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December 30, 2015

2015: A fantastic year for Warwick

lFor the final blog post in our 50@50 series, the 50th project team look back on some of the highlights of our anniversary year.

Well, what a year! Our celebrations started way back in December 2014 when, after a year of planning, we started our celebrations with a launch dinner to say thank you to all those people who were pivotal in making the University what it is today.

Over the year many departments took the opportunity to celebrate in their own way with their own events, and we were astounded that there were over 50 additional activities on top of what we were organising. It was clear that departments had put in a lot of time and effort to ensure that their events were well organised and delivered to a really high standard, and we were impressed that they really embraced the central theme of the 50th anniversary - ‘Imagining the Future’.

Our GRPs also held a range of 50th anniversary events in five strategic locations across the world. An exciting programme of research-led events took place in Brussels, Hong Kong, Singapore, Venice and Washington focusing on 'Sustainable Futures'. You can find out more here>>

We held the first ever Warwick Music festival in May, where we worked collaboratively with the Arts Centre to put on a three day music festival. With the Arts Centre leading and the 50th team supporting, the music festival had cross-generational appeal. There was unique and exciting food and drink, alongside free performances and walk-about entertainers, drawing on the talents of local musicians. The Butterworth Hall played host to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Django Django (supported by Unknown Mortal Orchestra) and Joan Armatrading (supported by Lucy Anne Sale and Garfield Mayor).

The 50th anniversary provided a great opportunity for us to announce the University’s unique partnership with Cheltenham Festivals; a partnership that spanned across all four Cheltenham festivals (Literature, Music, Jazz and Science) and our Festival of the Imagination. You can read more about the partnership and all of the events here>>

We’ve had some great features on our website this year and, if you’ve not already checked them out we’d really recommend you take a look. This 50@50 blog has featured some fascinating alumni, academic and administrative staff and students, all of whom provide a bit of insight into ‘their’ Warwick and their thoughts for the future. The celebration poetry showcases the best talent at, or to come out of, the University and the count up to 50 series provides a snap shot of the last 50 years.

With a third of Warwick's alumni living outside the UK the alumni team wanted to make sure that they were as involved in celebrating Warwick's 50th anniversary as alumni in the UK. An International Alumni Week was held and countries were encouraged to hold their own celebrations alongside ours, countries as far afield as Luxembourg, Kenya, Mexico, Iraq and Canada all held celebrations.

Our highlight of the year was, without a doubt, the Festival of the Imagination. It was the first time the University had attempted anything like it and it was a huge success. The festival was two years in the planning and really hard work – but such good fun! We had the chance to work with lots of different teams across the University, all of whom helped to make the festival so fantastic.

We had 450+ volunteers (both staff and students), 50+ student performers and 110 speakers over 64 scheduled events and 30+ drop in activities. We welcomed 8,400 visitors and around 900 school children from 18 regional schools to campus over the two days.

The year has been a great experience for us all and we were privileged to be involved in so many ‘university firsts’ – the first Warwick Music Festival, the first International Alumni Week and the first Festival the Imagination (to name a few!) We hope to see events of this nature, which bring together the whole Warwick community and showcase the excellence research and people, continue in future years.

We want to end by saying a huge thank you to everyone who has been involved in celebrating the University’s 50th anniversary; whether that be attending events, holding your own activities or volunteering, you’ve really helped to make this year very special.

Here’s to the next 50 years!

Nicola, Emily and Christine


Reflections on the 50th

fullsizerender2.jpgAs our 50th year draws to a close, the anniversary project team - Nicola Hunt, Emily Little and Christine Fearn, from External Affairs - share their thoughts on what has been an unforgettable 12 months.


What was your overall experience of the year and being part of the 50th team?

Emily – The whole year from start to finish was an amazing thing to be part of. The variety of projects and events we covered from December 2014 onwards really meant there was consistently a lot of energy and creativity in the team and we thrived on the challenges. Looking back now the inevitable stress of putting on such high profile and public facing events was worth it and the laughter and support I got from the whole team carried us through and bonded us into a strong team.

I enjoyed coming up with the ‘light bulb’ visual identity with its vibrant colour scheme and then seeing it used in so many creative and imaginative ways throughout the year – from the giant billboard outside NAIC, the flowerbed outside the MRC, on dinner invitations, on aprons, on flags made by the international alumni for their reunions and even printed onto edible rice paper as part of a dessert (thanks to Graham Crump!).

Christine – My overall experience was very positive. The 50th team was really small so we all had the opportunity to get involved in every aspect of the planning and delivery of the celebration. It was great to be able to showcase some of the excellent work being done in academic departments at the festival, whether that be through the engaging talks and debates or the hands-on interaction in the Discovery Zone. I also really enjoyed hearing what departments around the University and our alumni were doing to celebrate. They really embraced the ‘Imagining the Future’ theme and held some great events.

Nicola – It’s been great! For me this project began in September 2013, and from then onwards it gathered pace to all but sweep the rest of my normal job aside. I’m really pleased to have had the opportunity to be involved in something so wide-ranging and ambitious. We set out to celebrate the 50th in a very forward-looking way (it would have been easy to wallow in nostalgia!) and I think we’ve managed to strike the right balance, and done it in a very Warwick way. The 50th team quickly developed into a strong team, and I’m proud of what the team achieved this year, especially as there were only three of us!


