Monthly Archives: November 2016

Kent alumnus makes Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe list!

2016 marked the the Inaugural 30 Under 30 Europe List from Forbes, featuring 300 of the top young leaders, creative inventors and brash entrepreneurs in 10 different sectors.

We are delighted that alumnus Thomas Bignal (Darwin, 2007), who also studied at the Brussels School of International Studies, has been named one of the 30 under 30 in the Policy category!  He is Policy and Communications Officer, and in charge of coordinating European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities.

Congratulations Thomas! You can see the full list online.

£90,000 for Kent Opportunity Fund

This is Laura Thomas-Walters. She is investigating how behavioural research can be better utilised for illegal wildlife trade demand reduction strategies. Her PhD is funded by the Kent Opportunity Fund.

Over four weeks this autumn, a team of dedicated student callers spoke to over 1,000 alumni across the UK.  The team raised the record breaking total of just over £90,000 to support postgraduate research, student projects and hardship bursaries, as part of the Kent Opportunity Fund.

We are overwhelmed by the generosity of our alumni, who gave us 259 gifts, ranging from £5 to £2,000.

In 2016, for the first time, we also called our alumni in the United States and spoke to 221 US alumni, based across 30 states; from New York to Albuquerque to Lake Oswego, and raised almost $7,000 from 53 individual gifts. These funds will go towards the UKA-Fulbright Scholarships.

Our alumni community is a huge asset to the University, and many of the student callers commented on the positive and inspiring conversations that they had enjoyed.  The alumni also enjoyed hearing the latest news from Kent.

Kent Alumna takes Miss Africa Great Britain

Last month, Sarah Jegede (Medway, 2010) was awarded the title of Miss Africa Great Britain, beating 23 other hopefuls to the crown!

We caught up with Sarah to ask about her experience at Kent and what else she has been up to since graduating.

What made you decide to come to Kent?

Kent was my first choice because I went to school in Canterbury and I was accustomed to seeing the university. I used to get off the bus inside the Uni and walk to school from there, so I was in there nearly everyday and I used to dream of being a student there.  I ended up going to the Medway campus, which was good for me because I got to be in a different environment but I was still close to home, which was an advantage.

What is your favourite memory of Kent?

I was the vice president of the Nigerian Student Association at Medway so that was a lot of fun. The parties were great!

What have you been up to since graduating?

After my graduation, I went out to Nigeria to do a year of youth service. Whilst I was there, I spent three weeks at a military style camp and then spent the rest of the year working. I came back to Kent after my service, and took a job with Kent County Council where I still work.

What was your first job?

The first job I had after university was working in the Psychology department at a mental health hospital during my year of youth service.

What has been your greatest achievement to date?

There are a few achievements I could mention, such as graduating from University and completing one year of National Youth Service in Nigeria. My proudest achievement however has been winning Miss Africa GB !

25 Years of Kent History

Every year, Kent hosts the 25 Year Lunch, which celebrates and recognises the contribution of staff members, who have been with the University for a quarter of a century!
This year, the Lunch was held on Thursday, 20 October, with the Vice-Chancellor hosting for the final time before her retirement next year. One of the invitees, Dave Pilbeam, Deputy Head Chef, cooked the lunch and then joined in the celebrations once service was over. The VC’s office reported that ‘a thoroughly enjoyable time was had by all.’

Do you spot anyone you recognise?

Picture shows (from left to right):
Back row
Tim Pryor (Estates), Dr George Conyne (School of History), Julie Martin (SHEU),
Lesley Lawrence (IS Library Collections), Angela Hewlett-Day (SHEU),
Professor John Fitzpatrick (KLS), Alex Watson (Estates)
Middle Row
Sue Casement (Office of the Master of Rutherford), Justine Abernethy (IS Finance),
Judi Rowbotham (IS Training Team), Angie Allen (School of Computing), Laetitia Gullett (EMS),
Nick Swinford (Estates), David Nightingale (Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost)
Front row
Professor David Ayers (School of English), Denise Everitt (Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer), Neil Oliver (Finance Division), Gill Warr (SSPSSR)
Dr Kathy Bennett (Finance Division Retired), Maddy Withers (Organiser),
Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow (Vice-Chancellor), Dave Pilbeam (Kent Hospitality),
Peter Lee (EDA), Tim Jenkins (IS Requirements), Alison Ross-Green (Director of HR & OD).

Graduates Giving Back – the story of Keith Donkor

Keith Donkor (Keynes 2012) is a Mathematics and Accounting & Finance graduate.  Keith worked as a student caller on several Telephone Campaigns and has recently committed to a regular donation to the Kent Opportunity Fund.  We caught up with him to ask why he chose to donate back:


‘I was always going to give back to the Kent Opportunity Fund, given my experiences working on three telephone campaigns. The two main reasons behind my donation though.

‘Firstly, the cause itself is something I really believe in. I’ve been lucky enough to speak with PhD scholars who have been given the opportunity to carry out work they’re passionate about. It’s special because it gives these students an opportunity that wouldn’t have been available to them but for the KOF. It’s helps so many people so everybody should really help.

‘Secondly, being involved in the campaigns has had an indirect positive effect on me and my career. It has opened doors for me and allowing me to become a Business Development Manager for a recruitment company. I’m eternally grateful to the telephone campaigns.’

You can read a little more about Keith on his profile.


This November, our focus has been on the power of giving.  Rebecca Monteleone was the 2014 UKA Fulbright scholar and here she updates us on where life has taken her since Kent.

