Volunteer of the Month

We are honoured to have hundreds of amazing volunteers who generously share their time, skills and experience to help and progress current students.

To better identify the impact our volunteers make, we have launched a Volunteer of the Month scheme to recognise those passionate individuals who go the extra mile.

Inspired by our volunteers? Learn more about how you can give your time to help our student and researcher communities.

June 2022 - Areeq Chowdhury

1. What is your current role?
Head of Policy (Data and Digital Technologies) at The Royal Society.Areeq C

2. In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
I helped with the University's Get Ahead in Government programme. Get Ahead in Government is a pilot programme that was created to help students from underrepresented backgrounds learn more about how to access policy careers in the Civil Service, Local Government and Think Tanks. The programme consisted of a series of skills workshops delivered by alumni volunteers who are also working in Policy or the Civil Service. The sessions were designed to improve students knowledge of Policy Roles, the application processes of the Civil Service, the range of roles available in the policy arena and how to build resilience.

I delivered a session called ‘Policy 101’, where the students learnt about the importance of relationships and influence in policy making and the realities of creating policy in both small and large organisations. They also participated in a policy creation exercise, where they had to present their policy solution to a social issue.

3. Why did you volunteer for the University and what did you enjoy most?
I volunteered to help simply because I've been in these students' shoes and I believe in the programme and its objectives. The policy world can sometimes look and feel completely detached from the population it seeks to serve. The programme is a great potential remedy to this, helping foster a new generation of bright and diverse policymakers. They will change the world for the better and I hope my participation will have helped them in some small way to do so.

4. What advice would you give someone thinking about volunteering?
My advice is to take yourself back in time and think about what you would have like to have known or been told about when you were a student.

May 2022 - Isabella Mascarenhas (RS Grass Roots)

GR and RS lockup (002)1. What does RS do?
Founded in 1937, RS is a global omni-channel provider of product and service solutions for designers, engineers and maintainers of industrial equipment and operations. We offer 650,000 stocked and three million unstocked high-quality industrial and electronic products, sourced from over 2,500 suppliers.

2. Why did the team volunteer for the University?
Our Grass Roots Education team are committed to inspiring, nurturing and empowering the next generations of socially and environmentally responsible engineers and technologists. We work with student and young professional engineers and technologists and our university partners around the world to deliver initiatives that provide exciting opportunities for them to grow and develop themselves and their skillsets. One of the ways we do this is supporting them with their local STEM outreach activity. The Forge Your Future event was a perfect example of this and aligned perfectly with one of our core values of doing our bit to encourage a more diverse talent pipeline for the profession.

3. What did you all enjoy most?RS Components
It is always a joy for us to watch young faces brighten with excitement and witness that ‘lightbulb moment’ when they realise that engineering and technology is really about solving problems and could be a career for them. These young ladies were full of curiosity, questions and healthy challenges. We’d never miss an opportunity to dispel misconceptions about engineering and technology and we loved the reactions they had to our myth-busting quiz. Hearing them describe the mini-robots that we demonstrated as ‘cute’ and ‘adorable’ was heartening and we were delighted to be able to award them as prizes to the quiz winners!

4. What advice would you give to another organisation or individual thinking about volunteering their time?
Just do it! Never underestimate the power of your story and how it can affect change, no matter how small. Giving your time and energy to provide hope and inspiration to young people is so rewarding and necessary and does wonders for your company’s brand reputation – it’s a win win all round!

April 2022 - Tom Gidlow

Tom Gidlow compressed1. What is your current role?
I might be a big advocate for Arts and Humanities education, but my real driver is social mobility. Because of this, I currently work as a Regional Programme Officer for In2scienceUK. As an organisation, we help underrepresented young people access science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers. It's my job to find students and volunteers, and to deliver a summer programme in my regions.

2. In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
This month I've helped by sharing my experience of studying History at the University of Birmingham, as well as my time as a Student Ambassador and on BurnFM, and how it shaped me into the person I am today. In particular, I'm hoping my story will help people considering an Arts and Humanities degree to go for it! I'm really looking forward to speaking to current undergraduates at future events on a similar topic.

3. Why did you volunteer for the University? What did you enjoy most?
It's certainly a cliche to say it, but I volunteered because I feel the university has given so much to me over the years and I always feel indebted. From the time I was in sixth-form and was an Access to Birmingham (A2B) student, through to the experiences in my undergraduate degree, to the networking opportunities as an alumnus, the University has always been there. For me, volunteering was just also a really good chance to get back onto campus and remember everything good that came with being there every day.

4. What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
If you're thinking about volunteering, I'd really advocate just going for it. You have literally nothing to lose by just going for it. The volunteering team are also very friendly and supportive through everything.

March 2022 - Charlotte Fearn & Alice Neve

Charlotte Fearn

Charlotte Fearn1. What is your current role? 
I am staff nurse on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Birmingham Women’s Hospital. I am privileged to look after preterm and term babies born unwell and support their journey towards home with their family. 

2. In what capacity have you volunteered for the University? 
I was a speaker for the University’s first Nursing Careers and Coffee event, allowing prospective and current students the opportunity to talk to alumni about their time at the University, the expectations of my role and my future career ambitions. I am also an alumni mentor, helping current students to find their way through job applications and networking opportunities. 

3. Why did you volunteer for the University? 
I graduated as a nurse in the summer of 2020 during the height of the pandemic, it was an abrupt end to my degree and an eye-opening start to my career. I wanted to be able to give students an insight into my personal experiences of being a newly qualified nurse as well as being able to offer encouragement about how far you can go if you wish to challenge yourself. It was great to be able to interact with like-minded people who had an interest in the experience and knowledge I had to offer. 

4. What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering? 
I would say try it! The thought of volunteering lots of time can be a bit daunting when you have a busy work schedule and home life. However, so much value can be given to others when you are able to commit a couple of hours a month. This experience so far has also allowed me to gain knowledge and experience to further enhance my own professional development. 

Alice Neve

1. What is your current role?
I am a Staff Nurse in Paediatric Intensive Care.

2. In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?Alice NeaveI helped host a Careers and Coffee event for aspiring and current nursing students. I was able to share my experiences that I had at the University of Birmingham and my career journey so far. I have also been involved in the alumni mentoring scheme, supporting a first year student nurse through their studies and placements. 

3. Why did you volunteer for the University? What did you enjoy most?
 I really enjoyed studying at the University of Birmingham and being involved with further responsibilities such as being Student Representative. Now that I am a qualified nurse, I miss helping students on a regular basis. Easing any worries students may have regarding the course and a career in nursing is invaluable to me. There was once a time when I was unsure of which specialty to pursue and my experiences may help anyone in that position.  



4. What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
If you're considering volunteering as an alumni, I would definitely recommend it. It has been extremely rewarding! All the students are incredibly engaged and appreciative of our support. 

February 2022 - Halimah Begum

Halimah Begum, volunteer of the month for February 20221. In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
I have been volunteering with the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) as a research technician, based mainly at the University with the occasional opportunity working out in the field at the main site in Staffordshire. I have been tasked with processing a variety of leaf litter data collected at the Staffordshire site from over the last few years. I have also worked briefly with the FACE-underground project, particularly during the Soil Campaign where I was handling soil and root data. Besides this, I have worked directly with PhD students, mainly supporting them with their data collection.

Further to this, I have helped promote BIFoR on campus during Welcome Week, where I met with students all studying various subjects from Music to Literature to Law. Due to its highly interdisciplinary nature, I was able to incentivise these students into getting involved with BIFoR, particularly if they would later be looking to create a final year project merging their existing discipline with the environmental sciences; and could demonstrate how something similar had already been done through the Forest Edge projects launched in 2018.

2. Why did you volunteer? What did you enjoy the most?
During my final year at the University as an Environmental science student, there was an announcement that this really exciting large-scale project was in the works. It would be dedicated to putting resources into scientific research focused on the increasing challenges our environment is facing. I had just graduated, and was disappointed I would never get an opportunity to be a part of it, but, I would come back and volunteer if this changed in the future. I queried, and managed to find some laboratory work just before the start of the global pandemic, where I was working on leaf data that was being collected in participation with Lund University, who were looking specifically at herbivory patterns determined by tree species. It is no surprise that I enjoyed the work, and have tried to come back as much as possible.

Besides this, I also believe the research being carried out by BIFoR is incredibly important to our current times, and have for that reason found my work to be rewarding. Handling and sorting raw data that is vital for BIFoR’s research is a huge responsibility that has often meant I can help those projects happen. There is no one part that I have enjoyed the most, though being at the main site in Staffordshire was a particular highlight. Here I was able to get a feel of the kind of research being carried out and at the scale that it is happening; if anything, it has helped provide context for the work I have been doing in the laboratory.

3. What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
In short: do it. Being a volunteer is one of the most altruistic things you can do, and if in the correct role, can go on to benefit you the most. Take your time, and choose something you really love, your best qualities and skills are most likely to stand out there. Volunteering has the capacity to become a journey of endless opportunities where you can perhaps get directly involved in projects that you otherwise would not be able to, and it’s another chance to expand your network. Ultimately, when done right, you never really know where it might lead.

4. Anything else to add?
I want to thank the BIFoR team for being such a warm and welcoming network of people who have made the job incredibly easy just by being so supportive. I have studied at the University since 2012, and it is easily one of the best parts of my experience. I would encourage anyone who loves our environment and aspires to give back to volunteer with this incredible project.

January 2022 - Jack Skinner

Jack Skinner1 reduced1. What is your current role?
I am Head of Corporate Philanthropy in the Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO).

2. In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
I used my staff volunteer day working for the Birmingham Wildlife Trust. Myself and some colleagues spent the day at Deer’s Leap Wood in Smethwick, just a short drive from the University. The day started off with a health and safety briefing and the morning was spent digging a border along the fence and making it ready for trees to be planted this week. After a welcome lunch break and a tour of the site, which is made up of a mix of woodland, ponds and meadow areas, we were set a task of clearing brambles and nettles along the pathways, as well as rescuing a tree that was being suffocated by brambles and vines. This work gave the area a new lease of life.

 

Jack Skinner2 reduced (2)

3. Why did you volunteer for the University? What did you enjoy most?
Thankfully the weather was kind and it was a lovely day spent doing something good for the local community, as well as getting some fresh air and being involved in a tree planting project that will be there for generations to come. It was really enjoyable and a nice break from the busy working schedule! It was also great to be outdoors, which is always good for your mental health.

4. What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Do it! It provides a nice respite from work and offers a chance for you to give back to something that is intrinsically rewarding.

