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December 15, 2015

The Warwick Student Newspaper Project


Coinciding with our 50th anniversary, the Modern Records Centre is currently working on a project to digitalise copies of our student newspapers from years gone by. Lizzie Morrison, Assistant Archivist at the Centre, tells us more.

If you want to learn about the history of this University from a student perspective then the best place to look is in the newspapers which were written by Warwick’s student population. However, the original print copies kept at the Modern Records Centre have become extremely fragile over time and are susceptible to damage caused by constant handling.

That’s why the Modern Records Centre took the decision a few years ago to embark upon a lengthy project to digitise and make them available online. A dedicated team undertook the scanning of every page of each issue of the mainboar4.jpg student newspapers, creating metadata and carrying out OCR work as they went along, and even now staff are hard at work to add to what’s already available through the Warwick Digital Collections pages. You can view the newspapers here:

At this website you will find issues of The Giblet and Campus and the first 50 editions of The Warwick Boar. Using the Advanced Search option will allow you to search for words or exact phrases in a range of different fields, such as Title, Page, Creator and Contributors. You can also narrow down your searches using the ‘Search by date’ option. So, if you studied at Warwick during the sixties and seventies why not try searching for photos of friends or looking for the events which defined your time here?

For everyone else, here are a few facts and some student journalism which may be of interest…

First things first, here’s an explanation of how Campus got its name (‘EXIT GIBLET’)……..

…… and a quick summary of how The Warwick Boar was shaped by its successive editors (‘Still BOARing After All These Years’)

…… and a photo from 1976 of the staff who worked on The Warwick Boar


Next …

A sample of the types of articles available on line so far :

‘Paxton in Berlin’

A student’s view of the University Art Collection, and a personal appraisal of the Women’s Liberation Movement: and 

But the best articles (and the most entertaining) cover everything that happened on campus, from student protests and antics to union politics. You can read interviews with academic staff and find out which famous bands visited Warwick.

The papers also show how the campus landscape changed. For example, it’s hard to believe that where the giant Let’s Not Be Stupid sculpture stands near the bus interchange there was once an inflatable student entertainment space known as the Air Hall. In a sneak preview of an issue not yet online, here’s the article all about it (see article to the right.)

If you want to find out what other headlines and stories have been uncovered from the pages of the The Giblet, Campus and The Warwick Boar look out for the tweets posted by @warwicklibrary. We hope you enjoy them!

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.

May 22, 2015

Warwick Arts Centre

Did you know that Warwick Arts Centre has sold over 9 million tickets since it opened in 1974? Or that it welcomes more than 750,000 people through its doors every year? In honour of our 50th anniversary Music Festival being held there this weekend, today's 50@50 is with the Arts Centre's Director of Planning and Operations, Andrea Pulford.

What does your role involve? Andrea
I lead and bring together many strands of work, ranging from strategic and financial planning to managing operational teams. Strategically this involves all areas of the organisation, identifying industry trends and managing change.

My job also includes overseeing areas such as HR, IT, facility, event and production management, maintenance, capital projects, security, customer service, health and safety, licensing, governance and risk management, and sustainability. You name it, I manage it!

In reality this can mean anything from working with stakeholders and funders, such as the Arts Council, local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships, to writing business plans, developing new products or events for our audiences, planning events such as political hustings or graduation ceremonies, through to ensuring the safety of children or animals as part of a performance.

I also work with colleagues in the Campus and Commercial Services Group and the University to deliver conferences, collaborative projects and civic functions at Warwick Arts Centre.

What’s your favourite thing about your role?
Sometimes I think I must have one of the most varied roles on campus. I really enjoy being able to balance strategic thinking with delivery, and love being part of wider management conversations contributing to the development of the University. Our focus is always about who we do it for. People - our audiences, students, staff, artists and visitors - are at the heart of what we do.

