Monthly Archives: January 2017

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.

The Footsteps Stories – Kasia Senyszyn (Keynes 2004)


Why did you choose to donate to a brick?

Some ex-colleagues and I unfortunately lost a dear friend, Isobel (Izzy) Noble, who worked at the Gulbenkian for 38 years. We wanted to commemorate her time at Kent and the amazing impact she had on everyone she worked with and met. My parents also sponsored a brick for me to celebrate the completion of my Masters at Kent in 2015. Having been on campus since starting my BA in 2004, as both staff and student, they really wanted me to have a lasting memento to mark the occasion. It was really lovely to be able to place my brick next to Izzy’s – I was really grateful that the team were able to do that.

Why did you choose your message?

For Izzy’s brick it was really hard to choose the text – there were so many great memories to choose from, like the time she pole-vaulted over the Box Office desk to save me from a drunken customer haha! We all agreed we needed to have something on there that reflected her humour and how much of a mum she was to us all. For my brick it was a bit more geeky – I’m a massive Shakespeare fan and both my BA and MA involved research on his work.

What is your favourite Kent memory?

Quite a few to choose from! I suppose my year abroad stands out as it afforded me all sorts of opportunities to travel, meet people from all over the world, and study and live in a completely new cultural environment. Being involved in the drama society (UKCD as it was then) was also a lot of fun and really started my love of the theatre which has since shaped both my career and personal life.

Meet Paul Cusimano – Kent’s Midwest Chapter Chair

Paul Cusimano: Keynes 1990, History (one year abroad, fall 1990-Spring 1991)

Where were you raised?  Barrington, Illinois, US of A

What made you decide to come to Kent?  Proximity to the rest of Europe; historical city of Canterbury; and they let me in!

What would you like to see the group achieve in the next few year? Expanding our outreach, including others who have an affinity to what the University represents as the the UK’s European University.

What was your first job? An umpire in Little League youth baseball. Great money for a 14 year old.

How has your experience at Kent helped you since graduation? Perspective is important. Meeting and being with so many different people with different backgrounds has helped me gain a new view of the world.

What advice would you give a new student at Kent?  Don’t eat too much chicken shawarma late at night. It will catch up to you.  Trust me.

What advice would you give to a new graduate embarking on a career? Network, network, network. Paths open and close because of relationships built over time, or just over a brief meeting.

What is your favourite memory of Kent?  Performing in the musical “Pajama Game” at the Marlowe Theatre as part of the 25th Anniversary celebrations

Only Connect by Christina Briggs (Rutherford 1966)

I set foot in Rutherford College in 1966, at the age of 17, the first person
in my Irish immigrant family to have been to grammar school and then
to university. I had actually wanted to go to art school, but students got a
bad press in those days, and art students were the bottom of the heap. So
no point in insisting. As it turned out, my parents were too sceptical of
the whole idea of higher education to make up the shortfall in my grant.
This created financial problems, even though -remember full
employment?- I did paid work every vacation. But my feelings were
wholly joyous, delighting in the new freedom of being independent, and
the groundbreaking new course ‘ Britain in the Contemporary World’
opened a door onto an extraordinary joined up world of learning.
‘ Only connect’, Professor Ian Gregor’s mantra (from EM Forster) was a
lesson I learnt by heart. It took me into several European languages,
contemporary philosophy, politics, history, literature – and linked back
to the visual art which fascinated me.
Life on campus was dominated by my mundane drive to get one
(prepaid) square meal a day. Sitting with the public school boys at dinner
in hall was a big mistake as, well practised, they could wolf the entire
meal on the table in a second after grace was said. Buying books wasn’t
an option, but the library was heaven – over heated and never over
crowded. Subs to societies or sports facilities weren’t feasible either, but
the walk down to Canterbury town through orchards was sublime. My
boyfriend, a London architecture student, got vetted by the ex-
Nyasaland policemen on the gate, who kindly turned his blind eye to our
ongoing love affair – fifty years later, I’m still grateful. Occasionally the
‘guards’ would stage early hours fire drills – assembled shivering on the
bridge, we all tried to pretend the suspiciously large number of students
present was entirely correct.
And, fifty years later, I’m showing my paintings in Kent.
It was a circuitous route, taking in 27 years teaching in state schools, but
the opportunity that was given to me, against the odds, to learn how to
learn in a way that got beyond face value, dealt with the difficult
questions in life, is one that I will always treasure. I had the luck to be
part of British life – suddenly opening up and becoming more inclusive –
in the sixties. An expatriate for almost two decades now, my children and
grandchildren all Europeans, I just hope British society has not changed
so much since June 23rd 2016 that a trajectory like mine – no great fame
or acclaim but a solid entry into a professional job and regular,
continued links with Europe – has become impossible.
OneOneSix Gallery Tenterden Kent – New Paintings Christina Briggs
7 March-16 April 2017.