What was your best moment of the year?

Emily – So many to mention... From being proud to hear the poetic voices of the young IGGY members and their student mentors carried across a spellbound Butterworth Hall at the Gala Dinner, to seeing the smiling, lit up faces of the first group of the 900 year 6 schoolchildren that entered the Discovery Zone with ‘wows’ and ‘cool’ on the schools' day of the Festival of the Imagination.

From working with and meeting some fantastic people, including alumni Torin Douglas and Serena MacBeth, inspiring chef Vivek Singh and screenwriter Andrew Davies, to finally seeing my creative vision of the Discovery Zone come to life with such vibrancy and energy from the thousands of visitors that passed through the doors and the wonderful, enthusiastic Warwick academics and volunteers that worked so hard over the whole Festival weekend.


Christine – My best moment of the year was the schools' day at the Festival of the Imagination. This had been one of my key projects and I was keen to ensure that it ran smoothly. It was a great example of how teams across the University can work really well together: security took charge of the school buses' arrivals and departures, the Arts Centre staff ensured that the children were ushered around the Arts Centre calmly and safely, we collaborated with the Centre for Professional Education so we could have 100 PGCE students to help us on the day and the University events team helped the 50th team to manage the day and ensured timings were kept to. There were so many other people involved too and I was so grateful for everyone’s help and involvement.


Nicola – I don’t think I could identify a best moment (unless you count the lie-in I had the morning after the Festival of the Imagination finished!) There are so many highlights! From launching the year in a transformed Butterworth Hall with an event that was not only a dinner, but a full production to 200 guests of the University, to spending a week at Cheltenham Science Festival in the Science Faculty marquee engaging with thousands of visitors excited by science, to the Royal visit by Princess Anne, through to the Festival of the Imagination which I can’t really sum up in just a few words… There have been so many high points, and they’ve all come about through great team work and collaborations across the University.


What has been the most challenging part of the year?

Emily – Not sure there’s been too many bad moments, although the most emotional I’ve been was watching the National Grid Discovery Zone being dismantled and feeling like the year had come to an end.

Christine – Definitely the week in the run up to the Festival of the Imagination! I wasn’t quite anticipating the amount of last-minute changes there would be, the schedule was being amended right up until the last minute.

Nicola – I’m not going to say it was the worst moment, but there was a special kind of realisation that dawned on me after the initial excitement of hearing that we were having a Royal visit, when it hit home that that visit was only 10 days before the Festival of the Imagination… Let’s just say I’ve never known a workload like it…but it was totally worth it, as that was a really special day to be part of.


What will you take away with you from this experience and would you do it all again?

Emily – That it takes a fantastic team effort to pull off what we did. There really is nothing like team work. That our academics and students really do step up when it comes to engaging with the public and they constantly made me feel proud to be part of the Warwick community. I would definitely do it all again in a heartbeat, yes! With lessons learnt and the knowledge that there is still so much more to Warwick and what we can share with the public, our staff and our alumni, another Festival would definitely be something I would love to be involved with. I certainly won’t forget this 50th year in a hurry.

Christine –It was such a great experience being part of the 50th team and I have learnt so much, so YES, I would love to do it all again!

Nicola – It’s been really apparent throughout the whole planning and delivery of the 50th that there’s great enthusiasm across the University to reach out and share what we do with the wider community, and there is also an audience out there willing to engage with us to find out more. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.


Pictured (left to right): Christine Fearn (50th Anniversary Project Officer), Emily Little (Creative Producer, 50th Anniversary) and Nicola Hunt (University Events Manager).


October 15, 2015

Celebrate our 50th anniversary at the Festival of the Imagination

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Our Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Sir Nigel Thrift, shares his thoughts on the Festival of the Imagination.

Following months of anticipation, I’m delighted that our Festival of the Imagination ­- the pinnacle event of our 50th anniversary - is upon us. Over the next two days our campus will play host to a diverse programme of events and activities for the whole family to enjoy, all based around the theme of ‘Imagining the Future’.

We’ll be starting the festival by welcoming hundreds of local schoolchildren to the Arts Centre, where they’ll be taking part in interactive sessions led by some of our academics and outreach officers.


From 4pm tomorrow and throughout Saturday we’ll be running a series of thought-provoking talks, providing a platform for discussion and debate on topics ranging from healthy cooking and Shakespeare to big data and robots. I’m particularly looking forward to discussing the challenges and opportunities facing the Higher Education sector over the coming years in a session tomorrow afternoon, ‘Universities Challenged’, where I’ll be joined by Professor Abhinay Muthoo and Siobhan Benita from our Department of Economics, Alison Goddard, Editor of HE, and David Palfreyman, Bursar and Fellow of New College at the University of Oxford .

In addition to the wide range of talks on offer, there’ll be a variety of food and drink stalls, music, taster classes and entertainment to enjoy - all of which I’m sure will create a fantastic festival atmosphere.

