Member Spotlight: Paula Dalziel
ASRA hears from Paula Dalziel, Residential Life Manager at Manchester Metropolitan University about her recent attendance at the Nordic Association for Student Accommodation Conference in May 2018.
How did the opportunity to visit the Nordic Association for Student Accommodation conference come about?
I was fortunate to attend The 2020 Conference in Lisbon in November 2017 and participate as a panel member to discuss Residential Life and the differences across the private sector, university sector, and around Europe. ( I was on a panel with Susanna Graziano from Camplus, Italy and Streve Hawkins from Sodexo and the panel was facilitated by Paloma Lisboa , Dir of Stud Residences Kings College London). The panel offered the opportunity to discuss current trends with Residential Life within the university sector in the UK and to draw on the experience of Manchester Metropolitan University. A few months later I received an email from Swedish colleagues who were inviting me to deliver the presentation on Residential Life at the NBSO Conference in Iceland. I presented on - Residential Life and Building Communities. It felt great to have been asked to present, and the experience provided me an opportunity to learn about how students are supported in Nordic countries, and can we too learn from their experiences.
Did you notice any similarities or differences in terms of key issues for students in Iceland compared with the UK?
The Conference attracted people from Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, USA, Switzerland and the UK (me). We are all experiencing similar challenges, the difference is that many of the Nordic countries do not offer university accommodation and demand is at a premium. At the same time students are students and the private providers and the Universities want to support students - to offer ‘a sense of belonging’ , build a supportive student community and help people to achieve their academic goals.
What are the three main things you learnt at the Conference?
The value of architecture in supporting and/or influencing a feeling of community. For example, we visited flats in which the kitchen and communal space were next to the entrance of the flat and rather than having plastered walls next to the hallway. The walls were made of glass, this meant that everyone who walked in would know if other students were in the kitchen and vice versa – this allowed everyone to see others using the communal area, which made the kitchen a ‘friendly’ space and to know when they did not see flatmates for any period of time.
The other interesting information that I brought home from the experience was that student mental health concerns affect all countries, all universities and all private providers. How we choose to address these concerns may differ and we can all learn from one another and continue to find new ideas to create happy and healthy student communities. For example at the University of Iceland they have studio flats for mature students and their families, they have created a children’s nursery run by students studying child care, they have family parties in the Hall communal area, which overlooks an area in which the children play. This delivery does not fit with our current requirements (student demographic), at the same time it is about making the accommodation ‘feel’ like home. The University of Iceland embraced the ideal to make the accommodation ‘feel like home’ which encouraged them in delivering creative solutions. UK can learn from this principal as a means to find our own creative solutions, which support respectful community living for our demographic of first time away from home 18-22 year olds.
Paula Dalziel Bio:
Residential Life Manager at Manchester Metropolitan University with a team of 55 Coordinators and Residential Advisors supporting 3,500 students over 8 sites. Experienced Residential Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education and delivering transformative change management. Winner of the ACUHO-I New Professional Award 2016, and MMU Residential Life AUDE Best Team Award 2017 winner. The focus of my work has always been supporting students via Student Services and Residential Services. My goal is to offer an excellent student experience through teamwork, partnerships and student feedback. Strong professional with a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD.) thesis: Presidential Rhetoric, George W. Bush and constructions of otherness, post 9/11- awarded 2013 from Edge Hill University.