Category Archives: Kent Stars

Student Rachel in 'The Shed' workshop

Kent Stars: Rolls-Royce Researcher Rachel

This month’s Kent Star is Rachel Muir, who won targetjobs Undergraduate of the Year Award Celebrating Neurodiverse Talent. Rachel explains why she applied (spoiler – it was a bigger competition that she realised!), how she is finding her internship at Rolls-Royce and her advice for other students. Hear from Rolls-Royce Researcher Rachel:

“Hello everyone, I’m Rachel! I’m currently in my penultimate year of computer science and working towards starting a PhD in software verification. Outside of academia, I enjoy spending time in The Shed, within Cornwallis, where Tinker Soc is held. Designing different projects and working on them with friends is one of my favourite activities. In the evenings, I love free-style ice skating, bike rides down the incredible Canterbury bike trails and spending time with my friends through activities such as guitar or gaming.”

Rachel stood outside "The Shed" in Cornwallis

Tell us about winning targetjobs Undergraduate of the Year Award Celebrating Neurodiverse Talent.

“My original impression of the Undergraduate of the Year award was that I was applying for an internship with Rolls-Royce. Later I found out that it was a UK-wide competition that held quite a lot of weight. It was quite the shock to find out the scale of the award and I certainly felt out of my depth.

However, as time went on, I met some fellow contestants online who were shortlisted for winning, and others who worked at R2 Factory, connected to the internship. Getting to know the other contestants, and learning more about who would be attending the awards and what the experience would be like, was a great comfort for me. I’d never been to a large event in front of so many people, and as someone who usually remains out of the attention of others, this was a new challenge.

On the day of the awards, I got to meet all the shortlisted contestants in person as well as James Corbin, Head of Careers and Employability at Kent, whom I was really glad came to support me! It was amazing to meet others who had made it to the award ceremony, and knowing they were also neurodiverse gave me a sense of pride and recognition for us achieving something amazing. With 300 people in the room, there was certainly an atmosphere of excitement, anticipation and nerves. Hearing the backstories for the awards was a reminder that one person can reach such a vast number of people, and you could see the emotional effect some of the awards had on the room.

As overwhelmed as I was when it was announced, I was honoured to win the award for the neurodiversity category and humbled by all the different challenges overcome and accomplishments from the other winners and short-listed contestants. I’ve really enjoyed the first couple of weeks of the internship learning so many new things, and I can’t wait to see what the next 10 weeks brings me.”

What advice would you give to other students?

“I said earlier that I didn’t quite understand the scale of the award when I first applied. This may have been the reason I didn’t hesitate much when applying, as if I knew the scale, I may have assumed I couldn’t win and never applied.

I would urge anyone to apply for anything that piques their interest, whether it’s an award or an opportunity that arises. Even if you have doubts about how far you may get, or whether you have a chance of winning, you can always give it a go. If you’re interested about a subject, why would you not be able to do it?”

Rachel soldering

What are your plans for the next year?

“I hope to travel during the summer and explore a little bit more of England, and the world. I would like to try and incorporate some small coding camps or competitions during my travel and gain more experience. Hopefully I will learn more about programming, but my favourite part of travelling is learning about other people’s backgrounds, cultures, what they’ve learnt and what I can learn from them. After my final year ends, my intention is to start a PhD and see where it leads me.”

Learn more about the Kent Stars campaign.

Kent Star: Cultural Connector Grace

This month’s Kent Star is Grace Ingram, who organised and led a “Mixed Roots” event to help individuals discuss their experiences of coming from multiple and undefined cultural and ethnic backgrounds, celebrating these often-overlooked identities. Hear from Cultural Connector Grace:

“Hi, I’m Grace Ingram. I’m doing an MSc in Conservation Project Management. I’m part of the Postgraduate Network and I work at Oaks Nursery on campus. A fun fact about me is I have a playlist for everything. I love music! I played viola and violin for 11 years. Music is still a big part of my life, even beyond classical compositions, which I mostly just listen to when I’m studying or working on assignments. When I’m angry I listen to rap and when I’m energized I listen to Golden Oldies Motown. There’s a song for every mood!”

Can you tell us about the “Mixed Roots” project?

” ‘Mixed Roots’ was an informal conversation with individuals coming from multiple and undefined cultural and ethnic backgrounds speaking on their experiences. Panellists from four main backgrounds (diaspora communities, biracial individuals, Third Culture Kids, and adoptees) answered various questions in a relaxed on-stage atmosphere. I organised the event and also spoke on my experiences as a transracial international adoptee.

