Category Archives: Business Economics and Informatics

Birkbeck students celebrate LGBT+ History Month: Allies are Welcome!

As the experiences and achievements of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender + community are observed throughout February, MSc International Marketing Student, Wojciech Zaluski, looks at progress and speaks to Birkbeck LGBTQ+ officer Megan Massey and MSc Marketing student Daniel Knight to ask for their viewpoint on matters, including a look at the role that university life plays in supporting them.

Photo of two people touching hands to represent LGBT+ History Month

In recent years the situation of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer + (LGBTQ+) has improved a lot in the UK. In 2014 same-sex marriage was officially allowed. Since 2020 we have also seen a successful roll-out of PrEP, available for free through the NHS, a drug that is key to reducing HIV transmissions. If you live in London, you will be aware how strongly the city promotes and supports tolerance towards the LGBTQ+ community. Everywhere you go you can spot awareness campaigns promoting inclusivity and acceptance.

London is also the host of the annual Pride festival, put on hold during the Covid-19 pandemic. Each year thousands of Londoners (2019 Pride attracted over 1.5 million people) and visitors cheer all day in a parade where they can embrace their non-heteronormative identity in public. The city, during this period, becomes filled with events, parties and gatherings focused on and appreciating love in its different forms. And yes, London Pride is coming back to London in 2022!

We are also seeing, more and more, how the corporate world has become vocal in its appreciation for the LGBTQ+ community. For example McKinsey & Company is promoting their initiative “Proud Leaders Europe,” “created to support talented individuals from across Europe, who self-identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community”.

Q&A with Megan Massey, Birkbeck LGBTQ+ officer

What is the function of a LGBTQ+ officer at Birkbeck?
The goal of all elected Liberation Officers is to improve the student experience at Birkbeck, with a LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer+) officer focusing their efforts on advocating for LGBTQ+ students, representing them in meetings with the College, and helping to foster a community.

What kind of events can LGBTQ+ students expect at Birkbeck?
Events range from hangouts and film screenings to pub crawls and museum visits.  Of course, for the LGBTQ+ network, Pride is also an important event in the calendar. Hopefully Birkbeck students will be able to walk at London Pride once again in 2022!

Why do you think universities should provide a program for LGBTQ+ students? Do you think that we live in a post-heteronormative world?
Higher education should be for everybody, and so it is important that universities provide resources that reflect this. The fact that we do not yet live in a post-heteronormative world means that LGBTQ+ students, and other marginalised students, face barriers that they will have to overcome in order to have access to higher education.

What barriers and challenges does the LGBTQ+ community still face? How can the academic world answer those problems?
There are many barriers and challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community, and attitudes to LGBTQ+ people vary across the globe. There are many countries which still criminalise consensual gay sex and relationships, meaning that LGBTQ+ people face imprisonment. In countries like the UK, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2014, there is still work to be done to improve the legal standing of LGBTQ+ people. For example, the UK government does not legally recognise non-binary identities.

Aside from the law, LGBTQ+ people in every country still face social challenges and are at risk of experiencing violence and persecution. The academic world can seek to educate around LGBTQ+ topics, but does not have all the answers. Many LGBTQ+ people, especially those most at risk, will not have access to discussions that take place in universities, despite the fact that their voices are deeply important to the conversation. In order for the academic world to do a better job of advocating for LGBTQ+ people, they need to place an emphasis on accessibility.

From your experience, meeting LGBTQ+ students at Birkbeck, what did you learn that surprised you? What kind of support do you think they need? Did those meetings change you?  Where do you find strength and motivation to be actively engaging in helping and educating the student community about the problems of the LGBTQ+ community? 
I was surprised by how many students have been unsure whether or not they are welcome in the LGBTQ+ community. I think that is one aspect where many students need support, in feeling that they are welcome and accepted in the academic space. As an LGBTQ+ person myself, it is a privilege to be able to help the student community in any way. I feel grateful to the students who have had the courage to reach out to me with their questions or concerns.

London is a very diverse city with official city support for Pride and other campaigns promoting tolerance and inclusivity, similarly we are seeing the corporate world embracing LGBTQ+ inclusivity. Do you think that LGBTQ+ people are safe in London? If not, why do you think so?
This is a difficult question due to the interpretation of ‘safe’, but I do think that LGBTQ+ people are safe in London, to a certain extent. London is a fairly safe city, the whole world considered, and so LGBTQ+ people living here may feel safer than they would elsewhere. However, since LGBTQ+ are, as a marginalised group, at a higher risk of experiencing discrimination and hate crimes, personal safety is something that most queer people have to be very aware of.

In addition to this, since LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience poverty and homelessness, this is a factor which must be considered. Likewise, it is impossible to ignore the relevance of race (and other identity factors) in discussions of safety. For this reason, a more in-depth, intersectional approach would be needed to adequately address the question of whether or not LGBTQ+ people are safe in London (or, indeed, if anybody is ‘safe’ anywhere).

