UCL News


Spotlight on Nicola Best

9 March 2016

This week's spotlight is on Nicola Best, Executive Assistant to the Head of the Department and Co-Chair of the Staff Disability Forum at UCL.

Nicola Best

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am the Executive Assistant to the Head of Department at Chemistry as well as Co-Chair of the Staff Disability Forum (SDF) at UCL.

In my role as EA, I am responsible for the Head of Departments diary management; I am the Lead HR advisor for the department as well as the Marketing Manager, so I have a varied and fast-paced role.

As Co-Chair of the Staff Disability Forum, I chair meetings, I'm a member of the UCL Equalities and Diversity Committee and I liaise regularly with other UCL equality groups and external groups to raise awareness of access issues in higher education, with support from UCL's Equalities and Diversity Team.

I coordinate the setting of SDF objectives, ensure the SDF is a group where everyone's voice is heard and considered and coordinate disability-related events at UCL.

The Staff Disability Forum aims to raise awareness of disability issues at UCL, including environmental, behavioural and institutional barriers experienced by Disabled people with a range of physical, cognitive and mental health conditions. 

We advise senior management on how to promote a culture that includes Disabled people and celebrates diversity, and we proactively aim to challenge and redress historic patterns of inequality faced by Disabled people from different backgrounds.

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

I first joined UCL in 2000 and have held five different positions within this time.

My previous role was working within UCL Electronics and Electrical Engineering, which I did for nine years. 

I met some wonderful people there and it is nice that my current Head of Department has lots of interaction with them so that I can keep in touch still. I learnt a lot in that department and made some friends for life.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I am really proud to be Co-Chair of the Staff Disability Forum, which has been running for 18 months.

In that time, we have created a social network called Enable@UCL for staff to share experiences and knowledge. Enable@UCL runs a series of short seminars throughout the year to raise awareness of different disabilities and the barriers faced.

In April, we will run an event to raise awareness around Autism and in May, we will be raising awareness of hearing loss. 

In December 2015, we ran an event around disabled women in leadership that received a lot of positive feedback, so we know there is demand to talk about these issues and have a voice.

We want to create a culture where people feel confident to disclose and discuss disability, so having a network specific to challenging issues for disabled people is key to making this happen.

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

The SDF is currently challenging the level of accessibility at UCL, so we are pleased that UCL Estates are just about to commission a survey of all buildings by DisabledGo - the program will be concluded and all content published by September 2016.

In my role as EA, I am currently doing an overhaul of our website, which has taken up all my spare time so I can't wait for the site to go live. It will be a nervous time, but I hope everyone likes it - it certainly is different to the current site.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

My favourite album is Adele's 21, but I have an eclectic taste in music so can listen to anything from Funky House to Elbow to Empire of the Sun.

I am a bit of a film buff, so I could not pinpoint my favourite film. I really enjoyed The Lives of Others - I cried at the ending the first time I watched it - and Notting Hill is my all-time favourite chick-flick, but then I also liked the past three Batman films with Christian Bale as they are very dark.

I do like an autobiography; Gordon Ramsay was the last one I read.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

I wouldn't dare… I only know rude jokes, so not for print.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

This is a really hard question; I love having people over for dinner. I would have loved to have met Bob Marley - I grew up listening to his music and I would like to get his take on the world that we live in now.

I would also invite Graham Norton and Dawn French for the laughs; Russell Crowe, who seem an interesting man; and Jean-Christophe Novelli - because I have already met him when I attended his master cooking course and he had lots of stories to tell, is down to earth and could help me cook up a real treat.

What advice would you give your younger self?

To slow down and be patient; there is plenty of time to be an adult, so enjoy the moment.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

In my teens, I was into motorcross racing and had my own YZ125. I loved the speed, freedom and competition.

What is your favourite place?

I love to travel. I recently went to St. Lucia and it was absolutely stunning, but my all-time favourite place is still Barcelona. There were so many things to see and do and, as an art historian, it's full of life and wonder.