The event was a ‘fishbowl’ discussion – fishbowls are frequently called the ‘unconference’. Unlike traditional panels that prioritise making the audiences feel comfortable, fishbowls encourage the audience to suspend their own feelings and rationale to listen with the intention of understanding, rather than responding.

This event was made possible due to the generosity of the Graduate and Researcher College’s Postgraduate Community Experience Awards. However, this event was created because of the vast amount of people falling into these plural and undefined identities, but the lack of collective representation for them here on campus and in broader society. ‘Mixed Roots’ presented an opportunity to listen and humanize individuals with conflicting identities and conflicting senses of community— taking the conversation beyond that evening.

Following the event, we collected general feedback from audience members:

  • 78% of respondents said prior to Mixed Roots they had not been provided with opportunities to learn about these backgrounds at Kent.
  • 100% of respondents said they would like more opportunities to learn about and celebrate ‘mixed roots’ with many interested in incorporating various topics into the discussion alongside race and culture including: gender & sexuality; religion & faith; politics; pop culture & current events; & mental health.

Many respondents also expressed an interest in seeing additional collaborations with future mixed roots events with: LGBTQ+ Network/ Society; A specific racial/ethnic society; Women’s Network; Faith Network; International Network; Accessibility Network; Student Support and Wellbeing.

This feedback points us in the right trajectory regarding future ‘Mixed Roots’ events which is very exciting!”

What advice would you give to other students?

“A piece of advice I would give is that the one of the best ways you can invest in yourself is by investing in community. I think these investments can take place in many forms whether attending listening events like ‘Mixed Roots’, participating in university or community service projects, or getting involved in social justice campaigns. I think even more can be said when we choose to invest in diverse communities— communities different from our own— in regards to race, nationality, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status, etc.”

Student Grace smiling holding Mixed Roots event flier

What are you plans for this year?

“I graduated from university this past May and will finish this Conservation Project Management MSc in September. While I’ve enjoyed my studies so far, but I’d like to do some learning beyond the classroom. Community service is a huge passion of mine, so I’m currently looking at taking a gap year or two with a credible humanitarian/service organisation like the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps. Living abroad in the UK has been an enriching experience. I’d love to serve in a different city, state, or country, if possible.  I believe that community service will only strengthen my future career in conservation.”

Learn more about the Kent Stars campaign.

Student Lewis Powell smiling with poker chips on table in front of him

Kent Star: Meet Activities Advocate Lewis

This month’s Kent Star is Lewis Powell, who has been involved in a wide range of activities during his time at Kent. From football to esports, President of the Poker Society to Peace Ambassador. Hear from our Activities Advocate Lewis about what he’s been up to:

“I’m Lewis Powell and I’m a final year student studying Economics with Econometrics. I have many hobbies which take up most of my free time. I love football (playing and watching), although Southampton’s end of season form have been testing that love. My other interests include esports and poker as well as travelling. Last September I was a Peace Ambassador for an organisation called Peaceline where we travelled through Germany, Latvia. Lithuania and Poland. A fun fact is that I qualified and played in the €1150 Irish Open Main Event poker tournament in 2019 in Dublin when I was 19.”

Tell us about some of the activities you have been involved with during your time at Kent.

“I have played 6-a-side football with my team every week at Football Frenzy which has been great fun and fuelled my competitive spirit. I had always loved supporting my football team but hadn’t played much during secondary school. Getting involved, improving as a player and having my own team is one of the best things I’ve done during university and it is an activity I look forward to every week.

During the various lookdowns, I decided to fuel my competitive spirit by joining one of the university Counter Strike Global Offensive online teams in my third year at Kent. I hadn’t played hardly at all in the two years prior but soon got super invested in my team and loved competing against other universities twice a week in NUEL and NSE (Esports platforms). As our team evolved through various changes to the roster I decided to step up by becoming the captain and in-game leader. We had a team who were willing to practice, on the same page and whom we had good synergy. Shoutout to Ethan, Max, Tommy and especially Jamie (who I’ve teamed with for 2 years) for all the hard work they put in.

I have also been President of Kent Poker the last two years. I am extremely proud of building back the society after the pandemic to build a loyal community of poker lovers. I am sure the community will continue to thrive going into next academic year.”

What advice would you give to other students?