What do you advise LGBTQ+ students who need psychological help? Do you know where they can seek support and help?
Birkbeck’s Mental Health Advisory Service provides a range of help for students. More information can be found here.

Outside of university, if a student (or anyone) is dealing with life-ending thoughts and needs urgent care, they can go to Accident and Emergency, or contact their local crisis team. If they need to talk to somebody over the phone or online, on a one-off basis, there are several charities which provide this service. If they are looking for therapy or counselling, they can self-refer through their GP to be put on a waiting list for a free NHS service.

What would you advise for people who don’t identify as queer or LGBTQ+ and would want to learn more to understand problems and issues that their LGBTQ+ students face?
There is a great deal that a person can learn online, but of course it’s great to speak to LGBTQ+ people in person too—allies are welcome to join the LGBTQ+ Network!

Interview with Daniel Knight, MSc Marketing student

Do you see any difference between how LGBTQ+ issues were addressed when you were studying to get your undergraduate degree and now at Birkbeck?
I did my undergraduate studies between 2004 and 2007. And there wasn’t much of a LGBTQ+ society then. I wasn’t very active in the community, I’d only just come out, so I was working out how to interact with the people around me. It was not easy to find and connect with other LGBTQ+ students. Thankfully, there is more of a presence now at Birkbeck than in the past.

I was interested to see what it looks like at Birkbeck… if it’s more visible and easier to connect. I visited the Freshers’ Fair to find out. As a result, I joined the Birkbeck LGBTQ+ online group. I think social presence is very important.

Do you feel the UK has moved forward in terms of acceptance, tolerance, and inclusivity of LGBTQ+ people in recent years? If not, why do you think that is?
I think the UK is more inclusive and accepting. I experienced very little homophobia in my life. That may relate to the fact that I am not flamboyant and it’s not obvious that I am gay.  That may be why. People in my life were always very accepting and inclusive and they wanted to know about my relationships. I think it became more acceptable to talk about your relationships. I am also aware I am working in healthcare, surrounded by professional people. It may be very different for people working in a different kind of environment. My experience may not be someone else’s.

I’d say as a teenager, when I was in secondary school, I don’t think it was accepted. I think that in the UK there was a switch into the pro-movement, probably in the early 2000, before you got into 2010. When I was at secondary school I wouldn’t have come out, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing that, whereas now, I believe teenagers do feel comfortable, and obviously that’s great in that regard, that the desire to come out would now be more positively received than before.

With reference to my work environment, if I experienced homophobia in my office, it would be taken very seriously, and the person would certainly be investigated, but I work for the healthcare regulator, they take equality and diversity seriously.

Did you experience homophobia in your life or work life? What would you advise to LGBTQ+ students who are starting their career in that regard; how to handle homophobia at work or in their personal life?
I think, for them, it should be easier. We are in a different place now- homophobia isn’t accepted. If there is an experience like that, they should look for their HR department, or if it’s a university there is a department that deals with that. I think there are support structures in place now that enable people to feel supported. If they experience homophobia, they should be able to raise it, people will help them. This would not have been the case in the past. My advice would be to talk to people in the organisation who can support you. And look for that support, look for like-minded people, join the LGBTQ+ society at Birkbeck, and you’ll find a lot of like-minded people, and allies as well. Don’t put up with homophobia in any form.

In your own company do you observe that there is a will to create a safe environment for the LGBTQ+ community? Or is it a non-issue?
As part of the new EDI (Equality, Diversity, Inclusion) strategy they have created lots of different groups, among them an LGBTQ+ group, within our organisation. People can go there and talk about their experience and if there is anything that is not quite right in the organisation.

Were you able to make any connections with the LGBTQ+ community at Birkbeck? How do you think universities should address inclusivity and the safety of LGBTQ+ students
Being part of the LGBTQ+ group is important, and for that group to be able to discuss policies with the university on how they can support Birkbeck communities. If the university can demonstrate the changes that have been achieved, that is a good way to show that there is progress for the LGBTQ+ community. They could also do more in terms of events and lectures, I suppose to express different views in the community. Just to show it is taken seriously, you could put information in the weekly bulletins from Birkbeck, to have inclusion there about what has been done, for people to be involved more and find out more. The main thing would be that they have support in place should people have issues, making clear what they can do if they have issues, regarding LGBTQ+ issues.

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Burnout: what is it and what can managers do to prevent it?

Dr Halley Pontes standing in front of a building, smiling.Dr Halley Pontes, Lecturer in Organizational Psychology,
explains why we are all burnt out and what managers can do to support employee wellbeing.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, people’s lives have been profoundly transformed, particularly in relation to how they go about their work. With many restrictions in place to mitigate the spread of the virus, people found themselves in a different setting where often times working from home means ‘living at work’ due to the increasingly blurred lines between work and home life. To further compound this issue, such unprecedented changes brought about high levels of uncertainty and psychiatric disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety, stress, and insomnia), all contributing to decreased levels of wellbeing (Liu et al., 2021). In the UK, about 822,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression, or anxiety in 2020/21, with an estimated 54% of these workers reporting that these symptoms were either caused or made worse by the pandemic (Health and Safety Executive, 2021).

