Praise for University’s Community Focus from Higher Education Expert in America

Sophie Zdatny visit
Sophie Zdatny (centre) being presented with a book about the history of the University of Worcester on her visit by University of Worcester Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive, Professor David Green CBE DL. Left is Lord-Lieutenant of Worcestershire, Beatrice Grant

While in the UK, Sophie Zdatny, the former Chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges System – which incorporates Vermont State University and the Community College of Vermont - toured the University of Worcester. She also spoke with Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive, Professor David Green CBE DL.

Ms Zdatny, who grew up near Upton-Upon-Severn, but moved to the United States for her university studies, described the facilities as “amazing”.

“It’s really, really impressive,” she said. “To see what’s happened here, the buildings and the growth. I can see how it’s really helping the community in terms of redevelopment. The University has expanded into areas within the community that were ripe for redevelopment. It seems very well planned and thought through.

“There are similarities in the system that I was working for in the United States. We existed ‘for the benefit of the state of Vermont’ and we took that commitment to serve the state very seriously - with a big focus on meeting the needs of the community, particularly with respect to workforce development. That same focus is readily apparent at the University of Worcester.”

Ms Zdatny, who recently stepped down from her role after nine years, visited The Hive, a University and Worcestershire County Council shared facility, where she was able to view Shakespeare’s marriage bond in the County archive. She also visited the University’s School of Law, the City Campus and the Three Counties School of Nursing and Midwifery clinical skills and simulation facilities. At the Severn Campus, she toured the new Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Centre for Health and Medical Education, which houses the University’s Three Counties Medical School, and saw its anatomy suite.

“I think for these kinds of institutions moving forward, it’s important for people to understand the value of higher education and to see how it connects with their lives,” said Ms Zdatny. “It used to be universities were for an elite few, but as we move forward a lot of students that come to Vermont are first generation (the first in their family to go to university), a lot of them are in an economically challenging situation, and they never thought university was for them. So being in the community and having the facilities that connect is critical and that seems very much like what’s happening here. It’s opening it up to people that thought university was not a path for them. To be able to have children and teenagers coming in [to The Hive] and thinking this is part of the University of Worcester, it opens up people’s minds to the possibilities of what the future can be.”

As a trained lawyer herself, Ms Zdatny singled out the facilities at the University’s School of Law for particular praise. The University has its own mock courtroom designed to emulate that of a real court, giving students a taste of what it will be like to practise law beyond their studies. Ms Zdatny said she had been able to do practice sessions at real courts in her own training. “Having the courtroom is great,” she said. “It can be really intimidating to walk into the courtroom and wonder where do I sit, where does the judge sit. It is the same with the mannequins that you have in the health training facilities. Being in a safe environment to learn is really important.”

She also highlighted the Anatomage Table used by the Medical School (a digital life-sized three-dimensional body that can be examined by students as an alternative to dissecting a human body) as something she had not seen before. “That was incredible and fascinating how technology is getting incorporated into education and the possibilities that opens up,” she added. “People come out much better prepared and educated.”