Darren Griffin: Celebrating a milestone with a good deed

Genetic disease affects 1 in 50 babies, can lead to stillbirth, miscarriage, pregnancy complications and IVF failure. Young researchers working in this field drive scientific progress in this area. One of the ways in which we can promote their careers is by supporting them to visit other labs, to attend conferences and to present their fascinating research.

Sadly, funds are all too short for allowing them to do this, and so Darren Griffin decided to fundraise to support these young people in enhancing their scientific careers in this fascinating and worthwhile area of science.

Darren recently celebrated his 50th birthday, and, instead of presents, asked friends, family and collaborators to donate to his cause.  He said:

“The idea came from the fact that I was having a big birthday party and didn’t want my house filled up with presents from every guest I was inviting.  Bringing opportunities to young scientists is one of the most rewarding parts of my job and I thought there could be no better way to divert any monetary good wishes to and even better good cause.  The just giving page was excellent and I was overwhelmed by the generosity of my friends.  The money is already about to be put to good use with three of my lab going to a conference in Florence later in the year.”

To date, the fund has exceeded its initial target of £4,000 and continues to grow.  You can visit the page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Darren-Griffin

Alumna Miss Africa Great Britain fundraises for Nigeria

Alumna Sarah Jegede, and Miss Africa Great Britain recently got in touch to give us an update on the projects that she is currently working on.

I am undertaking a charity project in aid of the students of St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in rural Ifofin, in Osun State, Nigeria. St Mary’s is the oldest school in Ilesha, and one of the poorest schools too. St Mary’s school is in need of a new school sign board and the students are in dire need of stationery. I am raising funds in aid of this cause to provide a new school sign board, stationery, and school bags for the kids. This project is very dear to my heart as I have always wanted to help children in poverty, and winning Miss Africa GB has given me the opportunity to make a difference in lives that are often neglected. When I applied to Miss Africa GB, I was drawn by the amount of charity work that the organisation carries out. My desire to help children in poverty, particularly in Nigeria, was what drove me to win, even when I was tired or felt discouraged during the competition.

There are over 15 million children in Nigeria aged 5-15 who are not in education and it is mostly due to poverty. Their families cannot afford to send them to school and sustain their academic needs financially. This includes school fees but also supplies that are needed for school, such as books, stationery, school uniforms, and school bags. These children are forced to work on the streets, and it affects their mental and social development. They end up underachieving academically, and even worse – many eventually quit the school system because the financial challenges are too much to bear. They often grow up to live in poverty, and their own children inherit this struggle and are forced into the labour force at young ages. You would agree with me that this heartbreaking cycle must end.

In aid of St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, we are hosting a fundraising gala on the 29th of April at The Ripple Centre in Barking. Guests will be treated to an evening of stunning entertainment, great music, dancing, world-class food and drinks with the opportunity to win a wealth of exquisite money can’t buy prizes and experiences. The event will begin at 6pm with guests walking the Red carpet and taking brilliant photographs.

All proceeds from the fundraiser will go towards providing bags and stationery for the 200 elementary School students of this school.

To find out more, you can visit Sarah’s page.

Alumnus Matthew O’Hare: 5 years on

A former student of Kent accredited campus London Contemporary Dance School (LCDS) and recently recognised future leader in the ‘40 under 40’ (Scottish Business News), International Executive Matthew O’Hare took some time out of his busy schedule to tell us more about his memories of studying through Kent and shared what he has been working on since graduating with a BA (Hons) (2011) and a PGDip (2012) in Contemporary Dance.

It’s been a whirlwind almost 5 years since my journey with LCDS came to a close and what a lot has happened in that time. I now work with in the Scottish Government’s international economic development arm – Scottish Development International (SDI) – delivering senior Ministerial visits overseas.

As an Executive, I am tasked with maximising trade and investment visits aligning with the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government (PfG) on a global footprint. Core to this, is working with in-market specialists across our Global Network (SDI has 29 overseas offices, either sole operations or co-habiting with FCO) and sector specialists delivering briefings, high-quality event management, speeches and media/comms/marketing activity.

I’m also involved in a number of external projects including the US State Department’s Youth Leadership Programme YLUK, am fortunate enough to be mentored at CEO level of a major public sector company and most recently received Ministerial approval to take up a Non-Executive Director role as a Board Member of Scotland’s largest education region – Lanarkshire – where I sit on the regional strategic body.

