University of Reading Malaysia campus officially opened!

Malaysia 1The Malaysia campus in Iskander was officially opened on the 25 February with more than 400 guests, staff and students in attendance. You can watch a video of the ceremony here. University of Reading Malaysia is the University of Reading’s first multidisciplinary overseas campus and its fifth campus overall, alongside the Whiteknights and London Road campuses in Reading, and the Henley Business School sites at Greenlands and Johannesburg. The new facilities will educate up to 3,000 students, with ambitions to extend beyond the current building into new space at EduCity.

Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell said: “This is a momentous day for the University of Reading and Henley Business School. We are celebrating our 90th anniversary this year and Henley’s 70th – but this is an ambitious and clear statement of intent for the future. This magnificent, state-of-the-art campus means we can project our world-leading research and teaching across Asia, while offering our students and staff with outstanding opportunities to study and work abroad.”

HilaryHilary Spicer, our Associate Director of Principal Gifts, attended the opening ceremony. This is what she had to say about the event:

The formal part of the event was held in the bright and airy atrium, known as the Heartspace of this state-of-the-art building, an area which lent itself beautifully to the procession, speeches and musical performances included in the ceremony.

The inauguration combined input from staff and students and had a genuine atmosphere of celebration enjoyed by all those who attended; with many of us marvelling at what has been achieved in such a short space of time.

With the formalities over there was the opportunity for lunch with friends and colleagues in a specially constructed marquee, followed by tours of the campus building. The tours were led by Student Ambassadors who completely engaged with their audience, as they escorted us round the new facilities. Their enthusiasm and pride in the University was a pleasure to witness.

It was a real privilege to be involved in what is a landmark event for the University of Reading and the Henley Business School. The development of this first-class teaching and research facility demonstrates a commitment to long-term investment in Asia and I felt honoured to have been at the launch.  

You can find out more about our Malaysia campus here.

We are looking forward to seeing how our newest campus develops, and will be keeping you up to date with the latest news as well as letting you know how you can get involved. Watch this space!

UoR alumna working to reduce poverty

Today’s blog is from Rika Idei who is using the skills she learned during her MA in Social Development and Sustainable Livelihoods, to study the effectiveness of development projects on poverty reduction. Here she explains what attracted her to Reading, and why she would recommend it for those who want to work as development practitioners in the field of sustainability, particularly those living and working overseas.

UoR Blog_2I had two main reasons for my decision to apply to the MA course at the University of Reading (UoR). Firstly, it offered comprehensive programs related to international development, through the Graduate Institute of International Development and Applied Economics (GIIDAE). That comprehensiveness was helpful for us to rethink ‘development’ from various perspectives. The second reason was that only UoR had an MA course aimed at revisiting ‘livelihoods’, which is essential when discussing how people’s lives should be improved sustainably through development works.

After joining the course, I noticed many interesting things. For instance, most of the students had experience as practitioners from all over the world. We could enjoy exchanging opinions based on our own field experiences and, sometimes, lecturers and professors joined our discussions. Another finding was that it had a robust academic network among the universities in the UK, which provided us with access to their libraries, and helped me to find a variety of texts related to my dissertation.

UoR Blog_1Before coming to the UK, I worked for more than three years as a regional planner in developing countries. Even after such an exciting period, the one-year life at UoR was a life-changing experience that broadened my perspectives and changed my communication style. I enjoyed my living environment, which was well equipped, and offered a very comfortable and secure room for students to study. The city was safe and convenient for shopping, and was covered well by public transportation networks. Throughout the year, I experienced plenty of local culture through various art events and concerts offered by local performers. I thoroughly enjoyed living and studying in Reading.

Nowadays, there are many universities offering international development courses all over the world. However, I would really recommend UoR as a strong option, if you want to pursue your career as a development practitioner. You can study the area you are interested in for your future career, with students and professors from diverse backgrounds and with a wide range of experience.

You can find out more about GIIDAE at the University of Reading here.

 

Why become a mentor?

As alumni of the University, there are lots of ways you can get involved with current projects and students. As an alumna myself, I recently have taken the opportunity to become a mentor as part of the University’s Thrive Mentoring Scheme. I decided to sign up for several reasons: to give something back to the University that has given me so much, to improve my CV, and also so that I can share my experience with other alumni who may be considering becoming mentors themselves.

