Student Desk – Return to Campus
By Catherine McDonnell and the Student Desk Team
The start of term is an intense time for all of us across campus as we get ready to greet our new students and welcome back the returning cohort. Here on the Student Desk in UCD Registry is no different. Preparation for a September 2021 return to campus was done from our dispersed locations over Zoom, email and Hangout Chats. Accustomed to last minute changes we appended every plan/idea with ‘..if we are not on campus, we’ ll have to do this differently’. But if the last year and a half has taught us anything it’s that we’ll get the job done no matter what the location.
Every September, to support the incoming first years and continuing students, the Student Desk team expands from an 8 person team to a 20+ person team for 6 weeks. Planning this year included recruitment, an upgrade of the call centre, ordering equipment and supplies, preparing for appointments, working on our chatbot, streamlining our official documents orders, all while the team is doing the usual business of supporting students. On the 03 August (the majority of) the team came to work on campus and here’s what they had to say about it.
In advance of the team’s return to the Tierney building it was important to prepare the physical space for their arrival. My priority is to keep the team safe and ensure they are equipped to do so. Technical equipment needed to be serviced and reviewed. This was carried out in July and did mean liaising with colleagues on campus in Belfield. Now that we have returned we have to adapt to the team working on campus and remotely from the distributed office. We will maintain our group communication and updates via Google Chat and we will continue to work as an extended team.
I was looking forward to coming back and felt fairly safe knowing we’d be following the health guidelines. To help with the upcoming busy period I worked on a new chatbot to answer questions incoming students might have. It’s a nice change coming in and seeing everyone again. It was kind of strange for a few minutes but now it feels normal in a good way! The main difference being in the office in terms of work is the opening of the upgraded phones which took a bit of getting used to at first.
What I was looking forward to the most was seeing everyone again. It’s nice to be able to have a laugh and it makes the day go a lot quicker! In preparation for returning to the office, I was involved in streamlining the production of official documents. Remote working had a major impact on document production so we reviewed and changed our process. The new system resulted in a much improved average wait time for students and alumni and a clean slate for the upcoming busy period.
Returning to campus was kind of exciting, to be honest! Driving in through the main gates and seeing students arriving, dragging their heavy cases behind them, the new works in progress and the campus visibly coming back to life was refreshing to see. Likewise, inside the Student Desk, the smiles and chatter of our team reuniting in person after so long apart was heartwarming and simply fun. With windows flung wide open, the fresh air flowing through the building, all feel familiar and safe inside, while the general hustle and bustle outside signals change and positivity that is long overdue.
For the first time this year, I took part in the interviewing process for the temporary staff hired for the busy start of trimester. Interviews were conducted via Zoom and while we are very familiar with it and it has proved essential in quarantine and lockdown times, it does not compare to meeting people live and in person. As such, I am looking forward to meeting the successful candidates when they start on the 30 August in Tierney.
As soon as I entered the Tierney building, I felt a nice atmosphere as my team was already there. All safety rules are followed so I don’t feel uncomfortable around others. It’s definitely nice to be back on campus and to communicate with colleagues face to face. Working from home I was recruiting seasonal staff for our busy registration period. We interviewed candidates over Zoom and made sure all necessary supplies and equipment were ordered before we came back into the office.
Being back in the office has meant that we can see everybody buzzing around, hear the conversations, the sharing of information, the questions coming up, the hum of the work being done. Really what you are hearing is the enthusiasm the people are bringing in and while we talked about it and planned for it, worried about all the ins and outs, nothing really compares to being back.
It’s very satisfying to be back together in person and also great to be able to walk out at the end of the day knowing that the work day is done and so much has been achieved.