Monthly Archives: January 2015

Alumnus wins the Guardian’s self-published book of the month award

Mike Stoner, who graduated from Kent in 2011 with an MA in Creative Writing, has recently won the Guardian’s self-published book of the month award for his novel Jalan Jalan.

The book, which Mike began to write as part of his creative writing dissertation at Kent, tells the story of a man who travels to Indonesia to start a new life and overcome the loss of his girlfriend, but who is still haunted by her ghost and memories. ‘I had spent a year in Indonesia which gave me some of the most interesting memories of my life, so I used these as the basis for the fictional story. It’s about adapting to a new environment, the concept of time, and an insight into life on Sumatra’ he explains.

The Guardian’s review credits the novel as being ‘an interesting, involving tale of self-transformation, and a welcome blast of heat and spice in this cold, grey British December.’

Since graduating from Kent, Mike has worked as a manager in a language school and has combined working life with writing Jalan Jalan, which he subsequently self-published. ‘Finding time to write whilst doing a full-time job can be very difficult’ he says. ‘I found the best way around this was to try and write between 10pm and 1am the next morning.’

He acknowledges that spending a day or more writing a scene and then realising it was no good was a great challenge. ‘I had to learn not to be scared of the delete button. In the early stages, I found that the main thing was to get stuck in and involved in your work, without worrying too much about the quality, typos and mistakes. Write, write and write, and try not to keep re-reading what you’ve already done – although that’s very difficult! Re-drafting is the hard part, but also the most satisfying.’

Mike, who is currently in talks with a publisher, hopes to get Jalan Jalan on bookshop shelves and to write more novels in the future.

Jalan Jalan by Mike Stoner is available now on Amazon Kindle.

Book launch at ‘Understanding Philanthropy’ conference


A Centre for Philanthropy Beacon Project book, telling the untold story of gifts to the University, will be launched at a conference this summer.

To launch the book – provisionally entitled Kent: The Philanthropy Story – the University is holding a conference, titled ‘Understanding Philanthropy’, at Kent on Monday 29 June 2015.

The conference will welcome speakers from across the globe, both practitioners and theorists, to examine the meaning and mission of philanthropy in contemporary society. Keynote speakers include Professor Michael Moody, author of Understanding Philanthropy, and Dr René Bekkers, co-author of A Literature Review of Empirical Studies of Philanthropy. The conference is open to all, but registration is essential.

In addition, the Centre will be holding two debates on the role of philanthropy in Higher Education, one on our Canterbury campus on 10 March and one on our Medway campus on 10 April. The debates will be a discussion of the moral and practical implications of philanthropic funding for research and innovation.

For more information, please contact Triona Fitton.

You can also follow the Kent: The Philanthropy Story blog.

Beacon Projects are part of the University’s 50th anniversary celebrations. The initiative consists of 12 innovative projects which will explore areas where the University might be able to go forward in new and enterprising ways; and help to shape its trajectory over the next 50 years. Further information is available on the Beacon Projects webpages.

Kent historians host New Delhi reception


Kent historians have hosted a reception in New Delhi to mark 400 years of Anglo-Indian diplomatic contact and Kent’s 50th anniversary.

The reception followed a conference, in the Nehru Memorial Library, which analysed Anglo-Indian interactions in India from the early 17th century to the middle of the 19th century. The conference was attended by Kent scholars, led by Reader in the School of History Dr William Pettigrew, and historians from around India.

Kent delegates hosted the evening reception, in the Delhi Gymkhana Club, for academic colleagues as well as Kent alumni and local contacts to mark both 400 years of Anglo-Indian corporate connections and Kent’s 50th anniversary.

The gathering was part of the international outreach activities of Dr Pettigrew’s five-year £1 million Research Leadership Award from the Leverhulme Trust. Dr Pettigrew has formed an international research team to examine how English trading corporations – including the East India Company – helped to integrate global trade and structure an international dialogue about government and political economy.

Further information about Dr Pettigrew’s project can be found at:

Publication highlights worldwide research impact


As the University celebrates its strong performance in the Research Excellence Framework (REF), a new publication highlights our research impact.

Since its foundation, research has always been an important part of the University’s mission, with more than 55 research centres and hubs now spread across its various locations.