I’d like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to organise what I know will be an unforgettable event, our volunteers, our speakers, our student performers and everyone who’ll be coming onto campus to help celebrate with us. I look forward to seeing you there.


October 01, 2015

Simple Scoff: A Warwick community cookbook

Rebecca EarleBack in 1972, we published a cookbook full of recipes submitted by our students and staff, called Simple Scoff. To celebrate our 50th anniversary, we're releasing a new version of the book, featuring cheap, simple recipes and cooking tips from around the University.

What can we expect in the new book and what does it tell us about how our eating habits have changed over the last 40 years? Professor Rebecca Earle from our School of Comparative American Studies has been coordinating the project and tells us more about it in today's 50@50.


What was Simple Scoff and why did you decide to get involved in publishing the new version?

I didn’t know anything about it until Sarah Shalgowsky, the curator at the Mead Gallery, told me about it. It’s a small paperback with recipes contributed by Warwick students and a miscellaneous handful of other people (including, mysteriously, someone from the Oslo Music Conservatory!) It’s very chatty in tone, and is peppered with food-themed cartoons from ‘Cosgrove’, who in reality was Ian Stewart, then a lecturer in the Maths Institute. As soon as I saw it I knew we had to make a new version.

The original Simple Scoff is utterly charming: the voices of the editors come through so clearly, and the recipes are so redolent of the early 1970s. I think the dish called ‘vegetable splog’ sums things up, but there are also lots of really tasty dishes—the stuffed herrings are absolutely worth making, for instance. Anyway, I spend far too much time reading cookbooks, and I work on the history of food, so it was perhaps inevitable that sooner or later I’d try to put together a cookbook.


Tell us a bit about the new book. Who has contributed to it?

It’s a ‘community cookbook’: the recipes were contributed by people from across the university community, from undergraduates in the English Department to postgraduates in Engineering, and from adminstrative officers in the History Department to the head of Catering. Most recipes have a little introduction from the contributor that explains how the recipe was invented, or what its particular features are, etc. So each recipe is very personal. There are about 150 recipes, from breakfast dishes to puddings. There are also several complete menus, including an ‘Immune Defense Menu’ to ward off freshers' flu, and lots of little snacks and nibbles. There are lots of vegan and vegetarian recipes, too.

The recipes were submitted online along with, in many cases, photos of the dish, and sometimes even step-by-step photos showing the different stages of preparation. I was astonished at how adept students are in food photography. I guess it’s the effect of Instagram.

simple_scoff.jpg

Do you have a favourite recipe in the book?

Hmm. I really like the onion bhajis - they just work perfectly. I’ll be making those a lot. Also the Indian carrot pudding recipe is really excellent. Also the ‘cardaffron cake’, which combines cardamom and saffron. There are so many tasty recipes...


Are there any surprising recipes in the book?

I didn’t expect as many ‘raw’ food recipes. There are clearly quite a few students equipped with spiralisers. There’s a really imaginative breakfast dish where you make a sort of spicy eggy bread but using a crumpet instead of bread. And then there’s the triple-layer brownie recipe... a layer of chocolate chip cookie dough, a layer of oreos drizzled with dulce de leche, and a layer of brownie dough, all topped off with fleur de sel. My younger son was sceptical at first (‘what is the point?’, he asked) but once he tasted them he pronounced them the best brownies he’d ever eaten.


Does the new version demonstrate how students’ eating habits have changed over time?

Student eating habits have changed enormously! For instance, there were so many recipes for curries, dhals and other Indian dishes that the new cookbook has an entire section on curries and the like. The old cookbook had, I think, one recipe for curry. Nearly half the new recipes are vegetarian or vegan. The old cookbook had a rather unenthusiastic section of vegetarianism saying it wasn’t really such a great idea but that if you absolutely didn’t want to eat meat there were a few suitable recipes on such and such pages.

The new recipes employ a much broader range of seasonings and spices, too - from fresh coriander and za’atar to Sriracha and fresh chillies. Also, the recipes not only come from all sorts of different culinary traditions—from Korea and Hungary to Paraguay and Sweden— but they have also been contributed from students from all over the world, which reflects the really diverse, international community. I think the recipes reflect the University in a very nice way.


How can we get hold of a copy?

The book will be on sale (for £4.99) in the Warwick Bookshop, and online here. All proceeds will be used to support the University’s Warwick in Africa and Warwick in India programmes. And freshers will be given a free copy in their welcome packs when they arrive next week!


Based on the differences between the old and the new book, do you have any predictions about how students’ eating habits will change over the next 50 years?

I would like to be able to say that students will be eating much more fresh, locally-grown, sustainable food, but I think that’s very unlikely. Supermarkets, where the great majority of people in the UK get their food, are part of a global food system that offers great variety and choice, but at a cost. Students, like many people, are often unsure where their food came from and don’t have a clear sense of what’s in season right here, in the Midlands, right now. This makes it hard to be an informed eater. It would be great if in 50 years students could be eating tasty food grown - let’s dream a little! - right here on the campus!

