Careers after English – alumni panel

Many thanks to our alumni, who all graduated with a degree in English, for returning to their department and sharing their career paths and experiences with current students.

After a welcome from Professor Helen Fulton, Chair in Medieval Literature and Head of the English Department, five alumni shared their journeys since Bristol and their insights into their current profession:

  • Cordelia Lodge (BA English 2014), Fundraiser at the RSPCA, highlighted how the skills you gain during your degree apply in many different roles – especially the ability to cut down a word count!
  • Faith Newcombe (BA English 2017), Production Editor at Intellect Books, shared how attending events and hearing from others is always helpful, even if it shows you what you don’t want to do – and spoke from experience having met a current colleague at a networking evening.
  • Sam Charkham (BA English 2010), Solicitor at Burges Salmon LLP, said his English degree was great preparation for his post-graduate degree in law and the skills you require in the profession. He is very happy working now on different projects within commercial law though encouraged the audience to stay resilient, you can apply for lots of different jobs before being successful.
  • Jim White (BA English 1980), Columnist at Telegraph Media Group, shared his vast experience and insights into journalism, and encouraged students to take advantage of the opportunities in front of you during your time at Bristol.
  • Nicola Yeeles (BA English 2002), Freelance Writer, Editor and Teacher, shared her varied career path and explained that now, a portfolio career is very common and not to worry about not finding your ideal job straight away.

Following the panel introductions, a number of questions covered whether to accept a job that’s not exactly in your area, whether you’re at a disadvantage if you transfer to another discipline without the relevant undergraduate degree, and how the landscape of works is always shifting. All panellists stressed the value of the transferable skills they gained from their English degree, including synthesising and summarising material quickly, writing well, and thinking critically. Students and alumni had a further chance to ask questions and share stories informally over a drink in the Department foyer.

Many thanks to our Bristol Volunteers for getting involved. Get in touch with if you’re keen to support the career development of current students.

Beijing alumni network – legal profession salon, 20 October 2018

Beijing Alumni Association sharing salon

This October the University of Bristol Beijing alumni network held their first alumni sharing salon at the Wanyi Art Museum.

The session focused on the legal industry, with 17 alumni gathering to hear from three outstanding alumni.

  • Liu Shaohua (LLM 2016) introduced the construction and considerations of private equity funds.
  • Liu Jinna (LLM 2014) shared her experience working in law and as an entrepreneur.
  • Yuan Meng (MA 2013) talked about commercial arbitration and shared some practical experience of the process.

There was a lively discussion, with alumni sharing their experiences of the workplace and giving advice to new graduates starting their careers.

Thanks to Zhou Wei who suggested the event, and association members Si Yan and He Liu who kindly coordinated.

For those who couldn’t attend this time there are still many topics to be discussed at future sharing salon sessions. The association also intend to hold a series of industry lectures. For more information connect with the Beijing alumni network on WeChat using the ID: bristolalumnibeijing.

Bristol University on the road in the USA

A report on the bi-coastal visit to SF and NYC by Ely J Kahn

New York President's Reception 2018

A University delegation, led by Vice-Chancellor Hugh Brady, traveled across the United States in September, visiting enthusiastic alumni gatherings in both San Francisco and New York City. The meetings included discussions with the Board of Directors of Bristol’s US-based American Foundation in California, and presentations in both cities by University students studying in the States on semester abroad programs. Both were highlighted by the Vice-Chancellor Brady’s reflections on the progress towards achieving the vision laid out in the University’s current strategic plan for greater internationalism, increased emphasis on attracting and retaining the best and brightest researchers, and campus redevelopment.

Dozens of Bristol graduates and their partners attended the two alumni meetings. The Vice-Chancellor was accompanied on the trip by Pro Vice-Chancellor Erik Lithander, who heads the University’s International Office, and by Stephen O’Connor, the University’s Dirrector of Development and Alumni Relations. He emphasized that a primary goal for his team is “to get a student body that replicates the world we live in.” Internationalization, he explained, meant that Bristol had to “move beyond A-levels”, and find additional avenues of access for worthy candidates, including those from the United States. “There’s never been more change in education,” the Vice-Chancellor added.

San Francisco President's Reception 2018

In San Francisco, at a US Foundation Board meeting led by Chair Lesley Silvester, the Vice-Chancellor said that one of the issues that had been “keeping me awake at night” over the past year was the mental health of university students. The Foundation Board agreed that it should be a priority, and approved a grant that will support a new Vice-Chancellor Fellowship in Mental Health and Well-Being in UK Universities, as well as funding for Widening Participation scholarships and a scholarship programme associated with the British Heart Foundation.