What’s your favourite thing about working at Warwick Arts Centre?
The variety is second to none, there’s never a dull moment! Where else could you find yourself involved in such diverse activities as strategic planning and leadership of an organisation firmly embedded in both arts and education sectors, meeting extraordinarily talented artists and experiencing world class contemporary and international art, through to watching the magical experience of hundreds of children gazing with wonder and awe as dinosaurs roam around the foyer?

Tell us a bit about the history of the Arts Centre.
Warwick Arts Centre was founded, 40 years ago, on the vision of Jack Butterworth, the University’s founding Vice Chancellor. He wanted to provide an arts centre at the heart of the campus to integrate the University with its local and regional communities and show that university education could offer creative and cultural opportunities to enhance academic study and quality of life – and I think we’ve done that.

Since opening in October 1974 we've sold over 9 million tickets to events, and have welcomed many superb artists from Dame Kiri Te Kanawa to The Smiths, from Mike Leigh to the artist Steve McQueen. Amazingly, the opening year included shows from companies who are still touring such as Hull Truck, the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, WuDs and London Contemporary Dance.

arts centreWhat have been some of the highlights in the Arts Centre’s history?
They are probably too numerous to mention, but I hear from some of our long-standing audiences about the stunning opening concert by the Philharmonia which was conducted by Sir Riccardo Muti. Also, Amy Winehouse performed here twice in her early career.

Russian and US film crews visited amongst the media furore of Thatcher the Musical. Another highlight was transforming the Hall for the memorable and internationally-acclaimed Black Watch.

Staff here also vividly remember the day that Bill Clinton and Tony Blair came to the Butterworth Hall. Our recent introduction of Family Days have been pretty special too!

Tell us about Warwick Arts Centre today
People are sometimes surprised by the stats we can reel off and the scale of our achievements. Here’s just a few:
· We produce, present and manage over 1,400 shows, events and screenings every year
· We welcome over 750,000 people through our doors, of which nearly 250,000 are for ticketed events annually
· We employ nearly 500 students each year
· We support over 11,000 students in producing, managing and participating in festivals, plays, concerts, operas and musicals every year
· We have created and delivered more than 50 artistic and academic partnerships in the last two years

If you haven’t been here yet, come along! To a Family Day, to have a coffee, visit the Mead Gallery, see a show, or have a meal. There are so many things to do here, there’s no excuse not to pop in. This videogives you an idea why we think Warwick Arts Centre is for you.

How do you think the Arts Centre has benefited the University of Warwick and its community since its establishment?
I think Warwick Arts Centre is the bridge into the University community for many local people – a reason to visit the campus and enjoy a great night out, but also offering an insight into the exciting things happening in our academic world.

As well as Warwick Arts Centre’s impact of over £27m to the local economy, our highly-acclaimed education team's work with local schools may be less obvious but equally valuable. It’s played a huge part in shaping young people’s lives – we deliver over 10,000 creative learning and educational opportunities every year for children and young people and, in 2014, our Boys Dancing project was a finalist in the National Lottery Awards, signalling the difference this arts
project made to people, places and communities across the UK.

Why do you think engaging people with the arts is important, and how do you think we could engagearts2.jpg more people in the years ahead?
The creative and cultural industries are growing rapidly in the UK and the arts are firmly at the heart of that growth. The arts and creativity inspire, energise, challenge and develop us as individuals and also illuminate and enrich the communities we live in. Audience development is important to us now and for the future.

We continually work, every day, to find opportunities to deepen relationships with existing audiences and engage new audiences and communities through initiatives such as our Ambassadors schemes, Instrumental scheme (which welcomes under 18s to classical concerts), and Our Arts Centre which launched in the autumn specifically for Warwick staff.

The artistic programme balances work from contemporary artists like Jeremy Deller and classic theatre from companies such as the National Theatre and English Touring Opera with popular events such as comedian Sarah Millican and musician Paul Weller. With a great family programme for all ages we think there’s something for everyone to try. It really is an arts centre for everyone.

What events are you particularly excited about this year?
Keep an eye open for Kneehigh’s Dead Dog in a Suitcase and Lord of the Flies, both of which have received great reviews and the Mead Gallery’s exhibition Making It, Sculpture in Britain 1977 -1986. We're launching our own masterclass series in the autumn and a new Winter Festival which opens after the family weekend in December with a very special new Christmas event (watch this space!).