Buy your copy of Simple Scoff on the Bookstore's website >>


Simple Scoff at the Festival of the Imagination

Want to find out more about Simple Scoff and student cookery? Come along to our Festival of the Imagination on Saturday 17 October to hear from members of the University, including former BBC media correspondent and Warwick alumnus Torin Douglas, author of Simple Scoff Serena Macbeth, University Development Chef Graham Crump, Professor Rebecca Earle and Warwick Students' Union President Isaac Leigh as they take a look at student cookery then and now. Book your tickets >>

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June 11, 2015

How a Warwick degree in History led to the creation of a language school

Phiroza Marker (BA History 2006-09) left Warwick to work in phiroza_marker.jpgfinancial services but soon realised that she wanted to be doing something different. With her brother she created Spanish Marks, a language school which employs teachers from Guatemala who connect with students from all over the world through live online classrooms. Charitable work is central to their school and they aim to give back to the communities where their teachers are based. Phiroza tells us more in this week's 50@50.


How did you go from Warwick to Spanish Marks?
I’ve always wanted to set up my own business. After three years working in financial advisory I decided to throw it all in and act on my impulses, setting up a Spanish language school with a charitable focus. I’ve never looked back!


What does Spanish Marks do?
Spanish Marks is an online Spanish language school based in Guatemala and the UK. I set it up with my brother, Rustom, and our friend, Sandy. We employ experienced teachers from Guatemala to teach Spanish to students all over the world through live online classrooms. The school has a really strong charitable focus, and aims to give back to our teachers’ communities in two ways:

1) working hands-on with local charities
2) donating part of the income from our Spanish lessons to charitable projects.


You studied History at Warwick - how does this help you in your career?
I approach potential customers like I would approach a history essay. I research companies which might be interested in taking on Spanish tuition, gather evidence as to why our services would help them and compose the email (making sure my argument is consistent throughout). I know it’s a well-worn phrase that History has transferrable skills, but it’s so true!


What was your favourite aspect of the History course?
Without a doubt the term spent in Venice as part of the Renaissance module. I remember seeing the 15th century palazzo near the Grand Canal and thinking if that didn’t motivate me for morning lectures, nothing else would!


What are the most challenging parts of your work?
Since it’s an online business and there’s no physical store-front as such, there’s a constant need to think of new ways of bringing the school to people’s attention. It also means I never switch off – I’ll be shopping in the supermarket and get distracted by the idea of how I can design Spanish Marks notices for the community boards.


You’ve taken an unusual career path - what inspired you?
My dad – he got me and my siblings working in his restaurant during most summer holidays, so I had entrepreneurship drilled into my head from a young age!


What have you done that you are most proud of?
Seeing how funds from our Spanish lessons have translated into tangible results – we’re working closely with a Guatemalan charity, Asociación Fatima, which helps vulnerable families at risk of malnutrition. To date we’ve helped them set up their own website so that they can publicise and collect donations on a wider scale, and also used funds from our lessons to fix their roof so there’s now a place to train women to sew and sell their products.


What drives you?
I get an adrenaline rush whenever a new customer signs up - whether it’s an individual or company. I don’t think that feeling will ever go away.


How do you balance work and life?
At the moment it is more work than life, but there are definite perks. Travelling to Guatemala to see the teachers is more like a holiday dressed up as a business trip!


What are your favourite memories of your years at Warwick?
Deciding to walk to Warwick castle (along the motorway), sleeping on the tennis courts outside Rootes, Top Banana, Tuesday nights at Smack, setting up camp in the library break-out area, and making lifelong friends.


Is there anything you wish you had done differently during your time as a student?
I honestly can’t think of anything! Warwick for me, gave me some of the best years of my life and I wouldn’t have changed anything.


What would you tell someone thinking of studying at Warwick?
Definitely do it! Some of my fondest memories are from my time at Warwick, and the campus experience can’t be beaten. I made my best friends there, the teaching is first class and my lungs were probably a lot healthier from breathing in all that fresh air.


Do you have any advice for new graduates?
Don’t get too hung up on finding the perfect job straight after university. Life takes so many unexpected twists and turns so take time to enjoy yourself!


Where do you hope to be in 10 years’ time?
I hope to have expanded the school into new areas – for example offering students the opportunity to do homestays in Guatemala combined with language classes. Also to have set up similar Spanish schools in other Latin American countries, and expanding our ethical focus.


June 05, 2015

Building a green submarine

rfLater this month, a team of eight Engineering Masters students from Warwick will compete in the International Submarine Race in the United States, with a submarine they’ve designed themselves over the last academic year. We spoke to team leader Richard Freeman to find out more.


Tell us a bit about Warwick Sub

Warwick Sub is a project involving eight Masters students planning to enter the International Submarine Race at the David Taylor Basin in Washington, US.

Over the last seven months we’ve designed and manufactured an innovative human-powered submarine, meeting the criteria set by the race organisers. During the race it’ll be flooded on the inside and one of our team members will be inside, in scuba gear, piloting the submarine using a powertrain similar to a bike to power a set of propellers at the back.


How did you get involved?