During these unprecedented times, an increasingly prominent problem is the increased risk of ‘burnout’ among employees. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), burnout is a syndrome that results from chronic workplace stress that employees are not able to effectively manage. Burnout comprises the following three main dimensions:

  1. feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion’
  2. increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job’
  3. a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment’.

Burnout is particularly relevant to organisations and teams as it refers specifically to the occupational context. As such, managers have the responsibility to promote employee mental health and wellbeing by understanding the issue of burnout while proactively adopting solutions that may help mitigate its risks, especially during periods of greater vulnerability such as during the pandemic.

How to recognise the key signs of burnout in your team

According to Mental Health UK, in March 2021, 1 in 5 UK workers felt ‘unable’ to cope with pressure and stress levels at work. Because burnout can drastically impair a person’s wellbeing, it is important to identify its key symptoms as early as possible. To this end, attentive managers and leaders should look out for the following common signs of burnout among their team members:

  • Feeling tired or drained most of the time
  • Feeling helpless, trapped, and/or defeated
  • Feeling detached or alone in the world
  • A cynical or negative outlook
  • Self-doubt
  • Procrastinating and taking longer to get tasks done
  • Feeling overwhelmed.

A study conducted by Ericson-Lidman and Strandberg (2007) investigating co-workers’ perceptions of signs preceding a burnout episode found that the following signs are observed prior to their colleagues experiencing burnout:

  • Struggling to manage alone (e.g., stretching to do things well alone)
  • Showing self-sacrifice (e.g., pushing to the limit)
  • Struggling to achieve unattainable goals (e.g., appearing weighed down by heavy demands)
  • Becoming distanced and isolated (e.g., withdrawing from co-workers/work)
  • Showing signs of falling apart (e.g., sleep disturbances).

What can managers do to prevent burnout?

Although most of the time the onus for reducing burnout risk is on the side of the employee, managers can do several things to help in terms of burnout prevention and mitigation. First and foremost, it is important to communicate with employees in a clear way about the support that might be available in the organisation for work-related stress, while educating them about how they can recognise and manage high levels of stress and decreasing wellbeing before things become too unmanageable. In addition to adequate communication, managers can encourage the adoption of several habits that can foster wellbeing and potentially reduce burnout:

  • Allowing regular breaks: this is key to helping employees get much-needed recovery time so that they do not push themselves to their breaking point.
  • Developing a wellbeing mind: every person is different, as such, employees will experience stress differently. Here, managers should get to know how employees think about wellbeing so that they can help them better cope with challenging times.
  • Fulfilling social needs: developing strong social ties is key to improving mental health. Managers should challenge employees to connect with each other in several ways and facilitate regular online and/or in-person events that promotes social cohesion and social support.
  • Developing a sense of purpose: helping employees identify their purpose is paramount. Managers should connect employees’ roles to the mission and values of the organisation, reinforcing the idea that every role matters.

For leaders or individuals in managing positions, try the following practical tips to support your team members:

  1. Empower the team to switch off when they’re not at work (e.g. agreeing not to send emails or messages outside working hours and being clear that colleagues are not expected to respond in their free time).
  2. Set the team a challenge to see if they can take a break outside each day. This is particularly important for getting natural light in the UK in the winter months, even if it’s just a 10-minute walk around the block.
  3. Encourage the team to use their annual leave entitlement (ensuring that the team has robust handover and cover arrangements so people feel reassured to take time off with confidence that their colleagues will handle anything urgent).

Further Information

 

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Life on campus as an international student

Final year undergraduate Marketing student, Shweta Menon shares how moving to a new country and starting her course at Birkbeck was both exciting and intimidating; and tells the experience of student life on and around campus.

Gordon Square

While selecting universities, I had no doubt I wanted to join Birkbeck. The opportunity to get the daytime to myself, to work and volunteer, all whilst earning a degree was music to my ears. However, like any student moving away from home for the first time I was quite nervous for my big leap. Nevertheless, having come to Birkbeck I was quickly able to make friends at our induction evening and explore the many million things London has to offer.

