Call and Response

30 Mar 2020

Ever wondered who it is that answers the phone when you call the Student Support hotline? UQLife caught up with Meg Stegeman from the Student Relations Network to get the skinny on what it's really like working in the UQ Contact Centre and responding to all the coronavirus enquiries.

How long have you been with the SRN team and why did you join?

I joined in mid-2019 on the recommendation of a friend who already worked here. It’s an awesome place to work; super convenient, supportive work environment, and you get to feel good at the end of the day when you clock off, because you have been helping students. Because it was seasonal with lots of work for a week or 2 early in the semester, it didn’t interfere with my studies.

What is a typical day like working in the contact centre?

It honestly changes every day. With every Government announcement, every change in circumstances, so too does the information we have to know to support our fellow students. Our shifts range 8am and 7pm and all of us are working full-time hours to respond to every email, phone call or chat we get.

We’re communicating with all different factions of UQ to give students correct and clear information and advice, and that in itself can be a huge challenge in an organisation as big as UQ. I had no idea how complicated this process would be when I signed up, but it definitely never gets boring! We’re now working to check in with all our commencing students, who are no doubt having a very interesting start to University, and making sure they are being properly supported. It’s a bit of a throwback to our work earlier this year before we were repurposed to help students impacted by coronavirus.

What are the enquiries you receive the most?

This changes every few days. Lately, it has been students excited to re-enrol after having dropped their courses. Many international students were affected by the Australian Travel restrictions since February, and we’re so happy to finally be able to advise those who were unable to get here, that they can continue their studies. I think the team has done a pretty great job.

Student's working in the Student Relations Network contact centre.

How do you unwind after a day taking calls?

I very much like to unplug at the end of the day and generally won’t check the news unless it’s a big announcement from the Government. I’ll go home and cook a nice meal, do a bit of gardening and hang out with my housemates and Netflix. I don’t go out at the moment unless it’s for work or an essential trip like to the grocery store, so I’m coming up with more projects I can do at home to keep me occupied. At the moment I’m tackling my cupboards - my dog definitely supports this decision!

What is the hardest part of your job?

What I do is very much about giving people the tools and information to fix their own problems, which makes them more capable of tackling tasks in the future. Making sure I’m up to date with the information I’m giving to students is so important, and it changes every day with each Government announcement.

It can also be pretty emotionally draining supporting students through some of the strangest times many of us have ever encountered. This has affected many people, so of course, you have contact with some of the most severely impacted groups. There is definitely a group sentiment that many just want this situation to calm down.

Students from the Student Relations Network.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to your fellow students right now?

The biggest message I would spread is: approach each day with understanding. All people, small businesses, large companies, even our governments, are trying to do the best they can and keep everyone safe, but with so much complexity it can be hard to figure out what’s best. It’s better to remember the kindness and community spirit during this time as we all work together to beat this, rather than focusing on what is restricted right now. After all, life will return to normal eventually and we can have as many people as possible make it through safely to the other side if we all do our part now.

There has been a lot of misinformation around the UQ’s Help Hampers and the care packages, what’s the deal with the care packages?

When the announcement was released that all travellers to Australia would be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival, we realised many international students arriving would be very vulnerable from lack of resources. Student Services decided to provide a free UQ Care Package to arriving students who may not be near family or friends to provide food and essentials. As more students began self-isolating, we thought others might benefit from a similar service, so we also created the Help Hampers. This was a way to support other members of the UQ community who may need quick access to food while waiting for other services to deliver. The team has worked hard to source and compile the Help Hampers, and we’ll continue doing so for any student who requests one. The UQ Hardship Hampers are a natural progression from this, where the University has been able to source a higher volume of products, and secured funding to support this initiative which means UQ can help more students in need.