As part of the University’s 50th anniversary we're proud to be producing and presenting a series of events including a celebration of the University Art Collection in the Mead Gallery during the summer term. This week we've enjoyed hosting the Brian Cox and Michael Scott Distinguished Lecture and the Warwick Music Festival featuring the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Django, Django and Joan Armatrading. I'm also looking forward to the Festival of the Imagination in October - a great opportunity for us to imagine the future.

What would you like to see happening at Warwick Arts Centre over the next 50 years?
I would like to hope that Warwick Arts Centre continues to present and produce the very best programme of national and international arts, culture, entertainment and learning possible; embracing technological and digital development; placing creativity at the heart of education; contributing to a sense of place, and remaining firmly located at the heart of a vibrant university and regional community.

May 08, 2015

From a degree in maths to a career in sport

Colin Grahamslaw studied Mathematics at Warwick from 1988 to 1991,before becoming Sports Sabbatical Officer in the Students' Union. This led him into a career in the sport industry - something he had never imagined before arriving at the University. Colin tells us more in this week's 50@50 and shares his thoughts on why he thinks it's essential for students to get involved in extra-curricular activities.

Why did you choose to study at Warwick?colin

It was a bit by accident really! I had liked the look of Heriot-Watt Uni – a campus close to the city – but wanted to move away from home to study. Warwick looked very similar - it was only afterwards I found that I was applying to one of the top maths universities!

What’s your favourite memory of Warwick?

There are many: winning the local Coventry Cup with the football club; standing in the balcony overlooking the marketplace on the final night of term watching the madness below; the party at the end of my finals – but probably the one that stands out was in my final year at the end of the winter term on the last night, when it snowed – heavily!

We woke up on Saturday morning to find Coventry in chaos and traffic going nowhere. Parents coming to collect students were stuck on campus and there was nothing open. In the end, a couple of the Union staff arrived in on foot and with a few conscripts from the student body. The Union was opened, including the bars and catering, and a second final night disco was staged for those stuck on campus. I spent the night working in the snack bar – I'm not sure everyone got the best prepared meals they ever had but there were no complaints of food poisoning…!

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

I had gone to Warwick expecting to get my degree and head off into the world of accountancy or insurance. Working in sport was not on the agenda and the thought of standing for election for anything was certainly not something I had considered. So to find myself campaigning for the sabbatical Sports Officer role and standing on stage giving a speech, telling a joke and singing a song to a crowded hall was unexpected!

Where has your career taken you since leaving Warwick?

After my sabbatical role at Warwick I headed to Cranfield University as a Students' Union General Manager, but soon moved back into sport with a move home to Scotland to work for Scottish Fencing. Five years there was followed by a stint with the Scottish Hockey Union and the Royal Caledonian Curling Club before, in 2010, I was appointed as Secretary General of the World Curling Federation, one of only three Brits to hold a role such as this in an Olympic Sports Federation.

I have held a number of voluntary roles in sport as well as continuing an involvement in student sport for many years, both in committees and as manager of the Scottish universities cricket team. I have also served as the Vice Chairman of the Scottish Sports Association and on several lottery awards panels.

What does your current job involve?

I am the senior staff member for the World Curling Federation, responsible to the elected board for the staff and management of the Federation. The WCF turns over around US$8m per annum and has a permanent staff of 15 expanding to almost 100 during events, when we also run our own broadcast operation supplying TV pictures to various channels around the world.

The role of an International Sports Federation is varied, from overseeing the rules and regulations of the sport, through to introducing the sport to new countries, to running world championships and the curling events at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

How has your time at Warwick influenced your life?

It is true that without my time at Warwick I would not be where I am today. Although my degree (BSc Maths) probably has little day-to-day impact on my job, it provided me valuable lessons in how to work and deliver projects to time – although I would like to think I am a little less last minute these days!

