Getting to know the people behind the University of London: Naomi and Stephanie

In our next behind-the-scenes interview, Naomi Mackay and Stephanie Francis tell us about their new roles and life in the Admissions Office
Naomi Mackay and Stephanie Francis
"We see a huge variety of qualifications from our applicants, which keeps things interesting!": Naomi Mackay
I’ve found higher education to be a really positive environment to work in. The people I’ve worked with are very inclusive, friendly and hard working

Tell us about your role within the International Programmes.
Naomi: I work in Student Admissions, processing applications for all of the different programmes that we offer. We determine whether applicants are eligible by looking at their qualifications and experience. We also respond to enquiries from applicants and potential applicants on a wide range of matters relating to admissions and eligibility. Our team gets particularly busy in the late summer when the application deadline for our undergraduate programmes approaches!
Stephanie: I am a Senior Admissions Officer. In my role, I am responsible for processing postgraduate applications, Accreditation of Prior Learning requests and responding to student enquires regarding eligibility.

What do you like about your job?
Naomi: As is probably the case for a lot of employees at the University, I love the international aspect of the job. Within a single day I can process applications from 20 or more different countries around the world. We see such a huge variety of qualifications and experience from our applicants, which keeps things interesting!
Stephanie: I absolutely love the fact that I have a great team to work in. It makes my job enjoyable and the banter is endless! We have Coffee Club and Fruity Fridays (one team member brings in fruit for the rest of the team) as a way to keep up the team morale.

You have both recently been promoted to become Senior Admissions Officers. Congratulations! How are you finding this compared with your original role?
Naomi: Previously we focused solely on undergraduate applications, whereas now we are also dealing with all of the postgraduate programmes we offer. The workload has increased, but there is also more variety in the work we do which is interesting! We now liaise a lot with Programme Directors for our postgraduate programmes, such as those from LSHTM and UCL. The new role has certainly broadened my knowledge about admissions!
Stephanie: The role is very similar in terms of processing applications. However, one big change is the contact with senior academics such as Programme Directors, which has increased.

Naomi, you previously worked at UCL so were already a member of the University of London family. What is it that appeals to you about working in higher education?
I’ve found higher education to be a really positive environment to work in. The people I’ve worked with are very inclusive, friendly and hard working. I think there is a good balance between achieving necessary targets but also focusing on the individual student experience which makes the work you do feel rewarding and meaningful.

Stephanie, this is your first role in higher education. How do you find this compared to your previous roles in the retail industry?
It is very different moving between these industries. The biggest and greatest difference has been going from being on my feet all day to comfortably sitting down!

"I absolutely love the fact that I have a great team to work in. It makes my job enjoyable and the banter is endless!"

Are you originally from London?
Naomi: My Mum is from Finland and my Dad is Scottish. I grew up in Hertfordshire, just north-east of London, then moved to London for University. Aside from a year studying in Paris, I have lived and worked in London since then.
Stephanie: Yes, I sure am - born and bred in Brixton just like David Bowie! Only the greatest people are from Brixton.

What is your favourite thing about working in Bloomsbury?
Naomi: Bloomsbury is such a peaceful and pleasant part of London. I think my favourite thing about the area is all the little shops and cafes nearby that I can pop into during lunch or after work.
Stephanie: The Brunswick! A close and convenient shopping complex with my favourite shops, River Island, New Look and Office. If they added an H&M and Topshop, my life would be complete!

Have you been tempted to study through distance learning?
Naomi: It’s definitely a great opportunity to be able to work and gain a degree at the same time and I fully intend to get my Master’s through distance or part-time study sometime soon!
Stephanie: Yes, I am currently looking at studying a postgraduate distance learning programme as it is highly flexible and I would be able to study whilst working.

What insider tip would you give to someone visiting London?
Naomi: A lot of people come to London and only visit the famous museums, like the British Museum (Senate House’s next door neighbour!) Whilst the well-known museums are amazing and I would recommend them, there are also so many small and unusual museums that most tourists just don’t hear about, which I would really recommend too. A couple of my favourites in Bloomsbury are the Wellcome Collection and the Grant Museum of Zoology.
Stephanie: I would suggest that a visitor use London Transport to explore rather than taking a taxi. And don’t stick to central London - explore areas a little off the beaten track.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Naomi: I love learning languages and I recently started learning Chinese, which is challenging but very interesting! I’m also a member of the University of London staff choir and rehearse with them once a week at lunchtime. I’ve started running again too and am hoping to run the Helsinki marathon this summer.
Stephanie: I go to a fitness boot camp on Sundays which is great for socialising and keeping fit. As you may have guessed, I also love to shop!

What movie or novel character would you most like to be?
Naomi: I want to pick something cool, but I’m going to be honest and say Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter.
Stephanie: Sanaa Lathan or Gabrielle Union.

What is the prettiest place you have ever been to?
Naomi: My relatives have a summer cottage by a lake in the forest in eastern Finland, which is a beautiful and peaceful place. I love spending my summers there.
Stephanie: Thailand has the best views and beautiful beaches. 

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