Last month, the University of Bristol welcomed over 130 alumni, friends, Scholars and staff to the 2023 Scholarships Celebration event. This event is an opportunity to celebrate our incredible Scholars and their achievements, and for them to connect with fellow scholarship students and donors.
Our three flagship philanthropically funded scholarship programmes aim to ensure that a Bristol education is available to all, regardless of background and finances. After a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the scholarship celebration felt especially poignant – even the unexpected wintry conditions that descended upon Bristol that day didn’t deter our guests from attending this special event. We were delighted to be joined by student societies JazzFunkSoul – who provided wonderful musical accompaniment for the evening, ranging from jazz classics to Disney tunes – and the Modern Jive Society, who regaled us with a lively and engaging performance.
The evening was ably hosted by Rob Grimes, Assistant Director of Philanthropy within the Global Engagement Division, who reflected on the recent history of our scholarship programmes. Despite the incredible disruption caused by the pandemic, the University of Bristol was able to continue to provide scholarships for both undergraduate and postgraduate students thanks to the unfailing support of Bristol alumni and friends, many of whom were in attendance at the event.
Professor Tansy Jessop, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students, gave a welcome address in which she highlighted the importance of kindness and community at Bristol. Tansy talked about the difference scholarships make, not only to the students they directly support, but also through helping to unlock potential for all:
‘We often think about the life-changing impact a scholarship can have for one person, but bringing you all together this evening is a reminder of the difference that scholarships make to our community as a whole. Our scholars have a far-reaching impact, be it through the careers you go on to have, the innovative PhD and master’s research you are undertaking, or the friends and connections you make here at the University.’
We then heard from alum Amber Probyn (MArts 2020), co-founder of start-up PEEQUAL. PEEQUAL is the UK’s first squat and go women’s urinal, and the start-up’s mission is to pioneer pee-equality for women that is quick, safe and sustainable. Amber was supported by a scholarship during her time at the University of Bristol, and she spoke about how it changed her life, enabling her to create a flourishing business that seeks to improve the experience of women, and which is supported by philanthropic donations:
‘As a scholarship recipient, I felt encouraged and motivated to make the most of the opportunity I was given. This resulted in me having the confidence and backing to get involved in various exciting projects. This experience made me realise how important it is to seize opportunities that come your way, and that being supported in doing so is crucial.’
Amber talked about how her Innovation course at Bristol helped her and co-founder Hazel learn to take risks, fail fast, and fail forward. Funding in the fourth year of their course supported Amber and Hazel in developing a design and investing in materials for prototyping, and various grants and funds – many of which were through the University of Bristol – have helped the business grow since then:
‘Four years ago, we were sitting where you are now with an idea. This year, we’re heading to over 30 of the UK’s biggest outdoor events, including the London Marathon, Brighton Pride, and Glastonbury. We are very aware that PEEQUAL’s journey has been propelled forwards by the people and the organisations that believe in us and what we are trying to achieve.’
Next, we heard from Adedotun Ogunjimi, a current MEng Aerospace Engineering student and Vertical Aerospace Black Engineering Scholarship recipient.
Adedotun gave an inspiring speech about Bristol’s warmth, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, and talked about the importance of his scholarship.
Adedotun has taken every opportunity available to him while at Bristol. He used his employability funding to enable him to take up an internship at Western Power over the summer, and through this discovered a passion for project management. In addition, he has had summer placements with EY-Parthenon and National Grid, and attended insights programmes with Rothschild and Jane Street.
Finally, we heard from Laiba Mansoor, a current MSc Finance and Investment student and Michael Wong Pakshong Bursary recipient, who spoke movingly about the challenges she has faced, how her determination helped her overcome them, and how her Bristol scholarship has helped her pursue her dream.
During an internship at a local bank in Pakistan, Laiba was shocked to learn that only 14% of women in the country – and just 30% of the entire population of south Asia – were financially literate. Laiba recognised the desperate need to redefine the importance of finance and destigmatise perceptions of women pursuing finance:
‘In order to liberate women, we need to liberate them financially.’
In response, Laiba developed an app, and thanks to support from the University and donors, she has received funding to launch her project in Pakistan.
Laiba gave a heartfelt thank you to the scholarship donors and the University of Bristol:
‘You saw in us the potential that we might not have seen in ourselves. It’s because of your recognition that all of us are able to stand in this room and pursue our dreams of making a difference. You knew we were students so determined that no matter what life throws at us, we somehow get through it and we will never quit working to make our dreams a reality.’
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Photography: Bhagesh Sachania