This collection of case studies – published to mark the University’s 50th anniversary – shows how Kent research has clarified ethics in healthcare and is helping to improve adult social care. It also features an award-winning centre which improves the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Kent Research: Making a difference outlines several examples of progress in pharmaceuticals and also presents examples of how Kent research has had an impact on UK Government, including the creation of a new model for the social care system to identify limitations in the funding system. Kent research has also provided a better understanding of how wealthy donors make decisions, and how research into biometrics is helping to make the world a safer place.

In addition, Kent researchers are transforming heritage management, and research from the University’s schools of Architecture, Anthropology and Conservation, Engineering and Digital Arts, Business and Law all has a clear focus on global sustainability.

To find out more about about how Kent researchers are making a difference regionally, nationally and internationally, read the case-studies in full on our Research webpages.

Showcasing innovation, creativity and enterprise


The University continued its programme of activities to celebrate its 50th anniversary with an event showcasing innovation, creativity and enterprise.

Organised by Kent Innovation and Enterprise, the annual ICE (Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise) event at Woolf College on 15 January provided an opportunity for some of Kent’s leading researchers and innovators to demonstrate their cross-disciplinary approach to supporting and developing projects with external partners.

Among University representatives were Dr Jane Reeves, from the Centre for Child Protection, and Professor Darren Griffin, from the School of Biosciences.

External speakers included Dr Ian Denley from Shearwater Healthcare Solutions, Perry Holmes from Medway Council and Neil Gridley from the Design Council,

The evening saw Wayne Garvie, from Sony Pictures Entertainment, delivering the 50th Anniversary Innovation Lecture, titled Innovation: A Catalyst for Failure.

For further details contact Nerissa Blower.

‘Thanks to Kent, I now run my own business!’

Alumnus Antonio J. Gracia Rodriguez (Darwin 2010), who pursued English studies at Kent in 2010-2011 as part of his year abroad, has opened his own education centre in Andalusia, Spain.

The centre, Academia Atlantis, provides extra lessons to students from primary and secondary education, as well as university students, helping them with various subjects including languages. ‘People have become more aware of the importance of knowing another language, which is why centres like ours are becoming increasingly popular’ says Antonio.

He credits his year at Kent as being one of the best university experiences he’s had. ‘My independence grew, along with my self-confidence, and I made friends from all over the world. I still keep in touch with my old Kent friends, and follow the latest news from the University’ he says.

Antonio always wanted to become an English teacher, and his time at Kent made him more determined than ever to achieve his goal. ‘I learned a lot of methodology and developed my English language skills. I took several courses, ‘English Language in the Media’ and ‘English Language Teaching’ among them, which were the boost I needed to teach English’ he explains.

Two years after leaving the University, Antonio was finally able to turn his teaching dream into reality, and opened Academia Atlantis. He hopes that the business will one day become a certified examination centre. ‘We know this takes a lot of effort, but we’re on the right track. Right now we’re helping university students to prepare for PET, FIRST and CAE tests, which are vital for them as they are required to have a second language certificate at the end of their degree.’

His advice to anyone thinking of setting up their own business is to always plan ahead. ‘Make a realistic budget and stick to it. Try to re-use materials from closed businesses; I saved a lot of money by using equipment from former offices. Also, when dealing with banks for a loan, never settle with the first offer they give you. It’s better to study several offers from as many different companies as possible.’

He admits that the initial stages of setting up a business can be exhausting, but believes that if you stay focused on your end goal, you will overcome any barriers that stand in your way. ‘The best piece of advice I’ve been given is to never give up on your dreams and to always be yourself, no matter what people think or say’.

School of Computing’s placement team is an example of best practice

A national report on industry placements has used Kent’s School of Computing’s Placement Office as an example of best practice.

‘Growing Experience: A Review of Undergraduate Placements in Computer Science’ was published in January by the National Centre for Universities and Businesses, and highlighted the ‘organic growth’ model which is part of the Kent placement team strategy.

The report’s authors said: ‘We surveyed 40 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across the UK about the quality and quantity of current computing placement activity, and explored in depth their views, working practices and their perception of the barriers to student uptake.’

The report investigated the relatively high level of unemployment for computer sciences graduates nationally, despite rapid growth in the technology sector. However this trend does not apply to all computer science graduates from Kent, particularly those with a Year in Industry placement. The results of the last National Student Survey showed that 100% of Kent Computer Science with a Year in Industry graduates were employed in a professional or managerial role within six months of graduation.