“I spent the year after I completed my MA at Kent as an intern with a federally-funded non-profit in Washington, DC that undertook research and training developing best practices for youth with disabilities transitioning into the workforce. During that time I published a policy brief on employment policy for people with disabilities in the US and published a version of my MA research in the Journal for Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities with Professor Rachel Forrester-Jones.

Over the summer, I received funding to present my research at the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities’ World Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

“I am currently finishing my first semester as a PhD student at Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society. My current work is focused on the differing ways disability is conceptualized between individuals with intellectual disabilities and researchers in medical genetics and assistive technologies. I am a Fellow in a program funded through the National Science Foundation entitled the Alliance for Person-Centered Accessible Technologies.”


After finishing her thesis, 2011 Alumni Postgraduate Scholar Katy Upton got in touch to let us know where she is now – and what life after Kent has meant for her so far.

Having recently had my PhD thesis bound I have had some time to reflect on everything which has gone into creating a 200 page book! This is one of the greatest achievements of my life and I am very proud of the work and effort which has gone into my research, as well as eternally grateful of all the support I have received throughout. I submitted my thesis back in July and I can hardly remember those last few weeks of writing and traveling down to Canterbury to submit my final copy!

Shortly afterwards I applied for a job at Chester Zoo as a Curatorial Assistant working alongside the Curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates. I was successful in my application and started working at the Zoo in August. I jumped straight into my role spending my first few weeks working on the Mountain Chicken studbook and have been involved in the preparation of the long term management plan for this species.

This has been very interesting work, getting to see how the captive population of these species are managed including pairing individuals based on the best genetic matches to help sustain the population in the future. In November I was lucky enough to travel to Prague where I was involved in the same process but for the Komodo Dragons.

I have been doing this job for seven months now and am thoroughly enjoying it. I regularly get to spend time working behind the scenes with the reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and fish and even had a brief cameo in the TV programme The Secret Life of the Zoo. After successfully defending my thesis at my viva in September I had three months in which to complete my corrections.

This was a difficult process whilst working full time and enjoying my new found freedom no longer having to work long into the evenings running statistical analysis on my data. However I pushed through and had my corrections accepted in January, submitting my final thesis shortly afterwards. My next plan will be to write up my chapters as publications to share my work with other researchers.

I am currently really enjoying my time at Chester Zoo and hope it will continue long into the future. I still have loads to learn about the roles Zoos play in species conservation however from what I have seen at Chester I believe we can achieve great things.

You can see this article in the summer edition of KENT magazine.



In 2014, a report published by the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CASE), entitled Improving Diversity in STEM, demonstrated hard and depressing evidence that women, those with disabilities and those from ethnic-minorities or socially-disadvantaged groups are consistently underrepresented at senior levels in STEM.  An unfamiliar HE environment can be stressful, particularly for those who already have an underlying illness/disability.

Engineering and Digital Arts (EDA) applied for a Student Projects Grant to encourage diversity, participation and confidence in minority groups around STEM and to promote and develop a series of activities to enhance the wellbeing of its students.

The plan focused on matters of equality and addressing barriers to access and progression through a series of targeted events, including Engineering a Winning Workforce by Creating an Inclusive Engineering Industry’, an event taking place on 16 November, delivered by Dr Mark McBide-Wright.

The other arm of the project aimed to lessen the stigma surrounding mental health by offering support mechanisms such as a series of events on managing student life, increased deployment of wellbeing information, and promoting simple measures such as a healthy lunchtime walk!

The project has enabled students to develop the knowledge, understanding, skills, capabilities and attributes needed for mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing now, and in the future and educated staff both in EDA and at Kent as a whole.

Help the Homeless Week!



In spring 2016, the Canterbury Homeless Outreach Society received funding to run a Help the Homeless Week – events raising awareness and funds for homelessness, including quiz nights, art exhibitions and a sponsored sleep-out! This project encouraged students to take action in the local community and engage with different lifestyles to bring about change.

The funding for this project came from the Student Projects Grant Scheme, and it embodies the values for which his scheme was established; to create opportunities for students at Kent to improve their employability, reach out to the community and increase the quality of their university experience.

President Luke Bridle said “Well done guys HHW is over and we all survived the sub-zero temperatures on the sleep out!”

A Wonderful Week of Words


As part of the 2016 Student Project Grants scheme, the UKC Hogwarts Society and Kent Union applied for funding to support J.K Rowling’s charity, Lumos.   Lumos works with underprivileged families abroad and in the UK to help them get back on their feet and build solid foundations for a better future. The goal was to raise monehogwartsy but also make an impact in the community.

Local primary schools with a high percentage of underprivileged children, were targetted and invited to a day at the university to listen to a children’s author and participate in workshops designed to inspire and boost their confidence, and encourage a love of reading.

Three days of children’s authors and workshops took place, and ticketed events with authors to raise money for Lumos. Other Kent Union Societies also got involved and ran music, poetry and other workshops run by to help raise money, and so the whole university involved.

 Rebecca Chidgey of St Stephen’s School said “all the children that attended the workshops during World Book Week at the UKC thoroughly enjoyed it and found it all very interesting and informative. I would like to thank you for inviting us, it was a real privilege.”

A Year 4 student from St John’s School commented; “My favourite part was when we went to the drama room.”

Applications for the 2017 Student Project Grants Scheme are open until 16 December 2016! Apply now!