An American Commentator in London by Carol Gould (Eliot 1978)

Carol Gould was Drama Commissioning Editor at Anglia TV for ITV/PBS for eleven years and moved into journalism after the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. She has appeared on many BBC broadcasts including ‘Any Questions?‘ and ‘Newshour’ and has written for The Guardian, Telegraph and Jewish Chronicle.

I have a joke — if Obama burps I get a call from the BBC. Another joke: God help American journalists based in the UK — after the new president is inaugurated we spend four lonely years at the food bank. I can tackle any topic from Broadway to Russia to Israel to sport but UK networks pigeonhole American expatriates – and I have been here forty-one years!

Notwithstanding the above I was called in so much this year by the BBC, LBC and Sky News that I am recognised everywhere. Many viewers loved my idea that a dignified campaign projecting a fine image of the USA would have been Condoleezza Rice v Bernie Sanders. What has impressed me in 2016 has been the knowledge of the American election process by BBC anchors Tim Willcox, Huw Edwards, Jeremy Vine, Maxine Mawhinney, and Joanna Gosling, as well as Anna Botting and Colin Brazier of Sky News. My favourite broadcast was discussing ‘Oscars so white’ with Kasia Madera on Newsday, seen in the UK and USA.

LBC’s hosts Nick Ferrari and Andrew Castle are tough but I relished being tested. The least enjoyable experience was being invited onto ‘The Moral Maze’ and being berated by the inexplicably incandescent Giles Frasier and Matthew Taylor. They bordered on incoherent. Time to write a sequel to my  book, ‘Don’t Tread on me – anti-Americanism Abroad !’

Earl Okin is a triple threat. One of the finest of Jazz/Bossa Nova singers around anywhere. (not forgetting the legendary ‘vocal trumpet’ solos). A world-class songwriter and one of the top music-comedy comedians on the circuit.  He has performed over 500 shows at the Edinburgh Fringe since 1983! Most importantly, however, Earl is one of the ‘First 500’. He took his degree at Kent in Philosophy 1965-68.

While studying at Kent in 1966, he was signed to the same company as The Beatles and recorded his first single at Abbey Road in 1967. Some of his songs were covered during the 1960s by Cilla Black, Georgie Fame and Helen Shapiro.

During the 1970s, Earl started to perform in large venues, beginning with folk acts such as Ralph McTell and Fairport Convention. He progressed to open for such varied performers as Jean-Luc Ponty and Van Morrison. However, it was the 1979 tour with Paul McCartney and Wings which prompted him to pursue his musical career full-time.

In 1981, he appeared on The Parkinson Show and was invited by Nigel Planer to perform at The Comic Strip. This led to his second career on the “alternative comedy” circuit where he remains a headline act.

Earl continues to work as a songwriter and jazz singer/musician, with a particular interest in Bossa Nova. He gives concerts in Brazil from time to time, as well as touring his one-man show, a mixture of music and comedy, worldwide. He has performed in New York at Birdland, The Apollo and other jazz venues. In addition, he toured India, Singapore, and other nearby countries. He has also performed at most major venues in London, including the Royal Albert Hall and Royal Festival Hall, The Palladium and Wembley Arena.

In February he will be returning to campus to play at the Gulbenkian!  You can book tickets online.

A good change: Thibaud & Bianca Gilis

Sometimes everything can change in just a few moments, and then other experiences change you so gradually that you go about your days with barely any notice of the profound shift in trajectory that your life has taken. One day, years later, you realise that you barely recognise the aspirations and plans you had for yourself when you started out, and at the same time, you couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

When both of us decided to study law at Kent as part of the Erasmus exchange programme, we never thought that 20 years later we would have founded a multicultural family, live in the outskirts of Paris and constantly navigate between languages and cultural differences. Looking back, that year was a clear turning point.