In the beginning it never quite occurred to me that there were so many hidden gems on Birkbeck’s campus itself. Along with amazing student services, career hubs and excellent transport links, Birkbeck’s campus offers beautiful study spaces to work and chill with your friends. Here are some of my favourite things to do on campus:

  1. Birkbeck Library : One of my favourite places to put my thinking cap on is the Library . The five-floor library offers a variety of study and work environments allowing you to find your perfect space. You are able to book study spaces for group studying as well as individual studying which are so convenient when you have to work on a group project or just want a room to yourself to be able to fully concentrate. These rooms also have a tele-conferencing screen which enables you to have conferences or attend your online lectures on a big screen.
  2. The Farmers Market: Birkbeck is home to the Bloomsbury farmers market which takes place every Tuesday and Thursday between 2.00-7.00pm and offers you an array of world foods. Everything at the market either comes straight from the farm or contains local, sustainable ingredients. So if, like me, you want some proper home-tasting food, the farmers market is your place to be!
  3. Birkbeck Bar and Cafe: Going out in London can burn a massive hole in your pocket and as students, the hole gets much bigger for us! The bar and cafe is one of my favourite places to unwind and catch up with my friends after lectures or randomly during the week. Not only are the drinks cost efficient but the food at Perch Cafe is lip-smacking.
  4. British Museum: The British Museum is only a two minute walk from Birkbeck campus and is free to enter! I absolutely love visiting the museum and every time I visit, I discover and learn something new from the previous time. They usually have some exhibition going on and interesting facts and objects from around the world.
  5. Squares and Gardens: Birkbeck is surrounded by gardens and squares like Russell Square Garden, Tavistock Square, Gordon Square, among others. These are beautiful to sit down in and unwind from the chaos of the city and get some fresh air. In the summertime Russell Square hosts festivals and pop-ups filled with music, food and drinks. I particularly love visiting the Garden Kiosk in Gordon Square and devouring their homemade cakes.
  6. Students’ Union and Societies: Being an international student, the Students’ Union has helped immensely for me to make friends, learn new skills and explore the city. The Students’ Unions hosts a variety of activities throughout the year such as sporting activities, social activities , upskilling activities, movie screenings among others. They also provide a wide range of societies so no matter where you are from you are sure to feel at home.
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Six Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

By Shweta Menon, final year undergraduate Marketing student 

Photo of Shweta Menon

With the dark nights of winter, a lot of us experience our mood getting gloomier. This feeling is so common that there’s even a name for it: ‘winter blues’.

Many people may only experience a mild version of winter blues while others can have a more severe type of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The lack of sunlight due to shorter days disturbs our body clock and hormone levels, which affects our mood and compels us to hit the snooze button a million times. If, like most people, you can’t cozy up under the duvet til the sun comes out, try these tips to beat the winter blues.

  1. Get loads of sunlight: Push yourself to go outdoors and soak in the little bit of daylight that’s available even if it’s cold outside. Exposing yourself to daylight helps improve your serotonin levels. And if like most of us you are occupied during the day hours with work, studies and other activities get yourself a SAD lamp or sunlight lamp to stimulate daylight. Also, if you are stuck indoors because of work or other commitments try and sit close to a window to help you get that extra dose of sunshine.
  2. Eat yourself happy: While the cold, dark weather may tempt you to indulge in a hot bowl of mac and cheese everyday it is important to remember to eat well. Sugar and carbohydrates may make you feel happy and satisfied in the moment but eventually will lead to your blood sugar crashing. So why not make yourself a nice warm bowl of winter vegetable soup or chilli to warm up your day?
  3. Get active: Sitting at home binging your favourite Netflix programmes under your blanket might seem relaxing but will end up making you feel bluer than you already are in the long run. Research shows that exercising helps your body to release the feel-good hormone serotonin. Even if it’s just a 10 minute yoga routine or a short walk in the park do get yourself moving. Not only does this improve your mood but also helps you maintain a healthy waistline.
  4. Listen to happy music: Swap your winter ballads for something more peppy and fun. The music you listen to has an impact on your mood. Why not put on some Lizzo for your next commute to work or university?
  5. Schedule something to look forward to in your calendar: January can feel like the longest month of the year! So instead of slogging through it, schedule some time to meet your friends and family, check out the exhibition you wanted to go to or the latest movie that’s out in the theatre. This can help give you something to look forward to and feel happy about despite the cold, miserable weather outside.
  6. Be kind to yourself: When feeling blue and down it can be hard to find motivation to do any of the above things. One day you might be motivated to exercise or meet friends while on other days you might just want to curl up on your couch and watch telly, and both are 100% okay to do. It is important to not go hard on yourself and listen to your body and mind and take things at your pace.

While you can’t make the season any brighter or warmer you can definitely do little things to give you a fuzzy, warm feeling inside 🙂

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10 Reasons to Study in the Department of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics

1. Our students benefit from nearly 200 years’ experience in teaching and research 

We’re celebrating 50 years of the Department of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics this year, but Birkbeck’s world-class economics and mathematics training began as early as 1826. 

2. With academics who are working on some of society’s biggest problems 

From the ageing population to atmospheric pollution and the economic argument for the four-day week. 

3. We’re one of the few departments to combine Mathematics, Statistics and Economics all in one place 

From the most abstract mathematics to applied economics and statistical data science, our interdisciplinary department is a great place to experiment with new ideas. 

