Being an AUA Advocate | AUA Blog
Ashleigh King MAUA | Alumni Programmes Manager, Advancement, Corporate Affairs Directorate Newcastle University | AUA Advocate 2018
Why do you do it?
I hadn’t ever planned to be an AUA Advocate as I felt this was a role only appropriate for a more senior colleague, however I jumped at the opportunity to take on this voluntary role when asked to by my University Registrar.
In my institution there are a small amount of funded places for the AUA Conference each year as well as some funding for the PgCert, so places are highly competitive. In recognition of these opportunities and the support to the AUA from our Registrar, I wanted to give back my time and energy to create more of a presence of the AUA within our institution, and highlight the need for and benefits of professional accreditation for staff.
The role of an Advocate has been really fun, I’ve been able to meet colleagues from across my University as well as other Higher Education Institutions, both nationally and across the globe.
During this role I have been able to raise my profile and gain strategic experience I might not have had the opportunity to otherwise. I feel that this has helped me to progress internally, and I know that my colleague Alex who has been a Joint Branch Advocate at Newcastle would agree as she has recently been promoted to a senior role.
I have been able to listen to colleagues across my institution and find out what they would like from our network, and advocate on their behalf for an appropriate solution. An example of this is that many of our colleagues who go through the PgCert find it difficult so we are looking into how we can support our staff better to ensure their success.
What has been the best bit so far?
I have enjoyed attending New Staff Welcome Events representing the AUA and telling colleagues about the importance of professional recognition right from their starting months of joining the University. It has also been fun to see our members grow from 26 to 40 paid members, and a special interest group from 40 to 90 (not all members, but some interested in potentially becoming members).
My favourite part of being an AUA Advocate has been the annual conference and catching up with other Advocates across the country, sharing ideas and best practice. I have loved organising all of the logistics and details, and seeking ways to save money for the institution by taking more of a strategic approach to booking hotels, and travel. Making use of early bird tickets and centralising purchases means a fair and consistent experience for all colleagues, and we can have fun together as we are on the same train journeys, and have a meal together the night before the conference. This is a great way to network and bond with colleagues you might not normally have the chance to meet, who perhaps work in a different part of the campus.
I also enjoyed that following an event at our University, two colleagues at a local University joined as Advocates at their institution and we have been working collaboratively to plan future activity together. Working together means we can pool resources which is so valuable when you are taking on additional tasks voluntarily.
I have recently decided to leave the University’s employment and accept a place to return to my studies fulltime, to pursue a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) at Newcastle and will soon stepdown from my AUA Advocate role. I’m pleased that through developing internal networks, I’ve been able to help recruit advocates to continue the hard work we have been doing and I’m excited to see what they achieve, building on our current foundations.
Would you recommend the role?
Taking on the role of an AUA advocate is a fantastic opportunity and I’m so pleased to have volunteered in this way for the last year. I have personally found the role really rewarding and I know that if I was not returning to study I would be looking to continue volunteering as an Advocate or eventually a Regional Co-ordinator or another position within the AUA.
I would urge more colleagues interested in taking on this role, or any of the other roles such as joining the AUA Board of Trustees, editorial boards or similar to grab the opportunity, and make the most of it.
By taking on a role outside of your institution you are highlighting your willingness and enthusiasm to work above and beyond, gaining valuable skills, knowledge and vocabulary to support your personal development and progression, and this is something which means a lot to senior management.
Similarly you gather a lot of soft skills, the ability to multi-task and prioritise and a nuanced level of strategic awareness of the external factors affecting Higher Education at this time.
Featured image: Newcastle University Staff at the AUA Conference 2018 Image credit: © Tempest Photography