“Your input is your output. Get involved! There really is a society for everyone at Kent and I would encourage anyone to pursue their hobbies in your spare time. You don’t want to look back on a university experience where you only studied and partied. Some the best time I’ve had at university have been within my various teams and societies and meeting many different people. I would also encourage students to do things over summer; whether that is working, spending time on a side project or participating in programs abroad. This will give you lots of stuff to talk about with potential employers.”

Student Lewis sat at table with playing cards and poker chips

What are your plans for the next year?

“As soon as I finish my exams I am off to Las Vegas for 7 weeks. I will be working as a tournament reporter at the 53rd World Series of Poker from 31 May-19 July for PokerNews. There I will be covering the action from the most popular poker tournament series in the world. I am also hoping I will have some time to relax after a really intense academic year. When I return to the UK I will evaluate my options and see what direction I want to go in next.”

Learn more about the Kent Stars campaign.

Hannah and Jireh

Kent Stars: Diversity Champions Hannah and Jireh

This month’s Kent Stars are Global Officers Hannah and Jireh. As part of the Global Officers Leadership Development (GOLD) programme, they have been involved in a wide range of activities including the organisation of WorldFest, our annual celebration of cultural diversity at Kent. Hear from our Diversity Champions Hannah and Jireh:

Hannah – My name is Hannah Kirabo, and I am studying Law. I am an international student originally from Uganda and Eritrea, but I live in Eswatini. My main interests include going out to eat and working creatively. I also like to read, take pictures, and spend time with friends and family.

Jireh – Hello! I am Jireh Akandwanaho, a final year Law with French student and an international student from Uganda. Moving to the UK sparked my interest in diversity, especially in cultures and languages. Some fun facts about me are that I am the last born out of seven, I speak five languages and I love Jesus.

Tell us about the Global Officers Leadership Development Programme and your involvement with WorldFest

Hannah – The Global Officers Leadership Development Programme is a programme run by the International Programmes department of the University. It comprises of a series of workshops on cultural intelligence, leadership skills, planning and effectively executing tasks. The bulk of the programme comes from involvement in various activities including Global Hangouts, Campus Tours, Orientation Activities and WorldFest, and I have had the pleasure of taking part in all of these. Leading up to WorldFest I was involved in the marketing and communications, launch video and world quiz. I edited the launch videos that went up on the Global Officers’ Instagram and the University’s instagram story. I took part in the planning of the world quiz – formulating questions, setting up the quiz and running it as an in-person Global Hangout. I also attended the weekly planning meetings for feedback. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of such a successful celebration of cultural diversity!

Jireh – I applied for the GOLD programme because I was interested in working with the Dean of Internationalisation and wanted to support and contribute to making the University a more conducive environment for the international community. My experience as a Global Officer has been so enriching to my cultural intelligence and has developed my leadership skills through various activities for example participating in Worldfest. We were given opportunities to put forward ideas and organise various events for Worldfest as well as handling the marketing aspects. I was part of the marketing team where I got to write a newspaper article about Worldfest in the student newspaper, as I have always wanted to do, and I also made a virtual tour video of my beloved country, Uganda. It was such an incredible experience, thanks to the creative freedom and support we were given by the university to implement and plan our ideas.

What advice would you give to other students?

Hannah – Try new things. The worst-case scenario likely will not happen and, you will be glad you tried.  You meet many interesting people through getting involved and it is a great way to put yourself out there, make friends and discover who you are and what you may be interested in.

Jireh – I would advise students to get out of their shells and get involved in the various activities available to them during their stay at university. Not only do these activities increase their skill set but are also opportunities to network and meet new people. Plus, they are usually fun too.

What are your plans for the next year?

Hannah – I hope to get more involved in the Kent Student Law Society, focus on my studies and look into placements and internships for the vacation period both here and at home. I also plan to continue to try new things and explore more of Canterbury and England at large.

Jireh – My plans after I finish Kent is to go on to take a year out doing some legal internships or graduate roles as I also utilise my creative skills to create various sources of income for myself. Then, I would like to do a Masters and qualify as a solicitor.

Applications for the 2022/23 Global Officers Leadership Development (GOLD) programme will open in July 2022.

Learn more about the Kent Stars campaign.

Student Bella pushing wheel barrow in Kent Community Oasis Garden

Kent Star: Sustainability Superstar Bella

This month, we’re celebrating Sustainability Superstar Isabella who has been working with the Sustainability Team on a wide range of projects this year. Hear from Bella about the Climate Café project, the Hedgehog Friendly campus initiative, the Kent Community Oasis Garden and much more:

“My name is Isabella Sabin-Dawson, and I’m currently in the 3rd year of my Environmental Social Science undergraduate degree. I am interested in ‘eco-anxiety’, a new concept that describes the fears that people experience in response to dangerous changes in the climate system, and also how spending time in nature can have a positive impact on our wellbeing. I can often be found at the beach walking with my dog, practising mindfulness, or crocheting amigurumi characters in a cosy corner.”

