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My Warwick Life: Viki Cooke

vikiThe My Warwick Life feature gives an insight into staff and students’ lives at Warwick, considering both their work and social life on campus. This week we hear from Viki Cooke, Vice-Chair of the University Council UniversityCouncil at warwick dot ac dot uk.

There is no such thing as a typical day but in a nutshell my job involves...

a mix of things. My career beyond the University of Warwick is in market research and public engagement. My work could involve designing a citizens’ jury, facilitating a stakeholder dinner, organising some group discussions in New York or writing a proposal for the next project. Additionally, I might attend a Board meeting for a charity that I am involved with called Global Action Plan, or I could be visiting Warwick to attend a meeting of the Council, attend a meeting of one of the committees of the Council, or I could be meeting with University colleagues and students to get a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges that Warwick faces.

I had a really useful meeting recently with...

some of the Students’ Union Sabbatical Officers to understand more about the work of the Students’ Union, and to begin exploring ways in which the lay members of Council can get more involved with students and have a better understanding of the student experience, together with the opportunities and challenges that they face.

It would be useful to work more closely with...

colleagues across the University who are not involved in the management or governance of the University to develop a better understanding of some of the issues on the ground that might not always make it to formal meetings. To assist with this, I try to spend one day a month visiting the University to meet with people without any fixed agenda, in order to get to know more people, listen to their views of the University and other things that they would like to see happen. This is particularly important with the 50th Anniversary of the University in 2015 as we need to ensure that we do all that we can to make that an enormous success.

I recently attended an event/conference where...

we were working with the Board of a major bank trying to help them understand some of the key trends and issues facing their customers at the moment, by asking them to spend a day walking in their customers’ shoes so that they could think about some of the everyday pressures and challenges of life that their customers’ face in this tough economy.

To help the bank to think about the world from a different perspective we sent them out on what we describe as ‘retail safaris’, like a treasure hunt, to go and engage with different brands about a whole range of every day challenges. The purpose was to help the Board members to realise what it would be like not be in a position of power all of the time.

At the moment I am really enjoying working on...

a project for an international e-retailer, that has grown to be an enormous business in two years. We are working directly with the founders to help them to understand what the core essence of their brand is so that it doesn’t get diluted and lost as the brand grows quickly and expands internationally. This involves travelling around the world to explore how their customers in different markets and cultures engage with the brand in different ways, capturing and bringing back that intelligence to their management team, in order to suggest recommendations that they can act on immediately, as well as proposing recommendations for the long-term.

Warwick is really unique because...

of its boundless energy and ambition to challenge the status quo whenever and wherever it can.

The best thing about working at Warwick is...

having the opportunity to meet and work with so many stimulating and interesting people who are pushing at the boundaries of knowledge and education, together with the opportunity it affords me to work in an environment that is very different from my everyday work. It is constantly refreshing, rewarding and truly stimulating.

If I could change one thing about the University it would be...

to make it a more pedestrian friendly campus. We have a beautiful, green campus in lovely countryside, and it is great to see so many people walking and cycling on campus, but it seems to me that too many people have to spend too much time and burn up too much carbon getting to and from the campus. We have made lots of improvements by working closely with our local councils and public transport providers, but there is some way to go before we will have achieved a truly green campus, in both senses of the word.

I recently went to the Arts Centre to watch...

and to be a part of a number of graduation ceremonies in July. It is one of the most uplifting things that, as a member of the University Council, you can get involved with by sharing in the University’s graduates’ achievements and celebrations.

I recently had a meal at...

Le Gusta and I was delighted by the improvements that I observed there, including the pizza creations. I enjoyed the friendly and warm welcome that I was given by all of the staff who worked there.

I recently learnt that…

staff at the University receive Warwick Learning Vouchers as one of their staff benefits.

I usually travel to campus by...

train and taxi as more often than not I travel to the University from London where I live. I am constantly amazed that I can get from the centre of London to the campus in approximately an hour and a half, which is less time than it takes me to get to some areas of London itself…!

I am really glad I got involved with...

the University Council at Warwick. It was a surprise and honour to be invited to attend for an interview to join the Council and whilst it was a nerve-wracking experience, that made it an even greater delight to be offered a role on Council, and then four years later to be elected Vice-Chair was incredibly exciting. It is really rewarding to be part of such an extraordinarily successful global university and to feel that in a small way I can help.

I have used/will use my Warwick learning vouchers for...

Members of the University Council are not employees of the University, so we don’t receive Warwick Learning Vouchers. I do think that the vouchers are a good example of the many ways in which staff who work here can benefit from a wide range of opportunities and facilities. There are so many interesting and unusual ways to use the vouchers: top of my list would be behavioural economics.

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