December 2021 - Rebecca Taylor

Rebecca Taylor, Volunteer of the Month for December 2021What is your current role?
I’m currently Content Marketing Manager for a trio of Independent Schools. This means I coordinate and manage their content across social media, their website, and their print collateral such as prospectuses and magazines. I also work with local and national press to coordinate coverage, and head up the centralised activity with regards to photography and videography at the Schools.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
Since my graduation in 2019 I think that I’ve been volunteering with the university in some capacity most months - and so it’s hard to keep track of everything! I’m mentoring a current undergraduate student, I’ve enjoyed participating in the annual Careers Networking Event, and the more recent ‘Demystifying Disability & Careers’ webinar. In addition, I took part in the International Women’s Day Campaign online. My particular highlight has been assisting researchers as a panellist at the ESRC festival, discussing the world of sustainable retailing and fast fashion from a consumer perspective.

Why did you volunteer for the University?
Throughout my time at Birmingham, I saw a huge amount of benefit from the work of volunteers, particularly relating to careers support. Now that I am in a position to provide my time, I hope that I can provide a little help to students who are in similar shoes to the ones I was in, just a few years ago!

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
If you are anything like me, you will find that you get just as much out of volunteering as you put in! Volunteering offers a fantastic opportunity to expand your network, your knowledge and skillset, and meet some fantastic people along the way. It is incredibly rewarding, and (particularly with our new found increased usage of Zoom!) there is something to suit almost everyone, no matter where you are around the world.

November 2021 - Ameesha Smith-Green

Ameesha Smith-Green Volunteer of the Month November 2021What is your current role?
I’m the founder of a small Birmingham-based business called The Book Shelf Ltd. We help aspiring non-fiction authors to write and self-publish books. I manage the day-to-day running of the business and work directly with authors, co-ordinating the services offered by my team such as editing, design, proofreading, and marketing.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
I’ve volunteered for the university for almost a decade as an alumni mentor. During that time, I’ve mentored many students from the College of Arts & Law, supporting them on their career journey: from helping them figure out their career aspirations to signposting careers in the arts, and guiding them to write a compelling CV and cover letter. I also take part on alumni panel talks to inform students about careers in the arts and the wide range of opportunities out there.

Why did you volunteer for the University?
I remember graduating back in 2007 and realising that I had no plan. I hadn’t really thought about what I’d do after university, and I was on the back foot because my fellow graduates had already secured internships or jobs. So, when the opportunity arose to become a mentor a few years later, I volunteered because I wanted to help students avoid feeling lost, confused, or left behind – and to instead help them feel organised, confident, and prepared for life after University.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
I would say give it a go! Many people would love to volunteer but worry that it’s a big time commitment or that they have to be amazing from day one. The truth is that you can add value by offering just a few hours a week or month and you learn and improve from the experience. Everyone has something useful to offer as a volunteer – a unique combination of skills, experience, and knowledge.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’m really proud to be part of the wonderful network of University of Birmingham mentors, alumni, and staff supporting students on their career journeys. Not every university puts so much time, effort, and care into ensuring that their students succeed after graduation, and it’s just one of the things that makes Birmingham such a brilliant place to study.

October 2021 - Action Against Homelessness

George Wheeler, Vice-Chair of student group Action Against Homelessness, explains what the society does following the group being named volunteer of the month.Three masked students, volunteering for Action Against Homelessness

Who is Action Against Homelessness?
Action Against Homelessness is a society that gives students at the University of Birmingham the opportunity to help those in their local community experiencing homelessness and vulnerability. We advertise and coordinate volunteering opportunities with a range of organisations. Activities include organising or distributing food donations at food banks, or distributing food and clothing on walkabouts. We also throw a range of fundraising events throughout the year! Our recent projects included a sponsored Halloween coffee morning, a candy cane delivery service and a bake sale. Current projects include a partnership selling prints and vinyl stickers and food/essentials collections. Potential future projects include a ticketed ball, a raffle, and a valentine’s day rose delivery service… to name a few. Also, we post a variety of educational content relating to Homelessness on our social media accounts to raise awareness, and we indulge in the odd social or two…!

Why did you volunteer for Action Against Homelessness?
Homelessness and vulnerability are significant social threats everywhere. However, sadly, it becomes more apparent than in other places, if you walk through Birmingham. In my opinion, housing is a fundamental human right. I wanted to help those experiencing homelessness and vulnerability in my local community. By joining AAH, I have had every opportunity to make this contribution. Along the way, I’ve made amazing friends and gained valuable skills and experience.

What did you enjoy the most?
Everyone at AAH has been so welcoming and friendly. It’s a genuinely kind bunch of like-minded people. Just spending time around people who care about the same things has been so rewarding for me. On a more personal level, not only did fundraising give me a sense of fulfilment, but volunteering has given me empathy. I understand now that I am fortunate to be in my position. As a person, I am more empathetic than before I joined AAH, and I will carry this value with me for life.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Our society is free of charge and requires absolutely no commitment. If you volunteer once or come to even one fundraiser throughout the entire year, then you’re making a difference - so, our best piece of advice is just do it! You’ve got nothing to lose and so much to gain.

If you’re interested in volunteering or becoming a member of our society generally, then don’t hesitate to message us. The best way to get in contact is through Instagram. Lastly, we would like to say that we are incredibly grateful to everybody who has contributed to this society. Members on or off the committee, our wonderful volunteers, and anyone interacting with our fundraisers. You are the difference.

September 2021 - Megan Scanlon

What is your current role?
I am the Online Tuition Coordinator at The Access Project. My role was created in response to the pandemic and I have worked on delivering free tuition and mentoring to students from disadvantaged backgrounds over the past year, online. 

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
I have attended events with the alumni/careers team where I have shared my experiences of being a recipient of the Jane Slowey Memorial Bursary and my experiences as a 2020 graduate. I also took part in an event for students where I shared my experience of graduating in a turbulent economy, alongside other alumni who graduated during the last recession.

Megan ScanlonWhy did you volunteer for the University? What did you enjoy most?
I volunteered with the University as without the support and my experiences at Birmingham, I wouldn't be where I am today. Particularly as a 2020 graduate, graduating at uncertain times, then experiencing the job application process in a pandemic, I wanted to give back and share my experiences with current students who might be a bit apprehensive.  

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
If anyone is thinking of volunteering, I advise them not to think twice and just go for it! You never know what doors it might open and when your volunteering work will come in useful for both yourself and others. 

Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would just like to thank all of the alumni and careers team for their support and for nominating me as volunteer of the month! Very grateful. 

August 2021 - Henda Grion

Henda Grion - VotM Aug21 resizedWhat is your current role?
I'm currently working at Siemens Mobility as a Graduate Engineer.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
As an Alumni Ambassador, I was invited to share my experiences with applicants to the University of Birmingham based overseas and considering studying for a degree in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. I also participated at the first Alumni-Student Careers Conference at the University’s Dubai campus where I shared my career journey, recruitment tips and my insights working in the technology sector. 

Why did you volunteer for the University? What did you enjoy most?
The University has been my home for the last four years and, without the help, support and opportunities given to me there, I wouldn't be where I am today.

I'm passionate about helping others and raising awareness of the activities that I took part in, which I believe will help students improve their lives just as they did for me. In addition, I'm able to share my journey and the amazing experiences I had during my time, which always brings back happy memories.

My enjoyable moments were at the Alumni-Student Careers Conference where I got to meet two other alumni working in the industry longer than me and hear about their experiences, as well as answer questions from the students. 

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
I would definitely encourage volunteering. My advice is to help out where you can because it can change someone else's life without you knowing it. I believe that volunteering helps growth and, since we are all unique, we can provide help in different ways and everything counts.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would like to express my gratitude for my nomination as the Volunteer of the Month. Thank you to the University, alumni community and a special thanks to Grace Surman, the Alumni Relations Manager for Engineering and Physical Sciences!

July 2021 - Andrew Marks

Andrew MarksWhat is your current role?
Managing Director, Artisan Partners  

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
Delivered an online Zoom session to Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences (LANS) recent graduates and current students on “how to present your LANS degree” to potential employers. The session was titled: ‘Bebop, Journalism and Hedge Funds’.

Why did you volunteer for the University?/What did you enjoy most?
In the past, I have mentored undergraduate students in subjects related to my current job in finance/investing. This time around, I was invited by the University to speak to LANS students because of my diverse career mosaic over time. Without doubt, the most enjoyable part for me was hearing about the diverse experiences of past LANS alumni, who featured in a virtual panel before my session. Inspiring stories from some incredible people.  

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
It may be cliché, but – in my experience - you gain more than you give in volunteering. With so much pressure on graduates today, I also think it is incumbent on those of us in the workplace to provide support and encouragement where we can – particularly for students who are on LANS or pure Arts-related degrees, where the career path is often less certain.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
My thanks to the faculty staff and administrative staff for the excellent coordination/hosting of the event.

June 2021 - Jay Ugra

Jay Ugra, volunteer of the month for June 2021What is your current role?
I'm a Business Development Manager at Capgemini Financial Services, helping to drive successful partnerships with some of our strategic banking and capital markets clients. In addition to that, I'm a Co-Founder and Venture Lead for a tech start-up called Rogue Monkey. We're a team of eight aspiring entrepreneurs, aimed at digitising and simplifying the process for developing a tech business from idea creation, to funding and launch. Our platform will be launching at the start of 2022, and we're very excited to share this with the world.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
I absolutely love volunteering at the University. Without the help and support of various volunteers over the years, I wouldn't be doing something I care deeply about today. So it's only right for me to do the same for other people too. I've been involved with some really cool initiatives over the years, some of the most enjoyable include: judging start-up pitches in the Innovation Centre, being a guest speaker and panellist at various Business School events, supporting student societies with networking opportunities, helping provide content in support of mental health, and most recently volunteering to support the launch of the University's campus in Dubai.

Why did you volunteer for the University?/What did you enjoy most?
I work in the technology space. For me, the reason why I love tech so much is because it gives me the platform and opportunity to help people at scale. That's why I started my company, Rogue Monkey. It's also why I love volunteering at the University too. When creating new tech you literally have to start from scratch with nothing but a blank canvas, and what takes you from A to B are the people in your team. The people that have the skills, capability and long-term vision to build something that solves a unique problem in the market. Volunteering brings you closer to people, and allows you to watch them grow at a time in their lives where they could grow in many possible directions. There's something quite addictive about that, and I personally feel privileged to gain an insight into this special part of their lives. 