4. When you study with us, you’ll join a close-knit community of learners 

Whether teaching is delivered online or face-to-face, our commitment to the student experience remains the same and we’re so proud of what our students achieve. 

5. And go on to join some of the UK’s highest-earning alumni 

Our graduates in economics and mathematics earn 29% and 33% more than the British average for graduates of these programmes. 

6. Maybe that’s because we’re in the business of training some of the nation’s top economists 

The Bank of England, HM Treasury and HSBC are just some of the organisations that our students go on to work for. 

7. Our academic support equips you with the tools to meet your goals 

As well as a dedicated tutor to build quantitative skills, you’ll have access to support on essay-writing, time management and finding your feet at university. 

8. With a flexible study model that will give you a head start on your career 

Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself full-time in your degree, or gain the academic skills to progress in your career, we have a study option that will help you get there. 

9. Our Bloomsbury campus is a stone’s throw away from the City of London and the Alan Turing Institute – the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence. 

Our central location makes juggling commitments or looking for work experience more manageable. 

10. And we’ll continue to push the boundaries of our field 

In 2020, our Professor Sarah Hart became the first female Gresham Professor of Geometry in the position’s 423-year history. What will your contribution be? 

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Food Businesses – 5 trends for 2022

Dr Thomas Kyritsis is Programme Director of Birkbeck and Le Cordon Bleu’s BBA Culinary Industry Management and MSc Culinary Innovation Management. He has received a first class BA (Hons) in International Hotel Management and a MA in Hospitality Management with distinction from the University of West London before pursuing a PhD on the impact of shareholder activism on the corporate boards of international hotel chains.

Le Cordon Bleu is known for helping shape the careers of some of the best chefs, food enthusiasts, and hospitality professionals around the world. Recently, more chefs are developing their own brands, setting up businesses, and moving from restaurants into retail.

This entrepreneurial route has become a strong motivating factor for students to pursue a career in hospitality. Market research and developing an instinct for the latest trends is part of the journey to become an entrepreneur. Here are a few trends we predict that aspiring food entrepreneurs should bear in mind for 2022.

 

Informality

A formal service is no longer as attractive to consumers and instead they are going for dining experiences that offer a relaxed service and environment. At the high-end, it has become about paring things back and simplicity. Less is more, and there is an even stronger focus on quality. There is also a notable shift towards greater engagement between staff, guests, and the food. People have a genuine interest in the menu and provenance has become important. Going forward, more fine dining businesses will try focusing on informality and accessibility.

Sustainability

Consumers are aware of the impact food production causes to the environment, and their choices are influenced by the extent that restaurants adopt sustainable and ethical practices. This is not just a fad – the Sustainable Restaurant Association was launched in 2010 with just 50 members, nowadays it has more than 7,000! Articles about the UK’s best sustainable restaurants are frequently featured in online food and travel resources. There will continue to be more transparency about where restaurants are getting their food from, how they engage with or support local producers, and how aspects such as food wastage are handled.

Digital Experience

Fast food, fast casual, casual, and grab-and-go concepts have become more digital, impacting the way we pay and order but also how brands engage with customers. Mobile ordering and contactless payments are standard practices; so, what comes next? Companies are exploring innovations that will transform them digitally. For example, Chilango recently opened its first digital-only venue in Croydon, including a fully digital ordering system. McDonald’s has tested AI which scans license plates with which to, with customers’ permission, predict orders and has also tested the idea of voice assistants to improve its drive-thru experience.

Membership Models

Many restaurants have, out of necessity, toyed with the concept of membership or subscription services. In the UK, M Restaurants offers its members exclusive access to their lounges and benefits such as complimentary breakfast, discounts on food and access to events such as masterclasses, tastings and talks. In the US, Michelin-starred restaurant Quince in San Francisco has created a membership based-model with its sister restaurants and its affiliate farm, Quince & Co, offering members a dining credit, quarterly boxes with seasonal produce and pantry products, and educational workshops.

Home Delivery/Meal Kits

The online delivery market was increasing at a significant rate before Covid-19, and during the pandemic it became even bigger and more important for hospitality operators. The pandemic also led to the growth of DIY meal kits. These meal kits have given the opportunity for many hospitality operators to diversify their revenue streams. Casual food brands as well as fine dining have both been embraced by consumers. Although many believe that the re-opening of the sector will slow down the DIY meal kit market, we believe that more operators will explore this avenue.

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How I’ve found my first term at Birkbeck

Wojciech Zaluski, MSc International Marketing student, shares his experiences of his first term at Birkbeck, reflecting on how he’s found in-person lectures and what the most enjoyable aspects of his course have been so far.

My first term at Birkbeck was my first formal interaction with the British education system and my reappearance within formal learning – it’s been a long time since I finished my Master’s degree in Philosophy at the Jagiellonian University in Poland.

