It’s back – FMS is holding its second Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Week, and we hope to see you there!
After last year’s success including the celebration of our Athena SWAN Silver Award, we are holding the Faculty’s second EDI Week for staff and students! We have a range of events lined up and listed below so that you can hear about the progress and ongoing work around EDI, and learn more about current issues that might be relevant to you.
Don’t miss out – take a look at what we’ve got lined up and book yourself in! We hope to see you at one of our events!
Monday 24th February:
The EDI Strategy & Our Day-to-day Roles – 10-11.30am, FMS Boardroom To launch the week we’ll be hearing from a number of panellists within the Faculty and beyond, talking about how they would like to interpret and translate our EDI strategy in their day-to-day roles. Read more and register.
Multicultural Event – 12:30-2pm, David Shaw Foyer Organised by the Dental School, this event aims to celebrate our staff/student community by sharing presentations about the various cultures, faiths, traditions and foods within FMS. All are welcome to attend!
Tuesday 25th February:
Imposter Syndrome with Rachel Tobbell – 12-2pm, Leech L2.4 This interactive workshop will explore the experiences of ‘Imposter Syndrome’: how it affects us, how societal pressures can exacerbate the problem, how such internal doubts impact on our lives and what we can do to manage those feelings. Read more and register.
Wednesday 26th February:
LGBT Lives – 12-2pm, Ridley Building 2, Room 1.58 As part of celebrations for LGBTQ+ History month as well as EDI Week, come along and listen to a panel discussion with members of the Rainbow LGBTQ+ staff network as they delve into the day-to-day experiences of working and being LGBTQ+ at Newcastle and in HE. Read more and register.
Thursday 27th February:
Breakfast with Athene Donald – 9.30-10.30am, FMS Boardroom Join the Master of Churchill College at the University of Cambridge, Athene Donald for this session, aimed primarily at ECRs and Fellows, in which you can discuss reconciling the risks of a contract-based research career with a long term vision of making a difference in academia. Breakfast included! Read more and register here.
Plenary with Athene Donald: The Art of Survival – 12.30-2.00pm, David Shaw Lecture Theatre As a longstanding champion of women in academia, Athene Donald will talk about her experiences and strategies developed during her career to help her succeed, and the value of passing on such knowledge to help others survive within institutions. Read more and register here.
Personal Resilience: A taster session, with Lisa Rippingale – 12-2pm, Leech L2.4 This workshop aims to provide participants with a range of tools and techniques to develop their personal resilience. Read more and register here.
Our previous student intern, Georgia Spencer, interviewed Dr Ruth Valentine as part of our Demystifying Leadership blog series to learn all about what the role of Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Studies entails.
What are your main responsibilities in your role?
I’m the Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Studies, meaning I support the Dean of Undergraduate Studies in shaping, developing, and enhancing the Undergraduate programme in FMS.
The most important part of
my job is quality assurance, meaning I must ensure the programmes that we
deliver are of the standard that they should be. A large part of my role is
also strategic; developing new programmes, making decisions, and leading
projects, so I often need to approach tasks with a business head. I also work
with the learning and teaching staff to ensure a culture in which they feel
fully supported and recognised.
The Deputy Dean position is my second role, and has been somewhat of an add on to my other job within the School of Dental Science. There, my research is in nutrient gene interactions, with a specific focus on zinc and fluoride.
What does an average day look like for you?
As I’m sure many others in
roles such as these have said, there just isn’t an average day. As I
essentially have two roles, my days are a mix of both, which has been
difficult. I try to do two days a week in the Faculty Office, but I’m often
juggling my commitments in each area.
Since stepping into the role, I’ve dropped some of my research, and officially I now just do teaching and scholarships, I’ve found that my responsibilities as Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Studies fit better with teaching than research. However, I do still feel like I do research, as my role is often like market research; investigating how to develop a great program through methods such as student surveys and reviews.
What do you enjoy most
about your role?
I love this role as it
allows me to have influence at a University level, not just in Dentistry. I’m
very passionate about widening participation and inspiring the next generation,
and as Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Studies, I have been able to push for this
across the whole Faculty. For example, considering how take home exams will
work for those without internet access at home, and how the University can help
to fund trips. I feel very proud of this and our widening participation
I also like that I’m able to check everything and be very thorough. I can look across the whole Faculty and see how certain areas can be improved. I can make sure I’m questioning everything, and asking the right questions, such as why we’re assessing students in a certain way, or if they like it. I find this really interesting, as I can be inquisitive about everything. The job also gives me a real sense of satisfaction when new programmes I’ve helped design are rolled out to students.