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Remember it's not about you. It's easy to fall into the trap of talking about your experiences and things people should or shouldn't do based on what you think you know. But the truth is, everyone is different. It's the diversity of people that makes us all so special. My advice would be to simply listen to what people have to say, and allow them to come to their own conclusions about which path they should walk down. Of course, offer an opinion when asked. Otherwise simply listen and enjoy the feeling of privilege knowing that you can help someone without expecting anything else in return. 

May 2021 - Sandeep Sandhu

Sandeep Sandhu smiling to cameraWhat is your current role?
I am currently Head of Stakeholder Relationships at KTN where I foster relationships between academia, business and policy makers both nationally and internationally to accelerate innovation for positive change. Previously, I worked at UK Research & Innovation and the Medical Research Council to formulate policy and strategy. This required building international partnerships in research and innovation. 

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
I delivered a lecture on Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) on International Women's Day. This is a topic that is close to my heart and very pertinent globally - encouraging more diversity in STEM is crucial to maximising innovation and creativity in science for all. 

I wanted to use the lecture to share my own experiences in STEM both at the University of Birmingham (where I completed my PhD) and my career, to inspire others to continue their journey in STEM. 

Why do you volunteer for the University and what do you enjoy most?
Diversity in STEM is on the rise, but there is still a way to go. For example, we find less representation in leadership positions and by me sharing my own experiences I hope that I can encourage others to continue/start their journey. 

I really enjoyed giving back to the University of Birmingham - there is nothing more rewarding than supporting the next generation of graduates. I would recommend those considering volunteering to absolutely try it! 

April 2021 - Birmingham University Conservation Volunteers Society

Three students in an allotmentWhat is your current role?
The Grow with Joe Community Garden is a student-led food growing project located at the top of the Green Heart, sandwiched between North Gate and the Alan Walters Building. The project has been developed by members of the Conservation Volunteers Society from the design and construction stage in 2018, right the way through to the ongoing maintenance today. We grow organic fruits, vegetables and herbs, and aim to co-exist with the ecosystem and habitats that surround us.

Due to obvious challenges over the last year our efforts have been concentrated closer to home, which has been great for our gardens. We've significantly increased the space we have for growing through the construction of new raised beds, and also developed a demonstration Forest Garden! Other projects have included: a community composting initiative for staff and students to come and deposit their organic waste with us; a cold frame made from scavenged materials discarded around Selly Oak; as well as a plant swap stand for people to share the joys of growing!

This time of year is always busy with lots of seed sowing and planting out, whilst trying to time it perfectly to avoid the last frost! The recent dry spell has also meant there's plenty of watering to do, with no let up in sight!

Why do you volunteer? What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
There are many benefits to practical volunteering - making new friends, fresh air and exercise. Small scale, organic agriculture is a beautiful thing and we want to represent that in a way that makes others want to get involved and learn more. We also strive to make the garden a part of the community, where staff, students and members of the public can come together as equals and enjoy one another's company.

Our garden is an inclusive space; you are always welcome here, and our project is richer for it (oh, and the fresh fruits and vegetables are really tasty too!).

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Come down to the garden, pick up a watering can and get to it!

How did you spend the Alumni Impact Funding the Society received, and what impact did this funding have?
Thanks to the Alumni Impact Fund, we have this year been able to graft 50 local heritage variety apple and pear trees that we're hoping to work with the estates team to plant around campus next winter. This activity taught our volunteers a new skill, and also means we get 50 fruit trees for a fraction of the price of buying them from a nursery. Some of the grant was also spent on high quality mushroom compost used to mulch our new 'No-Dig' trial beds. This is a method of growing that aims to preserve the mycorrhizal fungi and soil structure that locks up more carbon, and is also great for harvest yields!

Is there anything else you would like to add?
A massive thank you to all the volunteers who have been involved in the garden over the last few years, and have contributed to what it has become today! For anyone interested in getting involved please don't hesitate to contact us at BUCV@guild.bham.ac.uk, or join our Facebook group to keep up to date with our events - Birmingham University Conservation Volunteers.

March 2021 - Tia Mereweather-Thompson and Fadzai Ramwi

The March 2021 volunteers of the monthWhat is your current role?
We graduated from the LLB Law course last year. We are currently future trainees at Clifford Chance and Latham & Watkins and are due to start our LPC’s this year.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
We gave numerous free virtual presentations to University of Birmingham students about applying to law firms, attending assessment centres and tips for attending law fairs.

Why did you volunteer for the University? What did you enjoy most?
One day while having a chat, we were saying that there are so many things we have learnt now that we wish we could have known when we first started making applications. That sparked the idea to start the Commercial Law School channel on YouTube and create short videos explaining things we would have benefitted from knowing a long time ago. We enjoyed being able to touch base and find out what’s been going on at the University. It was also great being able to connect with other Birmingham students.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Definitely get involved! You never know how many people you can help by volunteering in the smallest way. It also allows you to meet new people, build connections and maybe even present new opportunities in the future!

Is there anything else you would like to add?
We’d like to thank everyone who nominated and voted for us. It really does mean a lot. Please also subscribe to our YouTube channel, Commercial Law School! 

February 2021 - Xilin Dai

Xilin Dai, February 2021 volunteer of the monthWhat is your current role?
I am currently an Assistant Project Manager and a Graduate Civil Engineer at Mott MacDonald, a global engineering, management and development consultancy. I am also a career mentor as part of the Careers Network Mentoring Scheme that supports University of Birmingham students to gain real insight into their chosen industry, and an Alumni Ambassador for the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
Since graduating in 2017, I have volunteered and continue to volunteer in various ways. I have been volunteering on the University Careers Network Mentoring programme, where I share my experiences of being a civil engineering student at the University and my engineering career path so far. I have also been assisting the University Open Days, Engineering Application Events and outreach activities as an Engineering Alumni Ambassador, sharing my insight into the career options available to graduates with an engineering degree from Birmingham, and to encourage students from all social backgrounds to consider engineering as a career.

Why do you volunteer for the University?
When I was a student at Birmingham I received a lot of support. For this, I am truly grateful. Now I feel it’s time for me to give something back to the University and to the students that currently study there. I wanted to celebrate the experiences I had at the University and also support students to find a future career that suits their strengths and interests. I wanted to show them the opportunities that are available, which are not just working in engineering.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Volunteering is something you will never regret doing. So why not have a go; I am sure you will enjoy it!   

January 2021 - Martin Slumbers

Martin Slumbers, University of Birmingham volunteer of the month for January 2021What is your current role?
I am currently the CEO of The R&A based in St Andrews, Scotland, after having had a 30-year career in investment banking in London.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
I have been involved with the University for many years including with the Access to Birmingham programme. Since joining The R&A I have sought to assist in the College of Life and Environmental Science to provide some outside perspective as to how the sport of golf is developing in the UK and how the students can add most value as they transition to the next stage of their careers.

Why do you volunteer for the University?
The University was very good to me back when I was an undergraduate and whilst there was a long gap after I graduated, I have found over the last 10 years or so a greater appreciation for the excellent work of the University and how it engages more broadly. I have found during my career that listening to others gave me more perspective, and I wanted to help the students of today in a little way, by helping them think through how they can be most effective and prosper in their careers. It is incredibly rewarding to just help.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Absolutely try it. You will be surprised how your experiences that perhaps you take for granted are so valuable to the next generation. One word of warning though: be prepared. The student body is not shy in asking difficult questions. I have also found that preparing to do such work has helped me in framing and presenting ideas and concepts. If you can find time to mentor and encourage, it is an incredible experience.

December 2020 - Patrick Winters

Patrick Winters, alumni volunteer of the month for December 2020What is your current role?
I am Director at a Management Consultancy called Baringa Partners. I sit within our consumer products and retail practice, working with the likes of Coca Cola, Diageo, Britvic, Unilever, John Lewis, Sainsbury’s and Tesco among others. I lead our strategy, innovation and transformation practice, helping companies improve performance and grow market share.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
I have volunteered for a number of events including guest lectures, insights into consultancy and industry panels.

Why do you volunteer for the University?
Simple: I really enjoy it. I’m conscious my career has been a very privileged one and I have acquired some deep knowledge in specific areas that I really want to share with alumni and current students. I think there can be a lot of mystique around the business world, which can feel a bit impenetrable at times. Any light I can shine on it is hopefully helpful! I also like spending time in Birmingham. My time at the University gave me a real soft spot for Birmingham and its people.

What do you enjoy about volunteering?
Sharing knowledge. I also like spending time in an environment where the primary purpose is learning purely for the enjoyment. It’s very rare in life to get that opportunity so I embrace it and I find it energising.

What advice would you give for somebody who is considering volunteering?
Have a think about where you can add the most value and then put your hand up to help. Think about things that would have been useful for you to know when you were a student and then think of ways of sharing those ideas. The time commitment is as much as you want to make it and you also get a lot in return in terms of thoughts and insights, which will help your learning as well.

November 2020 - David Croser

David Croser, November 2020 volunteer of the monthWhat is your current role?
I have retired from clinical dental practice and currently work as a freelance advisor to the British Dental Association’s Indemnity team.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
Dentistry involves such a long course that there is an obvious benefit in helping would-be applicants to understand what a future career could be like. For those considering an application to study for the BDS course at Birmingham, I have been more than happy to share my experiences, as a presenter and a mentor, of the University course back then and describe the reality of a dental career now.

Why do you volunteer for the University?
It is a privilege to work with patients and the training provided at the Birmingham Dental School has allowed me to enjoy my career (and life) enormously. So, it is very nice to give something back and, fortunately, I now have the time and energy to respond if people ask for help.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Don’t hesitate to contact the Alumni Relations Team and let them know about your interest. A legacy for the University doesn’t only come in monetary form - although that will also help.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
Interacting with younger colleagues provides an opportunity to reframe some of the knowledge and experience from my own career. In the process, much is discarded, hopefully leaving some simple truths and clarity to share with others.

October 2020 - Birmingham Medical Students for Action

Four students who are volunteers of the month for November 2020In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
During the COVID-19 pandemic our team set up the group ‘Birmingham Medical Students for Action’. Our role involved setting up the group, liaising with medical school and NHS staff and coordinating University students across the West Midlands trusts. We deployed over 500 students in a variety of clinical and non-clinical roles across various centres. Work involved 111 call centres, the ambulance service, family liaison and hospital ward work. Over the several weeks our students worked for the NHS, we were able to ease strain on the West Midlands NHS services and assist in the treatment of hundreds of patients.

