Birkbeck’s Telephone Fundraising Campaign – meet the 2019 student callers

The Birkbeck Summer Telephone Campaign 2019 has now begun. A team of passionate Birkbeck student fundraisers will be contacting alumni over the next five weeks to fundraise for College priorities.

Alumni gifts provide financial support to deserving students, and this support can often be the difference between being able to complete their studies, or not. Relieving some of the financial burden for a student enables them to perform to the best of their ability by minimising the stress induced by monetary pressures.

Not only do alumni gifts provide assistance to these deserving students but they can also have an impact on life at the College, ensuring that future generations of students have the best facilities, support, advice and career guidance during their time at Birkbeck.

Tara Millington, Regular Giving Officer at Birkbeck has said: “the telephone campaigns are a wonderful testament to the Birkbeck alumni community. Alumni often feedback about how much they enjoy speaking to a current student. Whether it’s financial support, providing work placements or volunteering to be a mentor, our alumni continue to contribute to make Birkbeck such special place to study.”

The Summer Campaign will run between 4 June and 6 July – if you’d like to receive a call from one of our students, please get in touch with Tara Millington (

Birkbeck’s Telephone Fundraising Team:

Aaron, Msc Criminology

“I wanted to be part of the telephone campaign so I could contribute to Birkbeck’s ongoing success. I chose to study here because it was an evening course with a diverse range of students and interesting course content. I’m most looking forward to engaging with alumni and engaging with people outside of my department”.

Alex, MRes Comparative Literature

“I chose to study at Birkbeck as I believe it has a friendly and fair ethos. Fundraising for Birkbeck is important as it enables further research, and I’m really looking forward to engaging with alumni and learning more about how funding has an impact within academia”.

Alexander, BA Global Cinema

“During the campaign, I most look forward to the conversations I have – I enjoy hearing about difference courses that alumni studied. I’m passionate about raising money to support Birkbeck students, it is a unique place thanks to its range of courses and it’s flexibility with evening study”.

Ayelen, MPhil / PHD

“As a scholarship recipient myself, I like the idea of giving back some of my time to Birkbeck and being part of the Telephone Campaign team – plus I enjoy speaking to people! Fundraising for Birkbeck is important as it gives future generations of students the opportunity to pursue tertiary education. I chose to study at Birkbeck through my admiration for the lecturers here.”

Charles, MA Text and Performance

“I wanted to join the fundraising team so that I could be part of something that was a fulfilling and meaningful way to make a difference at Birkbeck. Fundraising is important to continue the support and services that Birkbeck offers to students and stay true to its original vision. I’m most looking forward to hearing interesting stories from alumni and seeing what they’ve been up to since graduating.”

Edwin, MA Text and Performance

“I wanted to participate in the Telephone Campaign because Birkbeck has contributed significantly to advancing my knowledge and skills in my chosen field (Theatre & Politics). Bursaries are immeasurably useful to me, and so I believe fundraising is crucial. I enjoy having a chat with alumni who have shared my experience, and hearing their stories”.

Fran, MA Museum Cultures

“Birkbeck is known for its amazing support, and I want to be part of that by fundraising to help students achieve great things! My favourite part of being a student fundraiser is having nice conversations and hearing alumni’s motivations to give back.”

Janelle, MSc Public Policy and Management

“I chose to study at Birkbeck as I wanted to learn alongside fellow mature students who have had work experience. I want to reach out to alumni in the campaign and strengthen their relationship with Birkbeck.”

Jed, BSc Biomedicine

“I’m looking forward to having interesting conversations with alumni, and seeing if they have any advice for me as a current Birkbeck student. My course is of great teaching quality and I’m looking forward to raising money to help support future students.”

Joseph, MSc International Development

“I am developing my career in the 3rd sector and wanted to gain some fresh and relevant experience. Raising funds for Birkbeck is important as it is becoming increasingly difficult for universities to access government funding. I’m looking forwards to having some lovely conversations with Birkbeck alumni!”.

