A day in the life: Chris Shelley

Being an extrovert drama graduate comes in handy for the student and academic services director

How long have you been in your job?

Four years.

What is it about your job that gets you out of bed in the morning?

Knowing that whatever it is that is going to come my way, be it planned or completely unexpected, will ultimately be something that contributes to the experience of our students. The challenge is making sure that impact is a positive one.

What’s the first thing you do when you get into work?

Make (or buy if I’m feeling lazy!) a cup of tea and say hi to anyone I see on the way to the kitchen (or café!). I’m lucky that my office is in our Dreadnought Building, a relatively new development that has everything from teaching rooms and IT labs to student services, cafés and the students’ union in it. As you can imagine, that makes it very busy (when we’re not in lockdown) so I always get to see the friendly faces of students and staff as soon as I arrive.

Who are the two or three people you talk to on a daily basis?

My assistant directors, whose remits are broad and varied, covering all elements of the student experience, so something always comes up that needs the involvement of at least one of them.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The diversity of the people I work with and the students in our community. No two days are the same, largely because of the people I speak to and the issues I deal with.

Speaking to the parents of someone who has just lost their life is incredibly difficult

And the worst?

Dealing with the worst cases of student crisis, including deaths. Speaking to the parents of someone who has just lost their life is incredibly difficult, but I also know that the support we can provide at that time is often invaluable.

Your number one most vital prop/tool/piece of equipment?

I want to avoid saying my phone or laptop as that is probably a given, so instead I’ll say my copy of the new university strategy – This is Our Time – that we recently launched. It keeps me focused on the bigger picture.

How did you get into your job?

After graduating from Liverpool Hope University I was elected as a sabbatical officer in the students’ union, and from there I’ve never been able to escape higher education! I went on to work for the NUS and then King’s College London before coming to Greenwich. Ultimately the consistent thing about all of my roles has been the opportunity to improve things for students.

What is it about your personality that makes you suitable for the role?

I’m not shy! Given I spend a lot of time talking to people from all walks of life about a range of issues, that certainly helps. I’m an extrovert, so I get my energy from other people, which is helpful when I’m surrounded by so many of them on a daily basis!

Which five words sum up your typical day?

Varied, challenging, collaborative, strategic (yet also) reactive.

If you weren’t in this role, what would you be?

My degree was in drama so I’d like to think that in a different life I’d be on a West End stage or starring in a blockbuster movie. Or any movie for that matter.

Chris Shelley is director of student and academic services at The University of Greenwich


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