So how, you may be thinking, does an Executive working in the area of Economic Development wind up in such a high-profile role with a background in Dance? The correlation between my work experience and education is actually a lot closer than you may assume. I had several Universities I was choosing between and I remember being so drawn to LCDS for its reputation for high-quality teaching, opportunities for collaboration and feedback from students on the skill-set they left with that served them well, regardless of the profession they pursued. I was fortunate to be put forward by my lecturers to coordinate graduate touring across the UK and Europe. This was really my first experience doing what I now call ’Stakeholder Engagement’, coordinating international events and really opened up my mind to the skill-set I could extract and apply in almost any sector.

And I have – my professional break came through the Commonwealth Graduate Fund gaining employment as a Producer on the Commonwealth Games Culture Programme. Since working in Local Authority; I have developed events and strategic relations experience also working in the Education sector, at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, before taking up my current position at the beginning of last year.

My earliest ambitions go back to an enthusiastic young man thriving off passionate environments. Platforms where you can share a genuine drive to make a change. Parallel to my dance training was an abiding intrigue in diplomacy, politics and international relations and to those that know me it’s little surprise I’ve taken the route I have to where I am now. I take great joy in the networks I operate in and various roles I have doing my part to help make a difference.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I would impart to recent or upcoming graduates, is to proactively look out a sounding board to talk through your ambitions, challenges and if you can – someone outside your direct employment. Experienced strategic guidance is gold dust. Amongst the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given by my mentor is “Learn to Walk before you Run”. Ambition is great and don’t ever loose your core purpose of what drives you and where you want to go. But don’t miss out on enjoying the experiences you already have around you, take the time to hone your craft, build your networks and importantly reputation – these are all vital exercises and in the long term will pay off far more than jumping on to the next project or job before you’ve really drawn all you can from your current circumstances.

The immediate few years after graduating are by far the most fast-paced, exciting, challenging and potentially memorable in your life adventure. They are a time to build your resilience, follow what genuinely makes you tick and by putting in the effort to invest in yourself can be truly rewarding. Many of my former University classmates often remark how it is many years after graduating that lessons our lecturers imparted come to fruition – this is so true and I would implore each student currently at or coming to a close in their studies through Kent to draw as much from your lecturers and fellow classmates as you can. You never now when and just how useful this training can be.

You can connect with Matthew via LinkedIn.

‘The History Sphere’ by Katy Chalk (Darwin, 1997)

Alumna Kathy Elkins has had a varied career; starting with nursing, moving on to NHS administration and then studying at Kent and finally achieving her Masters in 2003.

She has now become an author (pen name Katy Chalk) and written a children’s fantasy novel called ‘The History Sphere’.   As an alumna of the Classical Archaeology and comparative Literature Studies programme, Kathy believes that learning history should be fun.

Consequently, the story of ‘The History Sphere’ follows the malevolent theft of five discs of pivotal history from the titular ‘History Sphere’ by an evil warlock, intent on altering world history.  Only eleven-year-old Olivia and her dog Archie can stop him!

Kathy now lives in Maidstone, has two grown up children and three grandchildren, including Olivia, who is the heroine of the story.

The novel is available through Amazon and local distributors.

Meet the new UKA Boston Chair: Scarlet Kim

Scarlet Kim

Where were you raised?

I was born in Nyack, New York. But I grew up in the Bronx in New York City. New Yorker to the core.  After high school though, travelled away from New York and lived international and domestically for many years.

What made you decide to study at Kent?

Head Professor Hugh Miall co-wrote “Contemporary Conflict Resolution” with Oliver Ramsbotham and Tom Woodhouse. I studied with the book during my undergraduate studies. And wanted to meet the man in person. He was the Head Professor of the Department of Politics and International Relations.

What would you like to see the group achieve in the next few years? 

I would like the group to grow and make more happy connections. To network, volunteer, and expand the potential of what the chapter can do for the University of Kent and alumni services. Once we are able to establish a foundation of what the Boston chapter stands on, I am excited to see us grow further.

What was your earliest ambition?

My earliest ambition was surprisingly to be an entomologist and to study insects. Beetles fascinated me, however after a while, I couldn’t handle the cringe factor.

What was your first job?