Why do you volunteer for the University?
It was clear during lockdown that the NHS was under severe strain with the emergence of COVID-19 and the thousands of lives it was affecting. As medical students, we thought that there must be some way that our experience in hospitals could be used to support the NHS during unprecedented times. Everyone involved volunteered through a shared sense that we could not ‘do nothing’ and through a willingness to help out in any way possible during the global pandemic.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Be open to the opportunities around you - you never know where they might crop up! Don’t worry too much about whether you’re the exact right person for the job, as just showing up and being willing to volunteer is already a start, and you can really make a difference. Also, volunteering is a great opportunity not only to help other people but to build your own skills, so any commitment will always pay off!

Is there anything else you would like to add?
We’d like to thank all of the students across the College of Medical and Dental Sciences for getting involved with the scheme. The response was overwhelming and it was incredibly humbling to see such a vast number of students sign up so rapidly to get stuck in and help the NHS in these difficult times - none of this would have been possible without them! We would also like to thank the staff at the University of Birmingham Medical School and across West Midlands hospitals for their role in coordinating and facilitating getting our students where they could be the most helpful. Thank you!

September 2020 - John Sewell

John Sewell, Volunteer of the month for September 2020What is your current role?
I am the CEO and Founder of Eazyl - an online art marketplace that I launched while I was a student at the University. Since I graduated from my MA in Art History last year, I’ve been running the business alongside my work in various freelance roles within the arts. I also spent some time earlier this year working for the Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University as part of their Internship Programme.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
My volunteering for the University began while I was a student. I have given a number of talks as part of this, including guided tours of the Barber's galleries to the public, and also a couple of talks to students at the UoB School about my experiences of launching a start-up and the possibilities available to them in that regard.

Why do you volunteer for the University?
I was very fortunate to have had a really fulfilling experience at Birmingham and I always felt like the University did a lot to afford me the resources and opportunities I needed to succeed - not only academically but also in terms of starting up my business. As a result, I have always wanted to do what I can to give back the University community; particularly to ensure that others get as much out of their time there as I feel that I did.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Go for it! I think (or at least I’d imagine) volunteering can be really rewarding thing to do, no matter what stage of life you are in. But particularly as a student or recent graduate, it is a great way to develop your skills and add greater depth to your CV. I know for a fact that some of my experiences volunteering at UoB played an important role in getting some of the jobs that I have - both during and after my studies there.

August 2020 - Curtis Collins

Curtis Collins, Volunteer of the month for August 2020What is your current role?
Partner Development Manager at InvestIN Education.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
While studying at Birmingham I have served as a student representative, undergraduate representative at the university senate, vice-president and president of MathSoc, and jointly led the Engineering and Physical Sciences sports trophy. Most recently I served as the alumni judge for the 2020 EPS College Awards.

Why do you volunteer for the University?
I have always found volunteering to be a rewarding experience. It is an opportunity to take part in projects that you are passionate about and the completion of your own hard work is extremely satisfying. It is also a chance to improve on your own skills, including leadership, teamwork, time management and organisation, all of which are incredibly important skills for yourself and to future employers.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
I would recommend volunteering in any capacity to anyone. There is so much to gain: you get to meet amazing people, learn and improve on skills, work on projects that truly have an impact on others’ lives and so much more. The only way to see what else you can gain, is to try it yourself!

Is there anything else you would like to add?
Volunteering is nothing without the people you meet along the way. I could spend all day thanking the hundreds of people I have had the pleasure of working with, but instead I will just say thank you to you all, as you have all had a massive impact on my life and who I am today.

July 2020 - Becca Fagan

July 2020 Volunteer of the MonthWhat is your current role?
I am currently an Environmental Consultant at WSP, specialising in contaminated land and ground risk. I complete ground investigations and risk assessments, mostly for the development of brownfield land for clients across the UK.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
Since graduating in 2016 I’ve been back to the University to give presentations on my current role and what consultancy is like. I’ve previously sat on an industry-advisory panel for Environmental Sciences and was able to provide insights to my job through the recent lock down lunches. I’ve occasionally been fortunate enough to offer a week or two of work shadowing, but this often depends on the type of work I’m completing at the time.

Why do you volunteer for the University?
I really wanted to give students a flavour of some of the options available to them after university. Consultancy wasn’t an industry I necessarily knew much about as a student and I really enjoy being able to share that knowledge with students and academics alike when I volunteer. I enjoy coming back to the University and being able to share a little more depth of knowledge as my career develops. Volunteering not only lets me give back to the University but also reflect on what I’ve learnt since I left and develop my public speaking skills. I also always find students have very insightful and intelligent questions.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Figure out what’s stopping you and find a way to work around it. The University Careers Service has been so accommodating of my working schedule and are so easy to work with. And if your work doesn’t have a volunteering policy, well… you don’t get if you don’t ask.

June 2020 - Key workers in education and social care

This month we are pleased to recognise members of our alumni community from the College of Social Sciences. All of them have given their time to help current and prospective students through mentoring, acting as ambassadors for their courses, and sharing their journeys and career paths, while at the same time delivering vital work as key workers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Francesca Buckland, Volunteer of the Month for June 2020Francesca Buckland

What is your current role?
Primary Teacher in Oxfordshire.

In what capacity have you volunteered?
I have provided advice and support to current and prospective students on the University Teacher Education programmes by providing a career profile and sharing my experiences of the University and of teaching. I have also been a postgraduate ambassador for the last few years, regularly answering questions from prospective students interested in postgraduate study. Lately, I have created video Q&As for the University to provide information and reassurance to the PGDipEd students who will be starting at the University in September; sharing tips to get the most out of their time at university, discussing what teaching has been like during the pandemic and how the University of Birmingham has prepared me for a teaching career.

Why do you volunteer for the University?
I have a lot to thank the University for and this feels like a small way to say thank you, and encourage others to connect with such a fantastic department at Birmingham.

The School of Education prepared me brilliantly for a career in teaching and, because of this, I want to share my experiences and encourage other passionate teachers to engage with the Teacher Education programmes. The teaching profession is not always portrayed positively, and I think it is of utmost importance to hear from teachers who are out there doing the job… and loving it! I hope that by volunteering, and sharing my experience of the supportive and expert community within the School of Education, I can reassure and support prospective students in making an informed choice about whether teacher training is right for them.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Give it a go! It is a great way to stay connected to your alma mater - somewhere which has been such a significant part of my education and teacher training. Not only are you offering your support, you are staying connected to a wider network of professionals. I have learnt a lot from others whilst volunteering, from University staff to prospective students, and gained fantastic opportunities from talking to likeminded educators.

Seanna Lassetter

Seanna Lassetter, Volunteer of the Month for June 2020What is your current role?
Principal Social Worker for Walsall Council.

In what capacity have you volunteered?
I’ve got a long-standing relationship with the University; recently, I have appeared in a video which was part of a series celebrating alumni who have won a Social Worker of the Year award, and I’ve also provided quotes that have been used for student recruitment. Although I see this as part of my role, I am committed to work with placement students from the University. I also recently offered to be part of a programme that would prepare Social Work students for their placements in a more practical way, in order to help improve outcomes for those students while on placement and will continue to engage in these opportunities when possible. 

Why do you volunteer for the University?
I just see supporting the next generation of Social Workers as part of the job! We have a great relationship with the University, and have had many Birmingham students come to us as part of their placements. Students bring with them their current learning when they are on placement, and it gives Social Workers the opportunity to learn from the latest academic developments and research.

When COVID-19 hit, we had two students with us on placement, but we were able to support them both to complete their placements. In fact, one of them was recently successful in securing a position in the team, and will start on the AYSE (assessed and supported year in employment) programme once he receives his qualification from the University. During his placement, he became a well-liked, key member of the team and showed real promise in his Social Work practice.

We have just welcomed five Step Up to Social Work students from Birmingham, two in adult social care and have put into place measures that will enable them to still have a great student experience, despite the challenges the current situation presents. Like most of the country, our profession is now working from home and most of our work is now done in a virtual environment. To support the Step Up students, we have put in place daily ‘support huddles’ where they will have the opportunity to talk through any issues and learn from the experiences of other Social Workers. In place of some of the content of the Step Up programme, we’ve designed new tasks that will enable students to still meet the competencies of the course ensuring they are not at a disadvantage while we can’t practice in the same way.

Social Work has adapted to the impact of the pandemic, working closely with bodies such as BASW (British Association of Social Workers), Public Health England to protect our workforce and the people we work with. We’ve had to adapt quickly to the changes made to the Care Act by the  Coronavirus Act 2020 ensuring new policies and procedures are implemented at pace that continue to prioritise meeting the care and support needs of the most vulnerable. 

Face to face visits are risk assessed, and only take place if absolutely necessary and cannot be undertaken virtually. When these visits take place, they take place with the most upmost care and attention, adhering to government guidelines, including the use of PPE. There have also been individual risk assessments performed for members of staff, paying particular attention to Social Workers who have to shield due to pre-existing medical conditions, and those from BAME communities, given the identified increased risks from the virus.

In a lot of ways, working in this new virtual environment has enabled us to make some changes to how we approach Learning and Development. We’ve had more time to participate in learning, and we’ve developed a number of webinars for staff that have been very successful. For example we recently held a legal practice webinar, hosted by a Barrister and we have one on the Mental Capacity Act coming up. Webinars have allowed more people to focus on their professional development, and has removed a lot of the barriers that were in place before, such as travel/venue costs. We’ve tried to make these as interactive as possible by introducing break out rooms and quizzes – it’s hard staring at a screen all day!

As a profession, we are now preparing for the work that we need to do once ‘lockdown’ is over. We know that nationally, there has been an increase in domestic abuse and we are already seeing an increase in the number of mental health referrals. 

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
I would encourage anyone to engage with the academic discipline of their profession. It keeps your practice current and relevant, and through engaging with and supporting students you can create a learning culture that not only benefits the students, but provides opportunities for Social Workers to continue to enhance their own learning post qualification.

I’ve also seen the many positives of volunteering during COVID-19; in Walsall the pandemic response has mobilised over 600 volunteers, who have fostered connections and served their communities so admirably during this time. This has been great to see as I truly believe when people feel connected to their communities, it improves their wellbeing.

Matthew Mann, Volunteer of the Month for June 2020Matthew Man

What is your current role?
I am currently a Secondary Maths teacher, in South West Birmingham and have been doing so for seven years.

In what capacity have you volunteered?
I have provided advice and support to current and prospective students on the University Teacher Education programmes by providing career profiles and sharing experiences of the University and of teaching. Lately, I have completed video Q & As for the University to provide information and reassurance to the PGDipEd students who will be starting with us in September, sharing tips to get the most out of their time at university, what teaching has been like during the pandemic and how Birmingham has prepared them for a teaching career.

