Earth Science and Engineering embeds its values in Departmental culture


ESE Departmental Art

A sketch of the department developed for an Earth Science and Engineering Away Day

ESE Values are Supportive, Excellence, Integrity, Innovative, Inclusive, Inspiring.

In the Department of Earth Science and Engineering we collectively created our values at the Away Day in 2019 and selected a final six through a Department-wide online values survey:

Supportive | Excellence | Integrity | Innovative | Inclusive | Inspiring

Now, we are running sessions for all staff and students to embed these values in our culture, to make ESE the best place to work and study.

The ESE Values Sessions underpin our commitment to Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Culture. They support us in enhancing our Department’s culture and enabling the Department of Earth Science and Engineering to be the best place to study, research, teach and work.

In the ESE Values Sessions, participants explore how our values appear in the department and identify the attitudes, expectations and behaviours which bring these values to life. The sessions are led by Lesley Aitcheson, an experienced facilitator and coach, and Melanie Lee, Imperial College Organisational Development Consultant.


Sharing views

The open discourse in the ESE Values Sessions is extremely valuable. Aitcheson, who facilitates each session, says the sessions have shown the commitment and dedication of staff and students when it comes to creating and maintaining an inclusive culture. “We have shared so many inspiring examples of how these values are lived every day which has been wonderful to listen to and experience. We also explored examples of instances when people are not living the values and the disappointment and frustration that comes with this. This lets us know that living by these values is important to the participants and we’ve been working towards challenging and improving the culture wherever the opportunity presents itself.”

During each session, people share their views on how ESE is already demonstrably supportive, excellent, has integrity, and is innovative, inclusive and inspiring. The sessions provide a place to develop understanding of what our values look like. In the process of discussing the values, meeting new people, and sharing experiences, we take steps to becoming a more supportive and inclusive Department.


Strengthening our culture

Melanie Lee, who has worked with ESE on the values throughout their co-creation, adds “We have seen the concept of the values strengthen, and I am proud to see how despite the challenges of working remotely, ESE has been able to continue to positively develop its culture during this time.”

We knew we had to strengthen our culture in ESE. The 2019 Staff Survey highlighted that respondents wanted us to do more for people’s wellbeing, needed more information on how to get support, and sought clarification that we do not tolerate bullying and harassment. Our work in 2020, including these Values Sessions – but also looking at our history and providing more support to staff and students – is addressing these points. As always, there is more to do.

Head of Department, Professor Mark Sephton, says: “We are excited to reach every individual in ESE with these sessions. When all staff and students have attended, there will be a more common understanding of how we can work to ensure we live the values: Supportive | Excellence | Integrity | Innovative | Inclusive | Inspiring. We will continue to build on this understanding and take further action in 2021.”  

The workshops are not a teaching and learning exercise; they are open discussion, online, in breakout groups. They are designed to be an open forum, to share and connect around values.


Why attend

Those who have attended sessions enjoyed the exchange of opinions. One attendee said of the session: “Just discussing [the values] with fellow members of the department was eye-opening.” Another said the session “was an interesting way of finding out what other people thought” about the values.

Attending an ESE Values Session also provides an opportunity to meet remotely with colleagues and others from the Department, during these challenging and socially isolating times.  We have received positive feedback about the benefit of being able to do this, now that we have significantly fewer opportunities to meet casually as we move about campus. Participants reported feeling more included after attending the session and enjoyed seeing people from different parts of the Department:

“It was particularly motivating to listen to positive examples of the values, as well as the willingness of senior staff to take decisive action in the areas where there are behaviours against the ESE values.” 

The work we are doing in ESE dovetails with College actions to develop values, and reinforces the aims of the College in our Department.

Where the sessions bring up issues, they also introduce opportunities to signpost where to go for support or resources:

Champion the values

While we work to have every staff member and student attend, all members of ESE will be thinking about how the values are exemplified in the Department.

As we expand the sessions to reach all Undergraduates and Master’s students, with these sessions beginning in February 2021, we seek volunteers who will champion our values and support the workshops. If you are interested, please get in touch.

116 staff and students have attended a session as of 1 February 2021, and everyone will have attended by July 2021.

With thanks to Dr Matthew Genge for the sketch featured in this article.


Victoria Murphy

Victoria Murphy
Institute of Global Health Innovation