A day in the life: Katie Laverty

As Keele’s student services lead, Katie relies heavily on conversation – and coffee

How long have you been in your job?

I’ve been in this role since August 2018, but have worked in higher education for 19 years (I think!). I worked at Liverpool John Moores University, The University of Manchester, University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University, before arriving at Keele. I have worked in a variety of roles, but always with a focus on student support and student experience, in central services and schools/faculty based. I was an undergraduate student at the University of Salford and also completed a master’s in international higher education at the University of Nottingham in 2013, so I’ve seen a few universities from a few different perspectives.

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

No two days are ever the same. My role is broad and I get involved in anything related to the student experience, which also means I get to work with staff and teams across the university and with students either individually or as part of our students’ unions, or other groups. Keele has a Keele Postgraduate Association in addition to the students’ union, which is pretty unique. Student services is also always full of surprises, of course, and there are constant challenges and opportunities that stretch us, but also make my job worthwhile and interesting. I expect the unexpected in my job!

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

Well, whether working from home, in the office, or elsewhere, the answer is always the same – coffee. And find someone to have a chat with. I like to start the day with a sussing out of how my teams are doing and what the priorities are for that day, so finding time to check emails is important, but so is checking in with people.

“Student services is also always full of surprises. I expect the unexpected in my job!”

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

Easy – the head of residence life, Amy Hilton, and the head of student welfare, Alison Felton, because of the reasons above. Everything we do is joined up – you can’t work in isolation in my role. I am immensely proud of all the services I lead, particularly how they responded during the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure we adapted to government guidance and supported all our students. Our supportive working relationship has been really important.

What’s the best thing about your job?

It’s never boring and my team are wonderful. They are a creative bunch and excellent problem-solvers. I also enjoy the opportunities being part of the executive team brings in terms of inputting into university strategy and enabling across-university working.

And the worst?

I’m sure anyone in student services would say the same thing – upsetting student situations. Like anyone, students can go through crises and being part of student services you learn that your role is not to fix situations, but to support students through a difficult time, or help them to make their own decisions. But at times we also respond to some very difficult circumstances that not only affect the student, but also those around them, within the university community and outside of it.

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

Does my mouth count? I enjoy working with people, so I try and talk to people when I can, rather than use email. I suppose during the Covid-19 pandemic my laptop has been essential to do this.

How did you get into your job?

I love working with people. When I graduated from university I worked for the police for a while and was offered three roles, one of those was in student services at Liverpool John Moores University. You know which one I took.

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

I think (hope!) I’m approachable and friendly.

I’m inquisitive (or nosy) and enjoy problem-solving. I particularly enjoy working as part of a team and finding creative solutions to problems.

Which five words sum up your typical day?

Dynamic. Teamwork. Continually learning. Opportunities.

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

Maybe I would have stayed in the police – who knows?

Katie Laverty is director of student services and success at Keele University

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