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Jennifer Ferguson

The Coronavirus outbreak has had a profound impact on our university community and has seen sweeping changes to the way we live our lives. We are proud of how Team Teesside has responded and it is heartening to see the University community come together and support one another during these uncertain times. Here we speak to Jennifer Ferguson, Graduate Tutor and PhD student.

PhD Student and Graduate Tutor

School of Health & Life Sciences and School of Social Sciences, Humanities & Law

I have always said I have a soft spot for the students we have at Teesside. They are the strongest I have come across and make me proud - even more so now after witnessing no change in their hard work.

Briefly outline your role at the University

I am a final year Graduate Tutor PhD student, so spend a lot of time collecting data in a women's prison, as well as teaching research methods in the School of Health & Life Sciences.

How has the Coronavirus altered the way you work?

Obviously I am not in prison; but in terms of working on my PhD, I like to do this from home anyway, and we can do amazing things with our teaching. However, nobody asked for two 'mini-me researchers' to be around 24/7 who do not understand 'just for 40 minutes on this zoom - do not come in', asking for snacks a lot, so I am now also a school teacher/dinner lady, as well as lecturer/PhD researcher. However, now everyone is working at home, I feel more connected to colleagues than ever at Team Teesside.

What does a typical day look like now?

I have a longer working day - no commute makes this possible, but it is also to make up for the odd breaks spent enjoying time with the kids, either in the garden or doing exercise together.

What is the single most important element of your job at the moment?

Making sure my students are feeling empowered - I am as real as I can be, therefore encourage them to bring along their kids to join the sessions if they need to. We are all in this together.

What's the biggest challenge you and your team have faced since the coronavirus outbreak began?

We are an eclectic team who carry out research in a variety of settings, from prison to the community. This means as a collective, we have a number of varied situations to adapt to. Carrying out research studies that need paused is not as simple as it may seem, and ethical approval all need reconsidering. Also, some of us have teaching which all needed to be moved online - an issue for some who aren't familiar with the technology.

How are you managing personally during the current situation?

Every day is up and down. Some days I think this is a good situation, others I am angry and worried. We have a Team Alpha WhatsApp group which enables us all to rant, but also make each other laugh which is a godsend. I also could not cope without online exercise classes to clear my mind and give me some energy.

What does it mean to you to be part of Team Teesside?

I have always said I have a soft spot for the students we have at Teesside. They are the strongest I have come across and make me proud - even more so now after witnessing no change in their hard work. Having colleagues that are helping each other out, whether it is online cups of coffee, or helping with (usually mine) endless questions of 'how do I upload this lecture again' can never be taken for granted. I actually have never felt more part of the University as I do now; being split across two schools has, at times felt like a pain, but now, I have more support than ever and feel like when we return we will all work much better and not take these things for granted.

What do you think the response to the current situation says about the resilience and commitment of the Teesside University Community? We are lucky to have an understanding institution that acknowledges our normal nine to five work is just not possible for all right now and actually want to see us having moments of joy with our children.

Any advice for your fellow staff and students?

This will pass. Be kind to yourself and know that you are not alone in this struggle. Whether it is suddenly having to home school on top of work, or just simply not being able to concentrate due to the anxiety, it is completely normal. This won't be forever and I genuinely think good things will come from this. We will talk more and we will utilise these new technologies in the best ways possible.

What are you looking forward to most once we are able to resume to some sense of normality?

Coffee shops. All the coffee shops. And, are we allowed to say this, - time without my children - just 30 minutes of silence please.