Jenni was recently nominated for Distinguished Teacher of the Year 2020, in part for her work as Programme Director of the BSc Accounting programme.
Jenni has built the undergraduate programme on three pillars; academic prowess, wellbeing and employability. She strongly believes that: “In order to learn, it’s important that my students feel well and able; so wellbeing, flourishing and support are at the heart of the programme.”
Last year, when the UK went into lockdown and teaching moved online, Jenni created a new Blackboard community and set-up new LinkedIn groups, Skype chatter groups, welcome back meetings and feedback meetings as well as expanding the group coaching programme to increase communication across the programme. Jenni adapted quickly to make sure she stayed in touch with her students in each year group and leveraged technology to ensure they stayed connected wherever they were in the world. She explained the importance of this regular contact: “Increased communication is really important at this time, when face-to-face teaching is suspended, to make sure students feel connected and to build a sense of community across all years on the programme.”
The programme places a big focus on ‘flourishing’. Jenni holds regular ‘mental health’ check-ins with students, and the importance of these was recognised in her commendation medal at the Making a Difference Awards for Social Responsibility at the University.
The relatively small size of the programme (typically 50 students join each year) helps students to feel supported and looked after. The coaching they receive from students in other years helps them settle in quickly and the close contact they have with their Academic Advisor helps them to achieve their best work. Encouraging her students to be active coaches and mentors to each other across year groups fosters connection and community and has benefits for both the mentors and mentees. The community Blackboard page has been the platform to enable this important coaching and make sure that all students feel connected at a time when many are studying remotely, in some cases, thousands of miles away from their classmates.
To further aid her students’ personal development, Jenni has overseen the creation of helpful videos including: “Things I’d wish I’d known”, seeing older students disseminate advice to those in the year below them, how to deal with feeling overwhelmed and this brave video filmed with her former student, James Bradshaw about his mental health journey. These examples illustrate just a few of the ways in which Jenni promotes opening up conversations around mental health to support her students throughout their journey at Alliance MBS and beyond.