Luke, BA English

“I like the fact that Birkbeck offers evening study, which worked better for me. I am looking forward to being part of the call team so that I am to learn about the experiences of previous students. It is great to be able to support Birkbeck and connect with a wide range of alumni.”

Natalie, BA Linguistics

“I applied to be part of the call team as I found the nature of the job interesting, I like conversing with people. What I enjoy the most about the role is the sense of personal achievement and growth, raising money to contribute to future developments at Birkbeck” .

Oliver, Certificate of Education, Economics

“Fundraising is important as it gives students who may not be in a fortunate financial situation an opportunity to fulfill their dreams. Being part of the telephone campaign will be a good experience to improve my communication skills, which I will be able to apply in my future career.”

Shakeela, BSc Social Sciences

“I wanted to take part in the Telephone Campaign as I like to speak to alumni and find out about their experiences. It was also a way to meet a variety of students I wouldn’t have met before. I feel fundraising for Birkbeck is important as it encourages continued support for the projects here, some of which I’ve benefited from myself.”

Shuvashish, BSc. Social Sciences

“Working as part of the Telephone Campaign team is a step towards fulfilling my long-term career goal to work within the charity sector. I’m looking forward to interacting with alumni and having the satisfaction of raising crucial funds for Birkbeck.”

Alumni Help to Secure Birkbeck’s Future

Many alumni and supporters choose to help secure Birkbeck’s future by remembering the College in their wills. No matter their size, gifts in wills make an enormous difference to the College and to students who may otherwise be unable to continue their studies. Every year, more than 2,000 deserving students receive bursaries to help pay for books, travel, childcare and other study expenses. Much of this support comes from gifts in wills.

This spring, Birkbeck students spoke to more than 300 alumni about the positive impact that gifts in wills have on the College. The students had the opportunity to thank alumni who have already remembered Birkbeck in their wills and to share information with those who are considering giving in this way. The callers shared stories of students like Helen Dunbar and Željka Oparnica who both received financial assistance to study at Birkbeck from gifts in wills. This support made a huge difference to both Helen and Željka.

Helen Dunbar and her son Max enjoying Graduation 2018

As Helen shares, ‘Without the scholarship, it would have been impossible for me to finance my studies. The Scholarship enabled me to achieve my goal of postgraduate study and push myself to a higher level of academic study’.

Kara McMahon, Trusts & Legacies Officer at Birkbeck, was delighted by the success of the campaign. ‘Gifts in will make a tremendous difference to individual students here at Birkbeck, and it is a pleasure to work with growing numbers of alumni who choose to support Birkbeck with gifts in their wills. I often speak with alumni who tell me how Birkbeck changed their lives, and they want to make sure that future generations of students have these same opportunities and experiences. The telephone campaign has been a wonderful chance for our current Birkbeck students to hear these stories and say thank you’.

You may also want to hear from alumnus Malcolm on his decision to remember Birkbeck in his will:

If you would like to know more about leaving a gift in your will to Birkbeck, please get in touch with our team by calling Kara McMahon on 020 7380 3187 or emailing

Student Christine Ozolins speaks at the Legacy Afternoon Tea

Christine Ozolins who received a The Kenway scholarship spoke at The Legacy Afternoon Tea. Christine described how the studentship transformed her life and enabled her to undertake important research for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. Read the full speech below.

Good afternoon, my name is Christine Ozolins and I recently completed Birkbeck’s MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology.  Today I would like to share with you my experience of studying at Birkbeck and how the Kenway scholarship helped me at a crucial point in my studies.

As a child I had a difficult home life and was unable to finish my schooling.  I spent many years working in a variety of different jobs.  However, I always felt unfulfilled and longed to be in a career where I could help others and fulfil my potential.  It took me years to get the courage to change my life, but when I eventually did, I commenced a BSc in Psychology here at Birkbeck.  This degree transformed my life in ways I never could have imagined.  I fell in love with the brain and with cognitive neuroscience, something I was not expecting.