It’s early days so far, but I am so glad I did decide to join Thrive. Not only have I realised that I do in fact have something to offer (I wasn’t sure that I did!), but it has also enabled me to see how enthusiastic, passionate and entrepreneurial our students are! I don’t interact with students day to day, and becoming a mentor has helped me to really feel part of the University community as a whole. My mentee reminds me a bit of myself at his age – he has so many interests and different roads that he wants to follow, but he knows he needs to be realistic and focus on clear next steps in order to really achieve his ambitions.  Our first meeting was a great experience, and we both came out of it feeling inspired and motivated. He has already implemented some of the suggestions I made, and knowing that he values my contribution is particularly rewarding. Based on my experience so far, I would say that if you hear the call next year, sign up!

For more detail on the scheme and the benefits, watch me being interviewed by our wonderful Volunteering Officer, Charlotte.

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Thrive launched in 2015 with a focus on finding mentors for students from Maths and Biological Sciences. You can read more about this in our most recent issue of Giving Matters. As it was so successful, we are now working to broaden the range of students who will benefit. You can find out more about the scheme by visiting http://www.reading.ac.uk/careers/placements/thrive/.

Dreams can come true at Reading

Today’s blog is written by celebrated Penguin illustrator Coralie Bickford-Smith, who won the Waterstones Book of the Year Award 2015 with her book The Fox and the Star. Coralie studied Typography here at Reading in 1998.  Here she tells us about her time with us and how this experience allowed her to fulfil her dreams and exceed her own expectations.   

CoralieWhen I arrived at the department of Typography and Graphic Communication for the open day, my disparate interests were no longer seemingly so random. My love of William Blake, my obsession with the printed book and graphic design were, unlike other courses, rolled into this one BA. My dreams, for the first time, seemed possible.

The path had been difficult, but I suddenly found myself on the cusp of an incredible opportunity. Despite being very shy I did all the right things to make sure I got onto the course. I defied my introverted nature and talked to all the tutors and made myself apparent. When I received the letter confirming that I had achieved my required entry grades it was a pivotal moment; the anxiety of waiting was over.

My memories of Reading are those of feeling part of a family. The annual intake was small and we shared a common studio space. This forced interaction kept me involved with the course and my fellow students, a bond further strengthened by study trips overseas. It all made me feel that I belonged to something important; more than just a course.

This feeling of unity became especially important in my first year of studying, as my mother became terminally ill; one of the most difficult times of my life. I was lonely and lost, but my studies gave me a sense of purpose, and I could not stray far before without being noticed and guided back.

Reading taught me so much, and not all of it design-related. It taught me about building relationships and how to live a life that was meaningful to me. The work was hard and the battle with confidence about my own work was a constant struggle, but there was a sense that everyone was rooting for me.

This is the most cherished memory that I have been left with, that people were kind, loving and thoughtful. When I finally finished my studies and opened my degree results I ran into the department’s office to check that there had not been a mistake. I had achieved more than I thought possible.

After studying at Reading I went onto work in book publishing and have been working at Penguin for the past 14 years designing book covers. I have just written, illustrated and designed my own book, The Fox and The Star, which was published by Penguin last year. It is a picture book that has not only been produced to celebrate the printed book, but also conveys my experience of coping with grief during my time at university.

Without the foundations of Reading I could never have aspired to make all the small but necessary steps to get to this point in my career. Life can be tough but with time the joy it brings us can exceed our expectations.

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Did Reading help you to achieve your dreams? Let us know in the comments below or email us at alumni@reading.ac.uk if you have your own story to tell.

New year, new members of the team

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Happy New Year to all of our alumni! I hope you enjoyed the festive season as much as I did.

Now it is the New Year and we are looking forward to celebrating the 90th anniversary of the University receiving its official charter. This year we are hoping to welcome more alumni than ever back to campus with lots of celebration events so keep up to date with us on facebook, twitter and our website to hear more soon.

