Sandro Gunther, Campus Engagement Manager, works within the Academic Services team and has been in his current role since July 2017. We caught up with him to find out how the Festive Market went, and more about his role as manager of the Campus Engagement team.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role as Campus Engagement manager?
I started working for Royal Holloway in February 2016, and since then I’ve been working on projects that are there to enhance the student experience, and improve student life here at Royal Holloway. I recently started in the role of Campus Engagement Manager, so I now manage a team of two, and we look after various projects that don’t specifically have an owner. They include a few events that we run or we coordinate with the whole perspective of events on campus, so we know what everybody else is doing and we look at the wider picture. We also run the peer guidance scheme, and recently we’ve been delivering on the RH100 project. With the RH100, we have set up the group of 100 students, and we will run the panels that will take place across the year, so I manage that as well.
2. What do you enjoy most about your role?
Definitely the contact with students, and the fact that no day is the same - it’s very varied. I often go out and talk to various people, whether that’s other members of staff, colleagues or students about the things we do, and also the things that they would like to see happen on campus. It’s a people job and it’s very versatile, which I really like.
3. What does a typical working day look like for you?
As I just mentioned, there is no such thing as a typical working day. I’d say I start off in the morning with my emails, making sure that I respond to any that have come in. I then attend lots of meetings, where I go and speak to other colleagues who are sometimes within our department, such as Student Services, or based outside of the department, such as Careers. If we are working on a big project, I might be talking to someone from Careers, or from an academic department, but we work together to run various activities and initiatives throughout the year. It’s very active and I’m very involved in all the things that we do.
4. We are coming to the end of term one, what would you ideally like to achieve by the end of this academic year?
So as part of my role, one of the biggest objectives is to ensure that a student’s transition into and throughout university goes as smoothly as possible. Therefore at this stage in the year, we would hope that all new students feel welcomed and have fully settled in. We want them to, and actively encourage them to, explore different things. Whether that’s a new passion, different interests that they have, or personal developments that they want to further. By the end of the year, we aim for most students to have completed their cycle of their student journey. So whether that’s coming into university and going through their first year, going into postgraduate studies, or completing their final year and moving onto whatever they have planned after university. That’s what I would say is the biggest achievement, if we can do that well.
5. What advice would you give future colleagues starting at Royal Holloway?
I’d start off with a positive about Royal Holloway being very friendly. It’s not huge, so people tend to know each other very well, and they’re also very approachable. When I first started here I felt like I could talk to anybody about anything. The students are really lovely as well. I studied at King’s College, which is a much bigger institution, and you don’t really know other students or members of staff that well. It’s a very friendly environment here, and it provides many different opportunities. For example, because we aren’t a huge institution, there are a lot of things that we can try and then improve upon, which provides opportunities to drive change, which is really nice.
6. Who inspires you inside of the organisation? Who inspires you outside of the organisation?
I’m going to pick the students for inside the organisation. We have students come to us and talk through an idea that they have, we then help them with their ideas but ultimately it’s their idea that will come to fruition, and it’s really inspiring to see somebody so passionate about what they do and actually making something happen. The RH100 is a really good example of this. We’ve got 100 students, who are part of a panel and are really dedicated, and want to tell us how in five years’ time they think Royal Holloway should look, and what should change, which I think is really inspiring.
Outside of the organisation, I really enjoy the theatre and performances, so when I watch something that’s been created for the benefit and purpose of an audience, that’s really inspiring. So whether that’s the actors, or the musicians that contribute to a performance, it’s everybody’s piece of work coming together to provide an amazing experience, and give me something enjoyable. I watch performances regularly and I think that every time. Unless it’s a production that I don’t enjoy, which happens rarely, I go away and feel like they’ve given me something to think about, and in a way that’s an inspiration as well. I used to do quite a lot of that at university, and at one point I thought that maybe it would be a nice career path. I then realised that it’s quite tough and it’s not the most straightforward thing to do, but still watching it gives me that connection, because I can relate to it.
7. The Festive Market took place last week, how did it go?
We’ve worked very hard to put on an event of this scale in such a unique location. It was absolutely wonderful to see so many students, staff members and people from the local community come together at the Festive Market on Founder’s Square. The atmosphere was really vibrant, especially when the Principal and SU President switched on the Christmas tree lights. You could feel a right sense of community, which I think is exactly what makes Royal Holloway such a special place for all of us.
8. How did you find the planning for this year’s Festive Market?
The planning was a bit of a whirlwind because I had been working on Welcome Week with a very new team that had only just come in. When Welcome Week was over, the next thing on the agenda was the Festive Market. Because the team was so new, a lot of pre-work had to be done before we even got to the stage where my team members could get more involved. In an ideal world, we could have started planning much earlier, but as we had the change of location, that also came with some challenges.
9. What exciting projects are coming up within Academic Services next term?
One of our main projects is the Student Success Events, which are taking place in term two. This offers students an opportunity to develop personally and give them all the right skills and knowledge to either go into their exams, go into their next year of study or think about the career that they want to do. Within the conference, there will be a number of workshops that students can sign up to, so that they feel they are prepared for whatever stage of their study they are at.
We will then be holding the Student Success Celebration Evening, which is an awards evening where we celebrate a large group of students who have gone above and beyond and have attained outstanding achievements outside of their academic studies.
10. You may have seen our latest recruitment campaign, ‘Find Your Why’. We are interested to find out what Royal Holloway has helped you to discover about yourself…
I’m very passionate about education. I used to teach English to secondary school children in Chile, which really fostered my passion for education. Going into higher education is even more exciting, because you are helping students to develop and find out more about themselves and where they want to go.