It’s not surprising that Hannah hates surprises. She uses calendars, journals and to-do lists to maximise her time down to the minute. While working in a job that constantly puts her in contact with people has taught her how to adapt to sudden changes, she would still rather know what to expect. This is why, as we walk out of the Parish Council meeting, Hannah is visibly concerned about the unexpected presence of a news reporter during the meeting. Though she does not regret what she said, if given further notice, she might have slightly adapted the framing of her message. Following university protocol, she calls a colleague from the Marketing and Communications Department (Marcomms) to alert them of her interaction with the press. As a community liaison officer, Hannah is a skilled communicator, but she is only too happy to pass media relations onto the appropriate members of staff.
It’s not all about work. We, as two working women, find the time to open up about mentorship and resilience and careers and even personality types. We both have stories about feeling out-of-place at university. Hannah talks a lot about her family, especially her two-year-old Oscar. Speaking of whom, she needs to leave soon so that she can pick him up from nursery.
She makes a final check of next week’s tentative schedule, booked so solid that there are even allocations for lunch so that she does not forget to eat! She has one printed sheet that lists her tasks which she updates weekly. “Ta-dah!” she exclaims as she rips in half the old to-do list. Nothing gives her more pleasure at the end of a long week.
After six weeks of shadowing Hannah, my key observation is that the University is actively trying to redefine its role within this locality. Hannah’s position, and the early indications of its success, proves that bringing together the right people at the right time is the first step in establishing healthy partnerships. While her work is generally well-received by most stakeholders, there’s still a lot of work to be done, and a lot of trust to be regained among the community members. With the University’s rapid expansion underway, the ever-changing nature of the city and the high turnover of students, the services of the community liaison officer will be needed for years to come.