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A warm welcome to our 2021 Compass Scholars

After another competitive application round, Birkbeck once again welcomed 20 new students onto the Compass Scholarship Programme this October. The students, who are studying a range of subjects such as Psychology, Maths, Business and Politics, are almost at the end of their first term at Birkbeck already. Here’s a look back at their journey so far and some of the things they have been up to.
A group of Compass students outside of the Malet Street building

We were kindly hosted by the fantastic Library staff at Birkbeck for our two-day Orientation. In addition to a friendly welcome from the Access and Engagement Department staff who run the Compass Project, our Scholars heard from Birkbeck’s Wellbeing, Study Skills and Library team about the services available to them this year. They also enjoyed some tasty food from Terrace 5, a restaurant in the main building and a tour of the facilities. Thankfully the weather was great and showed off Bloomsbury in its best light during our mini tour of the area.

Following Orientation, our Scholars were introduced to their volunteer academic mentors. Our mentors participated in online training with mentor lead, Luke Williams, over the summer and have been checking in with their students throughout the term. A huge thank you to our mentors as always, for the support and guidance they offer to our scholars.

Birkbeck Students joining our friends at Student Action Refugees at the Anti-Refugee Bill Demonstration on 20 October

Birkbeck students and Compass team holding up signs that say; "Refugees welcome"Some of our scholars have already teamed up with last year’s Student Action Refugees (STAR) committee. In addition to the meetings to plan this year’s activities, they got stuck in straight away through their contributions to the Anti-Refugee Bill rally that took place on 20 October in Westminster. It was lovely to see representation at the rally from so many of our partners in the sector. Birkbeck is proud of its STAR student society and are excited to see what things they get up to this year.

If you would like to find out more about the Compass Project at Birkbeck, see our webpage or email the Compass Project team.

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Graduate launches a teaching career at 59

Nick Townsend graduates this week with a BA in History after returning to education in his 50s. We spoke to Nicholas about how he balanced his studies with work, and what he would say to someone considering a degree later in life. #BBKgrad

Before Nick embarked on his degree at Birkbeck he was an advocate for education, at every stage of life, and he put this into practice with his work with Unite, a British trade union organisation that seeks to serve the rights of workers. “I volunteered at the Heathrow branch where we have 300 members who are mainly London black cab drivers and Heathrow airport staff. We helped them with queries or issues, computer literacy, and ran Spanish classes members who were looking to move abroad.”

Driven by a lifelong love of history and access to a Unite union member’s discount of 10% off each semester, Nick decided to take the leap into higher education in 2017 to learn more on the topic. He recalls the first time he set foot into the marbled halls of Senate House, as like “a Hollywood film moment, when the camera zooms back in and I thought to myself, what have I got myself in to? It really was quite an intimidating process.”

Despite the initial adjustment to life as a student, father and volunteer with a day job, he was able to establish a whole new routine which meant that three months in he was used to his busy schedule. He cites his prior responsibilities as part of the reason why he chose Birkbeck in the first place, “I couldn’t study during the day and Birkbeck had an extensive evening learning programme that was perfect for me.”

As an avid reader and writer in his spare time, Nicholas had no trouble adapting to the rigorous reading schedule, however he did struggle slightly with punctuation and grammar which he was able to address quickly after his tutors pointed him towards the Study Skills support available at the College.

Nicholas enjoyed delving into discussions about colonialisation and what effect it has had around the globe in his seminars and being able to share his opinions and views with his fellow students who were diverse and brought “a whole range of ideas” to the table. One aspect he particularly enjoyed was the Healing, Health and Modernity in African History module and the perspectives it offered on the effects of western medicine being imposed on indigenous cultures Dr Hilary Sapire, Reader in Modern History in the Department of History, Classics & Archaeology, who he says, “made the subject very interesting as she brought her own life experiences as a South African to her teaching of the subject.”

In his final year, Nick was able to explore his interest in social history and wrote his dissertation on the impact of Jamaican music on British culture from 1962-1983. He hopes that topics like these will become more commonplace in discussions of British history and that the subject will become more accessible in the media.

In the future Nick is open to further study, but in the short term he is hoping to begin a career in teaching at a secondary school where he can hopefully inspire young people to engage with the past.

When Nick reflects on how he achieved his academic ambition he boils it down to “time management and tenacity” and would say to someone doing the same to “not be too shy to speak in class, it’s the hardest thing to express what you want to say but it’s what you are there to do. Ultimately, if you don’t try, you will never know.”

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A ’late learner’ looks to counsel others to achieve great things

Nikesha Morris always knew she had it in her to learn despite only learning to read and write at ten years old. Graduating this week with a BA Psychosocial Studies and Principles of Psychodynamic Counselling degree, she’s setting an example on how to overcome life’s obstacles. This is her #BBKstory.

Nikesha Morris in graduation cap and gown

Ten years’ experience working in schools, supporting parents and students with their wellbeing, alongside having a natural capacity for advising others, provides Nikesha Morris with an ideal platform to pursue her goals in the field of counselling. Advising and supporting people has always been a key driver for her relationships with others.

Having recently completed a BA in Psychosocial Studies and Principles of Psychodynamic Counselling, she’s setting herself up well to progress her career and expand her support network.

