Lisa Scott-Donkin works in our Disability and Dyslexia Service at ARU. She tells us more about her job, and the support and guidance that's available to students.
As an adviser working for ARU’s Disability and Dyslexia Advice Service, my job is really varied but revolves around supporting our students and offering guidance.
I meet prospective students and their families at University Open Days, and talk to them about what support we can offer. By dealing with diagnostic evidence from students before they get to ARU, we can put arrangements in place before they arrive, such as exam adjustments and letting relevant staff know.
When students arrive at ARU I meet with them individually for many reasons. It could be to talk to them through a dyslexia or ADHD screener, to help them secure external funding for equipment or mentoring, or meet with them on a regular basis to support them through their academic work and all the challenges that brings alongside their diagnosis.
Sometimes I’ll work with students for the whole duration of their undergraduate degree and then onto their postgraduate course. Meeting with students is a real pleasure, and I am delighted that they trust me and my colleagues to ask for help when needed, and share in their success too.
Feedback from students suggests the service on offer at other institutions can be very different – sometimes with smaller teams, less enthusiasm and often only available during teaching weeks only. Our teams are around all year, except over the Christmas break. It’s a team effort in this role – we share good practice, frustrations and get a lot of support from one another. You always remain professional when working with students and colleagues, but you must genuinely care, and our team members really do care about the students we work with.
I learn from my colleagues and the students I work with every day. I have learnt how determined some of our students are to achieve their goals, which is truly inspirational to me. I most enjoy seeing students grow in confidence during their studies, and as they find ways that work well for them. It’s great to see them blossoming. I love meeting with students across all disciplines, and from all over the world – it opens my eyes to what they are focused on and excited by.
My role helps students develop their skills to work more efficiently, which usually helps them enjoy their course. I introduce them to new technology and teach new ways of studying that they may not have encountered before, from networked adaptive software, to apps that rewards concentration, or creative ways to plan assignments. I’ve also learnt a lot about using technology and communicating remotely over the last year myself, and I’m now much more experienced and laid back when things don’t go to plan!
I studied at ARU myself a while ago, for my Art Foundation course, so I knew the organisation before I applied for a role in the HR department. I then moved across to the Disability Team where I have settled. I work on ARU’s Cambridge campus, which has an international, multicultural feel which is lovely.
ARU empowers me to take on new challenges, and there are opportunities I don’t believe you’d find with other employers. I was able to study for a postgraduate degree in Clinical Child Psychology, which enabled me to secure my current role. In addition to this, being part of this institution enables me to access interesting events, such as those from the Global Sustainability Institute, and concerts from the Music Department.
Outside of work my biggest achievement was completing the London to Cambridge ultra-challenge. I walked 60 miles from day through the night, which took around 27 hours. It was extremely challenging and hard going at certain points, but I walked with good friends and did lots of training prior to the event, including with my colleagues at work, and raised over £1,000 for a bowel cancer charity!
Finally, if I could offer one piece of advice, I’d quote Jennifer Dukes Lee: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” I do truly believe it and try to live by it. Kindness will carry us a long way.
By Lisa Scott-Donkin
Study Support Adviser, ARU
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