As 2021 was another year overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, before the start of the term we were informed that we could choose whether we study in-person or join lectures and seminars online. I chose to study in-person, and as I am studying part time, my first term only had two modules and classes took place during the evenings, due to Birkbeck’s evening teaching model.

In my first term, I found having in-person lectures to be really stimulating; the lecturers are very approachable and engage us in conversations. Students are encouraged to talk to each other and share their insights, and because classes are very international with students from all walks of life, those conversations are especially interesting. I was able to share my thoughts and exchange my ideas with students from Japan, Brasilia, USA, Ukraine, and the UK.

In all our lectures, what we were learning was strongly focused on the state of culture and society now, so it all felt very relevant. We were asked to discuss articles that highlighted how the internet is shaping our society and economy and at the same time how COVID-19 is shaping the marketing strategies of big companies. My first module was in Strategic Marketing Management, and we were assigned a group project. I joined a group of students from the USA, England, and Portugal, and we worked together on developing a marketing strategy for Netflix. Grace, a fellow student from the USA, proposed we should focus on the needs and interests of Gen Z, the generation born between 1997 to 2012. That was very interesting for me as someone who represents Gen X/Millennials.

Everything relating to your studies is organised through an online system that allows students to choose their options, check their agenda, and access study materials. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised how well everything works and how easy it is to navigate the online platform. We can focus on our studies, but Birkbeck has additional options which also are accessible through your online student account. For example, you can sign up to the Library and access lots of books and articles online; you can use the Birkbeck Futures platform to build your professional career; you can join Pioneer, a programme for people looking to develop a new business.

Each class that you have has a recorded version of the lecture available online, which is really helpful as it means you can listen to lectures more than once – I often revisit parts of lectures until I fully understand the concepts being discussed. There is also a reading list, which means you know what to read to understand the topics and you can be prepared when joining live seminar discussions.

Every week, students receive a general newsletter of what is happening at Birkbeck, and it is a wonderful source of information to learn what Birkbeck has to offer outside your studies. You can learn about job fairs, activities organised by the Birkbeck Students’ Union, and interesting things that are going on.

In summary, going into my second term, I feel energised and inspired to explore the subjects on my own. I am looking forward to learning more and getting a better understanding of modern marketing. I am also looking forward to meeting other students again, and I feel that in the second term we will feel more at ease and more open to sharing our ideas.

Further information

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Championing rights for disabled people in the workplace 

As the world prepares to observe the United Nation’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, on Friday 3 December, we speak to Birkbeck PhD student, Stephen ‘Ben’ Morris who shares details of his own journey with a disability and his research on how neurodiverse individuals can be supported into the workforce. 

Stephen 'Ben' Morris

 The global, annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities was proclaimed in 1992 by the UN to promote the rights and wellbeing of disabled people.  What has been your own personal experience with a disability? 

When people meet me, I hope they see me as ‘Ben,’ with all of the positive characteristics and contributions I can provide as a fellow human being. In most cases, I feel this is accurate; yet, when it has been determined that I am a person with a disability, the way I am treated varies on a regular basis. Some of the treatment is due to other people’s ignorance – for example, I can be bypassed in conversations even if they are about me; or, on occasion, malice, because others don’t understand or are afraid of my difference. Even when the intentions are positive, how I am treated can still have an effect on me.  

For example, people can become overprotective because of my disability, which can limit the opportunities accessible to me. I have been passed over for promotions because my employer is concerned about the expectations this advancement will place on me. Personally, I consider my disability as a positive because it gives me many strengths; nevertheless, I believe society needs to change its perspective and see me as a whole, not just see my limitations. 

Coinciding with the UN day of observance on 3 December is UK Disability History Month, which runs until 18 December. One of the key themes is around hidden disabilities- can you share a bit about your research and its links to those disabilities which are not necessarily ‘seen’? 

My research will centre on assisting neurodiverse individuals (who have a divergence in mental or neurological function from what is considered typical or normal) in entering the workforce. This will be a two-pronged strategy. The first approach is to listen to the neurodiverse community and understand their needs, desires, and barriers to work. The second approach focuses on the employer and teaching them how to support neurodiverse individuals in order to make work more accessible and achievable.  

From the research, I hope that finding the correct ‘fit’ will benefit both the neurodiverse individual and an organisation. The individual will be included in the working society and possibly feel self-worth, while an organisation can utilise untapped skills and talent. 

What do you see as the greatest challenges as you proceed through your research? 

Right now, I’m concerned about the future. I’m concerned about those who refuse to take part in my research. I recognise that people are frequently afraid of change, and I hope that the findings can be used and benefited from. Fortunately, I am being sponsored by Hays Recruitment and have connections with employers and neurodiverse communities, so I’m hopeful that will help me to locate participants for my studies. 

I’m also concerned by the data: only 31% of disabled people in the UK are in employment. Many desire to work but for a variety of reasons, they are unable to do so. Getting a job, if you are neurodiverse, can be very difficult.  

