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About us

Dr Samantha Gooneratne

Principal Lecturer, Staffing & Resources (Engineering)

School of Computing, Engineering & Digital Technologies

We've done a fantastic job so far managing our work activities and our wellbeing. It's not over yet but if we look after ourselves and each other, it'll get better soon enough

Briefly outline your role at the University

As Principal Lecturer for Staffing & Resources, I am responsible for coordinating staff activities across the Engineering Department. I support my Head of Department and the School Management Team to ensure that all Engineering staff have what they need (both short-term and beyond) to carry out their duties. I also work closely with central teams (Student Learning & Academic Registry, Timetabling) to address any operational issues that may arise during the academic year.

Outside this role I also serve as Course Leader and Admissions Tutor for our undergraduate Chemical Engineering courses.

What's been the biggest change to your daily routine during the coronavirus outbreak?

I wouldn't say there's been much of a change for me personally, other than my commute to work being considerably shorter! It is strange not to have colleagues and students drop by my office for a quick chat though... working remotely allows me to focus better but it takes the spontaneity out of my day, which is a shame.

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

The biggest challenge has been moving to online teaching so quickly. We're fortunate that the university's Future Facing Learning initiative meant that the infrastructure was already in place but staff had to move fast to plan and implement new ways of supporting our students, whilst also coping with the disruption to their personal circumstances.

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

EdTech support! I've been a proponent of using digital tools to support learning and teaching for a while but not all colleagues had previously been involved to the same extent, so I've been creating tutorials and instructional videos to illustrate the capabilities of different tools for them to adopt in their own activities.

How are you managing personally during the current situation?

I think I'm doing OK, although there are good and bad days. Even though my daily routine hasn't changed much, my only face-to-face communication of late has been with the staff at the local supermarket! Online meeting platforms have been a lifesaver during this crisis but video chat fatigue is an issue…it's quite easy to feel overwhelmed with the volume of information presented. I've had to make an effort to separate ‘work' time from ‘non-work' time, and to look after myself.

How has your team pulled together under difficult circumstances?

The Engineering Department staff have been brilliant. In true ‘engineering' fashion, we've just worked at getting the job done. We have a social chat a few days a week, and that's been really good at bringing people together – I'd say we're actually socialising more than we were doing on campus! Everyone's working hard to support students and colleagues and there's a lot of sharing of good practice, which is great to see.

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

I have quite a pragmatic attitude towards my job (and life in general) and I feel very proud to be a part of a team that has taken a similar approach.

What do you think the response to the current situation says about the resilience and commitment of the Teesside University Community?

I think the Teesside University community has always shown an immense amount of strength and resilience, which is possibly why we've managed the way we have during this crisis.

How are you supporting your students at the moment?

I'm using Microsoft Teams a lot to have meetings with project students – in some ways it's easier for them to show me what they've been doing this way than when they would drop by my office. I also used Microsoft OneNote to provide one-to-one feedback on my students' exam revision work – I can't imagine how I could've done that without the technology. Finally, I've been sending the occasional email to let them know that I'm available for a chat if they need anything (although largely I think my students have been coping amazingly well!).

Any advice for your fellow staff, and students?

We've done a fantastic job so far managing our work activities and our wellbeing. It's not over yet but if we look after ourselves and each other, it'll get better soon enough.

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

Choir! I sing with Vox Choir at the University and it's the one thing that doesn't work that well on an online platform. Singing as part of a group is my #1 stress buster and whilst singing along to the radio at home is fun, it's not quite the same.

I also hope we continue to communicate with each other as well as we've been doing during this time.