My mother used to own an old fashion candy shop with soda fountain drinks and spinning stools like the classic Americana style. When my mother realized my maths skills were on par, I was working the counter and serving drinks when I turned eight. It was great, I was managing high school and college part-timers because I was the most experienced. I didn’t get paid though, since it was my mom. But tips were great!

What advice would you give a new student at Kent?

Be open, try everything so that you can figure out what you want to focus on, make friends with everyone because you will find a kindred spirit among them, and look up at the night sky at Kent for the stars are beautiful.

Would you recommend Kent to prospective students? Why?

My experience at Kent in Canterbury was life-changing. The friends, the memories, and the studies. I don’t have any negative things to say. And I want others to experience the same amazing time. Canterbury will always be my second home.

How would you describe yourself in six words?

Not enough words to describe Scarlet.

Meet the new UKA Boston Chair: Natalya Orlando

Natalya Orlando

Where were you raised?
Massachusetts.

What made you decide to study at Kent?

I pursued my Master’s Degree in Political Strategy and Communication, which was only offered at a handful of universities worldwide.

What would you like to see the group achieve in the next few years? 

My co-chair, Scarlet, and I want to expand the Kent alumni network in the Boston area, connect with the Kent global alumni network, and encourage our Boston area chapter to get involved in local events and volunteer opportunities.

If you didn’t attend Kent how would your life now be different?

I would not have many of the wonderful Kent connections I have, would never have travelled the UK, as I did, nor would I have my Master’s Degree, which I am very proud of!

 

What was your earliest ambition?

Astronaut!

What have you been up to since graduating?

I have worked extensively in issue, and candidate based campaigns, preside over the Boston Austrian Economics group, is a social media consultant, and currently work in the investment banking industry.

What advice would you give a new student at Kent?

Take advantage of everything Kent, and the lovely city of Canterbury offers!

Who or what inspires you?

Jesus Christ

The Footstep Tales – Jess and James

What is your Kent story?

I am an alumna of Kent, having graduated in 2008 after studying Classical & Archaeological Studies and Comparative Literature in the School of European Culture and Languages. During my time as a student I worked on the alumni telephone campaign, in the Eliot staff room, Rutherford dining hall and in Mungos and then a couple of years after graduating I returned to a job in the Templeman library. A temp job brought me back to SECL in 2012 where I found a permanent position and I currently work as the Senior Programme Co-ordinator for the two subjects I studied whilst I was a student. On my first day as a temp I met a shy, thoughtful boy working in the finance section of SECL and long story short, I married him.

 

Why did you get a brick?

James and I were married on 10th September 2015 at Lake Garda in Italy. Our brick was a complete surprise and was given to us as a wedding gift by the administrative team in SECL who I am lucky enough to consider not only colleagues but friends. They knew I was an alumna and that Kent (and SECL specifically) had shaped an enormous part of who I was, as well as bringing James and I together. I was touched by their kindness and thoughtfulness and will be forever grateful for now being part of the Kent landscape.

 

What is your favourite Kent memory?

This is a very difficult question but I think the sense of community I felt within my department amongst both students and teachers would be the part that stayed with me. I don’t think anyone should underestimate how crucial it is to have the support of one’s peers and mentors through difficult times.

I am fortunate enough to still be a part of Kent and involved in that community even now – I am still making memories most recently as part of the University of Kent Players where I am having a fantastic time and making lifelong friends.

 

 

Love at Kent – Janet Jackson and Stewart Kempster

A celebration of the Engagement of Janet Jackson and Stewart Kempster on Graduation Day, 12 July 1968. Photograph taken before the Graduation Ball (which accounts for the non-standard student clothing) behind what is now the Mandela Building. From left to right: Roger Mitchell, Politics & Government, Eliot Graham Austin, Economic & Social History, Rutherford Caroline Green, Mathematics, Eliot John Platt, Economics, Rutherford Marilyn Platt (née Palmer), Sociology, Eliot Paul Jordan, Physics, Eliot Jill Jordan (née Sharman), Economic & social History, Eliot Janet Kempster (née Jackson), Head Housekeeper, Eliot Stewart Kempster, Mathematics, Eliot David Mogg’s Guest David Mogg, Chemistry, Eliot Carmela Green, Richard Hackworth’s Guest Richard Hackworth, Mathematics, Eliot Ann Thurman (née Pearce), Matron, Eliot John Thurman, Postgraduate Chemistry, Eliot

It was January 1968 and student Stewart Kempster had arranged the visit of the BBC to record UKC’s participation in the radio quiz programme ‘Third Degree’.   Things did not go well as a bomb warning was received whilst the recording was being made.   Everything stopped and the area around Eliot College Common Room, where the event was being held, was cleared.   The college staff were involved in the evacuation too, and, when all was back to normal, he was invited back by the Head Housekeeper, Jan Jackson, to her flat (now part of the Mandela Building) for coffee.   And that’s where and when it all started.