I graduated with a first class honours degree.  For my undergraduate project my supervisor and I used fMRI to functionally locate and retinotopically map human visual area V6 as it relates to relative motion perception, something that had not been done before.  For my dissertation I extrapolated this finding as a possible tool for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease, and I won the Honorary Research Fellows prize and was nominated for the British Neuropsychological Society’s national award.

I knew that I wanted to take my studies further and apply psychology and neuroscience to helping people.  And so I commenced a part time MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology here at Birkbeck in 2016.  However, halfway through my MSc my marriage broke up and I had to move into rented accommodation.  With the financial burden of having to support myself and also pay my fees I knew I would not be able to continue my studies.  I had received a distinction for all my first year modules and I was heartbroken at the thought that I might not be able to continue.

It was at this point that I applied for the Kenway scholarship, which is available for postgraduate psychology students experiencing financial hardship.  I was delighted and very grateful when I was awarded the scholarship.

For my MSc project my supervisors and I devised an intervention to help people alleviate the symptoms of creative block.  I interviewed my participants and used qualitative analysis to understand how they experienced their creative block.  This was followed by an EEG neurofeedback intervention targeting brain activity known to be associated with creativity and relaxation.  This was then followed by another interview to see whether the intervention had been effective and whether they had experienced any changes in their creative process.

My participants were a musician, a composer, a writer and an artist.  The artist broke through her block of five years and my other participants experienced dramatic changes in their behavior, emotion and attention, which were all factors that had been contributing to their block.  Again, this is something that had not been done before.  I received a distinction for my coursework and my thesis.  My supervisors are currently helping me prepare to submit my thesis for publication.

For my undergraduate and postgraduate studies I have had the honour of working with excellent academics.  In particular, my MSc supervisors Dr Eddy Davelaar and Dr Virginia Eatough were wonderfully supportive of my desire to do something ambitious that had not been done before, while providing me with practical advice as to how to manage what was essentially three projects in one.  Studying at Birkbeck enabled me to realise my dream of going to university, and the Kenway Scholarship enabled me to take the dream further and finish my Masters.

During my research into creative block, the head of the reading rooms at The British Library told me that ‘if we could solve the problem of writer’s block we would be doing humanity a great service’.  I have since been asked to give a presentation about my project and the methods I used to undergraduate psychology students at the British Library, as part of their outreach program.   I believe we have made a start in understanding the underlying mechanisms of creative block.  I really want to stay at Birkbeck and continue this research by doing a PhD, however the financial obstacles to this are considerable.  As with most mature students I have to support myself, and so I would have to do a part-time PhD.   However, funded studentships for part-time PhD students are rare, and competition from across universities is fierce.

Nonetheless, I will continue to put all my efforts into finding a way to finance my PhD.  There are currently no bursaries or scholarships for PhD students in the Department of Psychological Sciences.  With this in mind, I plan to become successful enough that I can leave money in my will to support students like myself at PhD level, and make the path easier for those who will come after me.

As a mature student I believe I can combine my life experience and (hopefully) wisdom with the skills I have acquired to make a valuable contribution to science.  This is why I believe it is so important that people like myself are given a chance to fulfil our potential and create value for society in the present and the future.  I believe Birkbeck stands alone in its mission to provide the highest quality education to everybody, regardless of age, background or gender.

I would like to read a quote from Buddhist philosopher, Daisaku Ikeda – Education is not simply the transmission of knowledge. It is not simply the development of talent.  Education is the great enterprise of steadily and surely passing on the fullness of humanity from the past to the future”.

Thank you all for coming today, and in that spirit I hope you will consider helping the students of the future.

If you are curious about learning more about remembering Birkbeck with a gift in your will, please get in touch with the Development & Alumni Team by calling Kara McMahon on 020 7380 3187 or sending an email to