Why do you volunteer for the University?
As a Birmingham alumni after studying an undergraduate Masters degree in Mathematics and my PGDipEd teacher training, I thought to myself, how could I contribute to the University. I was honoured to have been asked by the University to share my testimonial to teaching. Being brought up as a British born second generation Chinese, it is like a duty to give something back and university is the perfect place to do so. Teaching as a profession is overlooked and there needs to be more teachers. By giving advice to future graduates who aspire to become a teacher, I want to ensure that they are given up to date information on what is it like to join the education profession, and how they can really inspire the next generation of young people to contribute well to society.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Go for it! It is a rewarding experience and is excellent for your CV. You will gain great communication skills and can also inspire the next generation to consider giving their time and contribute well to society.

May 2020 - Natasha Russell

What is your current role?

I am the Technical Manager for Anatomy within the College of Medical and Dental Sciences.

In what capacity have you volunteered?

I collated donations of PPE from various teaching laboratories at the College to donate to the NHS to be used during the height of the pandemic. I also accommodate various alumni requests for access to some of the Anatomy areas to help DARO maintain good relationships with our Medical alumni who now fund studentships and facilities.

Why do you volunteer for the University?

Everyone in the Medical School pulled together to help combat COVID-19. It was the least I could do to play a small part by donating some PPE as we're involved in teaching and not research. It's lovely to see how actively involved some of our alumni are in helping provide opportunities for our current students and is a testament to the experience people have at the University.

April 2020 - Birmingham Medical Students Helping Hands group

Four University of Birmingham students are volunteers of the month for April 2020What are you currently studying?
Group representatives (pictured left to right above):
Jessica Bowie - Fourth Year Medicine
Lydia Wilson - Fifth Year Medicine
Emma Rogers - Fourth Year graduate entry Medicine
Alice Kennedy - Fourth Year Medicine

What does the Birmingham Medical Students Helping Hands group do?
Our group was created to provide an online community connecting NHS staff in the West Midlands with local healthcare students, who act as a volunteer force. As medical students, we have had our clinical placements and exams postponed, which has also been the case for many other healthcare courses at Birmingham and universities across the country.

As the early Covid-19 situation developed it was obvious that doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals were going to be put under increased stress and were likely to be affected significantly by the government restrictions. School and nursery closures, along with the shielding and self-isolation guidance, were going to make childcare more difficult, and long shifts and last-minute rota changes would stop staff getting to the shops for groceries.

We knew students would be keen to help in any way they could during the pandemic, so we set up the ‘Birmingham Medical Students Helping Hands’ group on Facebook (feel free to find us, or to recommend us to any friends who may need help and are healthcare workers!). Here, staff are able to post requests outlining the help required and then students can contact them to offer their time. The group has been an overwhelming success! Students have volunteered as prescription delivery drivers for pharmacies, acted as dog walkers while staff are on shift, helped local hospital trusts with admin work and delivered food to those who have had to self-isolate. Lots of students have been able to support NHS families with ongoing childcare and we have even helped to organise a donation collection point so that care packages could be made and distributed to ward staff. Most importantly, it has helped to create a sense of community and togetherness in this uncertain time!

Helping Hands is not just West Midlands based; it is part of a wider initiative called the National Health Supporters. They have helped to facilitate more than 40 Helping Hands groups across the UK.

What inspired you to volunteer?
We had noticed ‘Helping Hands’ groups popping up in our local areas, set up and run by medical students, and realised with the large number of hospitals in Birmingham, there must be many healthcare professionals living around our University who may need help as well. With the help of the Medical School, we were able to advertise the group to staff at the many hospitals where Birmingham students have placements. By advertising the group to students, we were able to get more than 1,000 members of the group in less than a week, all willing to volunteer and help out.

What do you enjoy most?
One of the most rewarding aspects has been seeing the impact volunteers have made: we’ve had so many kind messages from GP surgeries, parents, and one student was even able to pick up and deliver a bed frame, allowing a child to be discharged from Birmingham Children’s Hospital! One of the acts that stands out the most though was enabling a deceased man’s belongings to be delivered to his wife, who was being shielded and therefore was unable to collect them from hospital.

Being able to see the impact volunteers make, even doing small things, makes us really grateful for the community we have at Birmingham, without which none of this would have been possible.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Just go for it! Don’t be afraid to ask if someone needs a hand rather than waiting for them to ask for help. Especially at a time like now, you never know who might need it - whether it’s the local GP surgery that needs help with admin, doctors who are struggling to buy groceries or even your neighbour who would appreciate a cake baked or a card to make them smile.

During times like these it’s important that we all do what we can, and helping in a way which you might not think is big or important can in fact really make a difference to someone working on the front line in our hospitals!

Has setting this group up changed your perspective on your studies or your future career path?
For all of us, this group has really cemented our pride in our NHS and made us more eager to begin our careers as NHS doctors. It has helped us to truly appreciate the value of teamwork, and its importance in keeping the cogs of the NHS turning, even when the going is very tough. It’s also helped us better appreciate the holistic approach to medicine, and the notion that we are there not only to look after our patients, but their families, and importantly, our colleagues too. It has really created a sense of ‘togetherness’ which we will all take forward with us. This insight will undoubtedly make us better doctors in the future and we are very proud to have, in a small way, been able to help the NHS and its workforce through such unprecedented times.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
We’d love to say a big “Thank you” to all of the wonderful students who have kindly volunteered for ‘Helping Hands’ already. Their enthusiasm and commitment has made all the difference and every act, no matter how small, has made a healthcare worker’s life easier! 

March 2020 - Yvonne Baker

Yvonne Baker, University of Birmingham volunteer of the month for March 2020What is your current role?
Chief Executive of STEM Learning, an organisation working to ensure a world-leading STEM education for every young person across the UK. We work with teachers, students, community groups, school and college leaders, STEM Ambassadors, employers, funders and others to bring STEM subjects and careers to life, and help young people achieve their potential.

In what capacity have you volunteered?
If I am completely honest, I cannot remember since it was so long ago – I got involved with various societies and activities, but the details are lost in the mists of time. More recently, I have volunteered and continue to volunteer in a variety of ways including as a School Governor (definitely one for people to consider – much needed and valuable for your own development), on the Engineering Council Board, on various committees and Advisory Groups, and as a Trustee of several charities.

Why do you volunteer for the University? 
I generally enjoy helping people to develop – I love supervising staff, trainees and assistant psychologists in my job, and mentoring seemed to be another opportunity to engage in something I really enjoy. I also recognise what an important time in their lives this is for students. When I was a student, I would have valued the opportunity to talk to someone who had experience of the type of careers I was thinking about, so thought it would be beneficial to try to share some of my experiences. I also think the University is a really vibrant and interesting place, and I have enjoyed getting to know some of the staff through volunteering.

What do you enjoy most?
I have been impressed with the dedication and thoughtfulness of the students and find the questions I have been asked have provoked a lot of thought and reflection in me.  

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?

I guess one of the most important things for busy professionals is making sure you have the time and energy to fully fulfil your commitments. I think you get back as much from volunteering as you put in. The students are a great resource for reflective thinking. Talking with them helps you recognise what you know, but has also got me thinking about what I might want from my future as well.

February 2020 - Sarah Lee

Sarah LeeWhat is your current role?
I am Head of the Dispute Resolution Group at Slaughter and May, a multinational law firm. I have wide experience in all aspects of major litigation and arbitration, handling complex and substantial commercial disputes of a varied nature and often involving multiple jurisdictions. I act for major corporate and financial institutions as well as governmental bodies and international organisations.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
I’ve been involved with the University since around 2008 and I’ve been involved in various initiatives over the years, with a particular interest in the work that has gone on to widen participation, and other initiatives to equip Birmingham graduates with the tools to make the most of the opportunities available to them. 

Why do you volunteer for the University?
The reason I’ve done so is that I benefitted from a full local authority tuition and maintenance student grant when I studied at Birmingham. Without that I would not have had the career I’ve since enjoyed. I therefore want to help others who are not in as fortunate a position as I was in.

January 2020 - Dr Rosalind Brock

Passport style photo of womanWhat is your current role?
I am a Chartered Clinical Psychologist working predominantly within secondary care adult mental health. Working with multi-disciplinary teams, I specialise in assessment and therapy for people with a wide range of severe and enduring mental health problems.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
As a mentor, and with a lecture. I have also offered to speak with students regarding a career in clinical psychology.

Why do you volunteer for the University? 
I generally enjoy helping people to develop - I love supervising staff, trainees and assistant psychologists in my job, and mentoring seemed to be another opportunity to engage in something I really enjoy. I also recognise what an important time in their lives this is for students. When I was a student, I would have valued the opportunity to talk to someone who had experience of the type of careers I was thinking about, so thought it would be beneficial to try to share some of my experiences. I also think the University is a really vibrant and interesting place, and I have enjoyed getting to know some of the staff through volunteering.

What do you enjoy most?
I have been impressed with the dedication and thoughtfulness of the students and find the questions I have been asked have provoked a lot of thought and reflection in me.  

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
I guess one of the most important things for busy professionals is making sure you have the time and energy to fully fulfil your commitments. I think you get back as much from volunteering as you put in. The students are a great resource for reflective thinking. Talking with them helps you recognise what you know, but has also got me thinking about what I might want from my future as well.

December 2019 - Marc Stone

What is your current role?
I am a transformation specialist based in the Midlands, building and turning around businesses in a hugely diverse range of sectors.

How long have you volunteered with the University?
When I set up my own management consulting business in 2007-08, I made a promise with myself to give time back to causes that mean a lot to me. As an alumnus of Birmingham from 1991-94 (and being a Brummie lad), I wanted to help students with the advice that I wish I had been given. My career has seen many corporate incidents and I wanted to share these stories with students, so that they build resilience, give them comfort to follow their instinct and the confidence, belief, guidance and opportunity that I had had to carve out for myself over the last 30 years. 

