This week we meet Sarah West, Head of Marketing, Communications and Experience in the Campus Experience and Infrastructure team. Here she chats to us about her involvement in the opening of One Pool Street at UCL East... and a festive appearance on ITV!
What is your role and what does it involve?
I am the Head of Marketing, Communications and Experience in the Campus Experience and Infrastructure team (CE&I). My role is varied, and no day is the same, as I am responsible for all communications and experience within UCL Accommodation and central campus areas. This means I get to engage with a variety of students and colleagues across multiple departments, internally and externally, including professional services, faculties, the Students’ Union and more. Providing leadership and advice on improving campus experience and comms in general is a key aspect of my role, and something I am extremely passionate about.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I have been at UCL for just over three years now and have been fortunate to have had opportunities to progress during that time. I joined as a Communications Officer for UCL Accommodation back in 2019 and six months later moved into the role of Communications Manager. Last year, I became Head of Marketing, Comms and Experience, gaining a bigger remit as the division that was formerly Estates Operations, became Campus Experience and Infrastructure. Prior to UCL, I came from a FE background, where I worked as a Marketing, Comms and Events Officer. I feel like I have got to truly experience the student journey from school/college to university to alumni!
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
I am extremely proud of the support that we gave to our residents throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only were we providing quarantine and self-isolation support for residents in UCL halls for two years, but we also launched a brand new ResLife programme. All events and support had to be held virtually whilst social distancing was in place, which involved being forward thinking and very creative in our approach. I am proud to say that our hard work was recognised, and we were shortlisted for this at the CUBO 2022 awards. This has now been developed into a face-to-face programme, with us continually taking on resident feedback to improve the offering each year.
I also must mention the North Lodge refurbishment, an 18-month project involving many complexities, and the first project for CE&I to showcase what we could do. Completed earlier this year, and currently being run by campus experience ambassadors, it has proven to be a benefit to so many within the UCL community and beyond. Providing a brand-new welcome point at the front gates of UCL, it is used as a starting point for campus tours, visitors can find out more about the amazing research UCL has done, and you can even see some of the branded merchandise available for purchase online. I would recommend popping your head in if you’re passing by!
The opening of One Pool Street at UCL East, where we have 552 newly built bedrooms located right on top of the academic spaces is also a huge project achievement that has recently been completed and can’t be forgotten. It was a privilege and an incredible opportunity to be part of, from running the topping out ceremony back in May 2021, through to being responsible for creating brand new accommodation signage, as well as the design of the communal spaces such as the common room and music room. We worked with designers to create new signage for these spaces within the UCL Accommodation brand, focusing on sports and the connection the building has to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. There was also lots of collaborative working with colleagues from VPEE and Estates Development to ensure that all the messaging was consistent ready for the building to be occupied. We have been able to create an engaging, colourful, and mature living space for our students to enjoy for many more years to come.
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list
There are a few projects that are currently top of my to-do list, all important for various reasons, but a couple I feel are important to mention.
As CE&I, we are focusing on what we can do within central spaces on campus to improve the experience for not only students, but also visitors and staff, and one such way is looking at how central spaces are used from an events management perspective. Work has been started with various stakeholders across VPEE, Libraries and Culture, the Students’ Union and other teams, on not only a central events calendar to identify UCL’s priorities, but also on a process and policy document, so that events held in UCL spaces, whether as the whole institution, groups, or individuals, are held safely and fairly - with all relevant parties being included in planning.
I will also be starting an audit of current wayfinding and poster boards, to not only ensure that our branding, maps, and signage are up to date and more visible, but also considering how we can potentially implement new technology to be more sustainable, more inclusive, and ultimately improve the way we guide people round our spaces.
I am also going to be working on publishing research that we have found following the completion of our year-long student fellow project. The team have learnt a lot about what students value highly, not only within their accommodation, but also for their general university experience, and believe that the institution, and HEI sector, would find it beneficial to see what students want going forward to help improve and build on our current offering.
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
- Album: I love most music (apart from heavy metal I’m afraid) and am a fan of so many artists - from the 60’s, all the way through to modern day. I always say there is a song suitable for every occasion.
- Film: I’ve grown up on three big film franchises - Disney, Bond and Marvel. Over the years, they have turned into family favourites, and it’s great being able to pass on the love to a new generation. I will say that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has always fascinated me though, and I notice something new each time I watch it.
- Novel: I don’t have a favourite, but I love to get lost in a story and read every day. I’m a very quick reader - so quick that some people don’t believe I’ve read it that fast - but this does mean I’ve read hundreds of books over the years.
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?
Anything that makes me laugh!
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
My grandparents, to ask all the things that I didn’t get to ask them before they passed about our incredible family history. Also, Michelle Obama - she is such a strong role model to many young women around the globe. I read her autobiography a few years ago and felt really inspired.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be afraid if things don’t go to the original plan and stop comparing yourself to others. There is more than one route to the planned destination!
’It is never too late to be what you might have been’, Adelaide Anne Proctor.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
That I only started in Marketing and Comms six years ago! I never went to university, and instead studied at a Performing Arts College, where I trained across all genres; acting, singing, dance and musical theatre. I was aiming for the bright lights of the West End, or as an actress within a period drama (I loved Downton!). One of my favourite moments was getting to be part of a Katherine Jenkins’ Christmas Special on ITV.
What is your favourite place?
I love being outside and getting to explore somewhere new, so am happy if I’m able to do that, but for me it’s also anywhere where I can be with family and friends. I’ve learnt it’s not where you are but who you are with which is the most important!
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