In New York, Vice-Chancellor Professor Hugh Brady expanded upon the issues that keep him awake, adding the uncertainty around the Brexit negotiations, and whether it will result in obstacles to the University’s ongoing efforts to attract the best European candidates, as well as the government’s review of higher education funding, and its potential impact on the Bristol budget.

We need your support, and your engagement,’ said Professor Hugh Brady.

Foundation Chair Lesley Silvester reiterated the need. “In San Francisco,” she said, “we saw the richness of the alumni network. Its benefits are powerful, the result of the community we’re trying to strengthen through the Foundation. It’s growing, but we want more — more Directors, more volunteers. Please join us.”

Tokyo alumni get-together, 31 October 2018

Tokyo alumni get-together

More than 20 alumni and friends gathered in central Tokyo for an alumni get-together this October. Hosted by University of Bristol Pro Vice-Chancellor (Global Engagement), Dr Erik Lithander, the evening was a great success.

Dr Lithander was visiting Tokyo as part of the Universities UK International delegation and was joined on the night by one of his fellow delegates (and Bristol alumnus), the Dean of Global Engagement at the University of Glasgow, Professor Konstantinos Kontis (BEng 1993).

Alumni from across the globe were welcomed, including an alumna visiting Tokyo on holiday and another who was new to Tokyo, having relocated from Singapore. Two alumni in attendance were moving back to Bristol just two days after the event, and we look forward to welcoming them back to Bristol.

Since members of the University team and alumni last met in 2016 relationships have been forged and professional connections strengthened, even culminating a movie role for one alumna! Events such as these are central to building a strong network of alumni in Japan, and our special thanks go to Ian Thomas Ash (MA 2005) and Emi Ashikaga (BSc 2008, PhD 2013) for all their help in making the evening such a success.

London Branch Annual Lecture and AGM, 31 October 2018

London Branch Annual Lecture and AGM

Julian Metcalfe (BSc 1978)

On 31 October some 60 members of the London Branch of the University of Bristol Alumni met for their Annual General Meeting and Annual Lecture in the Chaucer Room within the Knowledge Centre at the new, modern, headquarters of the British Library.

Our Lecturer this year was Will Hutton (BSc Economics and Sociology 1972, Honorary LLD 2003), former broadcaster and Editor in Chief at ’The Observer’, and currently Principal, Hertford College, Oxford.  He spoke to the themes set out in his recently published book “Saving Britain:  How We Must Change to Prosper in Britain” (jointly authored with Lord Adonis).

Will set out the stark, bleak, dangers inherent in Britain’s exit from the EU.  He blamed the referendum result on the fact that millions of ordinary people felt marginalised by the lack of opportunities in education, employment, and welfare.  Will said we had to create a much more inclusive and caring society if the country’s prospects were to thrive.

This well received Lecture was, as always, followed by an opportunity to socialise over food and wine, and appears to have been much enjoyed by all.

We were also pleased to be joined by Professor Agnes Nairn, Professor of Marketing, School of Economics, Finance & Management, at the University. She kindly delivered the Vote of Thanks to Will, and outlined some of the exciting new developments in the University curriculum designed to ensure that students are better equipped to compete in an increasingly competitive job market.

Those attending the AGM thanked our outgoing Treasurer, Julia Wathen (BSc 1972), for her many years of service.  Dr Martin Lunnon (BSc 1973, PhD 1976) was elected incoming Treasurer.

Eastern Canada alumni weekend 2018

Eastern Canada alumni weekend 2018

Heather Proctor (BSc 1964) and Sefton Haisz (BSc 1967)

The Westover Inn in St Marys, Ontario was the venue for the 16th Eastern Canada Alumni reunion. Alumni and their partners travelled from Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton and Guelph on Friday 28 September.

The Inn provided excellent facities for dining and conversing, which is a big part of our reunion! David Burns (BEng1958) and George Plant (BSc 1963) gave fascinating after dinner talks about their research at Bristol and subsequent work, on the topics of high pressure studies and the Geological Survey of Canada, respectively.

The weather cooperated on the Saturday when we visited Stratford, Ontario for the day. We toured the Festival gardens, lunched in the Eaton Lounge of the Festival Theatre, then attended “The Music Man”, a fast-moving musical production enjoyed by all 14 of us.  In the evening, we returned to the Westover Inn for our reunion dinner.

We are already looking forward to next year, when our September reunion will be in Peterborough, Ontario.

