This month’s Kent Star is PhD student Alex Davis, who recently won the NEON Student of the Year Award! NEON is a professional organisation supporting those involved in widening access to higher education. Hear more from Alex:
“My name is Alex. I am a mature student, and I arrived at Kent in 2016 to study BA Classical Studies, having taken an Access to HE Diploma at Canterbury College. I love my subject, and remained at Kent to study MA Ancient History, progressing to a PhD in 2022 (part-time). I am working on the exile poetry by the Roman poet Ovid, in the original Latin. I am President of the Mature Student Society, PGR Student Rep for Classics, and I live in Canterbury with my awesome partner Owen. I run regularly, and am training for a half marathon in August.”
Tell us about your outreach work and winning the NEON Student of the Year Award.
“Wow! What an amazing honour this is. I am so happy and proud…and still a little dazed! The award ceremony was at the House of Commons, and my partner Owen, and two members of Outreach Widening Participation staff – Vanessa and Ruth – accompanied me. It means so much that the people I work with think so highly of me that they nominated me for this award.
I didn’t go to University after A-Levels. I knew nothing about it, and there were no ambassadors back in 1993! Later, I regretted that decision, so when I had a chance to change career I decided that it was my time.
Coming back to full-time study as a mature student was exciting, and terrifying. I thought I would be the oldest person here, and that I would not make any friends. I was wrong.
Kent Outreach Staff and Ambassadors helped immensely, running talks and workshops at the college, and organising visit days to campus. Their hard work and kindness ensured that I felt at home here from day 1.
That is why I applied to be an ambassador: because Kent ambassadors helped me.
I’ve done my best to inspire the people I’ve worked with, to repay that. I’ve worked with hundreds of students on a wide variety of events, and met amazing people. Many of the best friends I have are via Outreach – some of whom I first met whilst at their college or school. They are now Kent students and awesome ambassadors alongside me.
Outreach makes a huge difference to those we work with, every day. Widening Participation is so important, enabling students who may not think university is for them, or who feel they have a barrier between them and their dreams, to break down those barriers and do what makes them happy and fulfilled.
I love my job. I know it changes lives. It has certainly changed mine.”
What advice would you give to other students?
“University is not just about our studies. It also provides us a massive variety of other opportunities. Please do engage with as many of those as you can. You never know which one will inspire you, give you a new interest, suggest a career path, or change your world.
I did not know what I wanted to be when I grew up. Now I know that I want to work in outreach after I complete my PhD. My experience here has inspired me to explore a career that I did not know existed before I returned to education. There are so many opportunities out there – go for it!”
What are your plans for the next year?
“I will be continuing with my PhD studies which I find fascinating and enjoyable, although it is also most challenging. I have great supervisors, and I enjoy the autonomy which PhD study provides. However it can be rather isolating, so it is important for my mental health to have other interests alongside it.
This means that I will also be continuing as an outreach ambassador and tutor, as student Rep, and as part of the Mature Student Society committee. In all these occupations I have amazing friends and activities, all of which make me happy. No changes required!”