We also start the New Year with two new members of the Alumni Relations Team who joined myself, Carole and Charlotte in December. Sue is our new Head of Alumni Relations and Caroline is our International Alumni Officer…

IMG_0902Sue Martin
I am delighted to have joined the team having made the move from a similar role at another university. So far so good, and what a wonderful campus!  I will be working hard to ensure that we build rewarding and enduring relationships with our global community of alumni and supporters and that we make sure that our current students go on to become the next generation of engaged alumni. I am looking forward to the year ahead, there is a lot going on so I hope to get to meet some of you during what is going to be a very exciting year for the University of Reading.

IMG_0898Caroline Waterfall
As a new member of the Alumni Relations team, I’m excited to be joining the University of Reading family! I look forward to meeting you either on campus or internationally as part of my work in developing the international alumni programme of activities, finding out where you are now and hearing about your experiences at Reading. I come from the higher education sector, where I’ve previously been responsible for alumni ambassadors globally and organising alumni events.

It looks like 2016 is going to be a really busy year with lots of ways for you to get involved. I am personally looking forward to keeping you up to date with everything going on here and hearing all of your news. I would love to hear more stories from you about your time at the University and where you are now, and I would particularly like some new alumni bloggers for the new year. Just email me at alumni@reading.ac.uk if you would like to contribute.

The past and the future

As you may remember from Connected, the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) is currently undergoing a refurbishment in order to meet the needs of today’s visitors. Here, alumna Maggie McNeil-Smith, tells of a past visit to MERL and why understanding our heritage is so important.

Carisbrooke 005-1Growing up in rural Somerset during the fifties and early sixties was in itself an education.  Country ways were the norm of our everyday life and The Archers was our daily evening entertainment.

In the 2011 edition of Connected, an article spoke about MERL and its 60 years association with The Archers, whose ‘every day stories of country folk’ on BBC Radio 4 were about to go on exhibition. Understandably as an avid Radio 4 Archer fan this was an invitation I could not resist, so I found myself making a special trip from Canada to Reading to see for myself just what it was the museum had managed to put together for this one-off exhibit and I certainly was not disappointed.

The display was wonderful with maps of Ambridge, pictures and explanations of Brookfield, Home, Bridge and Grange farms, the Archers family tree, and even a picture of The Duchess of Cornwall as a special guest alongside Caroline Stirling (played by Sara Coward).  An interesting and eclectic mix for avid Archer fans like myself who found the explanation for the birth of this incredibly popular radio soap absolutely fascinating; (and I quote)

“In June 1948 a meeting was convened to explore ways of making agricultural programming more interesting. Referring to the popular radio special agent one Lincolnshire farmer remarked that the industry needed ‘a farming Dick Barton’.  This inspired BBC producer Godfrey Basely to create the Archers.

In the aftermath of the Second World War the English countryside underwent a period of rapid and dramatic transformation.  Social change and technological advances were widespread, particularly in agriculture.  The Museum of English Rural Life was founded in 1951 as a direct response to these developments.  The first national episode of the BBC radio serial The Archers was broadcast on 1 January that same year.”

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Equally interesting was the magnificent display of bygone farm implements which included a display of farm carts, adapted for each county according to usage, whilst tractors and other farm implements brought back memories of a golden age of innocence connected with our love of the land.

In fact those tales of country folk were exactly how we lived back then and it is with gratitude that I say a heartfelt ‘Thank you’ to MERL for putting on this magnificent display.

You can read about the MERL refurbishment here.

To find out more about MERL, click here.

Quality Assured

For today’s blog, alumnus Karl Hobley shares what made Reading special for him and how it has helped him in his chosen career.

Grad pic with the SarahsI joined the University of Reading on a chilly Sunday morning in October 2007 having moved from Coventry that day, with a load of things I clearly didn’t need to pack, into a surprisingly large but sparse room in Wantage Hall. I’d chosen Wantage because I’ve always been a bit unusual in my tastes. Many people told me they’d chosen that hall because it reminded them of their school and they’d been recommended it by other alumni, friends and family. I had none of this (it looked nothing like the school I’d been to believe me!), I just thought it looked spellbindingly beautiful. How often in life do you get to live in a place where history has been made, dramatic deaths have occurred and a few quirky traditions manage to solider on despite the passage of time and changing student tastes?

