The past month has been a rollercoaster of emotions, concerns and worries about the current Covid-19 pandemic. I just wanted to say a huge thank you to all of our students who are going out of their way to maintain our strong postgraduate community at Keele. With everything moving at such a pace, including lock down in the UK and daily government announcements, it is hard to believe that this is where we are now, compared to where the country and the University were last month. I would like to offer my support wherever I can, to those who are anxious, isolated or worried about their academic status in light of recent events. The KPA's commitment to moving online... As many of you may be aware, or have seen via our social media accounts, we have moved everything online. We are trying our utmost to provide support via our social media channels and mailing lists. It has been incredibly hard to cancel our events and it fills me with great sadness that there is no longer anything we can do to meet you all in person. We have had to pull a lot together in just one week and it really has been a bit of an eye opener for me. I thought that I was really switched on to social media, but it feels like now I am learning on the job, with very limited time. Most of our meetings have moved to Microsoft Teams, which is a completely new software for the sabbatical officers. I'd imagine the same concerns and worries about learning "on the job" are felt by all. Whilst it has been tough, we have managed to get some online activities together for you all, and hope that you will use them to maintain our close knit postgraduate family. We have started KPA Watch Party Wednesdays! These will take place every week at 7pm. In order to access the watch party, you will need to be using a Chrome device to download the Netflix Party add-on. You will also need an account with Netflix to take part. We release a poll every Monday with 4 different choices of film on for you to choose from. The winning film will be played the following Wednesday. I have created a step by step guide on how to download the "add-on", and have circulated in the format of a video, via our social media accounts. If you need any additional help, do get in touch! We have also been in touch with a local personal trainer, who has agreed to provide free, live exercise classes to our students. These will take place live, via Facebook at 10am every Sunday morning with the following address: https://www.facebook.com/jaime.hibbert.5 If you do not have access to Facebook or unable to make the time, the trainer will post the workout class on her youtube page: https://www.youtube.com/user/jaimehibbert. This will encourage our postgrads to get active from the comfort of their own home. It also helps with the practice of healthy wellbeing and motivation. A special thanks to Jaime Hibbert for providing her services to our students for free. I think that one of the things that has really helped me to get through the past few weeks is the knowledge that there are some amazing humans, going out of their way to provide others with regular services for free. We are trying to regularly provide top tips for working from home and supporting wellbeing in isolation. This is paramount to bettering your health! A lot of us (myself included) have never had to work at home before and it really is a very new and strange experience. One thing that I have found really important is that you should stick by the hours that are part of your regular working day. You should also take a break away from work at lunch, so that you are motivated to kick straight back into it in the afternoon. This, on a personal level, has really provided me with the motivation I need to get me through the day. Signposting has been absolutely key. There are so many different activities that have been made available online. We have tried our best to signpost people to different websites, including zoos; arts companies, food apps, music artists and ebook providers. In your breaks and weekends, you need something to do to fill the time! I have personally got back into some fantastic books and my love for reading really has returned. We will be making sure that we are continuing to signpost to new activities so that you don't find yourself bored during quarantine. It has been brought to my attention that there are many students struggling to complete their workload due to commitments to childcare. This I have raised with senior staff at university, to identify what provisions are in place to support these students. The KPA will also be starting a "parents zoom meeting", which will enable all students with caring and childcare responsibilities to meet virtually and talk about some of their issues. It is also a space for parents to meet up, avoid isolation and encourage adult conversation. Our Clubhouse manager, Jules, will be dedicating her time to this every Tuesday at 3pm. We will post a zoom link via our social media outlets so that you are able to join! Last week we trialled an online quiz, where we asked solely questions around the KPA, both Clubhouse and Committee. It was really great to mark these and see some fantastic answers! We awarded joint 1st and 2nd place with two food and drink vouchers for the KPA Clubhouse when it re-opens. It was fantastic to see engagement with some of our weekly activities online. The committee and clubhouse staff have created a SelfLove Quarantine Playlist on Spotify! This features all of our favourite songs, which we regularly post on our social media outlets so that you can join us! If you have been unable to so far, you can find the following playlist here: https://open.spotify.com/user/1138732496/playlist/7qUyksgN1QIZe5JxytdVbs?si=KY4m-qd5Sta3NG_DNgjYPg. We currently have 18 followers, so join us! We will also be trialling a KPA Friday Night Music Takeover, whereby each week, one member of our Clubhouse staff will create a playlist on spotify and circulate via our social media channels. This will happen every Friday night, so that you can feel like you are in the KPA Clubhouse, from your own home! We have also set up an online forum on our website. This enables our students to ask others questions about what their days look like and what others use to overcome isolation and anxieties. This has worked well so far and is nice to see students helping each other out and sharing their own personal experiences in self isolation. It is lovely to see our postgraduate community, although virtually, still helping one another. If you would like to share your experiences online with us, follow this link: https://www.kpa.org.uk/forum/self-isolation-tips/self-isolating-how-to-keep-motivated We have also asked for students to get in touch to share how they are going about their working days in isolation. This will really help us to provide information to other students who may be struggling with the "newness" of working from home, keep motivated or feel isolated. If you would be happy to share your "day in the life of" with our team, we will be able to circulate information and inspiration to others. To share, please get in contact with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are currently trying really hard to maximise the amount of events and social interaction we can provide you. We are in the early stages of thinking about; reading groups, virtual coffee mornings and postgrads that lunch. If you have any ideas or have an activity to make us aware