What are you doing to improve Sustainability at Kent?

“This year, for my year in professional practice, I have taken on the role of ‘Sustainability Projects Officer’ at Kent as I was lucky enough to get a work placement here with the Sustainability Team. Throughout this academic year I have planned events during Climate Action Week, helped the University achieve gold Hedgehog Friendly Campus status, written and filmed educational videos for the Sustainability website, and developed a new sustainability training module for staff to undertake in the new academic year.

In my second year at Kent, I began working with the School of Anthropology and Conservation Sustainability Working Group (SWG). I am now the SWG Wellbeing Subgroup Lead and we were recently awarded a runner-up position in the Sustainability Student Prize for our Climate Café project. A Climate Café is a space where our fears (and other thoughts and feelings) about the climate crisis can be safely expressed without judgement or advice. Expressing these thoughts and feelings can help to relieve eco-anxiety and help us to feel less alone in the changing world that we live in. There is always cake too, which is a bonus! We will be running Climate Cafés at the Kent Community Oasis Garden (KentCOG), so keep an eye on their Instagram if you are interested in coming along.

I have been volunteering this year with KentCOG, spending time with other students, staff and members of the public to grow fruit, vegetables, herbs and much more! Volunteering at the garden is very rewarding as you can see your hard work turn into something beautiful, and it has also been a great opportunity for me to make new friends and learn from others that have much more gardening experience than I do!”

What advice would you give to other students?

“If someone asked me for advice, I would say get involved! There are so many groups and societies that are working on loads of exciting projects. I’ve built dams in Blean Woods and planted trees on campus with UKC Conservation; made banners, attended climate marches and discussed climate politics with ECS society; and built campfires and experienced mindful walking with Community College Life.

Other environmental groups you could try out are BeetBox, EcoGeog, VegSoc, the Kent Union Sustainability Network, and the SAC SWG. I was hesitant to join in when I first started University, but getting involved with groups like this means you make friends with people that have similar passions and help you make a difference within your community.”

What are your plans for next year?

“Next year I will be back in seminar rooms and lecture theatres after finishing my placement in May! I am extremely excited to travel over the summer but I am also looking forward to starting my new modules in September. I like to keep busy and spend as much time in nature as possible, so I will make sure I can continue volunteering at KentCOG and working with the SAC SWG whilst studying. I intend to make it a fantastic final year!”

Learn more about the Kent Stars campaign.

Student Sami standing next to Employability Points scheme banner

Kent Star: Inspiring Intern Sami

This month, we’re celebrating Inspiring Intern Sami, who stood out to our Employability Points Team for his enthusiasm and dedication to undertaking skill developing co-curricular activities. Sami gained his internship at Reflect Digital through our Employability Points scheme. Hear from Sami:

“I’m Sami Bakaitis and I’m a final year student studying Classics with Italian. I love to travel to unique places and make the most of my time there, such as farming on a volcano in Sicily. Fun fact, I traversed through the Vietnamese jungle at the age of 16! My interests change frequently but I always enjoy going for a run so I can clear my head and keep fit.”

Tell us about your time at Reflect Digital.

“After a skills workshop with Becky Simms, I learnt that the Employability Points scheme was offering students with enough employability points the opportunity to apply for an internship at her company Reflect Digital. As a result, I joined as many sessions that applied to me and undertook extra-curricular activities that would get me extra points, such as starting a blog or updating my LinkedIn profile. Many points later, I was finally able to apply for the internship, ace the interview, and begin my journey with Reflect Digital!

The internship was intense but in the best way possible. The team at Reflect are considerate and always made sure that I was happy with the work I had been assigned. Even though I worked primarily on SEO, I was exposed to many other sectors such as PPC and social media advertising.

From the very first day I was immersed in a transparent workplace that felt relaxed yet always moving. My work consisted of learning the ins and outs of SEO through thorough research and quizzing my colleagues. After a week, I was set copywriting tasks and keyword research for clients. Copywriting involved following a detailed brief and writing a piece of content for the client while following SEO guidelines to help the article rank well. Although there was a numerous amount of copywriting tasks, I did enjoy writing them as the topics were wildly different such as writing content on how often you should replace your mattress to the benefits of cloud computing!

