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Operation Big Red Heart

Winners – Collaboration & Partnership Working

Chris Gibson/James Rawlinson/Anisa Atlasi/Matt Lloyd (Operation Big Read Heart)

This award recognises a person or team who delivered an exceptional service due to their ‘joined-up’ approach, working across teams within the directorate and the University as a whole. 

Chris, James, Anisa and Matt work within the International Office helping to advise and recruit students from outside the UK. In normal times they each have responsibility for a particular region of the world but during the Covid-19 pandemic they also took on a cross-divisional project called Operation Big Red Heart to meet the challenges of dealing with ever-shifting government travel regulations. OBRH provided up-to-the-minute support for international students, particularly those from ‘red list’ countries, to ensure that they could make plans with confidence and juggle the usual stresses of visas, surcharges, health tests, language tests and flight bookings with the additional requirements of quarantine.

Central to the project was the importance of making students feel reassured and welcome while dealing with isolation and uncertainty in a new country.  OBRH helped students check-in at designated quarantine hubs and then travel onwards to Manchester. They hosted regularly updated web pages, newsletters and online chats, to help students feel part of the university community and ensure they did not miss out on any Welcome or Registration processes. As a team, OBRH delivered an exceptionally thoughtful and creative service, even when the numbers were overwhelming – up to 1800 students at one time.

Anisa replied on behalf of the team:

How do you feel about winning a DOCA?

Very proud – my DOCA was won as a result of working with some fantastic colleagues in a really collaborative and supportive way. We are a ‘dream team’ whose strengths helped us navigate really tricky time for incoming international students, and it’s really lovely to be recognised for that.

What did you enjoy about the ceremony?

It was so swish! We were all a bit bowled-over that there was lovely food, cake – and fizz! I thought the new space in the Engineering building was really suited to it, and was impressed by the set-up for the livestream – very professional, and the venue looked great.

What is enjoyable or meaningful for you about being part of the Directorate for the Student Experience?

There is a real sense of community, and I think despite the struggles of the pandemic, remote working allowed us to work more closely in many ways. I am very grateful to work with creative, funny, hard-working colleagues in the International Office and other teams in the DSE who have a real ‘can-do’ attitude.