Student Circus and Tier 4 Employment

In November, Birkbeck Futures delivered two workshops for international students to set them up for career success.

November proved to be an informative month for Birkbeck’s international students, with Birkbeck Futures offering two key employment events.

Birkbeck Futures is a one-stop service that combines the Careers Service, Enterprise Pathways and Birkbeck Talent to support our students and graduates in their future lives.

On the 5 November, Jenna Davies spoke to a bustling audience about Birkbeck’s Student Circus initiative.

Presenting an insightful and inspiring workshop detailing the British job market, Birkbeck Futures encouraged all international students to explore entrepreneurship. Among other topics, this workshop presented students with an overview of the employment environment in the UK as well as tips and tricks for Tier 4 students looking to a begin their professional careers.

Following the Student Circus event, Lucy Robinson then led a session on Tuesday 19 November which outlined employability for Birkbeck’s Tier 4 students.

In her role as head of the Enterprise Pathways scheme, Lucy shared her insight into student employability and the many ways in which work can support students’ evening studies at Birkbeck, from meeting new people to getting a foot in the door of your future career.

Alongside work, she reminded students of the many extracurricular opportunities at Birkbeck, both in their Departments and delivered by the Students’ Union.

Lucy advised students to plan ahead and work out how many hours they can commit to work and other activities in order to get the most out of their time at university.

By seeking to enhance students’ entrepreneurial skills and to help develop business ideas, Enterprise Pathways provides bespoke support for those looking at starting a business.

For further information about the Student Circus initiative, and all other divisions of Birkbeck Futures, please visit the Birkbeck Futures website.

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Birkbeck student graduates with a first after a coma left her unable to read or write

Odessa Hamilton is graduating today with a first class honours degree in BSc Business Psychology after recovering from trauma that left her comatose. This is her #BBKStory.

I ran a successful business in New York, but that all changed when I suffered a trauma and went into a coma.

The doctors did not expect my recovery, but when I woke, I had lost the ability to move from my mouth down. Speaking, reading, walking: I had to re-learn it all. As if recovering from that wasn’t enough, I then decided to apply to university.

The first year was tough. Having to re-learn how to read meant ordinary tasks presented a real challenge. Initially, I couldn’t decipher between words like ‘cite’ and ‘site’, never mind get to grips with complex vocabulary expected of you as a university student.

Birkbeck gave me the platform to do what would not have been possible anywhere else. Evening study meant I could continue to go to my countless hospital appointments for treatments, tests and therapies during the day. Lecturers and all other staff at Birkbeck were always incredibly supportive and willing to help wherever necessary, which proved invaluable!

My lecturers truly encouraged me to continue my studies, and facilitated such by supporting my applications. After graduating with a first class honours degree at Birkbeck, I chose to study a combined Masters in Psychological Sciences as part of the Brain Faculty at UCL to secure my BPS accreditation. Thereafter, my studies shall continue with a doctorate in psychoneuroimmunology.

My unsolicited advice for anyone considering university with a disability and/or a chronic illness is ‘don’t be afraid to be vulnerable’. We often fear being different or being seen as less than, but your condition is not something to overcome – it just is. No different from someone having to wear prescription glasses. If I can study and do well in my situation, anyone can. All it takes is tenacity, diligence and resilience [and perhaps a dry sense of humour to help you along the way].

I don’t make comparisons and I don’t feel sorry for myself: I just get on with doing my best.

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Surrey resident graduates with sixth university degree

A Surrey man claimed his sixth university degree this week when he accepted his Master’s in European History from Birkbeck.

Dr David Sutherland

Dr David Sutherland

On Tuesday (19 April), Dr David Sutherland took to the stage at the college’s formal ceremony in Senate House, Bloomsbury. The day marked the achievement of his third degree from Birkbeck, and his sixth overall, across an eclectic field of disciplines ranging from the physical sciences, to language and history.

The 69-year-old Limpsfield resident took his first step on the road to academic success in his native Scotland when he completed a BSc in Physics from the University of Dundee in 1969, followed in 1975 with a PhD in Physics. Well into his career in IT – working for the likes of ICL (now Fujitsu) at the European Space Agency – Dr Sutherland returned to his studies, attaining an MSc in Internet Technology from Queen Mary College in 2002.

From then, he began what is now a hat trick of degrees at Birkbeck – London’s only specialist provider of evening university study – graduating with a BA in German in 2007, and an MSc Bioinformatics in 2012.

Reflecting on his study experiences across the decades and this most recent degree – an MA in European History which he undertook part-time over two years ­– Dr Sutherland said the main difference is the “wide range of fellow students”.