It was my time in the Students' Union that obviously had the biggest impact on my life, becoming involved in the Sports Federation and being elected Sports Officer led me down a path that I would not have expected to be open to me. It has led to me travelling the world and experiencing the world’s greatest sporting events from the front row – even carrying the Olympic torch and being part of medal ceremonies at the Youth Olympics and Paralympics.


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

It is harder now given the financial commitment required to being a student, but I still think it is important to take advantage of everything the University has to offer outside the degree - whether that be sports, arts or any of the other clubs, societies etc.

Many of the people I knew from Warwick are now working in jobs more influenced by their extra-curricular activities at Warwick than their degree.

What would you like to see happening at Warwick over the next 50 years?

I would like to see the student (particularly the undergraduate) been seen as the core of the University. The University also needs to find ways to ensure that people are not put off attending Warwick because of the costs involved. Education is a right, not a privilege, and society as a whole benefits from a well educated population and the University benefits from a diverse cultural, ethnic and social-economic student body. It is important to find ways to allow students to develop as individuals outside their degrees to achieve their full potential – sometimes that will not happen by just following the course.

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 24, 2015

Voices of the University – an Oral History of the University of Warwick

In this week’s 50@50 blog post we meet Dr Grace Huxford, Research Fellow in Oral History,who manages the university’s oral history project ‘Voices of the University’. Commissioned by the Institute ofAdvanced Study (IAS), the Voices of the University collection comprises of over 200interviews with current and former staff, students and local residents and reveals the history of the University of Warwick through their voices. Grace describes the project in more detail.

I first joined the university as a history undergraduate in 2007, staying on to study for my Masters in 2010 and for my PhD in 2011. I have long been interested in oral history as a methodology in my research and was therefore very excited to hear that the IAS was producing an oral history of Warwick. I joined the IAS as Research Fellow in Oral History in September 2014 and manage the day-to-day running of the ‘Voices of the University’ project.

Project Aims

The ‘Voices of the University’ project was initiated by the IAS in 2013. Its primary aim is to record people’s memories of Warwick– as a place of work or study, as a research and teaching environment, and as a local institution. The project also contributes towards the wider history of higher education, as Warwick was established in 1965 as part of a nationwide investment in universities. Our interviews capture many aspects of social, cultural and economic life since the 1960s – both in Britain and across the world.

Since the oral history project started, our interviews have been carried out by a great team of undergraduate, masters and doctoral students, as well as postdoctoral researchers based at the IAS. To date the team has conducted over 200 oral history interviews and we aim to add to this throughout the anniversary year.


What is ‘oral history’?

Oral history is a historical research method based on interviewing people about their experiences. In the ‘Voices of the University’ collection, interviews follow what is called a life history’ approach, first discussing how interviewees’ early life and how they came to arrive at Warwick. Some participants have been at Warwick since it opened in 1965, whilst other interviewees have been here just a few months. Interviewees include students and academic staff, but also administrative and support staff from across the campus. Overall, the project aims to represent a wide cross-section of the university community over time and to cover not just the history of the university, but also the place of the university in people’s lives.

Oral histories do not always necessarily tell the same story: interviewees have different relationships and recollections of the institution, but that is why it is such a fascinating methodology. In oral history research, we ask not just ‘what happened’, but also try to find out why people tell particular stories (and why interviewers like myself ask particular questions!)

Favourite Extracts

I really enjoy listening to former students describing living away from home for the first time, learning to cook or adapting to university-level study. One of our interviewees even described getting struck by lightning in Rootes Hall! Warwick staff (both academic and non-academic) have also shared their insights on the institution’s development and particular moments in its history, such as the visit of President Bill Clinton in 2000. As a historian, I also find people’s stories about the changing social and economic life of the local area particularly interesting. Many of our interviewees describe the booming car industry in Coventry in the 1960s and the changes that have taken place in the city since.

Getting Involved

Most of our interviews are available online here for you to listen to, through the Library’s online digital collections. A small minority of recordings are not online and only available in the reading room at the Modern Records Centre (which you can arrange to visit).