The project itself – designing a submarine – is part of our Masters course, and it’s worth 25% of our year. We’ve produced a technical report detailing the project and justifying the decisions we’ve made.

However, manufacturing the machine and entering the submarine race is an extra-curricular project which we chose to do ourselves. We decided we really wanted to use the knowledge gained from our degree to make something practical and impressive and to have the satisfaction of seeing our final product put to the test!


Is this the first year Warwick has taken part?p1080351.jpg

No – it’s actually the third year a team from the University has been involved in this project. In the first year the team came up with some design concepts, and last year the Warwick team both designed and made a submarine and entered it into the race.

They used some novel techniques, such as 3D printing the propellers! The final machine was very slow but incredibly robust and they did really well, coming fourth overall for design and second out of the UK teams.


How have you designed this year’s entry?

We’ve decided to try something a bit new this year. The submarine we’ve designed uses innovative materials and green technology, including a hybrid composite hull made from glass fibre and a natural fibre made of flax – a derivative of linseed.

green_v12.jpgSome of our sponsors have got on board because they’re keen to see the outcomes of using this green technology that hasn’t been used before.

We’ve gone for a modular design, so the submarine flat packs into a small crate to minimise the cost of shipping it over to America. And making the submarine as safe as possible is obviously a priority as well.


How have you found the project?

I’ve really enjoyed being involved in the project. It’s been a pleasure working with such a motivated team of people – we all have different areas of expertise and I think that’s made us very effective as a team. Our supervisor, Dr Ian Tuersley, and other members of staff including Nigel Denton and John Flower have been very engaged and supportive.

There’s been a lot to achieve in a limited amount of time. As well as completing the project and getting ready for the race we’ve been involved in several outreach activities, including exhibiting at the Imagineering show, encouraging young children to get involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) activities. Two of our team members went to Aberdeen to exhibit at the Subsea Expo a couple of months ago as well.


So what will happen at the race?

The race will be going on for a week at the end of June at the David Taylor Basin, a missile testing facility in Washington. It’s basically a mile-long swimming pool! This year it’s a drag race – so you have to go as fast as possible. We’re hoping to reach about 6 knots.

warwick_sub_team2.jpgWhen we get over to the States we’ll have a bit of time to test out the submarine – things may well break but hopefully we’ll be able to fix them. We’re planning to do some testing in Stoney Cove diving centre near Leicester before we get over there to iron out any kinks.

There’ll be other universities from the UK competing, as well as lots from the States and a few from Germany and the Netherlands. It’ll be great to meet them and discuss the different approaches other teams have used.

Realistically there are some fantastic teams competing and it would be a big ask to come top in the design category, but coming in the top three would be brilliant – and we’d love to win the award for best use of composites.


What’s next for you? Do you think this project will help you in your future career?

Absolutely. I’ve been offered an engineering job at Rolls-Royce and from my year in industry that I spent there last year it’s quite apparent that the skills I’ve developed through this project will be invaluable in my career there – for example the ability to document your work correctly in a visually appealing way, the ability to coordinate properly and knowing how to have the right conversations with the right people.

During the Warwick Sub project I’ve acted as the team leader and it’s been incredibly useful to gain experience in leadership and project management. I’ll definitely be taking a lot of valuable experience with me thanks to this project.


Update 30/06/2015: We're delighted to report that the team was awarded first place for innovation in the competition! Congratulations!


May 15, 2015

Extending the classroom

Technology has had a huge impact on the way students learn at university over the last few decades. But is it true to say there’s been a ‘digital revolution’ in education? And how could technology transform learning further at Warwick in the years ahead? We spoke to Amber Thomas, who leads the Academic Technology team in IT Services, to hear her thoughts.

What is 'academic technology'?Amber2

Academic Technology is the application of technology to support learning, teaching and research. It encompasses software, digital content, hardware devices and the technology in physical and online learning spaces. My team in IT Services run several services and we advise on the effective use of technology for teaching and research. I've been at Warwick for over two years now and I love this role. It's hugely varied, much more about people than about computers.

How important is technology to academic work?

Feeling competent and confident with technology is an important part of modern life, and that includes skills development, study, research and communication. Digital literacy is not about learning particular software or learning to code: it’s about using technology to help you do what you want to do, whether that's managing information, crunching data, presenting an argument or communicating with your peers.

Some technology decisions are individual, but it’s when people use it in groups that it gets really interesting. That’s why universities have to make smart choices to ensure that technology enhances student experiences, supports research and improves processes.

Is there a digital revolution in education?

You sometimes hear people saying that education hasn't changed since Victorian times, but I don't think that's true at all. On the contrary, there have been many shifts in teaching practice and curriculum approach in all levels of our education system. Even in large lecture theatres, students can be online, academics can use media clips and draw on visualisers, the lecture can be easily recorded for recap, and students can share notes afterwards.

Assessment evolves too: as well as essays, assignments can be by video or portfolio, students can be assessed for group work and work can be submitted online. Most of all, the web has changed learning. My seven year old has grown up in a world where the answers to his questions can be looked up on Wikipedia or YouTube. He makes PowerPoint presentations, builds in Minecraft and has no fear of computer code. Imagine what his generation's university coursework will look like! I think it’s exciting, but it’s evolution, not revolution.