With a baby on the way and raising “two beautiful children” with her husband, it’s difficult to imagine Nikesha facing any predicaments as she cheerily speaks of her husband trying to calm her down with her plans post-graduation: “I’m already planning and he’s right to say: ‘No. We don’t want to go through that again’. He tells me: ‘Just give yourself a break’, but I don’t want to. I mean, initially when I started this course, I wanted to go to PhD level. I’ve always viewed myself as a doctor or psychotherapist…something along those lines.”

Yet academic accomplishments eluded her during the earlier years of her education and life didn’t always appear so rosy. She explains: “There were very high expectations from my mum and she would just say, ‘Oh she can do it!’ I felt really embarrassed knowing that deep down I couldn’t do it. I was bullied in school. I was called ‘dunce’ as well. I wasn’t the smartest in class and it was quite a struggle which knocked my confidence.”

It wasn’t until Nikesha was working through her degree at Birkbeck, in 2018, that she reached out and received the necessary support from services at the College, and learnt that she was dyslexic. It led her to reflect on those earlier years of ‘poor achievement’: It’s funny because I felt it deep down throughout my whole childhood, I’ve always wanted to get to the next stage (of education), but I knew I didn’t have it in me and I didn’t have the support. I think moving to a new country from Jamaica, with new opportunities, kind of put me into a new dynamic and new mindset where I just thought: you know what…this is an opportunity and I’m going to try and see if I can catch up on what I’ve missed out on.”

Recognising and understanding the core of those earlier issues has given her some peace and she’s keen to use this personal learning to apply to her career. She’s also aware that a strong support system goes a long way in helping to achieve your goals in life.

“Anything is possible with organisations such as Birkbeck. It’s good to be honest in your own abilities and accept help wherever possible. There’s no shame in gaining knowledge from others, and it’s never too late, no matter what age you are or what your position is. Doing my degree at Birkbeck has been a life changing experience. It’s been fraught with lots of challenges, but in those I’ve found growth through a renewed effort, reaffirmation of self-belief, and most of all faith. I kind of feel like it was an experience that was needed.”

This week, she’s leaving her adversities in the past, including years of depression, a recent diagnosis of bipolar and fighting homelessness; and is setting her sights firmly on more positive things, with graduation being the first stop:

“Gosh, this means everything. When I clicked the submission button on my final assignment and I knew that I was coming to the end of my degree…when I received the graduation email and my grades… I was like ‘Oh my God’. It was one of the best moments of my life. Elation cannot come close to describing the feeling of achievement and reaching the summit, so to speak. It really does drive home the mantra of being halfway up the mountain, you know, keep going, never give up and just continue on the path to success.”

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How to publish in top Management journals

In the Department of Management’s second Meet the Editor session, attendees heard from four inspiring academic speakers on how to publish in prestigious journals and the key pitfalls to avoid.

Editors of the top journals are tasked with reviewing thousands of papers, so how can you ensure that yours makes it past initial review and has a higher chance of getting published?

At the second of the Department of Management’s Meet the Editor sessions – chaired by Dr Muthu De Silva, Director of Research – Dr Geoff Walters, Executive Dean, School of Business Economics and Informatics welcomed Dr Dermot Breslin (International Journal of Management and Essex Business School), Professor Martyna Sliwa (Management Learning and Essex Business School), Professor Savvas Papagiannidis (Technological Forecasting and Social Change and Newcastle University Business School) and Dr Mohammad Faisal Ahammad (British Journal of Management, Journal of Management Studies and Leeds University Business School) to share their insight.

This session was very well attended by 75 scholars around the world.

Through this interactive session, a number of key considerations for authors were discussed:

Tailor your article to the journal and never resubmit to a different journal without revising substantially

It goes without saying that articles should be tailored for a specific journal, but all presenters were in agreement that a quick way to get your submission rejected is to make it obvious that it has been submitted elsewhere first. Speakers emphasised that even if authors are resubmitting a paper to a different journal, it is essential to ensure that the article is tailored for this resubmission, as it is obvious when this is not the case.

Understand the scope of your chosen journal

To make it less likely that you will need to resubmit your article, it is important to understand the scope of different journals. For example, does your chosen journal publish literature reviews? Does your article ‘fit’ with the type of content that the journal has published in the past? Does it offer a new perspective on these issues? Taking the time to effectively target and understand your chosen journal will lead to a more successful submission.

Address any issues raised by editors and reviewers

Dr Mohammad Faisal Ahammad shared some useful insights from his experience of having papers reviewed, accepted, revised, and rejected. He noted that taking the time to respond to reviewer comments in detail led to a much greater acceptance rate. Use this response as an opportunity to highlight the contribution made by your paper and take the time to address concerns raised by reviewers in a way that makes the process as easy as possible for them. He -using a few examples-, clearly outlined strategies to adopt to successfully address common comments made by reviewers (e.g. motivation, common method bias and endogeneity issues etc)

Support journals by becoming a reviewer

Several speakers commented on the value of becoming a reviewer as a way to support journals and gain insight into this process. Becoming a reviewer is often a stepping stone to membership of an editorial board, so it is well worth considering the commitment.

We would like to thank Dr Breslin, Professor Sliwa, Professor Papagiannidis and Dr Ahammad for their time during this highly informative session. All are welcome to join us for our upcoming Meet the Editor events:

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