University is about far more than just your hall in first year or digs in subsequent ones however, as I was to discover. My first year wasn’t the easiest and indeed I even found my hall a hard place to live at times. Being older than almost all of my peers and having had quite different experiences, fitting in wasn’t a smooth ride. So often new students are led to believe you’ll meet your friends for life on your corridor and that every one, except you, is having the time of their lives 24/7. When you think about that rationally you realise that’s just nonsense!

Real friendships take time, facebook isn’t real life and fitting in doesn’t happen overnight. If I were speaking to the 23 year old me who started that year I’d say stop putting so much pressure on yourself and relax. Life is going to be good…and stop leaving your essays to the night before!

After starting a uni course in London aged 19 I decided to drop out and go back and improve my A levels. Because of this, I tried to take advantage of as much that the University could offer me and I’m so pleased to say I think I just about managed it. I spent five months studying in Canada experiencing Obama’s first win from just over the boarder as well as a Canadian election and constitutional crisis. For a Politics & International Relations student, short of the fall of the Berlin wall, it doesn’t get much better!

I managed to hold down a part time job at a bank in town for almost my whole four years which gave me a really lovey link into the town of Reading itself beyond the campus bubble. I trained as a peer supporter and helped run the Lib Dem Society with some amazingly talented and passionate colleagues.
Treading the boards with RUDS however has to be one of my highlights. The friends I made in that society, along with a few from my course, continue to enrich my life almost five years after graduating and I’m sure they will go on doing so.

RUSU election night pic

I can’t let a blog post about my time at uni go by though without mentioning RUSU. I was so lucky to have the privilege of being elected President in 2011. The election was the hardest won thing I’ve ever taken on but also one of the most invigorating. My friends think me completely mad but I can honestly say I’ve never felt more alive than when standing up in those hustings in Café Mondial, laying out my stump speech. As tough as the job tuned out to be, it can’t have been that bad as I’m standing for a well-known political party in the Cheltenham Borough Council elections this coming May. Studying politics was never quite enough for me, I like to live it too.

Biography
Karl Studied in the School of Politics, Economics and International Relations between 2007-2011 and spent a year as the President of RUSU following his degree. He has also served as an elected trustee of the NUS, sitting on their board for two years.

Since graduating Karl has worked for the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education in external affairs and leads their work on stakeholder engagement. He has also volunteered for the national gay rights charity, Stonewall, as a youth mentor.

Follow Karl at @karlhobley

Connected Magazine – tell us what you think

Connected - front coverWe hope that you have received your 2015 issue of Connected, either in print or electronic format.  You will probably have noticed that it is quite different to previous editions, both the print copy and online. If you haven’t seen the online version, just click here to take a look. This edition allows a much more interactive experience, and I hope that you enjoy exploring it.  As well as reading the articles, you can let us know what you thought of them and also join in our polls on the topical issues raised, such as whether the death penalty is still appropriate, or whether outdoor learning should be a compulsory part of children’s education. I will be sharing some of the results of these polls in our e-newsletters so you can see how others in our community have voted.

Connected is a big part of my role here at the University, and also one of my favourite parts, so I would really love to know what you think of the new and improved version – both the print and online. You can let me know by emailing me, taking part in the polls in the online version, completing our short online survey, commenting below, or by writing to me at: Samantha Horsfield, Campaigns and Supporter Engagement Office, Blandford Lodge, University of Reading, Whiteknights, PO Box 217, Reading, RG6 6AH.

Although Connected is an annual magazine, the process starts not long after the previous issue has been finished, so I will soon be planning content for issue 7! If you would like to contribute an article, or if there is something you would like to see covered, please let me know. I would be delighted to have more alumni involved in the process as it is, after all, your magazine.

UoR inspires new novelist

Meet alumna Linda Trafford, who owes her recent success as a published author to her days in the Classics Department at Reading.

lj-traffordI can safely say that it was my time at Reading University that led me to becoming a writer of historical fiction.

I was perhaps an unlikely candidate for an ancient history degree. I’d never studied Latin nor Greek and I didn’t possess a GCSE in History, let alone an A Level.

But what I did have was a passion, some might say obsession, with ancient Rome. I suspect it was my devotion to the emperor Augustus, an explanation of which filled most of my personal statement, that landed me my place at Reading University.

