The heart of the University
We delve into the inner workings of the University in this month’s staff spotlight with long serving administrative secretary, Sheena Jenkins.
Sheena started at the University age 17 in the typing pool at Old College after secretarial studies and Highers at Stevenson College, Sighthill.
Working in a team of six, the pool supported all the general office administrators who didn’t have a secretary, taking shorthand and typing from audio tapes. It was a very different working environment to today with manual typewriters, ashtrays on every desk and the occasional impenetrable cloud of cigarette smoke.
We had proper tea breaks where everyone stopped and blethered for 15 minutes and we adhered to a very strict one hour lunch.
Technology and its effect on the running of the University is, in Sheena’s opinion, the biggest change that has taken place over the years. Administrators, prior to the introduction of email and modern mass electronic communication, didn’t type their own correspondence and instead relied on circulation of the old-fashioned memorandum which the secretaries made extensive carbon copies of.
Documents which had to be sent out to more than 5 people were typed onto stencils and sent to printing (which was in the Old College basement on the Law side) and run off on a Roneo machine.
Working in Student Administration - formally known as Academic Registry – Sheena is right at the heart of the University. Not only is she still based in Old College, but the department is the University’s administrative centre - supporting the needs of the student body from funding and timetabling, to examinations and graduation.
Responsible for the HR requirements of 90 staff and over 100 invigilators, Sheena is also the link between the Director of Student Administration, Robert Lawrie and the rest of the team.
Though not directly involved with students she is very familiar with the issues and concerns that are dealt with by Student Administration. Common problems include proof of exemption from council tax, lost matriculation cards, immigration census (UKBA compliance), extra tickets for graduation ceremonies, transcripts of academic records, requests to take re-sit examinations overseas and replacement degree certificates.
A special time
On the graduations side of things, Sheena looks after the honorary degree procedure, making detailed arrangements for VIPs, booking graduation venues, overseeing the academic procession and contributing to the production of the graduation programme.
This role means that she has also been involved with a number of special graduation ceremonies including that of civil rights campaigner, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Asian film star Shah Ruhk Khan and philanthropist Dr Haruhisa Handa.
I have seen many honorary graduands over the years and whether they are famous or used to public speaking or performing, they have all been very nervous about standing on the stage in front of a large crowd, which is quite surprising.