of, please get in touch! You can email myself, our Vice President, or our Activities Officer, Sophia. I would like to thank our current committee for all of their support in sharing our events and material on social media. I would also like to thank them for the support they have provided for myself, other students and the wider postgraduate community at this time. Closure of the Clubhouse... On the 20th of March, we took the decision to close the Clubhouse. Whilst no specific mandate had been given by the government at that time to close bars and restaurants, we felt that the safety of students, customers and staff alike far outweighed keeping open. The following Monday, we did the final clean, collected essentials and locked it's doors. Whilst we are deeply saddened that the Clubhouse has had to close, we cannot wait to re-open in (we hope) the not too distant future and continue our usual Clubhouse events and activities. I would like to say a great big thank you to our Clubhouse staff, that have been a real source of support for our customers and students alike. They are always prepared to go that extra mile to ensure that the environment is both happy and positive, even in light of the pandemic. I really will miss you and hope to see you all soon. A huge thank you to our Clubhouse management team, who, in light of closure have had to do a lot of work in very little time. You are a real inspiration to those around you with your hard work, dedication and commitment to the Clubhouse, staff, postgraduates and customers. You have also been a real source of support to myself, which I cannot thank you enough for. I cannot wait till we can re-open and provide our students with a whole range of new events. In the meantime, Jules (Clubhouse Manager) and Charlotte (Kitchen Manager) have a little project going on, which will be shown on our social media channels in the next week - so watch this space! Communication with the University in light of Covid-19... We have been working hard to share the VC and the senior management team's updates as often as they are circulated. This is to ensure that clear communication is relayed to all students and staff. We have taken PGR specific issues directly asked by students, to the PVC for Research. This led to FAQs and guidelines being added to the KDA's website, so that it is accessible to all students. If you would like to take a look, please follow this link: https://www.keele.ac.uk/coronavirus/adviceforpgrstudents/. When any student has asked a question or for advice that we cannot give the answer to, we have gone to senior management to bring this to their attention. Whilst we appreciate that many students are still waiting on answers, please rest assured that the university know about it and are working on it. With the fast paced nature of this situation, the University are working hard to communicate as frequently as possible. This is a new situation for everyone and learning what needs to be done can sometimes take a little bit longer. We have raised concerns surrounding students with caring responsibilities and are currently waiting on an answer from the University. Currie is also regularly feeding back to the Education Leadership Committee, which now meets weekly. Your concerns are heard by us and we want to do our best to ensure that you are all supported through this tough time. If you have any further or more specific questions, please do let us know. Please make sure that you are regularly checking your emails for university updates. One thing we must also ask that you do is that if you are still on campus, you are checking in with the SafeZone App, and are responding to emails from the University. This is so that we know that you are on campus to support you and is paramount to your safety. KPA Elections... I think on a lighter and more exciting note, it is worth letting you know how the KPA Elections are panning out this year! Obviously, it is going to look very different in the way that we do things this time around. Currie, your Deputy Returning Officer and Alison, your Chief Returning Officer, are working really hard to ensure that your elections go ahead smoothly, so massive credit to them for all of their hard work! Nominations for roles opened on the 23rd of March and are due to close on Thursday (2nd of April), so do ensure that if you are interested in running for a role, you let us know! This year, the whole committee have worked really hard to show you what our roles look like, by providing both the contracted nature of the role and "a day in the life of" the role. This has all been posted on our website so that you are able to gain a clear picture of the roles available. We have also dedicated a #SheShouldRun section to the website, where our female committee members have been able to share their stories. As part of our candidate Q&A, we were unable to hold an event physically, so we created some visuals for you to really get to know your current officers and what their roles look like. We hope this has encouraged you to stand for a position at the KPA. In terms of upcoming election events, we will be holding a candidate briefing when nominations close, virtually. We will also be holding our hustings online, so watch this space for more information on how to access the hustings live. The event will be taking place on the 22nd of April. So in the next few weeks, you are likely to meet your candidates online! Please look out for campaign material. Due to the nature of Covid-19, no physical campaign material will be printed and everything is to move online. Please support your candidates as much as possible! Campaigning is a scary and nervy time in the best of scenarios, but the added pressure of Covid-19 means that we will be doing more to ensure all of our candidates are looked after. Final results will be announced on the 24th of April at 6pm, via our social media channels! I am excited to meet our new team! I would like to thank our current committee for being so fantastic and active this year! It has been a real pleasure to work alongside people with brilliant ideas and voices for good. Congratulations... This space is where I would usually congratulate individual students but I would like to do something different this time... Congratulations to all of our students that are coping so well in the midst of this uncertain time. I want to say that everyone is doing so well to support and care for one another, and it really is a pleasure to see. Congratulations to all those students who may have; caring responsibilities, an underlying health or mental health problem, a disability, lack of equipment to work, (the list goes on!) who are battling through this challenging time. We are all here to support you and think that you are all doing a great job just to get out of bed in the morning and push yourselves to work through the day.
If you need any further support, please do not be afraid to get in touch. Even if it is just a 2 minute chat on the phone, we WANT to hear from you! No question is a silly one, if you have concerns please do let us know.
We really do look forward to seeing you in the not too distant future, when the state of things will look better and clearer. We will continue to work online to provide new activities, support and advice for you all to maintain our close postgraduate community. We are here for you.
Sending all of my thoughts, prayers and best wishes to you and your families. Katie Charlton