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Profile: Alan Tewungwa

Alan Tewungwa, HR Adviser and Equality Officer

Alan Tewungwa is HR Adviser and Equality Officer at Univ. In this profile, he discusses his proudest achievements, HR in the pandemic and Black History Month. 

What did you do before you started working at Univ?
I worked at Oxfam GB in Oxford as HR Advisor and then latterly as HR Manager for Camden Society/Thera, a learning disability charity. Basically, I’ve worked in the people management profession for most of my career.

How did you come to Univ?
My link with Oxford stems from Oxfam. I started College-based HR work at St Antony’s but soon got tired of its stand-alone and anachronistic function. Univ was setting up a HR function at the time and my predecessor, Helen Evans, who once worked at Oxfam, told me about the great expectations as well as the fulsome support of our Domestic Bursar.  I was attracted to the job and the rest is history.

I was a bit familiar with Univ already. My brother studied Chemistry here (1993-97) and I came to see him occasionally.

What does your day-to-day life as HR Adviser & Equality Officer look like? How has the pandemic changed your experience?
Generally, it’s hectic and pretty heavy-going. Staff are joining and leaving frequently.  You have to be “on point” on many things. You always need to be mindful about impacting someone’s contractual arrangements or their emotional feelings and that includes managers.

The pandemic has just shifted the focus and priorities rather than changing anything fundamentally. It’s the same issues but just in a different order. Recruitment has increased. Staff welfare and mental health are now a priority for many organisations. Managing flexible working is also taking centre stage.

Alan with one of his childrenWhat is your proudest achievement?
It’s my little ones, no doubt. That’s what I’m really proud about.

At Univ, it’s bringing in more professional HR practices. We’ve come a long way because previously much of the HR operation was rudimentary and diffused.

We’ve centralised many processes and introduced more modern approaches. We are one of a handful of colleges, for example, that have implemented a HRIS. Several colleges are exploring moving in this direction.

However, we’re not resting on our laurels. We know there’s still some way to go.

Have you faced any challenges in your life that you are happy to share here? If so, how did you cope with them?
My younger sister had a major stroke a couple of years ago. She survived it against the odds but lost some of her independence.

This devastating event turned our (family) life upside down. We’ve all had to become carers overnight but the biggest challenge is trying to continually reinforce her mental outlook. It’s key to her potential recovery.

However, during the recent lockdowns, resources and facilities were cancelled or limited and which has made things doubly hard.  We’ve coped by pooling our resources – hard and soft. Above all, we give thanks always to the Almighty.

How do you feel about the celebration of Black History Month?
If you read a history book, where pages have been torn out, you’ll get an incomplete view. A significant part of world history has been white-washed due to the imperial legacy of the west.

BHM which emerged in America in the early 1900s, spearheaded by C G Woodson, seeks to correct this one-sided view. Therefore, BHM is a necessary part of our study of history.  By “our”, I mean all of us not just peoples from Africa and Asia.

However, BHM must guard against a largely parochial view. It’s the bigger picture that matters.

Describe Univ in three words.
Wonderful, welcoming and “woke”.

Published: 5 October 2021

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