Jan’s flat proved the ideal place for preparing for the Mathematics finals and meant that, despite lodging in Whitstable, he now had a bolthole on campus with the benefits of domestic assistance and preferential dining as Jan was responsible for many things including food service.  (The effects are still visible in Stewart’s silhouette!)

Graduation Day was the next step forward as it was then that they were engaged.   A Sherry Party (don’t forget this was 1968) was held for a number of friends on the grass outside the flat to celebrate their engagement before everyone joined the other main event of the night, the Graduation Ball.    They were married in 1970 and have a son and daughter and three granddaughters.  Apart from a two-year posting to the USA, they have lived in Kent since getting married, and are working hard to reduce the length of their bucket list.

So not all relationships formed at the University have been between students, and it is interesting to note that John Thurman who was researching his doctorate in chemistry married Ann Pearce who was Eliot College Matron;  both are in the photograph.

Meet Shannon Laribo – 2016 UKA Kent Fulbright Scholar

This is Shannon Laribo and she received the 2016 UKA Kent-Fulbright Scholarship for her Master’s degree in Methods of Social Research. This scholarship is offered in partnership with the US-UK Fulbright Commission and supported by the University of Kent in America for a US citizen to undertake postgraduate studies at Kent. She shared her story with us.

After becoming interested in race studies during undergraduate study, I wanted to become an expert in the field. I hoped to acquire a skill set in research methodology in order to ensure that my future contributions to race and ethnicity research would be valid and significant. However, this depended on financial contribution.  Looming student loan debt from my undergraduate study made it impossible to embark on a more extensive academic journey without financial help and so receiving this scholarship was both an immense honor, and a necessity.

I plan to eventually create research-based educational initiatives to reduce prejudice in children at primary and secondary schools. My aspirations are of a global scope as I hope to continuously research the development of prejudice and ways to address children’s prejudice in an international context.

My parents, who have never been to the United Kingdom, traveled here to move me in.  As a lower-middle class, black American family in the south of the United States, international travel has neither been a priority or of easy access to us.  The only family members who travelled to other countries were those of military background, otherwise the act was seen as one for the rich.

My father was from a military family and had lived in Spain when he was a small child.  Given our financial and cultural constraints, he had not been back to Madrid and had never expected he would.  Forty years later, I was able to take my father back to Spain where we began a scavenger hunt for his home, neighbourhood, school and more.  This experience was of utmost importance to my family and me.

I am so inspired by fellow students.  Given my values of diversity and inclusion, I feel that I am consistently learning from the diverse backgrounds and thoughts of other students.  In seminars, students may make sense of the coursework through examples of their experiences in their home country.  To enrich the discussion we often further compare and contrast our varied experiences.  I am building lasting friendships with students from all over the world!

I appreciate Kent’s uniquely diverse environment and particularly the heightened amount of international students that live on campus at Woolf College.  I am exposed to people with a variety of experiences not just culturally, but also in their stage of life.  I am meeting students who have completed other master’s degrees in other countries, students who have worked for several years and are established within their career, students of all ages and walks of life.

Meet Eliot Williamson – Kent’s Washington DC Chapter Chair

Where were you raised?   United States

What made you decide to study/work at Kent?  I found out about University of Kent, Brussels School of International Studies through a friend that was half British and Belgian.

What would you like to see the group achieve in the next few years? The goal is to get more alumni out to events, connect with prospective students, and connect alumni back to the University of Kent.

How has your experience at Kent helped you since graduation?  I have been able to connect with clients and colleagues in the international space at high levels. My experience at Kent has been a tremendous help.

Would you recommend Kent to prospective students? Why?  I would definitely recommend Kent to a prospective student! The Brussels campus has much to offer and it is in one of the world’s most international cities. The advice I would give a new University of Kent student is to take advantage of everything Kent and Brussels have to offer.