Membership Spotlight: Vicki Fry
ASRA hears from Vicki Fry, Social Impact Manager at Unite Students
Tell us about your role at Unite, what does it involve?
My role feeds directly into our commitment to be a more sustainable business. One of the key pillars that makes up our Sustainability Commitments at Unite Students is creating opportunities for all - this pillar also includes health & wellbeing as well as ED & I commitments. Our overarching social commitment is to help young people succeed, while delivering value for our communities. This includes:
- Overseeing our community impact, including charity work, volunteering, and fundraising
- Supporting access to Further Education and maximising successful outcomes for students
- Encourage lasting sustainable behaviour change with our employees and customers
What appealed to you about working in student accommodation/the sector?
I’ve always worked with young people and that has always been a passion of mine, from teaching, to sports coaching, to mentoring. Students arriving at university for the first time are going through a huge transition, meaning support roles and programmes are really important, and working in this sector is an opportunity to support young people be the best they can be at a really exciting time in their lives.
Acknowledging the challenges over the last 18 months, what have you learnt/what are the take-away points?
The importance of being flexible has been a huge take away and the power of concise and timely communications - even when it’s bad news! Getting key information out in a clear and timely way has been crucial to us operating through the pandemic - both internally and externally. Moving forward we will continue to review our communications channels to ensure they are as effective as they can be and serving the needs of the audience.
Tell us about a project or campaign that you’re particularly proud of, or that you feel has been particular effective in the area of student support
Leapskills - Leapskills is an education programme we created based on our insight and student resilience research, and helps young students prepare for university life. It includes real life scenarios that our students face to help provoke discussions about conflict resolution, problem solving and shared living in general. By supporting the transition to independent living, we aim to help prevent problems arising which may cause significant difficulties for young people. The programme has so far proved a great success, with over 3000 young people experiencing the programme to date. Overwhelmingly, young people report feeling better prepared for moving away from home after the workshop. We’ve even received an endorsement from the Department of Education for this pioneering resource. Workshops can be delivered within our properties or set up in a classroom and delivered by teachers and educational professionals.
You recently presented at our November ASRA Hour – what was the topic and how did you find the experience?
During the ASRA Hour I spoke about Sustainable Business at Unite Students, the importance of being a responsible business with a focus on the social aspect of this, specifically around how we work to support the integration between students and local residents in a community. I loved being able to share some of the work we do with peers and learn from others about their own initiatives, all working to develop best practice and lead the sector in being more responsible across all areas of sustainability - environment, social, and governance.
What does ASRA mean to you?
A place to share and learn from likeminded professionals all working to support students.
What’s your best ASRA memory/what do you love most about ASRA?
I’m excited that March 2022 this year will be my first ASRA Conference. But I've been involved with the group through ASRA Hours, a really great way to stay connected and informed through challenging times, sharing and learning best practice.
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