What are you most inspired by when it comes to the disabled community and the progress in terms of championing for disabled rights, better services and more exposure of the issues? 

People should be willing to speak up for their beliefs, especially if it would benefit others. When people speak up for what they believe in, it can spark a movement in which other like-minded people work together to achieve a common objective. This collaboration decreases loneliness and isolation, and as this movement gains traction, more people will listen, and more action and understanding will begin. I believe that during the last few decades, there has been a growing sense of solidarity in the disabled community, and that some others are taking notice. More, though, is still required. It is vital to remember that it is just as difficult for a neurotypical (non-diverse) person to enter the realm of disability as it is for a neurodiverse/disabled person to enter neurotypical society. 

I wish to live in a world where everyone is recognised for their uniqueness and individuality. I believe that everyone has something to offer society, from innovative new ideas to spreading happiness and love. I believe there is an overemphasis on labels…people frequently notice the label before the person. I constantly campaign to highlight the advantages of what minority groups can do if they are given the opportunity. I believe it is equally vital for me to share my thoughts with other persons with disabilities, their family members, co-workers, and experts, because the more one teaches, the more one learns. It would be an accomplishment if my stories/experiences helped improve the lives of even one person. 

Further information 

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Ten ways to have a more sustainable Christmas

Dr Pamela Yeow is Reader in Management in the School of Business, Economics and Informatics whose research currently focuses on ethical consumerism. She shares ideas to celebrate Christmas more sustainably in 2021.

In the run-up to Christmas, consumers are bombarded by Black Friday sales, tear-jerking adverts and a seemingly endless parade of stuff on our social media feeds.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t even started to think about Christmas shopping and gift-giving yet! This is particularly so in the aftermath of the COP26 climate summit and the twelve-day marathon of presentations, debates and negotiations.

COP26 has brought home to us the importance and utter urgency of the climate emergency. Even with the agreements in place, more needs to be done to reverse the negative impact of decades of neglect of our planet.

My colleagues and I have been doing research on single-use plastic for a while now, and recent research has demonstrated that the inconsistent messaging and confusion around what and how to recycle means that householders are not recycling as much as they would like.

Of course, recycling is not the only thing we can do. Reducing consumption of single-use plastic, as well as repurposing or reusing single-use plastic is also key to helping our planet survive.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the thought of all the upcoming festive consumption, here are ten ideas to help you have an enjoyable and more sustainable Christmas.

1. Instead of buying a tree, plant a tree

A two meter Christmas tree is equivalent to 16kg of carbon dioxide if it ends up in landfill. Why not plant a tree instead this Christmas? Websites like MoreTrees and Dedicate a Tree make this easy to do, and you can even gift a tree to others.

2. If you can’t imagine Christmas without a tree, rent one instead

Rented Christmas trees are a growing trend. For the rest of the year, rented trees are re-planted, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and providing a home for local wildlife, before brightening up your living room for the festive season.

3. Give a pre-loved gift

Want to give your loved ones something truly one of a kind? A thoughtful second-hand gift for someone who loves vintage, antiques or collectibles will be very much appreciated.

4. Give experiences

Often it feels like we have to spend a particular amount of money on gifts and sometimes that is justifiable. Rather than giving people things that might not be appreciated or even used, treat them to a memorable experience, such as a trip to the theatre or zookeeper for the day experience – the possibilities are endless!

5. Make a sustainable swap at the dinner table

Research tells us that eating a plant-based diet can help with climate change. If you can’t face cancelling that turkey order, consider swapping a side dish or starter for a vegetarian or vegan alternative. The planet will thank you.

6. Use recyclable wrapping paper

Avoid plastic glitter wrapping paper that can’t be recycled, or better still, use recycled or plain brown paper to wrap gifts. Whilst you’re at it, why not use paper tape as well.

7. Make do and mend your Christmas decorations

With a bit of extra care, Christmas decorations like tinsel will last for several years. If you’re feeling crafty, why not try making your own decorations out of things lying around the home?

8. Wear your old Christmas jumper

If you need to wear a Christmas jumper, try to re-wear your old one, swap or buy second-hand as it’s been found that most Christmas jumpers in the UK are made using plastic!

9. Shop locally

Reduce the carbon footprint of your Christmas shopping by opting for local retailers where possible. It also saves on packaging compared to a mountain of deliveries (Amazon boxes, we’re looking at you).

10. Go plastic-free where you can

Christmas crackers are another source of hidden festive plastic, but plastic free alternatives are becoming more popular. In 2019, John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose announced that its Christmas crackers from 2020 will no longer include plastic toys or be decorated with plastic glitter. Other large retailers quickly followed suit.

Finding ways to make Christmas more sustainable this year not only helps the planet, but can be lots of fun! Let us know your sustainable swaps in the comments below.