I was sad to go at the end of the internship as I still have one more year to finish at university, but it did give me a lot of confidence in my future career path and skills which I transferred into my uni presentations and assignment research methods.”

What advice would you give to other students? 

“Advice I would give to other students is that having a routine is paramount if you want to achieve your goals as it creates free time to be more productive. Dedicating meaningful time to learning a new skill is the best way to explore new career paths. I highly recommend taking an online course to get a surface understanding of the subject and seeing if it is something that you might enjoy. Moreover, mindfulness is a great way to recentre yourself if you keep feeling stressed from all the work. I joined the Mindfulness society here at Kent during lockdown in 2021 and it was the best decision ever!”

What are your plans for the next year?

“I will be taking an exciting role at Reflect Digital in early April as a PPC Analyst. This varying job will push me to explore new areas of digital marketing and learn a range of useful skills. One of my goals for the future is to start my own digital marketing company, and I believe that this role will help me work towards this goal.”

Learn more about the Kent Stars campaign.

Student Filipa holding a selfie frame for the consent campaign.

Kent Star: Consent Champion Filipa

We have some amazing students at Kent and we want to celebrate them with our new Kent Stars campaign. Filipa is our Kent Star this month, recognised for her inspiring work on the ‘Consent. Get It. Full Stop.’ campaign. Hear from Consent Champion Filipa:

“I’m Filipa Paes, and I’m about to wrap up the final year of my Law degree at Kent. Despite thoroughly enjoying my law degree I sometimes wonder whether I shouldn’t be studying Philosophy instead. But I guess, when it was time to choose, Law won – perhaps because of my interest in social change.”

Tell us about ‘Consent. Get it. Full stop.’ What is it and how did it come about? 

“After presiding over the student group UKC Respect the No in 2019/2020, I joined forces with the University of Kent to create the ‘Consent. Get It. Full Stop.’ campaign, a university-wide project that aims to cultivate and strengthen a culture of consent in our community.

Consent and sexual violence are complex topics to bring into conversations – often raising eyebrows and producing uncomfortable smiles. This feeling of ‘killing the vibe’ in the conversation stops many from getting involved and even standing up in situations where others are in danger. In the last year, however, following the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, we have witnessed an increasing number of people discussing this challenging subject. Amongst other things, these murders are reminders that sexual violence is a problem and that we should put all our efforts into tackling this issue in our society, regardless of the degree of violence and extremism in each case and the amount of media (and social media) attention received.

With the launching of this consent campaign, we hope to shift the culture. By placing sex-positive messaging at its forefront and having student feedback as one of its chief ingredients, we invite all students and staff to participate in the conversation in any way they can. We want everyone to feel confident in their understanding of consent, how to practise it (without making it awkward!) and how to be active bystanders.

In the last few months, I’ve been working closely with Becky Wyatt, the University’s Specialist Adviser for Sexual Assault and Harassment. Together, we have talked to dozens of students, gathered their feedback and provided them with a forum to raise their concerns. We have been actively working on increasing transparency and accessibility by ensuring the University’s procedures, policies and expectations regarding sexual misconduct and assault are made clear and accessible to all. We have also increased the promotion of the specialist support for victims/survivors of sexual violence offered both within and outside the university so that everyone can get support and feel as safe as possible. The University’s internal support has also been made easier to access with the new reporting tool, Report + Support.

It has been an immense pleasure to work alongside Becky, and so many other great people across the University on this project and to see so many in our community – no matter their position at the University – getting involved.”

What advice would you give to other students?

“If I had to give anyone any piece of advice it would be to be perseverant (though others might put it as ‘stubborn’ or ‘annoying’) if you genuinely believe in a project’s potential to bring about change. This perseverance does need to come with full understanding that – in true consent fashion – you will hear loads of nos.  Oh, and a pretty good skill to master is the ability to put together a sound logical argument! Driving change takes a lot of persuasion, convincing and arguing (and no quarrelling).”

What are your plans for the next year?

“As my three eventful years at Kent come to an end, I look forward to dedicating myself fully to philosophy. Though it might appear wholly detached from the notion of consent and the campaign, ‘consent’ is very much about communication (verbal or otherwise), which is my main interest. I’m remarkably interested in how we communicate with each other and use language. As such, I plan on continuing my studies and research in the philosophy of law and language, with the ultimate goal of helping us understand each other a bit better!”


Do you know an inspiring Kent student or student group? Let us know

Learn more about the Kent Stars campaign.