Our gradual change began when we separately, more than 1,000 kilometres away from each other, decided to learn more about a different law system, enhance our foreign language skills and dive into British life and culture. We arrived at University of Kent at Canterbury for the Welcome Week in September 1996. The autumn term began, and we noticed how different university and student life were in our new country. Lectures challenged our expectations of what law studies were like. Familiar with inaccessible French and German law professors, we found their English counterparts to be more approachable and encouraging. Teachers responded to our questions and engaged with us during lectures and seminars. Pride reigned as we looked upon our first email accounts, which we used to communicate with teachers and family and friends back home (nights in computer labs ensued…).

The newness didn’t fade when we left the classroom. We both lived on campus, just a few doors away from each other in Park Wood, where we encountered our own tiny Europe. Mostly fellow Erasmus students, our housemates came from Spain, Italy, Finland, France and Germany. We studied together, explored, and during our free time we delved into new European cuisines that went beyond the classic fare of pasta and pizza. We valued being part of the Kent community and took full advantage of the opportunities the University offered us alongside our lectures. Thibaud deepened his passion for rowing on the University rowing team, signing himself up for months of rowing blisters tempered by crisp and beautiful (very) early morning training sessions. At year’s end, we left Kent with a baggage full of wonderful memories, great new friends & our diploma in English law!

Today, 20 years later, we still get excited and nostalgic when we reminisce about our year at Kent. We have stayed in touch with our friends from Canterbury ever since, gotten together for weddings, skiing trips and memorable weekends in the UK, France and Italy. Before our Erasmus year, we never expected to integrate entirely new traditions into our yearly calendar and to watch our daughters growing up with both languages and cultures as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. We couldn’t have imagined that our lives would turn out this way, but now that our multicultural environment is so central to our daily existence, we couldn’t imagine living any other way.

From Kent to the Atlantic!

Alison Wannell (Darwin 1997), is setting herself the ultimate test of mind and body next year – by attempting to row from the Canary Islands to Antigua as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, an annual event, is the world’s toughest row.
Alison, 38, now based near Bath, has teamed up with Jeremy Reynolds, 39, Justin Coleman, 51, and Toby Gould, 36, to form Heads Together and Row. They will leave La Gomera on 12th December 2017 in a rowing boat measuring approximately 7 metres by 2 metres, with the aim of arriving in the Caribbean, some 3000 miles away, around eight weeks later.
Alison, who met her colleagues through race organisers Atlantic Campaigns, is aiming to raise money and awareness for Mind, Combat Stress and the Marine Conservation Society.
Alison has good reasons for choosing those charities; “All of us have had connections with mental health issues in the past, Jeremy was in the army as was both my father and step-father so I’ve grown up with close ties to the military. In addition, given the environment that will be our ‘home’ for several weeks, and the parlous state of the world’s oceans, it also seems fitting to raise money for marine conservation.”
The whole crew are keen that this challenge is about more than just raising money for charity. “Funds are crucial to enable our charities do their invaluable work but it is important to change the stigma surrounding mental health if real positive progress is to be made”. Heads Together is a campaign spearheaded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry to change the conversation and end the stigma surrounding mental health. The crew are supporting the work of their campaign while raising funds for two of their partner charities.
Commenting on the challenges the four will face, Alison said “This is an endurance feat like no other. More people have been into space or climbed Everest than rowed the Atlantic. As well as the obvious physical dangers from mountainous waves, storms and shipping, we’ll be suffering sleep deprivation, bruises and salt sores, as well as the difficulty of getting on with three other people in a very small, sometimes dangerous space. It will push us to our limits, mentally and physically.
“Once we’re at sea we’ll be entirely self-sufficient. We take all our own food and make fresh water using a desalinator. It’s going to be a pretty basic existence”
But there are pleasures to be had alongside the suffering. “It will be a pleasure and a privilege to experience being in the middle of the Atlantic. We’ll get to encounter wildlife at close quarters and amazing sunrises and sunsets. I’d imagine the star gazing opportunities will also be pretty spectacular!”

This venture will only be possible with financial assistance and Heads Together and Row are offering corporate sponsorship opportunities to help them meet the costs of the challenge and enable them to concentrate on supporting the Heads Together campaign and raising funds for their charities.
For details of how you can help and to find out more about the challenge and the crew, visit, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter @htandrow.