What’s the next step in evolution then?

Right now, we’re working hard to enrich the extended classroom so that students have access to what they need, when they need it, wherever they are. Moodle is a web-based system that enables academics and administrators to make a website for each module that brings together the information, learning materials and activities for each module.

It is used all over the world and because it is 'open source', many hundreds of people contribute improvements in code, so it's always evolving. We’re rolling it out at Warwick to improve access, flexibility and consistency. Echo360 is a lecture capture system that records the academic’s slides and voice so that it’s easy to recap lectures.

MyPortfolio is a tool that individuals can use to present their work, reflect on progress, and keep track of their learning. There are also developments in our teaching spaces and in our administrative systems and taken together these amount to a big step forward. I think getting these things right creates a flexible and inclusive learning environment, and that’s what helps students thrive.

extendedlearner2.jpgIs technology changing research too?

The web makes it possible to redesign the way information is shared. There was a lot of buzz that massive open online courses, 'MOOCs', would disrupt higher education, but the web has also enabled open access to research outputs and I think that might be the long term disruption, it’s just slower.

Over the last decade many more research outputs have become available to many more people. I believe open access brings advances in science, social science and the humanities, it oils the interdisciplinary wheels and it aids public understanding of academic work. Add to that the growth in data-rich methods in disciplines like politics and history, an explosion in ways of presenting ideas, and the future of scholarship looks exciting.

What will Warwick’s use of technology look like in another 50 years?

As a proud owner of a new smartwatch, I’d love to make an accurate guess on how education will make use of wearables, but I’ll leave that to the researchers! What I do know is that universities are full of smart people who work hard to create and communicate knowledge. There are certainly exciting times ahead with student-owned devices in the 'extended classroom', and advances in research collaboration. The answer isn’t always technology, and technology isn’t a panacea to every problem, but it can be an enabler of progress. My hope is that all staff and all students develop their digital literacies so that as new technologies come along they can make the most of them.


March 20, 2015

What was life like at Warwick in the 70s?

Alumna

In this week's 50@50 we meet Warwick alumna Bojusia Wojciechowska, who studied History from 1972-75 followed by a masters in Comparative British and European Social History from 1975-76.

Since studying at Warwick Bojusia has spent almost all of her working life in higher education, both as an instructor and administrator. She is currently Dean of Professional Studies & Workforce Development at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, Massachusetts.


Why did you choose Warwick?

I wanted a university which was not tied to tradition so that I could forge my own identity. I also wanted a self-contained campus, a good history department and a university with an active student life. Warwick made its way to my shortlist and, after I found out that it had opportunities for study abroad, it made its way to my top five. After visiting for my interview, I knew that this was the place for me.

What was your first day on campus like?

I knew that the University was a building site, so that was no shock. I was dropped off by my sister and her boyfriend who had driven me up from London in his Austin Morris Traveller. It was a relief when we got there as they were worried whether or not the car would make it. I was excited and nervous, in a good way. I felt that I was at the beginning of a great adventure.

My room was in Rootes Hall, 'L' block. I tried making my sister and her boyfriend a coffee but had no sugar, so they suggested I get to know my neighbour by knocking on her door and asking her for some; very corny. Still, I did ask her; she was a 3rd year English student whom I rarely saw during the rest of the year. It was exhilarating to be there; I could discover myself and be myself. The people I could see looked like 'my type of person', what my parents would have called 'hippies.' I was very happy to meet my other neighbours, two of whom were from my part of London. I had no culinary skills: one of them had to show me how to use the cooker! We remain good friends to this day.

What did you imagine your time at university would be like?

I would work hard and play hard. Life would be very full and I would experience a lot of new things and meet lots of different people.

How close was the reality to your imagination?

Very close. Obtaining a history degree was no cake walk. I worked very hard. The Department Chair, Professor Jack Scarisbrick, told us that we had to have the 'moral fibre' to succeed; this was his justification for giving us full-blown finals which determined our course grades. That put us under a lot of pressure, especially if we were planning to continue our studies after we earned our BA.

Socially and politically, Warwick was very vibrant and was acquiring a reputation for itself as a left-wing campus with a very active students' union. There was always something going on and we watched the campus grow. New buildings were constantly going up. You felt like a pioneer participating in the growth of a new community.

What’s your favourite memory of Warwick?

There are many, but the friendships were key. My 21st birthday was celebrated in Tocil flats where I lived with a group of friends. Most of us lived together in the same flat for two years so we got to know each other pretty well. For my birthday we had food and music in our kitchen - the music provided by our own resident group, Bretton. I recorded the performance and gave the members of the band a copy of the tape a few years ago.

What do you regret?

This is a tough one to answer! I don't believe in regrets and thinking "what if..." I prefer "carpe diem".

Do you keep in touch with any friends from Warwick?

Yes, many. Although I have been living in the USA for almost 30 years, we stay in touch and when we get together it doesn't feel like we've ever been apart.

How did you imagine the future when you were at Warwick?

