Staff member, Athena Barrett, talks about her long and continuing career with London Met.
Date: 27 November 2020
On Monday 20 June 1988, my first day of work at this institution, the then Polytechnic of North London, I met a Human Resources colleague in the lift, carrying name plates for a dinner table. They were for a long service ceremony, and I immediately recognised I was in a place where people were valued. I didn’t know then that I would be attending my own ceremony 25 years later.
I’ve spent more than half my life in this community of learning and I have a real sense of belonging to it: to the students, to the staff and to its mission of social justice. Apart from the good working conditions which, in practical ways, was a great support as I brought up my children, the students captured my heart from the start. I have worked on student counters in different roles over the years and to enrol an applicant, watch them grow, then graduate, has been a great gift and privilege in my life. The graduation ceremonies are one of the things this institution does really well and seeing proud partners, parents, friends and classmates clapping for our graduands, as they process across the stage of the Barbican Hall, cannot be beaten for its sense of pure joy.
When we were working on campus, I would occasionally stand outside a lecture room and peek in through the window to see what the students were learning. I knew that something important was happening in that moment and I would experience a great sense of gratitude that I was working in a place of knowledge and not helping make some other human being rich, instead!
Although London Met has evolved over the years the one thing that has remained constant is social justice for the common good. When an applicant enrols at the University it is about equipping them to go out into the world with the knowledge and experience they need to make a good life for themselves and a difference, in myriad ways, to their families and other citizens, whatever discipline they have studied.
Achieving this goal might be easier for some students than others but what I have enjoyed observing, as I’ve walked through the corridors or sat in a canteen, is the collaborative and collective nature of the support going on. A sort of boosting each other with ‘a leg up’; the mission of the University in action.
London Met continues to thrive in these latter times, evolving its student support; creating its Centre for Equity and Inclusion to ensure fair outcomes for all students; communicating meaningfully, via regular online forums, to its students and staff; giving back to the city of London through partnerships; making the schools real academic homes for students; and undertaking a high standard of research.
As to working alongside my colleagues, I wouldn’t swap a day of these 32 years of being with them. I cannot speak highly enough of my immediate team, and those staff across the whole University who will do what it takes to support each other, and walk the extra mile where needed. This is my community.
The students and staff of London Met are mine, and I am theirs. And that’s just the way it is.