You can also listen to extracts from the project in our podcast series, which takes a specific theme each month. This is accompanied by a blog post highlighting various aspects of the collection.

If you have a story to share about Warwick, please do get in touch. We are conducting interviews until the start of August this year and would love to speak to as many people as possible before then. If you are interested you can sign up via the Voices of the University website:


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 27, 2015

Exploring the history of Warwick Volunteers

How have volunteering opportunities at Warwick developed over the last 50 years and what benefits has student and staff volunteering had on the local community? We caught up with Jen Sear from the team at Warwick Volunteers to hear her thoughts and how she hopes the organisation will expand further over the coming years.

What were you doing before coming to Warwick?
I worked in marketing and communications for what was formerly known as the Arts & Heritage Trust, now Culture Coventry. Prior to that I graduated from Coventry University with a BA in Theatre and Professional Practice and in 2010 I graduated with a master's in Performance Innovation and Enterprise.

What does your current role involve?
I work in Warwick Volunteers, which is part of Student Careers & Skills. I provide administrative support for volunteering projects, co-ordinate Warwick Volunteers’ marketing and communications, provide event management support to staff and students and deal with general enquiries about volunteering or Warwick Volunteers.
What’s your favourite thing about your role?
Supporting students to do something positive with their time at university and seeing the difference they make in the local community is one of my favourite things. I also enjoy getting to work with our Student Executive Committee and project leaders throughout the year, developing their skills and seeing them grow into their roles as leaders. With feedback like this: “Warwick Volunteers has given me the opportunity to meet and make many friends who I know I will call friends for many years to come. WV is a big family”, I can’t help but feel immensely proud of the work we do.

What’s your favourite thing about working at Warwick?
Being right in the centre of campus life – we’re located in the Students' Union HQ, which means that we get lots of students popping into the office to talk about volunteering. It’s great getting to meet such a diverse mix of people.

Tell us a bit about the history of Warwick Volunteers – when and why was it set up and how has it grown since?
Before Warwick Volunteers, volunteering opportunities were available through Community Volunteers, an entirely student-run society. The society was set up over 25 years ago, but at the end of 1993, they decided on a name change and became Community Action. The society grew from strength to strength, with more volunteers and more projects each year. Some of the projects set up in 1986, such as Kidz Kamp, are still running to this day.

All the hard work and the many achievements gained were officially recognised in 1995 when Community Action won the much sought after title of ‘Society of the Year’. This was also the year that they adopted the smiling sun logo.

In October 2002, HEACF (Higher Education Active Community Fund) stepped in. The specific aim of HEACF was to boost the role played by Higher Education institutes in their local communities and money was allocated to institutes wanting to increase their active participation. Along with this new funding came the employment of three full-time members of staff, and the society was re-launched as Warwick Volunteers to reflect the many internal changes taking place, as well as making it clear what we do.

Today we have five full-time members of staff and two part-time members of staff. Our membership grows year on year as well as the number of projects we run and community organisations we work with.

Canal Clean UpHow many students and staff get involved in volunteering today? What sort of projects do they get involved with and what impact does their work have?
So far this year we've had over 1,000 students actively volunteer with us on a vast range of regular and one-off projects. Some examples are Student Tutoring, Technology Volunteers, Buddy Club, Canal Clean Up, mural painting and Netball in Schools, to name only a few. Staff volunteers often find that our school projects such as Right to Read or Fun with Numbers fit in with their working day as they can go for an hour session during their lunch break.

Many of our community partners would simply not be able to run their activities without the support of Warwick Volunteers members. For example, an organisation which works on environmental projects to improve the Canley area relies heavily on student volunteers for their success. Our students and staff are ambassadors for the University, giving freely of their time to residents in Coventry, Warwick, Kenilworth and Leamington Spa.

Feedback received from schools has demonstrated the direct impact which volunteers have on improving children’s grades and aspirations. Other projects focus on encouraging interaction between different generations and between able and disabled people. Measuring the impact of volunteering on the local community cannot truly be represented through quantitative analysis – we know it is working from the positive stories we receive back from our community partners and volunteers.

fun_with_numbers2.jpgWhat have been some of the key successes achieved by Warwick Volunteers since it was established?
Warwick Volunteers' membership has increased year on year. When our records began in 2003 we had 552 members and by 2014 this had risen to 2,675. We have increased the range of sectors in the local community with whom we work, and always seek to meet the needs of the community by making this part of the criteria in our selection of projects and community partners. Some of our projects have been running for over 25 years, and since 2006 we have been developing and supporting students to design and lead their own volunteering projects as project leaders or on our elected Student Executive Team

Warwick Volunteers works with academic departments to develop and run projects like Technology Volunteers in local schools. We also work closely with Student Support, the Library and the International Office as research has demonstrated the impact of volunteering on wellbeing and it can provide opportunities for friendship, exploring outside the University campus environment and opportunities for stress-busting at key times of the academic year. Volunteering also provides an opportunity to gain life experience and transferable skills which students take with them when they leave Warwick.

Do you have any advice for people considering getting involved in volunteering but who are concerned about time commitments?
This year we launched a programme of one-off volunteering opportunities as we know from feedback that time commitment can be a big issue for students. Some of these are just a day or half day of activities which are perfect for students not looking for a regular commitment or those that are short on time, such as postgraduate students. If anyone would like to know more about these one-off opportunities or have concerns about time commitments, they are more than welcome to pop into the office for a chat or drop us an email and we can advise on the best option.

How do you hope Warwick Volunteers will develop over the next 50 years?
I hope that Warwick will continue to encourage volunteering by staff and students and that it will become an integral part of the culture and celebrated for the benefits which it brings to the community and to the volunteers themselves. Indeed, in 50 years’ time, with the expansion of Warwick internationally, one could envisage volunteering ‘exchanges’ between Warwick and its international partners to broaden experiences beyond the UK.

By working with academic departments we could develop unique projects which draw on the expertise and skills of staff and students at the University. This would enable Warwick to increase its impact on communities by offering volunteering expertise which will help resolve social issues locally, nationally and internationally.

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

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?

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

January 08, 2015

'50@50 – a year of special posts'

Written by the 50th anniversary team

Happy New Year and welcome to 2015! This year is a very special one for everyone connected with Warwick as50 bulb it marks our 50th anniversary and we have plenty of exciting things planned to help celebrate – including a special series of blog posts of which what you’re currently reading is the first.

’50 @ 50’ will introduce you to 50 different Warwick people, all of whom have something interesting to say as we not only look back at what we’ve achieved in our relatively short time as a University, but also look forward and imagine what our future might look like. You’ll meet academics, students, alumni and administrative staff who will offer you a window on what life is like at the Times and Sunday Times’ University of the Year for 2015.

And what better focus to kick off this new feature than by hearing from us – the team co-ordinating all of the 50th anniversary celebration activities? We’re incredibly excited about what 2015 has in store for Warwick and wanted to highlight some of our stand-out events.

From 21-23 May campus will be alive with the sound of the Golden Festival of Music, featuring a performance from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, some of the most exciting upcoming acts and plenty of other special guests.

We’ll also be a key partner at all four Cheltenham Festivals in 2015 – offering our input on literature, music, science and jazz.

Finally, our showpiece event will be back on campus from 16-17 October; the Festival of the Imagination. These two days will feature an interactive research zone, talks and debates, taster classes, street performance, a food market, cooking demonstrations and more.

This is by no means everything, so make sure you stay up to date by checking the website and following our 50th anniversary Twitter account.

We also want you to take part in our celebrations – come to our events if you can, stay up to date on social media using the hashtag #warwick50 wherever you are or explore how you can help shape the next 50 years by becoming a donor. You can even contribute a post to our 50 @ 50 series – if you’re interested please get in touch at

So, here’s to a fantastic year of celebration and, even better, the next chapter in Warwick’s incredible story.

Nicola, Emily and Christine
th anniversary team

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