BCM313: A Listening Essay ft. The One and Only Renee Middlemost

Renee Middlemost works as a Head of Students at UOW. When I found this news out a few months ago, my exact words were “oh that makes SO much sense”. Flick to a couple of weeks ago, and I found myself in the zoom meeting, delighted that she was asked to be a guest speaker in our workshop. As the subject coordinator interviewed her about her work-based values, I listened eagerly, and drew out comparisons between my personal experiences and Renee’s.

Renee’s account of her work values and thoughts/feelings around her work match up completely to the way that I have experienced and observed her work during my degree, and I resonate with them on a personal level very strongly.

Value 1: Generosity

Renee’s generosity and friendliness stands out among a sometimes scary, uncompromising and stressful environment of student life at university.

During the interview she stated that to progress in her career, she understood that she’d have to take on a major role within the university. “I thought about what I value and what I enjoy in my job, and it is working with students”, she said. She thinks of the people she assists in her job as important, “Students are what makes the university”, and her work puts them first and at the forefront of her professional values, “I want to help them with THEIR goals”.

I know this to be true first hand, because I personally have benefited from Renee’s generosity and support in my academic and professional careers. In fact, I’m doing a photography job next week that she recommended me for. She has recognised and recommended my skills for various jobs/opportunities, and offered support and encouragement at times, which I really appreciate. I would like to embody that trait within my work – supporting others and championing their interests and making others feel encouraged, confident, comfortable and proud.

I think it is honorable to be generous within a workforce landscape that exploits us for labour, emotionally and physically. It’s easy to grow weary and do only as much as you need to be paid, if generosity isn’t natural to you. The way through this, I believe, is being assured that your generosity does not fall on deaf ears, and is rewarding for yourself and those around you. Renee’s job works very closely with students, who appreciate this generosity and actively find value in it.

When thinking about ‘the future of work’, I recognise that this semester I have been engaging in an ongoing effort of reconciliation and appeasement between the idea of showing up as my full most authentic self in a workspace that values that and rewards me for it – and not allowing any work to define, exploit or drain me for it’s own benefit. I have conversations weekly, almost daily with the people around me on the topic. I think that the future of my work will be grounded in this ideological see-saw and how I might put those ideas into practice.

Value 2: Earnestness

Renee was also described as earnest at the end of our workshop interview – this is one of my favourite ways to describe anyone. The trait of being emotionally honest, and showing of how you authentically feel.

Renee said that she aims to normalise student experiences with the student who might be struggling. To say, hey, this is something a lot of people go through, you don’t have to do it alone. She facilitates students feeling comfortable and supported through this very empathetic earnest approach. 

Coming from a generation that urges people to handle things themselves, Renee’s commitment to making students feel okay about themselves is a refreshing departure the weight of expectation. She said, “what I’m cutting through (when working with students) are these feelings of…I’m at university now I should know this”. By offering support and understanding, she breaks down barriers and fosters a sense of belonging. During the interview, she disclosed that she often uses the exact phrase below when assisting students:

Renee’s dedication to making students feel comfortable in their own skin extends beyond her professional life. She acknowledges that the challenges she faces in her job mirror those she encounters in her personal life, particularly when it comes to confronting situations where she might not have all the information she needs to make an informed choice. Her preference for making people feel comfortable rather than engaging in confrontations is a testament to her compassionate nature.

In conclusion, Renee Middlemost embodies the values and qualities that not only make her an exceptional professional but also offer a glimpse into the future of work. Her generosity and earnestness serve as guiding principles for creating workplaces that prioritize empathy, support, and authenticity. As we navigate the evolving landscape of work, Renee’s example reminds us that the path to a more fulfilling and meaningful professional life lies in embracing our personal values and championing the interests of others.