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
We've done loads together over the last 13 years. I have mentored hundreds of students and shared my experiences on international business regarding corporate failure and responsible business (in the days well before we had a Centre for Responsible Business). As a student and throughout my career I have always battled for doing business the right way - be it the way people are treated, their opportunities, ethical choices that businesses should make, changing the capitalist model to be more innovative to include responsible business, etc. and so I:

  • Engaged MBA students in businesses I was consulting with or turning round to carry out strategic analysis and help ailing businesses to form sustainable strategy, with me coaching and sponsoring the students

  • Since 2011 I have supported Deloitte in delivering the Consulting Challenge week for our MBA students, which is a real highlight for them. This year I was asked by the University Business School and Deloitte to write the case study

  • After the 2008 financial crash more students wanted to become consultants or run their own business and so we started "careers in consultancy events" to dispel the myths and share stories and home truths

  • In my last role as CFO at Energy Systems Catapult the University and I engaged to carry out board effectiveness studies for the business, which was enlightening and hugely important in the governance and creation of the Catapults

  • With my work closely aligned to demonstrating social impact for government I am sharing my learning with the Business School to help reshape the way that we carry out research, so that we are thinking about commercial application and social impact from the outset of research

Why do you volunteer for the University?
After University I have always thought: "If only I knew then what I know now". I have so many interesting international experiences from investigating corporate scandals, turning around businesses and setting up my own to recovering from brain damage two years ago.
Quite simply, I'm a Brummie who grew up in the 1970s in a city with a proud industrial heritage, but you could feel that it lost its way. The city and its people are the most humble and inventive I've ever come across and I wanted to play my part in correcting this - being able to bring together the best communities, businesses and students to be innovative, creative and shape the future of not just the city, but the world. Over the last 30 years I've been lucky enough to experience some amazing companies and people around the world - and it's great finally to be part of the city's renaissance as THE city of the 2020s - with the University and its students as an important citizen at the heart of it all.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
A genuine and heartfelt smile from a student. If I've made someone's day just a little bit better, I've done my job on this planet. It can be relieving a student's anxieties a little, or linking them up for a great career step. However trivial or substantial the support, I've built some wonderful friendships with staff and students and, I hope, just made their day a little better than before we met.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Don't hesitate. Do it now. University and private sector experiences are so powerful when they come together. Students benefit, the university and staff benefits, you benefit altruistically and - if you believe in karma - great things happen from this philanthropic soup.

What’s your Twitter handle?

@consultingstone

November 2019 - Dr Shewli Rahman

shewlipic5Shewli Rahman (MBChB, 1993), an Emergency Medicine Consultant based at Heartlands Hospital with over 25 years’ experience working in a variety of roles within the NHS, has developed a range of resilient mechanisms to ensure that she is able to maintain a healthy work life balance whilst managing the pressures of a challenging role and being a mum!

Shewli kindly volunteered to share her experiences with MDS staff, demonstrating how they can improve their resilience and wellbeing at work as part of the college’s 2019 Health & Wellbeing week. Shewli gave insights into her career and shared her personal experiences of how she has developed and enacts resilience techniques. In September, Shewli then returned to campus once again to volunteer as a guest speaker at the annual Birmingham Dental Admissions Conference.

October 2019 - Mark Salisbury

Mark SalisburyWhat is your current role?
I’m the Regional Talent & Acquisition Manager for WSP in the Middle East, one of the world's leading engineering professional services consulting firms. I’m responsible for developing and implementing the overall recruitment strategy for WSP across the Middle East region, which includes recruitment branding and marketing, regional nationalisation strategy, university liaison, graduate and intern recruitment, diversity and inclusion initiatives, redeploying employees both regionally and globally, onboarding, and supporting the business development team with major project proposals across the region.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University in Dubai?
We’ve run a number of job search preparation and CV workshops, site tours and meetings with some of our senior leaders to help showcase careers in engineering. I’ve also attended workshops to provide input and assist with shaping the strategy for the University’s engagement with employers in the Middle East.

Why do you volunteer for the University? What do you enjoy most?
As an alumnus, I was really interested to help and support any way possible as it’s great to see Birmingham set up the first Russell Group university campus in the region. WSP employ about five other alumni here in the Middle East so we know the calibre of graduates is high. Personally, I really enjoy meeting, engaging with and supporting the students and seeing them develop throughout their time at the University.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Jump in and do it if you can. It’s a great way to broaden your horizons and network with others.

September 2019 - Caterpillar UK

Two members of staff for Caterpillar UK, September 2019 volunteers of the monthAurele Mes Boaye (UK Early Talent Recruitment Manager, Caterpillar) and Jessica Ding (Early Talent Recruitment Coordinator, Caterpillar) speaking at the Girls in STEM Day on campus

What are your current roles?
Early Talent Recruiters.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
Guest speakers at the University’s Girls in STEM Day.

Why did you volunteer for the University?/Why does Caterpillar believe that this kind of volunteering is important?
Caterpillar understands the importance of developing its own people as well as investing in young people to ensure a future pipeline of talent for their businesses. Its investment in young people is a manifestation of Caterpillar’s commitment to work to improve the quantity of undergraduates studying STEM related subjects and subsequently the quality of graduates moving into engineering careers. Caterpillar and University of Birmingham are aligned in efforts to attract tomorrow’s bright, young engineers and raise the profile of women in engineering.

What did you enjoy most?
We really enjoyed watching the secondary school students engage with, and learn from, the university students in the various STEM related activities.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Ask yourself a different question: Why wouldn’t you want to volunteer?

August 2019 - Joe Comiskey

Joe ComiskeyWhat is your current role?
Head of Digital and Media at Beiersdorf UK.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
I supported the Future Leaders Certificate programme for students in the Business School working on the three NIVEA briefs. Over the course of two weeks, my team and I briefed, supported and gave feedback to six teams of awesome students on three real-life business challenges.

Why do you volunteer for the University? What do you enjoy most?
As an alumnus of Birmingham, it's great to be able to give something back. The students at the Business School are lovely to work with. It's a real pleasure to work with such enthusiastic and talented people. The lecture team are super-proactive and reached out to me early so I was able to plan this in well in advance. This allowed my team to create briefs for the FLC that help to solve real business issues. This made the project a win-win for us and the students. What I enjoyed most was seeing the amazing presentations back from the students. It was clear that a lot of thought and effort had gone into them, so it was a privilege to be involved.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Go for it. The University is very flexible so there is bound to be an opportunity to volunteer that works for both you and the uni. It's hugely rewarding to see the impact it has on the students.

July 2019 - Global Alumni Gathering volunteers

Earlier this year, alumni volunteers across the globe helped connect fellow alumni by arranging and hosting 33 events across 33 cities as part of the University's annual Global Alumni Gathering.

In total 600 alumni attended these events to network, socialise and celebrate the anniversary of the University receiving Royal Assent in 1900. This was the third Global Alumni Gathering and the biggest to date thanks to our dedicated volunteers who worked so hard to provide these event opportunities and help keep alumni connected.

Special thanks go to our Chinese alumni who managed to organise seven gatherings in seven cities, in which more than 360 people took part!

June 2019 - Dr Nicola Kavanagh

Dr Nicola KavanaghWhat is your current role?
I am a principle dentist working in general practice and a partner in three dental practices located in Barnt Green, Alvechurch and Halesowen. I also work as a clinical lecturer at the Birmingham Dental Hospital where I supervise Dental Students.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
I volunteered on the University outreach programme where I shared my experiences of being both a dental student at Birmingham and my dental career so far. I talked to year 12 and year 10 students. The aim was to encourage students from all social backgrounds to consider Dentistry as a career.

Why do you volunteer for the University?
I feel it is important to give something back. I wanted to rave about the experiences I had at the University and also encourage young people to consider studying to be a dentist. I wanted to show them the opportunities that are available, which aren't just working in a dental practice.

What did you enjoy most?
I enjoyed sharing my experiences and the question and answer session at the end of my presentations. It was encouraging to see the pupils show a keen interest.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Every little helps. If you can help just one person, you have done a very good deed. It is very rewarding.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
I am very grateful that I have been chosen as volunteer of the month, and would like to thank the University staff for their enthusiasm and allowing me to come and help out! I am looking forward to the next time.

May 2019 - Nikema Taylor

Nikema TaylorWhat is your current job title?
I am currently a self-employed Cognitive Behavioural Therapist.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
I have offered my knowledge regarding the pathways to becoming a CBT therapist to students who may not want to start their careers in teaching. I also spoke to a group of students who were interested in alternative roles that may require you to teach others.

Why do you volunteer for the University?
I enjoy working with people and I am passionate about education and mental health so I understand how challenging it can be to not know where or what field you will be best suited in so I felt my experience may provide hope. I enjoy meeting the students and I like to got back to university campus.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
If you are someone who is passionate about giving your time to help others in education, then contact the University. I am humbled to have been selected for this scheme, I will look forward to volunteering in the future.

April 2019 - Pete Cripps

Pete CrippsWhat is your current job title?
Blockchain Architect at IBM.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
I’m the IBM relationship manager for the University and have now performed this role for more than ten years. This role is usually performed by alumni and involves supporting events that need some form of employer engagement as well as arranging (and delivering) guest lectures and helping with the development of teaching modules across the different University colleges and schools.

Why do you volunteer for the University?
As an alumnus of Birmingham (BSc Physics, 1979) I feel incredibly privileged to have benefited from a (‘free’) university education at a world class university, and felt I wanted to give something back to both the institution and the students that currently study there. I believe it’s really important that students have a good understanding of not just the modern world of work but also the current technology trends that they are likely to be encountering and even working in when they graduate. I’m lucky in working for a large, global company like IBM because it means I not only have an understanding of these upcoming technologies, but we are also encouraged to go out and talk to students about technology trends as well as what IBM does.

What do you enjoy most?
I really enjoy doing workshops with students that encourage some of the softer skills like creativity and collaboration and showing them how these are vital to businesses of all sizes and types.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Make as many contacts as you can, not only with staff members but students as well. Don’t constrain yourself to just your speciality or degree area. Employers today need a multi-discipline and diverse workforce to solve some of the world’s most pressing and ‘wicked’ problems. Showing students and universities how to bring different people together to work on such problems is a win-win for everyone. Just throw yourself into it, get out of your comfort zone and help out wherever you can.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
I believe volunteering can not only benefit the University but also helps to develop you as a person in both your day job and your personal life. You can volunteer at any time in your career and it’s definitely something everyone should try at some stage.

What’s your Twitter handle?
@pete_cripps

March 2019 - Dr Maria Velissariou

Maria Velissariou, Volunteer of the Month for March 2019What is your current job title?
I am currently the Chief Science and Technology Officer at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), based in Chicago, USA.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
I am one of the regional representatives of the University of Birmingham in the USA, covering Chicago. My role is to help promote the interests and visibility of the university, such as to help organise and host events in Chicago and the surrounding area. Recently I also had the privilege to speak at WISE regarding women in STEM for International Women’s Day.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering for the University?
It is very rewarding to give back to this incredible institution and interact with all the generations that have studied here, as well as those working toward their degrees. I enjoy the energy and ambition to evolve and grow with incredible research, teaching and student experience.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Just do it. Volunteering unleashes resources and creativity for the common good and causes we feel passionate about.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thank you for the recognition, it is my honour!