He said: “In Dundee, I was with my peer group and there were very few ‘mature students’. In Queen Mary College I was very aware of being the oldest in the class. Birkbeck has people of all ages and backgrounds so it was easier for me, as an older student, to fit in. However, that is not to say the Birkbeck is only for older students, rather, it is for people of almost all age groups. I believe that this is good for both students and teachers.”

He said that although he initially underestimated the amount of effort required to do course work at postgraduate level, he was able to adjust to the pace.

He especially enjoyed researching and writing his dissertation, which focused on the Scottish Continental herring trade in the ‘long 19th Century’ – a topic which is linked to his family history.

He said: “My ancestors came from Wick in the North of Scotland, and it has been fascinating to find out how their livelihoods depended on a trade that extended far into continental Europe – to Vienna, Moscow, Romania, and even Odessa.”

During the process of writing the 15,674-word dissertation, he was delighted to discover how different the study of history has become thanks to the internet.

Dr David Sutherland

Dr David Sutherland

He said: “In particular, the availability of a wide range of government documents from the 19th century, and of newspapers from the same era, made it possible to gather information much more easily than would have been the case in the past. It is also much easier to collate information gathered in this way.”

This week, Dr Sutherland joined more than 150 fellow postgraduate students from the college’s School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy at a morning graduation ceremony held in Senate House’s Beveridge Hall. He was joined on the day by his wife Sheila, who also graduated in the same ceremony with an MA in Comparative Literature.

Also in the audience was his brother-in-law John Walker, Reader in Reader in German Intellectual History at Birkbeck who first encouraged Dr Sutherland to enroll at the College.

In terms of his plans for the future, Dr Sutherland is now setting up a website based on his dissertation (www.scottishherringhistory.uk).

He said: “This website will not only tell the story, but will also present statistics from that period in graphical form. I am hopeful that it will stimulate further research. There has been a lot written about the Scottish side of the story, but this big, important industry would not have existed without logistics, traders and customers on the Continent.”

As something of an expert on the topic of undertaking a university degree, he had some words of encouragement:

“Study – at any age – can be both demanding and rewarding. Do not underestimate the effort. Plan ahead and do not leave everything to the last minute. You will get the greatest benefit from what you are studying if you attend regularly and participate in the work of the class. You will find that the lecturers are glad to help you, and often even a limited amount of guidance can go a long way. Most of all – enjoy what you do.”

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Camberwell man reaches milestone in legal dream

A Camberwell resident celebrated an important step in his legal education this week when he graduated from Birkbeck.

Chukwunwikezarramu (Zarra) Okumephuna on his graduation day

Chukwunwikezarramu (Zarra) Okumephuna on his graduation day

On Wednesday (20 April), Chukwunwikezarramu (Zarra) Okumephuna received his Master of Law degree at the college’s formal ceremony in Senate House, Bloomsbury.

The 39-year-old Bethwin Road

resident enrolled at Birkbeck following his completion of a Bachelor’s Law degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), however he had concerns about the expense of a further degree.

“Getting a Master’s degree in Law was very important to me as I want to progress on to a PhD, but the cost nearly deterred me,” Zarra said.

“Fortunately, Birkbeck’s payment flexibility and study pattern ensured that I finished within one year. I successfully finished the programme via payment by installment without getting in any debt.”

Since moving to London 10 years ago from his home town of Nteje, Nigeria, Zarra has held a strong in interest in Law.

He said: “The reason I chose to concentrate on Constitutional Law – focusing on Islamisation of the Political Process in Pakistan – and Criminology during my LLM is because of my ambition to eventually work in either the educational, charity or political sector, as an academic, policy adviser or a parliamentary aide.

“It is this all-encompassing and ecumenical nature of Law as a discipline that attracted me towards it and I have no regret in doing that, even though it might take a while to fulfill my ambition.”

Chukwunwikezarramu (Zarra) Okumephuna

Chukwunwikezarramu (Zarra) Okumephuna

During his studies at Birkbeck, Zarra volunteered with the British Refugee Council on the Development Desk, which involved engaging with refugees and other stakeholders in the sector including donors. At the college, he also served as the student representative for his course, and held down a job in retail. Juggling these numerous commitments was hard, but worthwhile, he explained.

He said: “The fact that I balanced both my work and study is the reason I succeeded in the programme. I was able to translate my work experiences into my studies and that was very rewarding.”

This week, Zarra joined nearly 200 fellow postgraduate students from the college’s School of Law at a morning graduation ceremony held in Senate House’s Beveridge Hall.

He said: “I’m delighted to have made this achievement. It was my dream as a young man to do this and I am pleased that today my dream is a reality.”

Looking ahead, Zarra plans to undertake an MPhil/PhD researching the relationship between law and religion in Pakistan.

Hear Zarra talk about his experience at Birkbeck:

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