Category Archives: Giving

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

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.

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.

£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.

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!