February 2019 - Dr Antonio G. Farruggia-Bochnak

Dr Antonio G. Farruggia-BochnakWhat is your current job title?
Founder and CEO of Walsall ACTION.

In what capacity have you volunteered for the University?
I volunteered at the day-long careers conference for CoSS PGR students called ‘Beyond the PhD: Getting the Job’ and gave a talk titled ‘Perseverance and Resilience in Business and Working for Yourself’.

Why do you volunteer for the University?
I volunteered because I have always felt a great sense of pride as an alumnus of Birmingham. I am always happy to assist in any way that I can to support students with their learning and development.

What is the best thing about volunteering at the University?
The thing I enjoyed the most, and will never forget, was looking out across the audience of PhD students and sensing just how much brainpower was gathered in one room – it was incredible!

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Volunteering is good for the soul, so grab as much of it as you can.

What's your Twitter handle?
@WalsallAction

January 2019 - Jonathan Nason

Jonathan NasonWhat is your current job title?
Director at Quay Directions Limited.

How long have you volunteered with the University?
It’s now approaching eight years; in fact, since the Careers Network Mentoring programme was first launched. I can recall reading the invitation to participate; and, immediately investigating how I could contribute.

My first thought was "I really wished a similar programme had been in place in my Final Year". With so much going on, and increasing pressures in your Final year, it would have been great to have an independent person, who could be available to offer advice, act as a sounding board; or, just be around as and when you needed them. And, you know what, that inspired me.

In what capacity have you volunteered?
As a long-standing mentor on the Careers Network Mentoring programme.

Why do you volunteer for the University?
On leaving Birmingham and getting my first job in London, the gap between studying and full time work hit me like a pile-driver. And, that was even after vacation jobs on building sites and in a book warehouse. It was certainly a shock. I might have thought I was prepared; but, the transition could have been made smoother; and, with less fear of the unknown.

So, when the Mentoring Programme was launched, the opportunity for me to offer advice from my career provided a suitable solution to volunteering.

It has been particularly encouraging as the programme has evolved. There is now a larger cohort of mentees each year, extending beyond under to post-grads’ involvement, and an enhanced matching for mentees to mentors.

What is the best thing about volunteering at the University?
It’s all about completing a virtuous circle that began way back in 1968, with my arrival at the University. A lot has happened in my career since those heady days of bell-bottomed trousers.

I have been fortunate in being able to grasp and make successes of important opportunities. They would not have been possible without my three years at uni. My eyes were opened to what could be achieved. My confidence enhanced to take on new challenges.

Having made that journey, and now with current grads about to take their first steps, it was a simple and logical step to find the best way to contribute. For me, the Careers Network Mentoring programme is the perfect match.

With my volunteering reaching its eighth year, it is really encouraging to look back on my mentees’ successes. I am delighted to have contributed in a very small way to their continuing achievements. We have stayed in touch, beyond the duration of the programme. We still share more, as their careers’ progress. We laugh about what has worked out well; and, also, continuing learning from our experiences of working and about life in general.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Freely giving of your time and experience, of sharing life in all its different shades, and complexities, is most satisfying and invigorating. I know many mentees feel exactly the same way. Our meetings and conversations recharge our batteries, leading us to consider other avenues for study, research, and trying new opportunities that stimulate mind, body and soul.

What's your Twitter handle?
@quayprman

December 2018 - Dr Kate Fussell

A pioneering breast cancer researcher and reconstructive surgeon, Kate returned to campus in June 2018 as part of the ‘NHS at 70’ celebrations to volunteer to speak to staff and students.

Graduating from Birmingham more than 65 years ago, Dr Fussell reflected on her career in medicine, inspiring people across the college. She says: ‘Birmingham was a jolly good place to be a student and we had great fun.

'It was a bit hard being a woman in surgery at the time as there were only six of us in the country – but I’m a very stubborn person! All sorts of things that we couldn’t treat at all are now both treatable and curable.’

See her full interview.

November 2018 - Keiko Suzuki

Keiko SuzukiWhat is your current job title?
Sales Support Assistant Manager at FIL Investments (Japan) Limited.

How long have you volunteered with the University?
I have volunteered as an MBA alumni for around four years.

In what capacity have you volunteered?
I have supported staff from the Business School at their MBA recruitment events in Tokyo, talking about my MBA experiences with study and life with MBA applicants. Some applicants debate whether or not to do an MBA. I also have provided consultation for their career and if it is necessary, I have introduced other alumni to applicants.

Why do you volunteer for the University?
I would like to be helpful to MBA applicants and people who are considering their career, because I was supported by many people when I pursed MBA. My MBA life was awesome, and I was blessed with my classmates, teachers and staff in Birmingham Business School. Thus, I want Birmingham Business School and UoB to develop further for the future.

What is the best thing about volunteering at the University?
Meeting new people and talking about how my career related to MBA gives me new ideas, it is a very productive time. I really enjoy having those opportunities.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Sharing your experience with others can not only inspire you, but also will be meaningful.

October 2018 - Mark Hipwell

Mark HipwellWhat is your current job title?
HS2 Curzon Street Station Interface Manager.

How long have you volunteered for the University?
Just under two years.

In what capacity have you volunteered?
As a graduate of the University, providing industrial experience from my work on major civil engineering projects, and promoting the EPS Awards.

Why do you volunteer for the University?
It’s incredibly important to give back to universities when you start into the world of work. I remember how useful and important it was having that connection to people who were in the industry. Being able to help gives me confidence in my own abilities and develops my communication skills. Plus Grace Surman, the Alumni Relations Manager for the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, often provides cake and coffee…

What is the best thing about volunteering at the University?
I get a real adrenaline kick from engaging with young enthusiastic STEM-gineers. It’s tough at university for students; looking for jobs, social media bombarding them, constantly comparing themselves to each other, a tough job market! So being able to talk, engage and try to help (even if it now feels a long time ago) makes me feel like I’m doing something beyond my day job.

It’s been an absolute pleasure getting to come back to Birmingham and volunteer; you work for a long time and it’s so great to throw in fun, engaging volunteering days to get that warm fuzzy feeling.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
It’s so hard fitting volunteering into a day job, I totally get that. We’re all getting busier, but the best days I’ve had in the last one or two years have been working with the University. If you’re interested in signing up, bring a smile and your life experience and that’s all you need.

What's your Twitter handle?
@markhipwell1990

September 2018 - Gary Wroe

Gary WroeWhat is your current job title?
Managing Director, Hockley Mint Ltd, and President of the British Allied Trade Federation.

How long have you volunteered for the University?
I have been back in touch with the University for the past 12 months.

In what capacity have you volunteered?
After initial contact from the Alumni I was asked to share my experience of studying at UoB. I spoke to approx. 30 cohorts who were studying for their full time MBA, many who were foreign students all in their final year. I also gave a talk at the open day for the new recruits on the MBA program speaking about Birmingham and the great city it is.  

Why do you volunteer for the University?
As you progress through life, reflecting on what you have done and achieved can be sometimes overlooked. When I started my career I was given an opportunity to join the British Jewellers’ Association youth training scheme which set me on the journey through the world of jewellery. 28 years later I became chairman of that association as a way of saying thank you to the support and guidance it offered me. It is the same scenario with the UoB; it's about completing the circle – to give back what you have learnt and help others to achieve the potential they can.

What is the best thing about volunteering at the University?
UoB is such a great place that has committed and dedicated staff that really want to make a difference to the students. Emma Coldicott contacted me about speaking and she really has driven the volunteering scheme. I enjoy talking to people and if I can give any advice as to studying now or in the future then I will. I enjoy giving back and staying connected to the University.  

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Give it a try – it is time but it is very, very rewarding. 

What's your Twitter handle? 
@Hockley_mint

August 2018 - Birmingham Alumni Network USA committee

The Birmingham Alumni Network USA organises events and activities in the US through a network of alumni volunteers. James Stamp is one of the members of the network committee.

Group of older alumni smile to cameraWhat is your current job title?
President, Stamp Associates Viticulture, Inc.

How long have you volunteered for the University?
For approximately ten years.

In what capacity have you volunteered?
I have coordinated and hosted various events with a view to bringing together Birmingham alumni living in California and other US states. I served as treasurer of the US Alumni Society (now known as the Alumni Network). I arrange gatherings in northern California locations to introduce visiting UK Birmingham staff to the local alumni (including the Global Alumni Gathering pictured).

Why do you volunteer for the University?
I am very grateful for the education and qualifications I received at Birmingham. I would not have gained employment in the US without this education and specifically without my PhD in the field of plant biology. I want to bring alumni together because I am proud of my Birmingham experience and I enjoy meeting people with similar backgrounds. I also love to meet people from the UK. I also want to give back to Birmingham because it allowed me to become who I am today.

What is the best thing about volunteering at the University?
Meeting with people from Birmingham who frequently tend to be from the UK.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Do it! Contact someone from the University or a local/regional Birmingham volunteer to find out how fun and how rewarding volunteering can be.

July 2018 - Seyi Adisa

Seyi AdisaWhat is your current job title?
I am a Partner at the law firm Tunde & Adisa Legal Practitioners (T & A Legal) and currently also the Principal Private Secretary to the Governor of Oyo State in Nigeria.

How long have you volunteered for the University?
Since my second year of study (2004).

In what capacity have you volunteered?
Well, as an avid football fan, I volunteered in my second year for Local Leagues, which was volunteering to teach children football, and attained the Millennium Volunteers Award for contributing more than 100 hours into volunteering in an academic year. However, now that I live in Nigeria, I have opted to volunteer online and have put myself up to mentor law students at Birmingham. I have recently offered three students international law internships with mentoring in Nigeria this summer. I am also scheduled to speak about my expertise to the Law School via Skype in October.

Why do you volunteer for the University?
I believe in giving back, particularly because I benefited from others who gave back while I was at UoB. There are so many opportunities and lessons that mentors can share with mentees and I want Birmingham to continue to produce the best students in the UK and globally.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
You will be amazed how much you will learn from your interactions with your mentees. Decide to mentor someone especially in an area you are passionate about or have expertise in. It is a win-win scenario.

What's your Twitter handle?
@sjadisa

Is there anything else you would like to add?
Giving is the best part of living!