The Classics department at Reading in the mid-90s was peopled by lecturers who seemed barely older than me, the likes of Ray Laurence, Maria Wyke, Edith Hall and Tim Duff. Certainly not the tweed covered, fusty old professors I had been led to believe haunted faculty buildings randomly quoting Virgil. .

University is a time to widen one’s horizons so I deigned to take odd module on ancient Greece. But my love was always for those Romans. Of all the modules I took during my degree the one tPalatine 2015hat sticks most in my memory is The Roman Life Cycle. This was a course that looked beyond dates and events, beyond emperors and generals. Here the emphasis was on the thinking of the average ancient roman; what their views were on their own bodies, on birth, on the gods, on reaching adulthood, on children. This truly opened my eyes to the ancient experience beyond the palaces and battles that had consumed me previously.

Studying ancient history at Reading was invaluable to my writing.  It taught me how to evaluate sources, weighing up their worth and credibility before the novelist in me decides; ‘blow it, it’s just too good a story not to use!’

Linda’s first novel Palatine, a dramatic account of the final days of Nero, was published in June. Volumes II, III & IV of the Four Emperors series are to follow.

 

 

 

The Privilege and the Pain

Meet motivational speaker Grace Quantock, who struggled with health problems at Reading but, with our support, refused to let that stop her from becoming the successful woman she is today.

Grace Quantock HeadshotI loved Reading so much, I stayed an extra year.

Well, that’s not quite true, but I did study for four years rather than three and would have stayed longer if I could.

I had dreamed of going to university since I was very small. I even have a drawing I did when I was five years old planning out my university dorm room. Where I would have my desk, my books, my beloved time to dive into subjects I loved among world-class professors. I had a plan, and I worked to achieve it. Arriving at Reading was the culmination of all those dreams and determination.

My experience of Reading was of a privileged yet painful time. I was studying a subject I loved (I read History, with an emphasis on medieval women’s history and the working lives of women in Reading in the medieval period). I had the best tutors, an amazing library and access to a sensational records office for research. But it was also a time of becoming increasingly ill, lessening independence and rising pain.
However the staff were wonderful; things were adapted; I felt accepted and together we navigated to make it possible to achieve my degree, a BA Hons. In this way, I was able to keep my identity, to achieve something so long dreamed of it had, in its own way, become a part of me.

Students recorded lectures for me when I was too ill to come to campus.

Staff got books from the library for me when I couldn’t stand to reach the shelves.

A tutor brought a camp bed into the exam room for me so I could take my finals, even when very ill.

I couldn’t have asked for a better support team.

My favourite thing about Reading was the classes, (and the cereal cafe!). I loved working on my dissertation on the life cycle of women in business in medieval Reading. I also enjoyed Reading town itself, the social centre, the food coop, Cafe Iguana and Angan.

By the end of my degree I was nearly housebound. I lived for letters that connected me with the outside I could only just remember, that gave me something to focus on and hope for. I made up Healing Boxes – gifts of information, support and healing goodies for friends and family. I tried to buy healing gift boxes for friends and found none in the UK, so I just continued to make my own and more and more people requested them. After a cancer scare at 22, I decided to stop being scared and start living my dreams and so my entrepreneurial journey began.

It comes full circle as I studied women running businesses hundreds of years ago and how the women worked around challenging circumstances to grow those businesses. Now, I am a woman in business myself and teaching other women about living well and working even in challenging circumstances like dealing with diagnosis or grief.

I am grateful for my amazing experiences at Reading and for the opportunity to share my story here.

Biography

Grace is an award-winning international wellness expert, coach, author, and motivational speaker. She is the founder of Healing Boxes CIC and The Phoenix Fire Academy and a recipient of the Future Young Leader of Wales Award, Entrepreneur Wales Awards, Great British Entrepreneur Awards as well as Britain’s Top Real Role Model finalist and featured in The Hay Festival, Positive News, Gala Darling, TEDx, Huffington Post and The Times of London.

Grace Quantock – Wellness Expert, Motivational Speaker, Author, Coach
gracequantock.com | healing-boxes.com
Twitter: @Grace_Quantock | @Healing_Boxes