Anything was possible. We were all full of optimism and fortunately did not anticipate the tragedies that some of us later experienced in life. It is a confirmation of the strength of our friendships that we have been able to support each other throughout the good and bad times that some have experienced. I decided on my first day that I would not leave higher education until I got my PhD, and that I would work in academia. I achieved those goals.

How has Warwick influenced your life?

It enabled me to solidify my beliefs, and to make sense of my values and priorities, which have changed little to this day. I believe that Warwick enabled me to become the person I am. The environment at Warwick, particularly at the Labour History Centre where I obtained my MA in Comparative Social History, fuelled my passion for grass roots history and social justice. Whereas there have been opportunities for me to work in the 'ivory tower’, my research focus has been on populations who have traditionally not had a voice and, in terms of my work, to contribute to institutions that create opportunities for the economically and educationally disadvantaged.

What do you think has been the most important invention of the last 50 years?

The computer. Not the Charles Babbage or Alan Turing machines, but the multi-purpose, portable gadgets which have us permanently connected to the outside world.

What do you think has been the most substantial cultural change of the last 50 years?

Civil rights, which includes rights for minorities, those with physical and mental disabilities, and various sexual orientations.

What are the best book, film and album of the 1970s?

That's difficult to answer as there was a big shift in culture from the early to the late seventies, especially in music. That being said:

  • Non-fiction: All the President's Men
  • Fiction: Roots
  • Films: Apocalypse Now
  • Album: early 70s: Dark Side of the Moon
  • Album late 70s: Saturday Night Fever

If you could offer one piece of advice to current students what would it be?

Have an open mind and try everything. See yourself as a canvas with a charcoal sketch to which you are going to add colour and details. Get involved in social issues; if you don't do it now when will you?



Would you like to contribute a post to our 50@50 series or know someone who we should feature? Get in touch at 50th.anniversary@warwick.ac.uk.

February 20, 2015

Imagining the future of language

With Associate Professor Stephanie Schnurr, Centre for Applied Linguistics
For this week's 50@50 post we asked Dr Stephanie Schnurr from our Centre for Applied Linguistics to consider the question, 'What if we all spoke the same language?' Would speaking the same language mean we would all work and do leadership the same way across the world, or would differences remain? Watch Stephanie's answer below.





Would you like to be featured in our 50@50 series or know someone who would? Get in touch at 50th.anniversary@warwick.ac.uk.


February 06, 2015

Between Snow and Stars

tom_vaillant2.jpg

In this week's 50 @ 50 post, we speak to Warwick Business School student Tom Vaillant, who's on course to graduate in Warwick’s 50th year having achieved more than a degree during his time here. The 22-year-old from France, in the final year of his BSc in Management at WBS, has just finished producing a feature-length film set on Everest and in the Arctic, ‘Between Snow and Stars’, which he filmed alongside his studies.


Tell us a bit about the project.


Alongside studying, I’ve been working on my production company, Rockline, which was primarily founded to produce, finance and distribute ‘Between Snow and Stars’. The project brought me to amazing places, such as exploring with renowned mushers and climbers in the Arctic and on Everest. I set up the production company during my first year at Warwick.


How have you found the experience? What have been the highlights?


I’ve loved combining two of my passions on these projects – sports and cinematography. Seeing the film for the first time on the big screen at Kendal Film Festival was stressful, as it’s been such a long ride! However the hardest part was showing it to our Kickstarter backers in London, as they’ve been there from the very beginning.


I’ve learnt a lot from my experiences and mistakes; hopefully coming out of this I will have acquired a useful skill set. And Warwick has proved to be a great place to come back to!


What was the most challenging aspect?


Filming at -40C certainly has its challenges, including the danger of frostbite. I made it to 8,000m on Everest – and discovered on my return that I’d lost 20 kilograms during the climb. I spent my second year both studying and filming – I must hold a record for submitting an essay at the highest altitude!


Juggling my studies and the project has definitely been challenging, but the University has been really supportive, including allowing me to take a year out to freelance (working three jobs to fund the creation of the soundtrack and the colour grading) and complete the project.


What has being a student at Warwick made possible for you?


Warwick is very open to creating opportunities for their students. Most institutions would have outright refused my project or my request for a year out in the middle of my degree - and I wouldn't have been able to pursue my goal to its end. Instead I'm on my way to graduating with a degree from a prestigious university. For this I am very grateful.


It's very easy for students here to embark on personal endeavours. Entrepreneurs have many societies and incubators to choose from and Warwick actively endorses students’ ideas. The University has a brilliant network and was not afraid to use it to help me. WBS helped to launch my project by featuring me in press releases in France and the UK, which gave me the necessary credibility to get sponsorship.


I found that everyone at WBS was very approachable, the mindset towards these extracurricular activities is not something I can imagine finding in many universities.


How would you like to see the next 50 years at Warwick?


In the future I would like this spirit to grow, so that aspiring students with entrepreneurial ambitions will know that they are applying to a university that will not only let them carry on their projects but help them achieve them. Many industries have become increasingly competitive to enter, and will not suit everyone, so I think it’s important to keep a dynamic campus by continuing to encourage students to create their own jobs if they want to. I think incentivising this behaviour as part of a core module in some departments would be incredible!


