Interview with Dean of Students
Over the previous term, I had the pleasure of being in email correspondence with the recently appointed Dean of Students, Dr Rebecca Freeman. Her role revolves around the student experience and forming connections between the Personal Tutors/Faculty Senior Tutor and student in order to facilitate personal growth. I asked her a variety of question in order to get an insight into her role and her vision and I’d like to share the responses with you all.
What is your role as the Dean of Students?
‘As Dean of Students, my role is about ensuring that what we do at Warwick has students at the centre. I work students and staff across areas that have an impact on student life at the University. One part of that is promoting personal tutoring which is a really crucial connection between students and their academic department. Having a connection with a member of staff who can encourage and guide you through your time at Warwick should be an important feature of every students’ experience. I work with the Faculty Senior Tutors to train and support personal and senior tutors and also feed into a range of work that goes on across the University to support students, develop strong learning communities, tackle attainment gaps, and challenge inequality.
One really exciting development this year in my team, is the Community Values Education Programme, a project which builds on work by the Students’ Union and the University to offer active bystander training, equipping students with the knowledge, skills and confidence to challenge unacceptable behaviour.’
What is your aim within this role?
‘Personal tutors play a key role in building community and promoting opportunities and support and the role sits alongside lots of other areas including peer mentoring, Wellbeing Services, Careers, the Students’ Union. Ensuring really good communication between different parts of the University is a key aim to ensure that it is straightforward to navigate support and opportunities and make the most of them.’
How do you aim to engage with the student voice in this role?
‘I previously worked in the School of Life Sciences as Director of Student Experience there, and I know that together we come up with the best ideas that really make a difference. For me, working together is the only way to develop policies and practices that work, are relevant and are able to adapt when needed. I have the privilege in this role, of working closely with the Students’ Union and working with students who are leading work developing education in their departments. In the next few months, we’ll be working to develop a campaign to promote really good personal tutoring, starting with student stories about what works for them.
We also run the Warwick Awards for Personal Tutoring Excellence each year and really encourage students to nominate those personal and senior tutors who make a huge difference to your experience (nominations are open until the 27 Feb).’
How do you think personal tutors can assist students?
‘The personal tutor/student relationship can be so valuable but it takes work from both sides. Your tutor should be a key contact throughout your time at University, helping you expand your academic potential and interests, and make connections with other opportunities, but that relationship takes work. When I think about my own personal tutor as a student, he helped me feel like I had a legitimate place within my discipline, asked questions about my work, and encouraged me to explore the wide range of opportunities available but I have to admit I wasn’t always great at prioritising our meetings! Turn up and keep your tutor updated with how you are getting on to make the most of value of what it can bring.’
Do you think this is currently being done effectively or to its full capacity?
‘Every student should have a personal tutor and a lot of work was done by the previous Dean of Students and Departments to ensure that standards of personal tutoring are in place and that tutors are aware of the wide range of opportunities and support available at Warwick. Tutors receive training and we are always working hard to support departments to develop when there are particular challenges. We know how important the connection between students and academics is so we are not complacent and are continually developing what we do to meet new challenges and keep personal tutoring high on departmental agendas.’
How would you advise a student to gain the most from their personal tutor?
‘Turn up and talk to them! Even if you don’t think you have much to talk about or things are going really well, when a meeting comes up, turn up anyway and tell them how you are getting on. It is important to keep in touch. Never assume that your questions or concerns are trivial, your personal tutor is there to help you navigate academic life so even if they don’t know the answer to a question, they are there to work with you to find out.’
Do you see the relationship between personal tutor and student as academic, pastoral or a combination?
‘Personal tutoring should be an enriching experience that enables students to reach their full potential, and a good personal tutor will encourage you to reflect on your academic interests and progress, as well as your personal development and employability skills. There are lots of places in the University that offer support and opportunities including Wellbeing Services, Student Opportunities, the Residential Life Team, Chaplaincy and the Library and your personal tutor can connect you to these. Every department also has at least one Senior Tutor so if you don’t feel comfortable talking to your personal tutor, there should always be someone else to offer support.’
From this interview, you can see the crucial role that Rebecca plays with respect to personal tutors and senior departmental tutors. She is focusing on creating an integrated experience throughout your time at Warwick, including wider areas such as peer mentoring, Wellbeing Services, Careers, the Students’ Union. Warwick Values campaign champions respect for staff and students alike and it is clear from what Rebecca has said that these are at the core of the work she does as the Dean of Students.
With the Warwick Awards for Personal Tutoring Excellence on the horizon, I would urge all students to utilise the resources available, in order to excel themselves academically and personally and provide feedback via nominations.
Link for Nominations: