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December 09, 2015

How has Warwick changed since 1965?

JAnd AEarlier this year, around a hundred of Warwick's very first students came back to campus for a reunion coinciding with the Festival of the Imagination, the pinnacle event of our anniversary year. One of the organisers of the reunion was John Rothenberg, who studied Economics and Mathematics at the University from 1965 - 1968. We invited one of our current Economics students, Amanda Dedmon, to interview John about his time at Warwick and how his experiences at the University have benefited his career.

As some of you might remember, this year, the University of Warwick celebrated its 50th birthday with a weekend of the ‘Festival of Imagination’. The weekend was filled with a diverse range of events that showcased the work done at Warwick focused around a central theme of ‘Imagining the Future’. The events ranged from cookery demonstrations to talks and debates, with lectures on the future of science and some wonderful market stalls colouring the Piazza!

The 50th anniversary also celebrated some of the first students at Warwick, who began their degrees in 1965. I was given the opportunity to interview one of these former students, John Rothenberg, who attended the University from 1965-68 and studied Economics and Mathematics.

We started the day bright and early at 10am in a quiet corner of Radcliffe House, where the alumni were staying for a weekend of reminiscing of their years spent at university. It was a pleasure to meet Mr Rothenberg, who was incredibly friendly and welcoming and eager to share his experiences of Warwick with me, and compare how much one place can change in only 50 years.

What struck me most during our conversation was the Students' Union and the clubs and societies that were available at Warwick in 1965. Today, I believe that we take for granted the vast range of societies and sports clubs that exist at Warwick – they are an integral part of university life, and something that I’m almost certain every student here gets involved in. But what are clubs and societies without members?

The very first students to arrive at Warwick in 1965 were the founders of the clubs and societies that we merely expect to be in place upon our arrival. Mr Rothenberg’s ambition and willingness to get involved in the creation of the Students' Union and various clubs, such as men’s football, struck me as very impressive – creating a successful club today would take considerable organisation and courage. The ability that Mr Rothenberg demonstrated at Warwick to adapt to new situations and create something huge from nothing benefited him hugely throughout his career.

In addition, the interview showed me that although there have been substantial changes to campus, the integral mission and philosophy of Warwick has remained much the same – a university that is determined to always improve and develop, never being complacent and always looking to the future. Warwick was one of the first universities to offer joint honour degrees, demonstrating a modern approach to education through blending the power of its strongest departments, before other universities realised the benefits of joint degrees.

As campus continues to evolve, it’s nice to know that Warwick will fundamentally never really change. The University will continue to be engaged with the local community, be home to a fiery Students' Union and top the national university tables in a wide range of subjects. When asked if he would choose Warwick today, Mr Rothenberg replied with an unequivocal yes!

We'll be posting excerpts from Amanda's chat with John in our next 50@50 post.

Amanda is one of our student bloggers, regularly sharing her experiences of life as an Economics student at Warwick. Take a look at her posts >>

December 07, 2015

Five favourite moments from Term 1


As the autumn term of our 50th year draws to a close, Psychology fresher Amreet Sarai shares her favourite moments from her first few weeks as a Warwick student.

Term 1 has been an amazing rollercoaster, being both overwhelming and exciting at the same time. Of course there are many memories that I've made within the space of just over two months, but I'll recount my top five favourite moments for you all.

1. Joining societies

Going to the society fairs during freshers' week was so much fun, since we were able to explore what was on offer and were shocked by all the cool and unordinary societies that you wouldn't expect to exist. I especially loved going to all the meet and greets because I got to meet so many new people. One that I have pictures from is the Asian Society (ASOC) meet and greet, where I don't seem to be having too much fun as I was concentrating on the presentation, but I promise it was so fun!


2. Diwali Henna Charity Event

When I saw the henna event pop up on my Facebook timeline, I was super excited because I love getting my henna done and the girls who were doing it were seriously good. The line was really long, however, but I was willing to wait as long as needed - I waited for two hours! The henna was great though and at an amazing price considering how skilled the girls were, so getting my henna done was definitely a highlight.


3. Halloween

Halloween week at Warwick was so fun, I'll never forget it. Me and my flatmates had planned two halloween outings, so for that reason I decided to do one scary look and one creative look - I love makeup and art! Our first outing was a bar crawl across Leamington Spa which then ended at Neon, all hosted by the Uni Express. It was definitely a long and tiring night, but one which was a great laugh.

Our second halloween event was the Halloween Ball at the Warwick SU Copper Rooms, which was great fun and required much less travelling! For this night, I created a Bambi look which took me forever but it was funny to see people's reactions to my different halloween looks. The events that I've attended to in the Copper Rooms have varied, some I've loved, some not so much... But the Halloween Ball had a great mix of Halloween music and contemporary music!


4. Baking

My source of procastination and go-to task when I'm bored is to bake. I have had times when I've simply been craving snacks, but other times I've just found it fun to bake with my flat mates. I first made a chocolate cake for everyone, which disappeared in ten minutes... and recently I made some amazing oreo cookies which also didn't last very long! Nonetheless, it was a fun thing to do and something different from watching Netflix all day!


5. Skool Dayz

Skool Dayz was another great event hosted by Warwick SU at the Copper Rooms! Everyone was dressed in their school attire and the music was a great mix of year 6 disco classics and current music, so it was a fantastic night that never got boring. I've found that the Warwick SU events that I don't expect to be that great turn out to be the best ones!


Amreet is one of student bloggers, regularly sharing her experiences of life as a Psychology student at Warwick. Take a look at her posts here >>

November 06, 2015

Krishnan Guru–Murthy visits campus for the Boar's 50th anniversary speaker series

ShanitaThis week Warwick honorary graduate Krishnan Guru-Murthy, journalist and presenter of Channel 4 News, came to campus as part of the Boar's 50th anniversary speaker series. First year Politics and International Studies student Shanita Jetha attended his Q and A session and tells us about it in today's 50@50.

Earlier this week I attended a question and answer session with Channel 4 presenter, journalist and Warwick honorary graduate Krishnan Guru-Murthy. This was organised by the Warwick Boar (Warwick's student newspaper, I highly recommend any eager writers to get involved :D ) at the Warwick Arts Centre. Last year, I attended a 'Young People's Question Time' event in Parliament which was chaired by Krishnan, so it was great to see him again and be able to ask him some questions this time! I found the Q&A both interesting and inspiring, so thought I should share some of what he said.

The event started with an introduction from Krishnan, explaining how he became a television presenter and what encouraged him to enter this field. Krishnan recieved an offer from the University of Oxford to study medicine but changed his mind, deciding to take a gap year and reapply to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics instead. During his gap year, he was given the opportunity to present on BBC2 and discovered a new passion.

Krishnan's drive allowed him to do something he finds enjoyable. Emphasising the importance of working hard, he said: "If you are interested in journalism, there are still lots of opportunities out there." A favourite quote of mine: "never give up, you never know how close you are to success." Take on any new opportunity which comes your way, and don't forget university is a time to try new things and get out of your comfort zone!

There were many questions asked, such as:

  • Who is your favourite interviewee?- "The ones you enjoy are the ones that are the most powerful"
  • Is the news too depressing?- "There are times when I certainly wouldn't let my children watch [the news]"
  • Do you think social media campaigns can be just as effective at holding politicians to account as journalists?- "It's important to remember that social media isn't necessarily a reflection of overall public opinion"
  • Do you think your interview style is controversial, if so why? - "Ultimately yes I do, as this is the best way to get answers"

This event was part of the Warwick Boar speaker series, to celebrate Warwick's 50th anniversary. There are lots of events taking place across campus, covering various academic disciplines.

For instance Warwick Business School alumnus Tobias Wagnert gave a talk on mergers and acquisitions two days ago as part of their series of guest lectures. Similarly, Rolls-Royce gave a presentation to engineering students explaining their contribution to the aviation industry.

These events are great for students to engage in debates and learn more about a particular field, possibly even one you hadn't thought about before.

Big thanks to Warwick for organising these!

Shanita is blogging about her time at Warwick on our Student Blogs page. Take a look at her posts >

October 07, 2015

Student theatre at Warwick

samIn August, a group of Warwick students performed a play they had devised at the Edinburgh Festival. Sam Thorogood, an English and Theatre finalist, tells us about the experience and how theatre outside of his course has played a huge role in his time at university.

How have you been involved in theatre outside of your course at Warwick?

I started becoming interested in theatre towards the end of secondary school and during my time at sixth form college, primarily with acting. Warwick has provided the opportunity to try out roles like producing and directing: roles that I never in a million years would have expected to fill three or four years ago.

In first year I was lucky enough to act in a variety of shows, whilst this past year I’ve focused more on producing and directing. Generally, doing shows outside the course has given me a really solid grounding in what it means to create theatre.

I’m really excited to currently be co-directing a brilliant piece of new writing called The Faithless Healer, which is going to be performed at the Arts Centre at the end of October.

How did you come to perform at the Edinburgh Festival, and how was it?

Our company, Clown Funeral, was formed from a group of likeminded student theatre-makers who thought: hey, why not try and get our work out there? So we did, with a devised show called Mr Poe’s Legendarium. We got in touch with one of the Edinburgh Fringe venues (C Venues) and took it from there.

The whole experience was great: from creating the show over a series of workshops and more intensive rehearsals to sharing it with over 500 people throughout August.

theatreHow do you hope student theatre at Warwick will develop over the next 50 years?

I hope it stays fresh, exciting and daring, and continues to attract a whole host of ambitious theatre-makers into its fold!

Do you have any advice for any freshers considering getting involved in theatre here?

Go for it! Especially if you’ve never done anything remotely theatrical before. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

What do you hope to do after graduation?

I hope I’ll continue to create theatre, whether that’s with Clown Funeral or not. I’m also really interested in community theatre projects, and I’m currently looking into career paths in that area.

Sam has been involved in the Tech Crew, Codpiece Theatre, Freshblood New Writing, and WUDS societies at Warwick.

The full list of performance societies on offer at Warwick can be found on the Students' Union website.

June 26, 2015

Student journalism at Warwick

Sian Elvin

Sian Elvin has just completed her degree in English Literature at Warwick and is set to start a course in journalism at the Press Association in August. Throughout her degree she’s been heavily involved in student newspaper the Boar, working in a number of roles over the last three years including deputy editor. We caught up with her to find out more about her experiences there and to hear her thoughts on student journalism.

Why did you choose to come to Warwick?

As soon as I clapped eyes upon the piazza I absolutely fell in love with Warwick. The community aspect of a campus university was something I had always wanted to be a part of, and learning that Warwick Students’ Union boasted the most societies in the UK made me even more excited. And I was certainly proved right!

How and why did you get involved in the Boar?

As soon as I came to university I knew that I wanted to get involved in student media with the eventual aim of a career in journalism, so I threw myself right in at the deep end and joined the Boar and RaW in my very first week at Warwick. And I never looked back - before I knew it I’d become deputy news editor in my first term and then news editor in my second term. I remained news editor for the rest of my first year and my second year and then became deputy editor in my final year. I was certainly in it for the long haul!

Do you know anything about the history of the Boar?

The paper was founded in 1973, incorporating the old student newspaper of the 1960s, Campus. Why it was actually called the Boar remains a bit of a legend - it was supposed to be some kind of pun on the fact that the town of Warwick's symbol was a bear, but no one really knows. It’s had a name change a couple of times - for a few terms it was even called Mercury - but somehow the bizarre animal has stuck with us.

How has the Boar changed over the years? Have there been any key moments in the Boar’s history?

In 1990 the paper became free and that's when everything kicked off really - we started to be nominated for awards left, right and centre. In 2006 we received 17 nominations in both the Guardian and the NUS awards, which we believe is a record for student media. And in 2013 we celebrated our 40th anniversary, which also saw us winning the Ones to Watch Student Publication of the Year. That was definitely one to celebrate!


What are your favourite memories from your time with the Boar?

It sounds ridiculous but throughout my time at the Boar, asides from the pub, I've spent most of my time in our office in the Union. I've experienced pretty much everything in there - I've laughed, I've cried (with both misery and joy), I've sweated in fear, and I've even slept in there when the going got tough.

We've argued about which hard-hitting story should go on the front page; we've screamed with frustration when Photoshop just won't edit a strand of hair in the right way; once I was even enveloped in a wad of bubble wrap and went rolling down the corridor, much to the confusion of Union staff. And all those things for me outline my entire university experience: it's been hard and sometimes I thought we wouldn't get there, but every single fortnight another paper magically goes to print, and it’s just so worth it in the end.

What’s been the best thing about being involved in the Boar?

When I was younger I always saw journalists as being really intelligent, knowing a little bit about everything. And the Boar gives you the chance to do that - on a campus-wide scale, at least! You get to meet a wide assortment of people who you likely would never have spoken to before and, in my opinion, it's the perfect way to get a slice of life from the campus bubble and properly get involved with the Warwick community.

What’s next for you? How do you think your time with the Boar will help you in the years ahead?

After graduation I will be taking an NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) diploma course at the Press Association in Victoria, London. Without a doubt my involvement with the Boar got me my place there, and I've learned some skills that I just could not have got from my degree - writing to a print deadline, subediting, using InDesign and manipulating pictures in Photoshop. I’ve also made some fantastic connections as well as friends for life; some Boar alumni now work for ITN, the Telegraph, Twitter, local newspapers and more.

How do you think student journalism will evolve in the future?

Actually we're in a very fortunate position at the Boar in this moment in time and I see us being one of the pioneers leading the future of student journalism. Unlike most student newspapers in the UK, we are editorially independent from the Students’ Union which means we are fully able to hold both the University and the Union to account without a staff member editing what we publish. Other student newspapers in the country are now looking for more freedom and want help from publications like us to help them become independent - in the financial sense, too. None of our editorial staff are paid and we rely on self-generated advertising revenue to keep us running, so we don't need much support from the University or the Union.

I’m about to take on the position of Midlands officer at the Student Publication Association too, so I’ll be watching (and helping!) the development of student journalism with interest, and will hopefully still be involved with the future of the Boar.

What advice do you have for students wanting to get into journalism?

Whether you're dead-set on becoming a hardcore news reporter or just fancy writing a couple of film reviews, your student paper is the best place to start - purely because it's so flexible. The Boar has 15 different sections, as well as a subediting and business team you can get involved with, so it's definitely not just for English students! You can write every week or just once a term if you want to, and all it takes is a tiny email or Facebook message to the section editor to get started. And finally - student media is the best place to practise your journalistic pursuits before you hit the real world. You're allowed to make mistakes!

Pictured below: Godfrey Rust, the very first editor of the Boar in c.1975 (photo credit: Jake Bernard), celebrating the Boar's 40th anniversary in 2013, and the newspaper's Exec team for 2013-2014.

Editor Boar birthdayold exec

June 19, 2015

Kiestar: The 'social network of talent'


Economics student Idris Sami is a young entrepreneur at Warwick who recently launched his own internet startup, Kiestar, alongside his studies. We find out more in this week's 50@50.

What is Kiestar?

The idea of Kiestar came to me because I realised that there's a lot of undiscovered talent out there. Talented people whose skills are simply not getting the attention they deserve, whether that's singing, playing an instrument, doing magic or anything else!

I believe that anyone can become famous. I want everyone's talents to not merely be seen, but also appreciated. My platform is ideal for the many creative people out there who want an opportunity to become the star of the moment. Simply put, Kiestar is the social network of talent.

What help did you get here at Warwick?

The team at the Warwick Incubator have offered their support in the form of feedback and suggestions, which have been really helful, particularly regarding the website. Being at Warwick has been helpful for many reasons - the University staff have been really supportive, advising me and making things easier for me by getting a hall and equipment for our Kiestar Performance Night.

How does Kiestar work? How can people get involved?

Kiestar is a platform for people to share their talents with the world. It's a place where everyone can become famous. We wish to reach out to all those hidden passions and give them the stage they deserve! It’s so easy to become buried underneath the millions of songs and videos on the internet. We operate as a creative outlet in order to allow the community to bring forward the stars. Our points system is designed specifically for this purpose, as our community selects a 'star of the moment' every month.

It’s very simple to get involved: you can sign up on our website in a matter of seconds by logging in with your Facebook account. This automatically generates your profile by using your Facebook information and you can get started on Kiestar right away. From here you can both display and promote your own talent or you can browse our platform for new talents and vote for who you think should become the next star of the moment.

What happens to your ‘star of the moment’?

The star of the moment is displayed on our homepage and gets invited to perform for an audience at our monthly Kiestar Performance Night. Additionally, we want our stars to be seen outside of the internet, promoting them via serveral media outlets. It may seem out of reach now but in the future we also hope to reach out to record labels and movie producers to promote our stars. We will do our very best to make sure our stars are seen and heard!

Where do you see Kiestar going?

Our concept has worked very well here on campus and has brought us our first star of the moment. I now want to apply the concept at a larger scale by reaching out to Coventry University and then expand further to Birmingham. After that it would be great to select a star of the moment for all of the UK. The ultimate aim is to go global and have Kiestar become an international platform, so that people all over the world can share their talents with others.

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 01, 2015

50@50: Student fundraising at Warwick

Warwick RAG (Raising and Giving) is one of the largest student societies on campus, with 1,300 members this year. We spoke to the society’s president, Andy King, to hear about some of his favourite memories from his time with RAG and what he hopes it’ll achieve in the future.
Andy King

RAG has played a huge part in English and Philosophy finalist Andy King’s Warwick experience since his very first week at university. “I went to a RAG social on my third night at Warwick and really enjoyed it,” he says. “I got involved in RAG week shortly after that and when one of the exec team decided to step down from her position as secretary at the end of term one, the president of RAG approached me to see if I’d be interested in taking up the role, which I was! It was great to be given responsibility like that during my first year.”

Andy spent his second year as a volunteer officer for the society before being elected president last year, and it’s clear being involved has been one of the highlights of his time at Warwick. “I’ve had an amazing time with RAG – it’s a brilliant way to learn some new skills and increase your confidence while having fun and raising money for some fantastic causes.

“I also love the fact that it’s a very diverse society – out of our 1,300 members, 30% are international students and 5% are postgraduates, meaning you get to meet a wide range of people.”


RAG: Then and now

RAG is one of the oldest societies at Warwick, as the photos on the left from a RAG week in the 1960s show, but the society has gained increased momentum over the last decade.

“Over the last four years, we’ve started putting greater emphasis on collaborations with other societies and clubs, which has seen our fundraising increase massively”, Andy explains.

“A few years ago our fundraising hit £330,000, making Warwick the third biggest RAG in the country. Suddenly we were recognised as a major player in the RAG scene.”

This year Warwick RAG is aiming to raise £700,000, which would be the highest amount ever raised. To help achieve this, new international fundraising events have been introduced, including a trek to Kilimanjaro, the Uganda Gorilla Trek, the Guatemala Volcano Trek and the 3-peak challenge, as well as an annual skydive.


Another change this year has been the introduction of an opt-out process for RAG week, the annual event on campus which sees students being sent items in lectures and other fundraising activities.

“We were very keen to make sure RAG week is seen as a fun, light-hearted week to raise money for good causes rather than having people feel worried about it”, Andy explains.

“It was a big success and we raised £4,600 for the Teenage Cancer Trust.”

Looking ahead


Andy will graduate this summer and is now in the process of handing leadership of RAG over to a new president and her exec team, so what are his hopes for the society for the years ahead and how does he think student fundraising will develop in the future?

“Now that students are paying higher tuition fees, they’re understandably becoming increasingly concerned about their CV – and fundraising is a great addition to your CV! So I can only see student fundraising growing in the years ahead”, Andy says. “I also think more charities will start to work closer with student fundraisers – they’re starting to see the value in it and I think a lot of good work could be done through more collaboration.”

One change for Warwick RAG over the next academic year will be the introduction of a part-time, paid student staff member, who will focus on the administrative side of running the society.

“It’ll be really useful to have someone doing the behind-the-scenes work that will allow the exec to concentrate on delivering their goals”, Andy says. “I just want the new RAG team to keep up the good work and for the society to keep on growing!”

And what’s next for Andy?

“I’ve been offered a job as a Gorilla Project Coordinator for the charity East African Playgrounds, which I’m really excited about. After that I can imagine working in a managerial position in a charity – I like leading people and helping people achieve their goals, and a job in management in a charity would let me do just that.”

April 17, 2015

From Monash to Warwick

Warwick welcomed its first joint PhD student from PhilosophyMonash University, Thomas Ryan, last autumn. We caught up with him to find out how he’s finding life in the UK and what he hopes his experiences here will help him achieve in the future.

Why did you decide to get involved with the Monash Warwick Alliance joint PhD programme?

My supervisor at Monash drew my attention to the programme. I applied to take advantage of the existing research relationship between the two departments in my area of research and to interact with a broader philosophical community in the UK.

What does your PhD focus on and what are you working on at the moment?

I’m a philosopher, and I’m focusing on emotion in the work of Friedrich Nietzsche and what we can make of him as a “therapeutic” philosopher. At the moment I’m working through the history of the term “passion” and looking at Nietzsche’s relationship with classical and Christian ideas about the passions and their role in human life.

How are you finding life in the UK so far?

In the UK my life is much more campus-focused: I live just by the university and spend most of my time with other philosophy grads. This means the graduate community at Warwick is active and close-knit, but it’s been a big adjustment leaving Melbourne behind.

What are the similarities and differences between Warwick and Monash?

Both universities are similar ages and maybe because they are young, both are expanding internationally. Monash has campuses in a number of countries and I’ve seen Warwick wants to develop a presence in California.

The campus setting is probably the biggest difference - Melbourne’s certainly a much bigger city than Coventry. But because of this I think students at Warwick spend more time on and around campus, which means more things happen on campus.

What’s been your highlight at Warwick so far?

Presenting my work at 'Hellenistic Ethics from Nietzsche to Foucault' at Warwick last September. I’m a member of the Monash Warwick Alliance graduate project of which this conference was a part, and it was wonderful both to take part in the rich philosophical discussions the conference generated and to see the project’s first event come to fruition.

How is your year at Warwick benefitting your PhD?

I have a whole extra department of academics and graduate colleagues to explore ideas and arguments with, and being in the UK means I have access to a wide range of philosophical events happening all over the country and nearby in Europe.

In June of this year I’ll organise a conference, ‘Modern Appraisals of the Hellenistic Legacy’, in Prato, Italy. After that I’m particularly looking forward to the annual meeting of the Friedrich Nietzsche Society at the University of Hull.

How do you think your experience of living and doing part of your PhD in the UK will benefit you in the future?

Besides improving the quality of my PhD research, spending time in the UK gives me academic contacts for research collaboration down the line, as well as a broader perspective on the direction of philosophy worldwide.

What advice do you have for people considering taking part in the joint PhD?

I’d suggest they get in touch with graduate students in both departments, but especially at the university they will visit part way through their candidature. It’ll make finding their feet in a new country in the middle of their research much easier.

How do you hope the Monash Warwick Alliance will develop over the coming years?

Ideally more philosophy students will take part in both the joint PhD program and the funding opportunities offered by the Alliance. I hope collaboration between grad students becomes a lasting part of graduate study in both departments.

Find out more about the joint PhD programme >>

Learn more about the Monash Warwick Alliance >>

April 02, 2015

How could mobile phones improve health care?

Jocelyn2How could we utilise digital communication technologies to improve care for patients in areas with weak health systems? Warwick Medical School PhD student Jocelyn Anstey Watkins spent a year living in a rural region of South Africa as part of her PhD researching this topic. She tells us more about her experiences in this week’s 50@50.

In the summer of 2012, I gave up chopping strawberries at Wimbledon to attend my PhD interview. Before I knew it I’d been offered a studentship, generously funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and GE Healthcare Ltd. It was the start of a great three years which would take me back to my birthplace, South Africa, to live on a game reserve like I did during my childhood.

What does my PhD focus on? Well, the way I describe it to my granny is that it’s about ‘global public health and health systems strengthening’. As part of that I’m interested in digital communication technology and the role it can play in improving weak health systems and the delivery of care, in particular for patients with chronic illnesses and antenatal women in rural South Africa.

Warwick Medical School has a long-standing relationship with the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits)
in South Africa and so my PhD is a collaboration between the two universities.

12 months, 32 villages, 227 interviewees

As part of my PhD I spent 12 months living in Mpumalanga in northeast South Africa, where warthogs, zebras and giraffes lived right outside my house - and even a family of leopards at night!

I carried out my study at the Wits/MRC Agincourt Health and Socio-Demographic Surveillance Site, covering 32 villages and eight public health centres, and drove around in a 43-year-old green Land Rover called Lucy. We bonded over many a breakdown, sometimes in the torrential summer rains!

During fieldwork, I interviewed 227 people, from patients, doctors, and community members to government policy makers and traditional healers (who even shook the bones in their hut).
My aim was to try to understand patterns of current and potential uses of technology - predominately mobile phones. For example, how could we utilise phones to improve access to care for those in remote areas? How could we ensure people access their medication and attend their appointments through text reminders? Could people be diagnosed remotely through technology?

It was a fascinating experience, during which I learned to speak Xitsonga, the local language of the Shangaan tribe, and made all the elderly patients laugh when I attempted to tell them stories in their native tongue.

Jocelyn and LucyA passion for community engagement

Being back in Africa and working with people who have a passion for community engagement was fantastic. Wits have a strong relationship with the local community as they’ve been collecting census data for over 20 years at the study site.

The Learning Information, Dissemination and Networking Team are responsible for community liaison with the village leaders, which is based on trust and mutual respect, so all research is understood and accepted before being conducted.

This helped me to gain entry into the clinics and the community, which wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. I enjoyed seeing how welcoming the community were in wanting to learn about the research I was doing and the potential benefit to them in the future in terms of how the delivery of healthcare might change.


hut2.jpgChallenges to address

There are currently a host of challenges in the area that need to be addressed, particularly governance and accountability issues, poor (but improving) infrastructure and huge unemployment rates. Getting electronic/ mobile health to work and be of benefit to patients and health professionals is very much dependent on breaking some of these barriers.

Things are starting to move forward – last year the South African Department of Health launched Mom.Connect, which is a pregnancy registry and staged-based messaging SMS service for all antenatal women. But there’s much more work to be done.

It’s up to the academic community and social scientists like myself to understand why ICT interventions are working, for whom, when and why. I hope to make policy recommendations to the national government in South Africa in the near future about their mobile health strategy given that I have a good idea of what is happening in the rural areas.

Next steps

I’ve really enjoyed my PhD and have been fortunate enough to be led by inspiring professors, both now and during my Masters, which has made me want to pursue a career in academia. Not enough women who obtain a PhD continue into research. I want to apply for post-doc fellowships and hopefully one day lead a team of specialists working in sub-Saharan Africa on matters such as arthritis and obesity.

It’s either that or start a cupcake business!

SA hutMatlawomen.jpg

March 06, 2015

Where's Warwick?

In this week’s 50@50 post, third year History and Sociology student Jesal Sheta tells us about ‘Where’s Warwick?’, a project he’s organising this year to engage people with the University's 50th anniversary.

warwick3a.jpgwheres_warwicka.jpgWarwick musicWarwick8

I’m currently in my final year at Warwick and decided I wanted to organise a project this year for the 50th anniversary that would allow me to give something back to a university that has provided me with some great experiences and amazing memories over the last few years.

The concept behind ‘Where’s Warwick?’ is simple. Each week, a society or sports club from the University takes our Warwick bear to a location on campus and then takes a photo of it, making sure they don’t give away too many clues as to where the location is. The photograph is then posted on the Where's Warwick? Facebook page and people have to guess the location.

When we give the answer, we post some information about the history of that particular location on campus, reminding people about the University’s past and the 50th anniversary this year. Can you guess where Warwick is in the four pictures above? Answers below!

The project engages students and others with the 50th anniversary because it shows how the university campus has developed over the past 50 years. As we are now on the verge of redevelopment, we are in a great position both to look back and to look to the future to see what’s coming. The aim of the project over the coming year is to make people aware of how wonderful this university campus is and how every time it has changed it has provided new experiences for the students that are studying at the University.

I came up with the idea based on a similar project that I helped with in the summer of 2013 in my home town of Leicester. This project was run by Leicester City Council and involved placing a plastic duck around various locations in the city and asking people to guess where it was.

A duck was used then because of the common Leicester saying, 'Aye up m'duck'. A bear is used in the Where's Warwick project because I believe over the years it’s the animal that has been associated with Warwick and the University the most.

I think the 50th anniversary celebrations this year are going to be jesal2.jpggreat and I’m particularly looking forward to the art exhibition in the Mead Gallery, ‘Imagining a University: The University of Warwick Art Collection at 50’.

I’ve always admired the University's art collection and it’s something I mention on every campus tour that I give to prospective students. It’ll be brilliant to see such outstanding art in one exhibition.