What’s next for Between Snow and Stars?


We’ve recently secured an agreement with Outside Television to make the film available to 30 million homes in North America, which is fantastic news. The film has also been accepted in a few film festivals on the other side of the Atlantic and a teaser has been staff picked by Vimeo. I’m waiting to hear from Channel 4 about the possibility of distributing the film here in the UK.


What’s next for you?


I’d love to pursue a career in sports media production and I’m a finalist in the Red Bull Graduate programme, so I’m working towards that goal in the run up to my finals this summer. Right now, I’m looking forward to enjoying student life at Warwick for my last few months on campus!


Watch the trailer for Between Snow and Stars below and look out for it on the Big Screen Piazza from Friday 6 February. You can see more of Tom’s award-winning images here or on Instagram @tomvaillant.


Would you like to be featured in our 50 @ 50 series or know someone who would? Get in touch at 50th.anniversary@warwick.ac.uk.


January 29, 2015

Imagining the future of the internet

With Professor Irene Ng, WMG

The internet has changed the world significantly over the last few decades, but how could it transform our lives further in the future? Could everything be connected to the internet and, if so, what impact would this have?

Following this week’s hugely exciting announcement that Warwick will be one of the five universities leading the Alan Turing Institute for data science, today’s 50 @ 50 post features Professor Irene Ng, whose work focuses on data management. We asked her to consider the question ‘what if everything was connected to the internet?’Watch her answer below.




Would you like to be featured in our 50 @ 50 series or know someone who would? Get in touch at 50th.anniversary@warwick.ac.uk.


January 23, 2015

Looking back at 1965

In this week's 50 @ 50 post we meet alumnus Anthony Felix, who was one of the very first students at Warwick in 1965. Following his degree in Economics, Anthony went on to found a publishing company, create the world’s first public on-line interactive text information service and to be the first chairman of the North London Training & Enterprise Council. He is now a self-employed business consultant advising several Israeli start-up companies developing medical devices.

Why did you pick Warwick? Anthony Felix

When I was a sixth-former in Brighton I was caught up in the excitement of the opening of Sussex University – a new university on a new campus. Brighton became a different town. The influx of students brought great energy and vitality.

I wanted nothing more than to be one of those students but I also knew that to leave home was an essential component of the student’s experience. So when my time came to choose a university, I looked for a “Sussex away from home”. Warwick fitted the bill perfectly!

It must be said that Warwick developed its own distinct characteristics and certainly was not a carbon copy of Sussex. There is no doubt in my mind that Warwick gave me everything I had hoped for and more.

Was it a risk attending a new university?
There was no risk, as far as I was concerned, going to a new university was a fantastic opportunity to be fully involved from the start. I knew that in the first year of a new university, freshers would take the lead. I was chairman of several clubs and societies in the first term of the University’s life.

What was your first day on campus like? What were your impressions?
Having been interviewed in a porta-cabin on a building site, it was a great surprise to see a completed Gibbet Hill campus. I experienced a variety of emotions - saying goodbye to my mother who had driven me to the university from Brighton was sad, the thrill of arriving at the beginning of a new life and a little fear of “the unknown”.

What did you imagine your time at University would be like?
I expected more intensive tuition, a bit like sixth-form on steroids.

How close was the reality to your imagination?
Very different. I had more unstructured time. The work expected of us could be done at any time of the day or night. The “timetable” had so many blanks.

What’s your favourite memory of Warwick?
The memory that is most vivid has to be the first day – the day it all began for me and for the University. I can still feel the emotion and the atmosphere in the lecture theatre when Jack Butterworth told us how he and the other founders of the University had looked forward to our arrival.

What do you regret?
Nothing!

Do you keep in touch with any friends from Warwick?
Life has taken me and my student contemporaries in different directions and so the great friendships of those three years did not survive the transition. There is only one friend, now in the USA, with whom I stayed in touch for many years. It is sad that it is so easy to drift apart but such is the consequence of new pressures, new relationships and different environments.

How did you imagine the future when you were at Warwick?
I had not formed a clear vision of the future – I took each day as it came and tried to make the best choices among the available ways forward.

How did Warwick influence your life?
Warwick gave me the opportunity to take responsibility, to lead and to create new organisations. I started a business within two years of leaving Warwick and built a successful publishing company. I established the North London Training & Enterprise Council and was the founding Chairman of the Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust. I have Warwick to thank for helping to provide me with the necessary tools for what we would now call a “start-up”.

What do you think has been the most important invention of the last 50 years?
The power off facility on the iPhone

What do you think has been the most cultural change of the last 50 years?
Multicultural society

What’s the best book, film and album of the last 50 years?
Book -The Power of One by Bryce Courtney
Film – Dr Zhivago
Album – Leonard Cohen – Live in London

If you could offer one piece of advice to current students what would it be?
Don’t hold back, don’t wait and see, go for it.

Would you like to contribute a post to our 50 @ 50 series? Get in touch at 50th.anniversary@warwick.ac.uk.

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