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This interview is part of an explorative blog series with the aim of shining a light on the people that make up our vibrant university campus community, where Theatre in the Mill is located. Here, you will get to know a little more about the humans behind the institution; their stories, hopes and aspirations.

And so it begins!
As with anything, doing something for the first time is experimental and sometimes clumsy so you want to share it with someone you trust will be honest and supportive. So, the series begins with a chat with the warm and frank Ana Jara-Gonzalez.

Role at University of Bradford
Ana is an Engagement Officer

How would you describe your role?
My role is to connect the university with our stakeholders and vice versa, knowledge exchange and to provide a platform for conversations to take place. I also manage the events related to graduation ceremonies.

How has the lockdown affected you and your work?
My main responsibility during lockdown was to look after the mental health of my daughter, she’s 9 years old and I wasn’t sure how lockdown was going to affect her so my priority was to make sure she was mentally and physically fine.
Home schooling was a massive challenge and I will never be a teacher!
Finding the balance between home life and work when both are in the same place was challenging and took a while to find that balance, but we got there.
Work-wise, we deliver lots of events which have always been in a physical format and therefore great for networking; building connections and creating relationships. We’ve had to learn a new way of delivering these events online through new platforms like Microsoft Teams and Skype. A lot of learning went into delivering virtual events that effectively engaged audiences, that was very important to us.

What exciting projects are you working on right now?
Winter graduation ceremonies! We’re already working to ensure the students’ experience is not affected whatever happens over Winter. I’m excited about the new events calendar for the new academic year as we’ve learnt lots of lessons from managing events over the last few months during lockdown and we’re looking at doing things differently and more creatively.

A highlight of your time on campus/ in role so far?
We get the chance to meet really fascinating people. I met Wendy Mitchel once, she wrote a book called “Somebody I used to know”. It is about Dementia and how it changed her life. I loved the book and got to meet her as she is one of our honorary graduates.
Also, working with Bradford communities because their passion for the city is so contagious and I love learning about what they’re doing, I enjoy their energy and passion for the city.

A funny/ embarrassing story from your time on campus?
The one that comes to mind is really silly from when I started working at the university, a long time ago, 17 years ago! As English isn’t my native language there were a few situations but one that always comes to mind is when my team mentioned the “people from states”, and I thought they were talking about people from the USA and never understood why they’d travel so far for meetings. Eventually I realised there is a team called “Estates & Facilities” that worked at the university. It was a very funny language barrier, luckily, I worked it out.

A surprising/interesting fact about yourself?
I have climbed the UK’s highest mountains; Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in England and Snowdon in Wales and was happy with this achievement.

What inspires you?
Education as a tool for social mobility. I think that’s so important in our society… that everyone has access to education is very important to improve their lives. I find that absolutely fascinating, how social mobility is influenced by education.

If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self, what would that be?
To believe in myself, definitely! Confidence can be a barrier sometimes but you have to believe in yourself, you can achieve anything.

If you could time travel 500 years, would you go into the past or the future? And why?
The past because I love history and understanding the past to give you a better picture of why we’re doing things the way we are now and understand why things happened and how to avoid repeating mistakes!

What are you fearful of in the future and what are you hopeful of?
Fearful of what we’re doing to the planet, that if we don’t act in time it will go pear-shaped and there won’t be a future for our children.
I’m hopeful of the new generations , I’m hoping they’ll have more common sense. People like Greta Thunberg is an inspiration to the younger generations looking to do something about it.

What question are you never asked that you wish you were?
Oh! “Do you want me to wash your car!?”, I’m just looking at it now thinking “I wish someone asked me that!”. Or house cleaning, anything like that would be great!

If you enjoyed getting to know Ana you will love the upcoming blogs so stay tuned!
Also, I always appreciate feedback so if you have any ideas that would enhance the ‘This is Us’ series, feel free to drop me a line – h.m.p.coelho@bradford.ac.uk .