with a range of workshops, and as I walked around the building looking through classroom doors there certainly seemed to be a lot of active engagement. It was at this point I breathed a huge sigh of relief, all seemed to be going well, in fact I could not have asked for anything more! Therefore, I took the opportunity to hide myself away and take a moment to reflect on the day so far…

The day had been the accumulation of hard work amongst a wide range of colleagues working within the Professional Services at the University of Cumbria from; Timetabling, Central Administration, Estates and not to forget Catering – could you imagine having to contend with eighty five hungry delegates? In addition to this was the willingness of AUA members from across the North Wales and North West Network to facilitate working sessions, the support of Simon Vaukins, our Regional coordinator, and the AUA team in Manchester. The event took months of planning to make the day what it was and although some of this now seems a distant memory, I cannot stress enough the importance of starting the process as early in advance as possible. This was especially important in terms of having speakers and presenters firmly in place and rooms booked far in advance, as these provide the skeleton on which to build the day. Again, running ideas past colleagues is always worthwhile, there will always be something that that has not crossed your mind. This might be the odd suggestion, through to ensuring you have included enough transition time between sessions.

The afternoon seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, and before I knew it, sessions had concluded and delegates were making their way to the plenary session, where colleagues from Edge Hill provided an interesting insight into the challenges that the Teaching Excellence Framework brings, especially for universities within the North Wales and North West Network.

Concluding the day’s events was down to myself, something that I had dreaded all day. Standing up In front of an audience is something that does not sit comfortably, although it was a chance to put into action what I had learnt at the Once More with Impact day. A course I would recommend to other AUA members who suffer from the anxiety of public speaking.

So what do I take from today and the past few months of preparation? On a personal level it was the chance to plan and deliver my first conference and experience life ‘behind the scenes’ whilst having the opportunity to work collaboratively both within my own institution and the wider AUA network. I also had the pleasure to work with so many supportive colleagues who were on hand to help and ensure the day went by with no major hick-ups, which made it so much more enjoyable for all. My advice to anyone thinking of embarking on such a journey is to observe and listen to delegates, you will not get everything right first time and remember, most importantly, enjoy the day. I know I certainly did.

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