Cambridge Branch annual dinner, 20 October 2018

Cambridge Branch annual dinner 2018
Alison Wilson (BA 1966)

Trinity College was the spectacular setting for the Cambridge Branch’s Ninth Annual Dinner on 20 October. The late afternoon sun shone on the stone buildings and spacious lawns as we made our way to the Library, an elegant building by the river designed by Christopher Wren. Through the colonnades and up the wide stair and we were in a huge room lined with bays of leather-bound books, each bay surmounted by a marble statue. The Librarian, Dr Nicolas Bell, welcomed us and talked about the history of the Library before showing us some recently-acquired books relating to Chatterton, the boy poet of Bristol.

We were dining in the Old Kitchen, a historic room with a high ceiling funnelling to a window in the centre where no doubt the smoke once escaped. Further signs of its former use were a massive fireplace and an old spit fixed to the wall. The room is now hung with oil paintings and looked very festive with white linen tablecloths, candles and flowers on the tables. We enjoyed excellent cuisine – terrine, venison and poached pear – with plenty of fine wine. After coffee we were addressed by Denis Burn, Chair of the Trustees. His speech, amusing and serious by turns, brought us up to date with the recent changes in governance at Bristol and the consultations about a re-designed Alumni Association. We appreciated his willingness to answer questions and chat to members afterwards.

More than 60 alumni and friends had a good time, and we would particularly like to thank Dr Chris Morley, former Vice Master of Trinity for his help in setting up the event.

Rock the boat: Luke Jerram’s ‘Withdrawn’ in Leigh Woods

This summer, Professor Rich Pancost, Director of the University of Bristol Cabot Institute, will climb aboard an abandoned fishing boat deep within Bristol’s Leigh Woods to talk about some of the pressing issues affecting our oceans – and how we can all help turn the tide on climate change.

Rich’s talk, ‘Changing climate, oceans and food in an Uncertain World’, is one of a number of environmental discussions, theatrical performances and interactive workshops taking place in Leigh Woods, as part of an art installation, Withdrawn, a thought-provoking project that invites us to consider our impact on the marine environment.

‘The ocean is vital but it remains vast and inexplicable,’ explains Rich. ‘That is part of the challenge – we can see the palm oil plantations replacing tropical rain forest, but we can’t see the damage we’re doing to the sea. We don’t “see” ocean acidification and we don’t “see” plastic nanoparticles. This project will help us see these things. And that is why we enjoy working with artists – they enhance our understanding. Of course, they also challenge our understanding and foster new ways of thinking by causing us to slow down and contemplate the world around us.’

Withdrawn is the work of artist, Luke Jerram, who transformed Park Street into a giant water slide last year. The installation has been open to the public since April, and is one of a citywide programme of arts projects during Bristol’s year as European Green Capital that aim to make sustainable living accessible and easy to understand.

During his talk in August, Rich will be joined by local Michelin-starred chef, Josh Eggleton, serving a sustainably caught fish supper (with vegan alternatives). ‘We can have sustainably sourced fish, although it might be a bit more expensive and we might have to enjoy it less frequently,’ says Rich. ‘It’s clear that we must change the way we live in order to live sustainably on the planet, but we’re clever and adaptable. Small actions can make large differences.’

Bristol’s Cabot Institute brings together world-class researchers to tackle some of the most pressing environmental challenges we currently face. And that research is providing leaders and policymakers with the evidence they need to act – to tackle the effects of over-fishing, of ocean acidification, and of excess agricultural run-off into the sea.

‘Extreme global warming events have happened before,’ explains Rich. ‘Sea levels were higher, areas that were flooded are now cities, and our polar regions were covered by verdant forests. Earth’s history tells us that future changes in climate will challenge both people and society, but it also tells us that life is resilient, as is our planet.’

That relationship between people and planet is a key focus for researchers at the Cabot Institute. Rich says: ‘We are all connected – to each other and to our planet. Growing up on a farm – in a farming community – made me acutely aware of how vulnerable we are. So much of life is dictated by outside forces, whether it be the weather or supermarkets or politicians. The dramatic and unpredictable changes to our global environment will affect us all, but it will mostly affect the poor and vulnerable.’


‘In Withdrawn, people made those boats. They worked on them and on the sea, and they passed them on to their children. They did so to earn a living, and their actions fed people. That way of life is almost gone, and Withdrawn prompts valuable introspection on what is no longer here. But it also prompts us to ponder what will come next and to ask whether that is consistent with our values. ‘

‘At Cabot, we study all of these interconnected issues. We study future environmental change and how to ensure our food and water security. We are developing solutions that will underpin the next generation of renewables and energy efficiency measures. We study how communities co-operate so that action can be more effective. And we are exploring how we can live with the climatic, biological and chemical changes we’re making to our planet. As Withdrawn illustrates, we will have to discover how to live in ways that are sustainable and resilient but that are also fair and just.’


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