Katie Van Sanden, one of the School’s two Placement Officers, said: ‘We pride ourselves on being a dedicated Placement Office whose sole purpose is to find suitable year-long placements to complement the theory taught on the course. Over the years, we have managed to build strong relationships with industry, regularly ‘growing’ our own placements organically through the recommendation of graduates to their new employers and sustaining good relationships with employers that last many years.’

Image: Placement Officer Katie Van Sanden visits Year in Industry students at Holiday Extras.
Picture by: Orla Garratt, School of Computing.

Do you know an inspirational Kent student?


Nominate a student who has done something amazing alongside their studies and should win a Kent Student Award for extracurricular achievement.

From 19 January until 8 March you can nominate a student who you think has done something amazing at Kent. Take a look at the nomination form and find out more.

That’s not all – if you send us a complete nomination before 31 January you will be entered into a prize draw to win a £50 Amazon voucher.

Kent Student Award winners will receive a £400 cash prize and it’s something impressive they can add to their CV. Runners up will also receive £100.

Please share this with colleagues, students and local businesses to encourage nominations – anyone can nominate a registered Kent student.

Global rendition system to be explored in VC Esteem Lecture


A global system for the rendition, secret detention and torture of terror suspects will be the focus of the next Vice-Chancellor’s Esteem Lecture.

The lecture will be given by Dr Ruth Blakeley, Reader in International Relations at the University, in Grimond Lecture Theatre 1, on Wednesday 4 February at 6pm.

Dr Blakeley’s research focuses on the use of state violence and terrorism, particularly by liberal democratic states. She is behind ‘The Rendition Project’, which has analysed the huge amount of data that exists about rendition, secret detention and torture in the ‘War on Terror’.

Described by the Guardian as ‘a ground-breaking research project which sheds unprecedented light on one of the most controversial secret operations of recent years’, the Rendition Project has produced the Rendition Flights Database and Interactive Map, enabling users to navigate their own way through the global rendition system.

Dr Blakeley’s lecture will explore the development and operation of the global rendition system that, contrary to popular understanding, has outlived the George Bush administration in the US. She will outline key developments in the system and the implications for US and UK foreign policy, global governance of human rights and for victims of rendition, secret detention and torture.

The lecture is one in a series of esteem lectures to be given throughout the University’s 50th anniversary year. Each lecture will be led by one of Kent’s academic staff and cover a range of different subjects and specialities, reflecting Kent’s broad academic appeal. The lectures are free to attend and open to all students, staff, alumni, and the wider Kent community.

Alumna wins Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland 2014 award

School of Anthropology and Conservation alumna Jennie Martin (Woolf 2011) has won the Environment category of the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland 2014 Awards, in recognition for her work with her charity Wild Things!

The Awards feature eight categories; film, art, business, food, sport, writing and the environment, with previous winners including people such as Gordon Buchanan, JK Rowling and Ewan McGregor. ‘Whilst I am not so sure I quite fit in with such high profile names, it is still a fantastic accolade to win this award and have the work of Wild Things! nationally recognised’ says Jennie, who graduated from Kent in 2013 with a Master of Science in Ethnobotany.

Jennie created Wild Things! in 2003 as an environmental education charity which provides outdoor experiences for people of all ages, regardless of emotional, physical or financial barriers, with activities to benefit both the individual and the environment.

‘Our fundamental premise on all our programmes is that our work is embedded with the ethos of providing programmes that encourage a ‘mutually beneficial experience for all’  she explains. ‘We often work with the John Muir Scheme and John Muir’s personal ethos of a ‘Hand, Head and Heart’ approach to caring for and understanding the natural world. At Wild Things! our programmes stimulate curiosity (head), provide opportunities to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in through bush-craft or conservation activities (hand) and we are committed to doing this in a meaningful and fun way (heart)’.

‘I was delighted to win this award’ says Jennie. ‘It has undeniably been a lot of hard work over the past 11 years developing and supporting the charity to do what it does today, and this just couldn’t have been possible without all the people who have worked at Wild Things!. We have a great team and the results of this are evident in the fact that 98% of our participants want to return to do more courses with us.’

To find out more about Wild Things! please visit