In November, the Association of University Directors of Estates (AUDE) launched the Covid Heroes campaign; an initiative to acknowledge and celebrate frontline estates and facilities staff in universities for their efforts in keeping staff and students safe during the 2020 lockdowns.
Thanks to the incredible work of our staff in ahs and Estates, the University was able to remain open throughout the pandemic.
In part one of this series, we speak to four members of staff in ahs. Look out for part two where we will speak to members of staff in Estates.
Interview with Sarah Amro and Sean Foster
What does your daily work include?
Sean: In June 2021 I moved into the Student Living Communications Coordinator role. As part of this role, I send out various communications to students within student accommodation and gather feedback throughout the academic year. During the summer months I will be part of the team dealing with the allocation of new students as well as dealing with summer bookings on campus. I’ve been employed by the University of Bath for seven years now. Previously I worked as a Deputy Accommodation Operations Team Leader.
Sarah: I started in summer 2019 as a Conference and Events Coordinator, part of the commercial arm of the University. We then merged with the Student Accommodation team to form the Student Living and Guest Experience team. This started with the formation of the Covid Hub, which the events team headed up, with the help of the operations, hospitality and various other teams. This predominately involved managing outbreaks on campus – making sure these were processed and the correct information/guidance was given to the students. Due to the time-sensitive nature of this, processing had to be swift and procedure needed to be followed correctly and in line with ever-changing guidance. We also managed and arranged quarantine for the international student arrivals, alongside testing. This all required round-the-clock working to ensure students were supported throughout the pandemic, whether they needed isolation guidance, a room to quarantine in, or tests to enable them to travel.
How has the pandemic affected your work?
Sean: In November 2020 I was seconded from my role as a DTL to the Covid Hub to deal with the operational side of the Covid outbreaks on campus. This included ensuring the students had everything they needed, whether it be laundry services or entertainment (games, Xboxes etc.). I ensured the signs with the dates of isolation were on the household doors to ensure the University community knew which households were in isolation. This role continued throughout the academic year until I was put into post as a Student Living Communications Coordinator. Since then, I’ve been part of a small team who’ve organised the quarantine of overseas students and continued with this year's isolation process.
Sarah: The nature of my role changed completely, I went from managing conferences and events to assisting the student accommodation team and then forming part of the Covid Hub team. The past two years have been a whirlwind and required a different working pattern, in an ever-changing environment. For intake this year, we organised quarantine for thousands of students, in order to provide a smooth transition into their university journey, despite still being in a daunting pandemic. Currently, alongside my usual event duties, I still monitor outbreaks on campus, quarantine requirements, general enquiries for all things Covid, and also providing PCR testing.
Though it seems as though we may be back in full swing this summer, things are different to how they were in the events world.
What have been the greatest challenges during this time?
Sean: This year we’ve organised quarantine for overseas students. My role was to allocate over 800 rooms to students who’ve travelled from abroad for their quarantine period. On top of this we organised all the testing for the students and dealt with many enquiries whilst reacting to the fast-paced changes of the Government’s ever-changing lists (red, amber, green). This was the biggest challenge for our team. Now we’re three months into students being back on campus and are dealing with the steady flow of positive Covid cases and self-isolation.
Sarah: We had to completely adjust to a new style of working and were under a lot of pressure, not just because of the nature of the new tasks but because we were amid a pandemic. We had to deal with ever-changing guidance and create new systems/processes in a very short space of time. We also went from regular office hours to having to incorporate shifts and late-night working - as you had to be on hand for the students 24/7.
A positive thing to come out of all this however, was being able to work closely and interact with on a daily basis with other departments and stakeholders. There was also a comradery and team spirit that got us through the stressful period. I think everyone really banded together, supported each other and maintained a positive attitude throughout.
How have other colleagues supported you during this time?
Sean: Colleagues across ahs have been great. As a team we work very well together and have supported each other throughout the pandemic. The operations and hospitality teams have worked hard to ensure the isolating and quarantining students are well fed and the rooms cleaned ready for the next arrivals. We’ve done this whilst continuing to deliver the best student experience for our students in our normal everyday roles at the University of Bath.
Sarah: This really showed me that when working as a team you can achieve great things in highly pressured scenarios. We came together to support the students and each other, it was a joint effort to make sure things ran smoothly and despite the situation we ensured our duty to the students did not suffer. We put our usual roles and ways of working aside and focused on the task at hand.