The View from the General Office…

By Deanna McCarthy

When I joined the LiFTS General Office in March 2016, I was eager to see things from “behind the scenes”. When I was a Language & Literature student here at Essex, I never really gave much thought to what those in the admin offices actually do. My experience with the admin team (in both the LiFTS and the Language & Linguistics department) was often extremely brief. I would hand in or collect coursework or enquire whether my marks were back (FASer was in its infancy when I studied here from 2009-2012 and I normally received my feedback handwritten – oh how times have changed!) and then leave for my lectures or to try and grab a study space in the library.

However, it turns out (as our previous Student Engagement Intern Sam said in his post earlier this year) that it takes an awful lot to run an academic department and the General Office have a bigger role than you may think. So in case you’re interested, here’s a brief rundown of what we do all year (no Easter or summer break for us!)…

Coursework

The main procedural work in the General Office is centred on coursework. From setting up each deadline for every module on FASer over the summer to working out when the marks are due back, there’s always something to do. Once a coursework deadline has passed, we use FASer to download your work to send to the tutor(s) for marking. If you haven’t submitted anything at all or submitted after the 12 noon deadline (trust us, we know!), we then set about sending the late submission emails. We receive the marks back and after sending a selection for second marking or moderation if appropriate, we add them to the University database and upload your feedback to FASer, all within the standard four week turnaround time. Weeks 11, 25 and 30 are our busiest coursework times with an average of 30-40 deadlines to process each week!

Attendance Monitoring & Approval

Another admin task is attendance monitoring. There are checkpoints in weeks 4, 6, 9, 17 & 20 and all students who have fallen below the expected threshold are contacted to see their Personal Tutor, Departmental Progress Officer or the Dean. As with the late submission correspondence, these emails are sent out individually by us. Once the meeting has taken place, we produce a brief summary of what was said and agreed.  Additionally, we approve or reject the absence requests.

Social Media

Here in the General Office, we update the LiFTS social media (Facebook and Twitter) every day with relevant news and information for you all. Back in the summer of 2016, I also had an idea to create a LiFTS blog and this is the result! I’m really pleased with how the first year has gone and what we have published so far. However, there is always room for improvement so I will be working on a strategy over the summer to increase readership. Any suggestions are warmly welcomed!

Also We…

  • Create, edit and process all the SAMT surveys which are emailed/given to students at the end of the Spring Term.
  • Help with the preparation for the Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught  Exam boards, including selecting and printing samples for each module for the External Examiners to look at.
  • Solve any Timetable clashes, queries and changes throughout year.
  • Ensure the correct films are with the Media Centre every week so the film screenings can take place in LTB10.
  • Deal with room bookings (hello Drama students!) to ensure students have adequate space to rehearse their drama practicals and accommodate their film shoots.
  • Help with the running of Applicant Days, Open Days and Welcome Week including collating all the materials needed for these occasions.
  • We are also the committee secretaries for the Undergraduate Advisory Group and Student Staff Liaison Committee and write up the minutes for publication.

Apart from all this and more of course, our day is filled with chatting to all the lovely students and staff who pass by the office to submit coursework, book rooms or just come and say hello!

Working in the office allows us to see student’s academic progress from when they were bright-eyed first years during Welcome Week to their last days as a LiFTS student enjoying their Graduation ceremony.

I have really loved my year in the LiFTS General Office and look forward to this year’s Graduation on 21st July to congratulate you on all your hard work!

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GIF credit: tumblr.com (sourced via giphy.com)

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