June 2018 - Fatemeh Faroughi

Fatemeh FaroughiWhat is your current job title?
I am currently working as a Supervisor/Coordinator at Towheed International School, Dubai.

How long have you volunteered for the University?
I have been in contact with the University since the launch of the campus in Dubai Academic City.

In what capacity have you volunteered?
I have tried to attend all of the open days, events and workshops, talking to new students, UoB staff and lecturers and informing them about the unique and diverse culture of the UAE, how to attract new students and greet newcomers.

Why do you volunteer for the University?
As a novelist with five published books, meeting new people from different walks of life is a reward that is not easily achieved. On the other hand, volunteering at the University keeps me in touch with the academic world, creating new opportunities for the future.

What is the best thing about volunteering at the University?
Volunteering gave me the opportunity to meet successful professionals who know what it takes to work hard and achieve dreams. I was able to make friends with some lovely people and also help young people to choose the right path by setting a good example.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
I would say go for it. The experience is really rewarding and at the end of each volunteering session, I realise that I have gained something new, useful and valuable.

https://twitter.com/FaroughiFatemeh

May 2018 - #TeamUoB

Large group of runners gathered for photoFor May we have chosen to celebrate the brilliant work of the 400 runners who took part in the 2018 Simply Health Great Birmingham 10K. Congratulations all!

Why did you volunteer?
To help share the message of the 10,000 Lives appeal with the city of Birmingham, and our local community. Thank you to everyone who ran, jogged, walked or cheered. Together you had a huge impact and will help change the lives of so many young people from across the city and region.

What is the best about volunteering?
The range of people you get to meet. For the 10K, we had students, staff, people who live near to campus and alumni all the way back to the 1970s. You never know who you will meet.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Do it! It's so rewarding, you meet some great people and get to play a part in changing lives, which is like nothing else you'll ever do.

Find out more about our team by following #TeamUoB.

April 2018 - Charlotte Bullock

Charlotte BullockWhat is your current job title?
I’m a Speciality Registrar in Anaesthetics at Worcestershire Royal Hospital.

How long have you volunteered for the University?
I've volunteered as a Personal Mentor for UoB Medical School for the past four years.

Why do you volunteer?
I started volunteering because I benefitted from the mentoring system when I was a Medical Student. I also thought it would help develop my mentorship skills, which in Medicine is something that is expected but not really taught.

What is the best thing about volunteering?
The best part is seeing the progress of the students, and finding out about their experiences when supervising their medical electives abroad. It doesn’t take up much of my time and is as rewarding for me as I hope it is for them.

March 2018 - David Phillips

David PhillipsWhat is your current job title?
Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Investigator, Imperial College London.

How long have you volunteered for?
Since 1969! I first started to give demonstration lectures in schools at that time, and am still doing it.

In what capacity have you volunteered?
As a demonstration lecturer. Over my lifetime I have reached live audiences totalling more than 250,000 school students and lay public.

Why do you volunteer?
I want others to share my own enthusiasm for science and what it can do.

What is the best thing about volunteering?
Interaction with audiences, the feeling of having done something worthwhile.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
You will gain from it as much as the people you engage with; you will be a more rounded person. Whatever form of volunteering you do, you will enjoy it and gain from it.

February 2018 - Charlie Oubridge

Charlie OubridgeWhat is your course title?
I'm studying a BA in Ancient History.

For how long have you volunteered, and in what capacity?
I've been volunteering for maybe eight years; I've done some acting at an arts centre and taken part in regular Christmas events with them and I've also been a museum gallery assistant. Last year I spent a year as an English teacher in a small town in Thailand with a charity called Project Trust.

Why do you volunteer?
I volunteer because I like to be busy and the volunteering roles available to me are much more challenging and fun than most jobs for young people. I also like being able to feel like I have achieved something by helping someone or enabling them to enjoy themselves. Whilst volunteering I have learned a lot I wouldn't have otherwise; it's developed my confidence and I get to meet lots of lovely people. It is definitely beneficial for volunteers as well!

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
When volunteering I think it's important to find something that uses your unique skills - I joined the tuition scheme because of my experience in education - as this helps you have the biggest impact you can.

January 2018 - Jonathan Wong

Jonathan WongWhat is your current job title?
Project Director at the Center for Entrepreneurship at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

For how long have you volunteered?
I have volunteered for the University since 2014, but have volunteered for different programmes and organisations related to young people outside Birmingham since 2010.

In what capacity have you volunteered?
I volunteered to kick-start the University's mentoring programme in Hong Kong. Away from Birmingham, I have been helping various NGO and charity organisations on different programmes, like training young people at Roads (https://www.facebook.com/roadshkYBTMAL/); acting as a mentor and Programme Director for Google Empowering Young Entrepreneur Programme (https://www.facebook.com/eyeprogramhk/), advising V54 (https://www.facebook.com/V54.HK/) a media and art hub for young people; acting as advisor for Young Entrepreneurship Foundation, (https://www.facebook.com/YEFHK/), an incubation programme for young entrepreneurs; and mentoring for Eureka Nova, an incubation programme for start-ups.

Why do you volunteer?
Volunteering is a very rewarding experience. Not only I can fully utilise my knowledge and business experience and network to help young people, it also helps me to know more about the startup scene and their business and expand my horizons.

What is the best thing about volunteering?
Meeting more exciting and interesting people from all walks of life, which in turn makes my life more interesting, fulfilling and meaningful.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
I would advise anyone who is thinking about volunteering to ask himself/herself what they would like to achieve from it. Without thinking clearly about the objectives and preparing yourself in advance, you may be wondering why do it, what you can contribute, how much time you are prepared to invest, etc along the way, especially if it does not turn out as good as you expected, or you have some problems during volunteering.

What's your Twitter handle?
@hero_8800

December 2017 - Joe Comiskey

Joe ComiskeyWhat is your current job title?
Head of Digital for Northern Europe at Beiersdorf.

For how long have you volunteered?
The last six years.

In what capacity have you volunteered?
I supported at the Mock Assessment Centres and as a guest lecturer during my time at Unilever and now at Beiersdorf.

Why do you volunteer?
As an alumnus of the University, I have always felt a lot of gratitude for the opportunities studying there unlocked for me. This is my way of giving back to the university. I love taking part in the events as the students are so enthusiastic and the business school so welcoming.

What is the best thing about volunteering?
Feeling like I’ve made a difference, especially when I get positive feedback from the students.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Do it. The commitment required is actually pretty minimal yet hugely rewarding. I always come away from the mock assessment centres feeling like I have learnt something new too and from a commercial perspective, it gives a head start on finding talented students who could apply to Beiersdorf.

What's your Twitter handle?
@joe_brum

November 2017 - Chris Meah

Chris Meah talking to a group of studentsWhat is your current job?
I am CEO at the School of Code.

How long have you volunteered for?
I've volunteered for the University since 2013, starting with helping at Birmingham's ThinkTank museum, offering science outreach sessions for children.

In what capacity have you volunteered?
While I was studying I helped start the PhD Careers Day, which linked companies to PhD students in an attempt to help people who were worried about life outside of academia. We had more than 800 attendees at the two events we ran, and it was great to see so many students get jobs and opportunities through it. Since then, I've been involved in lots of different activities, and after finishing my PhD I've been happy to come in and give a talk, run workshops, and help students gain industry relevant skills that will help them in their career. 

Why do you volunteer?
I enjoy helping people, and I enjoy supporting people trying to improve themselves or their skills. Since my background is Computer Science, I concentrate my efforts there mostly. There is also a huge amount of money, jobs, and opportunity in technology but that isn't reaching everyone. The reason for programmes like our Homeless Coding Class and the School of Code Bootcamp is to try to help more and different types of people benefit from technology.

What is the best thing about volunteering?
Everybody has had help to get where they are at some point, so it's nice to feel like you can do that for someone else too.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Start small, try lots of different activities and you'll find what you are good at and enjoy.

Do you have a Twitter account?
@theSchoolofCode and @theMeahCat

October 2017 - EPS Class Ambassadors

montage of photos of students posing to cameraThese 17 wonderful young alumni all volunteered for the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Open Day on Saturday 14 October. All graduated within the last two years and are Class Ambassadors for the EPS Community.

They are wonderful advocates for the University and remain incredibly enthusiastic about their time at Birmingham. Amongst them they did some incredible things as students and have gone on to exciting new jobs.

They spent the day sharing stories and advice to prospective students to the University and inspiring our visitors to follow in their footsteps.

Many thanks to: Grace Hayward, Max Cameron-Jones, Will Davies, Alex Rees, Chloe Connolly, Carly Thomas, Becky Drew, Sarah Jones, Tsani Sakutov, Ahmad Khattab, Saskia Binks, Daisy Partlow, Nathanial Hutchinson, Joseph Carter, Hazel Cox, Tom Loveland, and Philippa Jefferies. Some of the group are pictured above at the Open Day.

September 2017 - Will Hazelton

Will HazeltonWhat is your current job?
I am Account Manager at Spark44 BHX.

Why do you volunteer?
I didn’t consciously realise I was volunteering. All I knew was that it is vital to give opportunities to students, as they’re brimming with fresh thinking and new ideas. This is critical, not just for the creative industry, but businesses all over the world.

In what capacity do you volunteer?
I lead a team who developed a robust internship programme, partnered with two key universities and recruited six fantastic students for two weeks. I then coached and mentored them throughout their placement with us here at Spark44. Although I didn’t realise I was consciously doing so, the time I volunteered was incredibly stimulating and hugely rewarding to me and the students involved in the programme.

What is the best thing about volunteering?
Developing relationships and watching people benefit from your experience. It’s hugely rewarding to impart your knowledge and see other people breathe and interpret it to benefit them in their own way.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
Don't think about it as a timescale, i.e. I need to donate x hours per week. Think about it as a project - what do you want to achieve? What do you want to learn? This way it becomes an experience, not a chore.

August 2017 - Keith Harding

Keith HardingWhat is your current job?
I am retired.

How long have you volunteered for the University, and in what capacity?
I have served as editor of Aesculapius, the Medical and Dental Graduates’ publication, for seven years. I volunteered as a member of the editorial board and of the Sands Cox charity Exec committee.

Why do you volunteer?
I volunteered because no-one else did (!) but I enjoy it very much. It keeps my retired brain active and is a contribution to the Medical School.

What is the best thing about volunteering?
Aesculapius provides a forum for Medical and Dental graduates to tell others about their interests and allows student holders of Sands Cox bursaries to publish their elective, to present it and be questioned by a multi-disciplinary audience, which I think is wonderful experience for them. I might add that the standard is very high.