UCL News


Spotlight on Jessica Shepherd

28 October 2015

This week the spotlight is on Jessica Shepherd, Head of Communications in the

Jessica Shepherd ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning/support/vpeducation" target="_self">Office of the Vice-Provost for Education & Student Affairs.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I'm Head of Communications in the office of the Vice-Provost for Education & Student Affairs. It's my job to ensure that messages about a UCL education are powerful and consistent, whether they are aimed at students, staff, the media or any other audience.

It's a tremendously diverse role: one week I'm thinking about how we communicate our ideas about what a future undergraduate degree at UCL could look like; the next I'm drafting communications to students and staff about how we can best use lecture theatres, labs and seminar spaces.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I've been in post for nearly a month. Prior to UCL, I was Education Correspondent and then News Editor at the Guardian. As Education Correspondent, I covered - and uncovered - major stories about schools, universities and colleges. As News Editor, I oversaw and edited correspondents' work, commissioned high-profile writers and was in charge of planning coverage of major future events in the UK.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I had a fair few front-page exclusive stories while I was a journalist at the Guardian, and I hope these brought important issues to the public's attention. One was about the tiny number of black headteachers in England's schools, and another was about how the government was planning to exclude climate change from the national curriculum. I also enjoyed leading a Guardian and Google campaign to improve the teaching of computer science in schools.

Tell us about a project you are working on now that is top of your to-do list?

I'm planning the communications for our five-year plan to improve a UCL education - our Education Strategy. The strategy contains quite radical thinking, such as the notion that all UCL students will learn through research no matter how early on in their studies they are. The main aim of the strategy is to ensure we are investing time, money and energy to create an educational experience that enriches our students intellectually, socially and culturally.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

I love the music of Michael Nyman. As for films, that's hard, but it would have to be Sleep Furiously. My favourite writer is Primo Levi.

What is your favourite joke?

"Does art imitate life or does life imitate TV?" (Woody Allen).

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Hannah Arendt, Joan Didion, Ken Robinson and Rory Stewart.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don't forget to regularly laugh at yourself.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I performed at the National Theatre when I was eight.

Where is your favourite place?

Milan, where I lived in my third year of university.