1-7 June 2021 marks Volunteers' Week, a celebration of the contribution of millions of volunteers across the country.
Imperial is marking this annual celebration by recognising and thanking graduates for supporting the whole College community, from prospective students to alumni.
The following are just some of the many ways in which alumni have gone above and beyond to support Imperial’s work and people this year.
Inspiring future scientists
Imperial has a long-established reputation for working with school and college students to inspire them and help raise awareness of higher education. Alumni play a vital role in this work, and several Imperial graduates recently recorded science videos for children through Little STEMS, who work to embed STEM in local primary schools. Alumni recorded ten minute videos on childhood health and exercise, mental health, and parasites.
Erel Onojobi, Founder of Little STEMS, expressed gratitude for the “Care, effort and dedication” that alumni put into the creation of this content: “It showed us that the wider STEM community cares about our children. The children were exposed to science content and explanations about topics related to everyday things that they have never heard about previously. This inspires wonder, and curiosity that we hope will continue and be deepened by future STEM activities.”
Making big decisions easier
From the very beginning of their Imperial journey, prospective students have been welcomed into the community by graduates of the College, answering questions and sharing their experience. This has been more important than ever during the past year as the International Student Recruitment Team have been unable to travel during the pandemic.
Catherine Eames, International Student Recruitment Manager explains, “By sharing their experiences and memories of Imperial and moving to London, our alumni volunteers have helped many prospective students and applicants make life changing decisions about their university studies. A huge thank you to everyone who has helped out from all the team!”
The next generation: Alumni supporting students
Alumni volunteers also play an essential role in supporting current students, creating a sense of community and preparing them for life after Imperial. From sharing top tips for incoming students arriving at the College in the middle of a pandemic, to providing career advice, mentoring, speaking at events and supporting diversity initiatives. During the pandemic, volunteers have increased their support and taken on new roles, like the medicine alumni who helped final year students with mock practical assessments by volunteering as examiners.
Making a difference through mentoring
"She's my advisor and also my friend." Munisath Khandoker (BSc Microbiology 2019) Student Mentee
The Alumni Mentoring Scheme pairs current students with alumni to provide insight into job roles and work sectors. Mentors help students build their confidence and prepare for their next steps beyond Imperial.
Munisath Khandoker (BSc Microbiology 2019), filmed while a student mentee, shares the impact that her mentor has had on her career:
It’s a two-way relationship and mentors report just as much satisfaction from the experience. Jill Crowther (MSc Agriculture Sciences 2003) says, “I love it when my mentees have an idea or plan and they let me know that it has worked out well and they have learned so much from it. Students get to do some really exciting things these days so I love hearing about their adventures. It makes me want to be a student again!" When asked why she chose to participate in the scheme, Jill replied, “I have had many mentors during my career and would not be where I am today without their inspiration, or the fact that they were prepared to listen to my sometimes crazy ideas. They were all very kind and offered their time without question, so when I had gained some more experience, I felt it was time to give back.”
Maths alumni have volunteered throughout this year to support current students in their department through the Women in Maths and Black in Maths initiatives.
"Inspirational, really. It's what young black people interested in the natural sciences need to see." Feedback from student attendee at the Black in Maths event
These programmes are designed to inspire, inform and provide role models for current students in the department, with alumni speakers offering advice and insight based on their own experiences. The Black in Maths event was organised following requests from current students to support the equality and diversity efforts in the department and to raise the profile of opportunities for students of all backgrounds.
Ella Orme, current Mathematics student and organiser of the Women in Maths series, commented that, “Alumni are essential to what Women in Maths do - hearing people who have been where we are now share their experience and stories of success helps to inspire the next generation of women graduates. The events that alumni speak at give a unique personal perspective that is really appreciated by students. The Women in Maths team are very grateful for all the support, time and effort of alumni over the past few years.”
Students attending the Black in Maths event spoke about how helpful it had been to hear the personal experiences of panel members, with one commenting that “as a maths undergraduate, the event made me feel a sense of community (which has been difficult to feel lately due to remote learning).”
Inkeri Hibbins, Undergraduate Liaison Officer for the Department of Mathematics agrees: “Our alumni, are incredibly valuable to the Department and the current maths student cohort. Your engagement allows current students to see themselves as part of something ‘bigger’. Your positive energy and honesty, sharing your careers stories and paths after Imperial (both the ups and the downs!) are much appreciated by the current students, allowing a chance for them to look forward to the future and the opportunities they have ahead of them. We have been awed by the alumni engagement, so important especially this past year, and on behalf of the Department and the students, I thank you."
Enriching the alumni community
Alumni also go out of their way to build a strong community with fellow graduates, whether they are offering career insights to those early in their career, organising local events or sharing their expertise.
Imparting wisdom and insight
This time last year, during the height of the pandemic in the UK, alumna Dr Helen McKeown (MBBS 1991) answered questions in a special event on Plexus, Imperial’s online community for alumni. As a GP and Chair of the Representative Body of the British Medical Association (BMA), Helena was uniquely placed to share insights into the pandemic from the point of view of healthcare professionals, answering questions about the possible long-term impact of COVID-19 on the NHS, the state of the pandemic in the UK at the time and the next steps.
Alumni have also stepped forward to support Imperial’s online events programme for alumni, friends and students throughout the past year, sharing their expertise on subjects such as how to tackle the global challenge of ocean plastic waste, digital transformation and innovations in mobile banking in Africa and the future of Turkish innovation, or sharing their own inspirational stories through a new Spotlight series.
But their support has not been limited to events. In a pilot run in London of a new Coffee & Coach programme, more experienced alumni were matched with early-career graduates to provide five coaching sessions over five months. Feedback from coachees was enthusiastic, with one recent alumnus saying, “The whole experience was great, my coach was extremely knowledgeable, had a wealth of experience to offer, and I met every single one of my coaching objectives.” The programme is now open to alumni worldwide and recruiting both coaches and coachees for the next round, beginning in July.
Building a sense of community
With in-person graduations unable to take place in 2020 and early 2021, regional group leaders took on the role of local ambassadors, welcoming the newest generation of Imperial alumni into the community. Volunteers came together from 32 different groups to record personal messages of welcome and congratulations, share their own fondest memories and let new graduates know how their local networks could support them.
Group leaders have organised events for their local networks around the world, both online (like a recent fireside chat with David Shrier organised by the New York group) or in person (a Christmas gathering in Bangkok, Thailand or city tour of Zurich in Switzerland).
Professional Interest Networks, led by alumni volunteers, developed new online programmes to help fellow alumni with a shared professional interest connect, share ideas and debate issues of importance in their sector or industry.
Despite holding challenging roles on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19, the committee of the Healthcare Network came together to host their first online event for alumni, students and fellow healthcare professionals on obesity, asking whether we’re doing enough to tackle the issue.
The Women’s Network hosted several events including an interactive workshop on becoming a more effective leader, and a social focused on wellbeing during the pandemic and anxieties about returning to ‘normal’.
Life at Imperial is profoundly enhanced by these, and many more, dedicated alumni volunteers who give their time and energy to support the community, people, work and mission of the College: thank you.
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