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How to get the most out of your time at Birkbeck: advice from BEI prize-winners

The School of Business, Economics and Informatics’ 2021 undergraduate prize-winners share their tips for managing workload, making connections and getting the most out of a Birkbeck degree.

This week, Birkbeck’s undergraduate class of 2021 will be celebrating their achievements at virtual graduation ceremonies with the Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Latchman, the President of Birkbeck, Baroness Joan Bakewell and of course their lecturers, friends and family.

Students who have performed exceptionally well in the School of Business, Economics and Informatics will be presented with awards at the Undergraduate Prizegiving Ceremony on Tuesday evening.

Graduation might seem a long way off if you joined Birkbeck this year, but one thing we’ve learned from our prize-winners is that early preparation is key to succeeding in final exams and giving you the chance to make the most of everything on offer during your time with us.

Read on for our graduates’ top tips on how to get the absolute best out of your Birkbeck experience.

How to get ahead in your studies: can-do attitudes and consistency

“Have a positive ‘I can do this’ attitude and work hard towards your goals. Remember to focus on what is best for you in the long run, instead of what feels easy or right in the moment.” Jaunius, Best Overall Final Year Student (BSc Economics and Business)

When it comes to getting the most out of your studies, getting in the right mindset is a great place to start. Why not try building focus with meditation, or writing down your goals somewhere that you’ll see every day, to remind you what you’re working towards?

“Be consistent with your studies! Stay on top of the module content as much as you can, it really is an advantage for your assignment and exam preparation.” – Steffi, Fiona Atkins Prize: Best Continuing BSc student (Department of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics)

“Try to go beyond memorising the key points illustrated in lecture notes and reading material by testing your understanding of theories and concepts regularly. Taking just a little extra time each week to revisit a key point is an excellent way to get to grips with a topic, pinpoint focus areas to discuss with your lecturers and ultimately ease the pressure when it comes to exam preparation later on.”– Simon, Best Project (Department of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics)

Carving out some focus time to check understanding is a great way to stay on top of your studies and identify any areas for support. Are there any quiet periods in your week where you could set some time aside to consolidate?

“My advice would be to make sure you reach out to your personal tutor if you start falling behind, they are there to help! I would also recommend electing the dissertation/project module as it is a useful way to build independent research skills.”– Sean, Best Final Year Student (Financial Economics)

Your personal tutor is your first port of call if you need help in managing your studies or other support. You can find their contact details in My Birkbeck under ‘Academic Support’. If you do not have an assigned personal tutor, get in touch and we can help.

Taking care of yourself during your studies

“Make a point to incorporate holistic habits into your daily life, so that you not only work and study but also exercise, eat fruit and vegetables, walk, meditate, tidy your space etc. All things become easier and more achievable when you are mentally and physically healthy. Listen to your body and make your health a priority.” – Joana, Benedetta Ciaccia Memorial Prize: Best final year student on the Foundation Programme (Department of Computer Science and Information Systems)

Relax and focus on enjoying your subject.  Don’t try too hard to understand any tricky new material. Just give yourself time and if you let thoughts and ideas tick over in the background then anything you don’t understand will gradually become clearer and more simple.” – Alice, Mehdi Prize: Best Performance in Mathematics

Taking some time out from studying gives your brain a chance to process what you’ve learned. If you’re looking for some accountability to stay active, or for a fun way to take a break from the library, check out the sports clubs and societies on offer through Birkbeck Students’ Union.

Know what support is available

“Take the time to map out where to find academic support. It’s about detailing the resources that would keep you optimal. For example, know the name of your personal tutor, you’ll need them for the occasional academic and emotional support. Sign up to studiosity for study help and LinkedIn learning for self-directed learning.” – Sabina, Best Overall Student (Department of Organizational Psychology)

“Ensure that you make the most of the resources available to you, whether that be the additional reading material provided for lectures or the Birkbeck library. Additionally, don’t be afraid to seek clarification/ask questions – this will allow you to develop your understanding!” – Charlotte, Best Overall Student (Business)

Our support services are there to be used, so if you need any help or advice on anything from academic work, to finance, to managing stress, don’t hesitate to reach out. Find out more about the support available in the School of Business, Economics and Informatics on our website.

Build your professional network and your support network

“Birkbeck provides endless opportunities for students to explore their interests and build a strong network of people with similar passions. Use your time at Birkbeck to connect with other students, exchange ideas, views and knowledge. Don’t be afraid to try a new activity, join a club or society. Explore your interests and enjoy your time at the university along the way!” – Venita, Derek Scott Memorial Prize: Best performance by Non-finalists (Department of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics)

Your university experience is about so much more than your degree. Take the time to get involved in the Students’ Union, join us for an event and soak up all that your time at Birkbeck has to offer.

And to those students who are graduating today and tomorrow – congratulations! We hope you will stay in touch with Birkbeck and we will be cheering you on with whatever you decide to do next.

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