For over 12 years Dr John Reeks has been a part of the University of Bristol: first as an MA student, then as a PhD researcher and now as a lecturer in the Department of History. Here he tells us more about what makes the University such a special place for him.
In 2016, millions of people up and down the UK gathered in their living rooms, biting their nails and peeping through their fingers as a newly hatched iguana fled from a swarm of snakes – narrowly escaping with its life. The iconic scene from Planet Earth II went viral worldwide and continued on to win the ‘Must-See Moment’ BAFTA award a year later. It’s a sequence that Mike Gunton (BSc 1979), Creative Director of BBC Studios Natural History Unit, has watched hundreds of times, both in the editing room and during the talks he’s given on the Natural History Unit in recent years.
‘I still love it every time I see it,’ says Mike, ‘especially the reaction it gets. It’s an extraordinary combination of brilliant camerawork and brilliant editing. That’s a once-in-a-generation kind of sequence to be honest.’
Every year, we’re always delighted to hear about the University of Bristol alumni who have been recognised in the Queen’s New Year Honours list for their brilliant contributions to society. Amongst those celebrated this year are many alumni who have worked incredibly hard to relieve the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic – whether that’s through volunteering, their role in the NHS or through medical research. We’ve rounded up the alumni who featured on this year’s list alongside their awards below:
Olivia Kinsman was able to take up a place at the University of Bristol this year having been awarded the Keil Scholarship, which supports PhD students in the Department of History.
I can remember taking my A-levels and knowing how much I wanted to go to university. Even then I knew that eventually I wanted to do a PhD. I’m from a single parent household with a low income and there are lots of us in the family, so growing up was really challenging at times. I’ve always been determined that I wasn’t going to let my background or finances get in the way of what I wanted to do – even if that meant saving up until I was 50 to do my PhD. For me, applying for scholarships and being proactive about reaching out for financial assistance has been really important.
Chemistry student and former President of the University’s Student Action for Refugees group, Stephanie Hall, has witnessed how Sanctuary Scholarships can transform lives.
During my first year at Bristol, I went to a poetry reading in a café on Gloucester Road. That was where I first heard Home, an incredibly moving poem about how it feels to be a refugee. The piece was written by Warsan Shire, a Somali-British poet who was born in Kenya. In this poem, Shire talks about how you’d never want to leave your home, unless it had become ‘the mouth of a shark’ – in other words, when it becomes so unsafe that it stops being your home.
It was one of the most powerful things I’ve ever heard and it inspired me to join the University of Bristol’s Student Action for Refugees group (STAR).
After fleeing his country of origin at the age of twenty, Davide* arrived in the UK with no friends or family to turn to and experienced homelessness, multiple evictions and extreme loneliness. His situation began to change after he met with Student Action for Refugees (STAR) who advised him to apply for a Sanctuary Scholarship at the University of Bristol.
He’s since completed a foundation year at the University and has recently begun his Undergraduate degree in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. Here he tells his story and explains how the Sanctuary Scholarship programme has impacted his life.
The University of Bristol is launching a new £1 million programme of scholarships, which will support around 130 Black and mixed Black heritage students to take up places at the University over the next four years.
The Black Bristol Scholarship Programme seeks to address the underrepresentation of Black students at every level of study in higher education across the UK, from undergraduate students to those completing PhDs. It will annually fund Black and mixed Black heritage students across five areas:
Our Bristol Volunteers are a community of over 1,700 alumni who all give their time and expertise to support the University community. We’re so grateful for the huge amount of effort our volunteers put into giving back to the University and to reflect this, we’re developing even more ways to say thank you and recognise their impact.
This summer, we asked alumni, staff, students and friends of the University of Bristol to contribute pictures and messages of welcome for our newest cohort of Sanctuary Scholarship students.
These students, who all come from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds, have been able to take up places at the University of Bristol because of the Sanctuary Scholarship programme. Each scholarship is a lifeline that makes a world of difference to the recipient.
We were so overwhelmed by the volume and heartfelt nature of the messages; we wanted to say a huge thank you and share some of our favourites with you. You can head to our Facebook page to see the full selection of messages.
“I wanted to send a welcome photo to show that Bristol is a safe and welcoming city for all, including people seeking sanctuary from war, violence, persecution and impact of climate change. And also to offer our solidarity to the University of Bristol for launching a programme which offers life-changing practical support to refugees and asylum seekers who are coming to study in our diverse city of hope.”
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol
After working in a veterinary practice in Guernsey for a number of years, Bristol alum Ben Howitt went for the ultimate change of scenery by moving to the Galapagos. There he worked for almost a year as Chief Veterinary Officer for a charitable association, spending his free time scuba-diving and learning more about the beautiful animals which inhabit the islands.
He’s since launched his own foundation, Pan Animalia, which aims to provide accessible healthcare for domestic animals in the Galapagos and help manage their population numbers. This plays a crucial role in protecting the biodiversity of the islands. We caught up with him to hear more about his work and vision for his foundation.