What do you feel you get
out of your role?
Firstly, I feel like it
gives me a platform to fight for the students and ensure that they’re being
prioritised. I love that we can support them through schemes such as the Intu Scheme,
for students who aren’t quite ready. This means we never have to compromise the
quality of our degree programmes, and can be proud that they’re really good,
but we can still give extra support to the students who need it to make sure
everything is still fair.
What do you think is your
biggest achievement in your role?
In the long term, I feel
that championing widening participation and helping to eradicate the elitist
attitude that has existed in Universities historically has been my biggest
achievement, simply because I feel so strongly that this is very important. My
role has given me a bigger arena to make a difference, which is such a special
position to be in.
I’ve also loved introducing a new program, Dietetics, which starts in 2020. I feel that I got it through the Faculty and got it to the place where the DPD can create a fantastic course. It will be in the new building, with new kitchens and sensory booths, which is just great.
What made you want to
apply for the role?
When I applied, I was doing
an Associate Postgraduate Taught role and really wanted to learn more about
Undergraduate, as well as expanding my influence to create change. Really, I
just saw this role as a progression from my Postgraduate Taught role. As Deputy
Undergraduate Dean, I still look after the quality assurance of Postgraduate
Taught, so I continue have elements of my old job incorporated into this one.
Before I applied, I chatted
informally with the Dean of Undergraduate Studies about the role and how it
would impact my career development, which gave me a clearer view of whether the
position was right for me. I was also helped to apply by my close colleagues.
They encouraged me, supported me, and gave me the confidence to put my name
Have you had any prior
leadership roles or training opportunities that helped prepare you for this
I did the Leadership
Foundation Programme for the Directors of Excellence in Learning and Teaching,
where I found out a lot more about leadership. I was then put forward for the
Academic Leaders Programme by the Faculty, which was a programme run in
cooperation between Durham and Newcastle. I found this programme really helpful;
especially elements such as the 360 feedback, and the small leadership sessions
on coaching, which was a really useful technique that I’ve used since. I also
was able to make valuable links with people in other Faculties and at Durham,
including more senior people who were able to advise me. I also had mentorship
from NU Women when I first took on my prior role.
In my interview for my previous
role, I had to do a five-minute presentation about my vision for the role. No
prompts. No PowerPoint. But I’d say this was a great learning experience, as it
helped to show me that I can speak up and champion causes.
What have you learnt
since starting your role?
I think a key thing its
taught me is that I’m more of a strategy person and I don’t want to manage
people so much. This has helped to confirm for me that I’m in the right role
and on the right path. I’ve also reduced my research, which I never would’ve
seen myself doing three or four years ago. This has really helped shape the
direction of my career.
My position has also given
me a lot of insight into the wider University as a whole. I never realised when
I applied that I’d be involved with Kings Gate, for example. It’s allowed me to
branch out and make a difference both across other Faculties, as well as
externally at a national level.
What have you found more
challenging in your role?
I’ve found time management difficult, because I’ve tried to do it all. But I’ve learnt from this that you simply can’t. Something has to give; you can’t do it all. But I feel like I’ve got the balance right now. I’ve accepted my own capabilities and I let go of my previous admissions responsibilities, which has given me more time. I’ve gained more confidence in saying no and have learnt to delegate.
I initially dreaded working
on appeals. But I’ve learnt that I’m not that bad at them, and I’m proud that
I’ve shown others and myself that I can do it.
How do you balance the
role with your other commitments?
With two small children, it’s
been important to have a really good attitude towards work-life balance. Even
though no academic role is 9-5, really good time management during the day, as
well as delegating to others, has helped give me my evenings with my family.
I’m also very strict on not checking emails during holidays and there’s very
little travel involved in my role, other than the occasional conference in
My line manager has also been very aware and very understanding of my family commitments. For example, with the University Education Committee which starts at 8am, she’s very understanding if I’m not able to get there for it. Sometimes, you just have to decide you’re spending time with your family.
When it comes to my family, my husband is very supportive, and we share everything completely. I’d like to be a good role model to my daughter by being successful in my career while balancing it with my outside commitments.
Thank you to Ruth Valentine for taking the time to speak to us about her role! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the roles and responsibilities involved in being Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Studies (and a special thank you to Georgia for giving us such a wonderful series!).
Talking Equality, Diversity & Inclusion in the Faculty of Medical Sciences and at Newcastle University.