Like Where’s Warwick? on Facebook >>

We're keen to feature as wide a variety of Warwick people in our 50@50 series as possible, including students, academics, support staff and alumni from all faculties and across departments. Know someone who you think we should feature in our 50@50 series? Get in touch at

Where's Warwick answers: 1) Warwick Arts Centre 2) Gibbet Hill campus 3) Avon Drama Studio 4) To be announced this week on the Where's Warwick Facebook page

February 13, 2015

Life as a mature student at Warwick

Sarah Brennan is on course to graduate with a degree in English and Cultural Studies this year, following six years of part-time study at Warwick through the Centre for Lifelong Learning. What's life like as a mature student and how challenging really is it to juggle a degree with a full-time job and family life? Sarah tells all in this week's 50@50 post.

What did you do you after leaving school? Sarah brennan
I left school in 1997 and commenced a GNVQ Art and Design course at Warwickshire College. Although I appreciated and admired art, especially artists such as Monet and Dali, unfortunately my drawing left a lot to be desired! So I finished the course and went in to the big wide world of work.

Why did you decide to study for a degree as a mature student?
After many years of working, I felt that in order for me to progress in any career path I would need to gain a degree. In addition to a degree being a neccessity, I had always felt that without a degree my education was incomplete.

Why did you choose to study English and Cultural Studies at Warwick?
I have always had a love of the arts but I have always been naturally good at English and creative writing, so an English degree was my first choice. I completed an English Higher Access Certificate in 2008, and then in 2009 embarked on the BA Hons English and Cultural Studies degree. Warwick was always my first choice as it has consistently ranked in the top ten of UK universities in the national league tables, so I knew this would bode well with future employers and open up many more employment opportunities.

How did you feel on your first day at Warwick?
Of course I was nervous, I had not studied for many years, I did not know anyone, and there is always going to be a little bit of self doubt in regards to your own skills and knowledge. The first evening was daunting but the lecturer was so welcoming that within the hour I felt confident enough to start offering my opinions and thoughts in class discussion.

How have you found the course?
The course is fascinating. It has incorporated so many different elements such as history, theory and psychology - themes I never once imagined I would be learning, let alone understanding! I have been introduced to so many amazing authors and texts. There have been many highlights, from receiving my first essay mark to my first class presentation.

I have been lucky as the majority of my classes have been mixed age groups. We all get on because we have a common interest, and I believe with the mix of ages it opens up a more diverse range of conversations and opinions.

What’s been the most challenging aspect of your degree?
Time management! As a part-time mature student I also work full time and I am a single mother to a teenager so, as you can imagine, my life is quite full on! I have to plan my time and prepare well in advance, but unforeseen circumstances make prioritising important.

Do you have any tips on how to balance study with work and home life?
It is difficult, but if you are determined to gain a degree then you will find a way. I tend to work to 'to do lists' and prioritise my workload. Prepare as much as you are able to in advance. I try and keep weekday evenings free so I can do my reading and prepare for the following week. I tend to spend them working on essays and researching - when I'm not taxiing my daughter and her friends around, that is!

What’s your favourite place on campus and why?
The Warwick Arts Centre would be an obvious choice as the building is still so modern and the facilities and events are great, but I have an affiliation to the Humanities Building as that is where it all started for me, and it is where I still spend most of my time now.

Do you have any favourite memories about your time at Warwick?
I have a few. My first essay, my first presentation, the people I have met along the way. The whole experience will be with me forever.

What are your plans after finishing your degree? What would you like to achieve in the future?
I have already applied for an MA in Eighteenth Century History and after that I would like to do a PhD. I just want to fulfill my potential and make the most of any opportunities that arise. My ultimate goal would be a career as a professor at a highly regarded institute such as Warwick.

How do you think your time at Warwick will help you achieve those goals?
Warwick has changed me as an individual in so many ways. Not only have I had the opportunity to increase my knowledge about a subject that I love, but it has helped me to grow personally and aspire to achieve more. I have been at Warwick for six years, and during this time I have acquired new skills and I have had many experiences which have given me a new found confidence. It is this confidence that will help me achieve a better future for my daughter and me.

Do you have any advice for people considering studying at Warwick as a mature student in the future?
Do it! What do you have to lose? You will have continued support throughout from your lecturers and your peers, and yes there will be times when you will doubt yourself but ultimately it will be worth it. A degree from Warwick in terms of career and personal progression is second to none. The sense of achievement you will feel will make it all worthwhile.

Would you like to be featured in our 50@50 series or know someone who would? Get in touch at

February 06, 2015

Between Snow and Stars


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

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