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‘We can make a difference’: From Business School graduate to Covid mass testing innovator

Business School Stories.

Marta KalasMarta Kalas (MBA, 1992) has had an extremely varied career since graduating from CUBS, the then City, University of London Business School in 1992. Moving between working in a big corporation to freelance consulting and finally to working for the scale-up organisation Thomson Screening, founded by City, University of London. In the wake of the pandemic Thomson Screening have turned their attention to supporting mass Covid testing across schools and businesses.

Reflecting on her time at the Business School, Marta explains “I really think I massively benefitted from the course”. She recalls how useful the lessons she learnt at the Business School have been over the years, even the more surprising ones.

Just about all the career types you can have coming out of the Business School, I had them”

Since she left the Business School, Marta has had a very mixed career. She explains “just about all the career types you can have coming out of the Business School, I had them”. Despite graduating in the middle of a recession, Marta successfully landed a job with General Electric (GE) working in logistics and supply chain. Since then, she has primarily worked in the healthcare industry, ranging from turning around small clinics on the brink of bankruptcy to working for the NHS in a transformation capacity to “actually practice what [she] learnt at the Business School”.

Throughout her varied career, Marta has been able to reach out to the Business School to offer placements for students to complete their final projects. Marta explains how important it was for her to find a project which suited her during her MBA, and therefore whenever something suitable comes up she gives back to the students who were once in her position.

It has been a chain of coincidences, but that is the thing about life – you never know how it will turn out”

Marta’s career has come somewhat full circle since leaving the Business School: she is now the Director, Co-founder and COO of Thomson Screening, a company formed by City, University of London. Thomson Screening is a school and public nursing software company.

“It has been a chain of coincidences, but that is the thing about life – you never know how it will turn out”, Marta reflects. She found out about Thomson Screening when attending a networking event where companies pitched ideas to executives. She had no idea that a City company would be represented there. She explains, “I think certain institutions have a certain ethos and culture and they will attract a certain kind of people” and in this way her return to the University was natural. Prior to the pandemic, Thomson Screening’s board meetings were still held at the University, and Marta tells us how certain room and lecture halls gave her flashes of memories from her time as a student. Marta relishes being able to return to her alma mater in this way, stating simply “it makes me smile”.

It’s really exciting and really rewarding… we can make a difference”

Marta jokes that the impact of the pandemic on Thomson Screening has been almost like a classic Business School exam question about adapting a small company to unexpected change. “Public health and school nursing touch a huge number of lives with one tiny intervention” but they are tied down to a very paper heavy system. Marta’s company focuses on updating this process with a digital system, SchoolScreener®.

SchoolScreener-COVID-MANAGERWhen the pandemic broke out, they had to adapt. They realised there was going to be a very similar need for mass testing: “we knew how to make it simple, and how to make it easy and how to be secure”. In the summer of 2020, Thomson Screening made a successful bid to Innovate UK to develop their product to support test management, and they are now working with schools to support mass testing. The system allows schools to monitor parental consent, student status and, eventually, to upload bulk results to NHS Test & Trace. Marta explains that, in addition to schools, the product also works for care homes, businesses and universities giving it the potential to have a huge impact on society. “It’s really exciting and really rewarding. It’s a tiny thing, but it’s something we are really good at and we can make a difference”.

Don’t be afraid of taking your own footsteps and following your own path”

Marta has previously volunteered as a professional mentor for current students, “I am really glad every time City reaches out and pulls me back in, it’s a good feeling”. She reflected on how she would have benefitted from having had a mentor and made the decision to give her time to  provide students with career advice. Marta explains that while she enjoyed giving back, she also enjoyed learning about the student experience now and the whole process around mentoring: “it was just fun… it was a really nice community”.

Closing our conversation with some succinct advice, Marta says “find your own footsteps and don’t be afraid of wherever that takes you”.

A Better Space to Make a Difference

City News.

City, University of London is very excited to announce the upcoming launch of Better Space right in the heart of Islington. It will be an inspiring and affordable co-working and event space for social entrepreneurs, change makers and under-represented founders, that will become the home for those striving to make the world a better place. We’re due to open our doors in May 2021.

Better Space is a partnership between CityVentures (City’s team responsible for Entrepreneurship) and Islington Borough Council, which will uniquely blend the power of entrepreneurship, Higher Education and local authorities to help with regeneration and recovery post pandemic. 

There is enough money, technology and startup know-how in the world to make it a much better and fairer place for everyone and at Better Space we think we need to figure out a better way of starting and running businesses, with social & environmental impact at their core. Creating the space and platform to cultivate ideas and support change makers, social entrepreneurs and the local community will accelerate this. We want to support the next generation of ethical businesses like Patagonia, Olio, Ustwo, Bulb and many more like them!

Across two floors in the iconic Ray Building, Farringdon, Better Space will provide 80+ desks, plenty of meeting rooms, phone booths and an interactive event space, so members and the local community get the space, support and opportunities they need to grow.

We’ll be encouraging under-reprepresented founders and people based in or around Islington who run digital or creative organisations, with a positive and clear social or environmental impact, to join us as members and to get involved with events. City alumni are more than welcome!

We’d also love to hear from City alumni who may wish to support with:

  1. Mentoring members and social entrepreneurs
  2. Volunteering e.g. legal, accounting, marketing to organisations in the space who are tackling the world’s biggest challenges
  3. Finding potential members by helping us raise awareness for the incredible space we are building

Better Space will be best suited to impact led organisations or startups that need 1-6 desks to work from. The waiting list is growing each day and pricing will be 60-80% of market cost. 

 We’ll have flexible monthly packages, daily passes and memberships which include access to a great space to work from, a fantastic location, creative workshops, accountability buddies, mentoring, expert advisors, regular events, productivity & focus workshops, opportunities to support the local community in a meaningful way and lots more! 

Better Space is being built with the below pillars in mind:

  1. Social & environmental impact
  2. People
  3. Productivity
  4. Creativity & wellbeing …

… whilst aiming to bridge the gap between fast growing tech startups and social & environmental impact focused organisations, to make the world a better place. 

To keep updated on Better Space, be sure to sign up to the Better Space Newsletter below and follow us on social, or email Sam on Sam@BetterSpace.London to discuss how you’d like to be involved.

Spread the word far and widebetter space and better times are coming and we can’t wait to have the City alumni network along with us for the journey! Your future self will thank you for it. For the full story, check this out.

Sam, Simon & Alex
The Better Space Team

The quest for the hero inside: From MBA student to published author

Alumni Stories, Business School Stories.

Since we last spoke to Nicolai Schumann (Full Time MBA, 2009), he has moved away from the fashion industry to work on his storytelling consultancy, Universal Storyteller and focus on his role as a visiting lecturer at the Business School. He also teaches innovation and business creativity through his agency Horizon Innovation Lab. We sat down with Nico to discuss his new book The Hero Inside: What We Can Learn From Heroes, which will be taught on his Storytelling in Business class at the Business School (formerly known as Cass).

“Everybody loves a good story”Nicolai Schümann

Nico combined his background in storytelling with his business experience to create his course on storytelling in business which he successfully pitched to the Business School. He explains that storytelling is vital to all businesses: “stories are a very subtle and very powerful persuasion tool… everybody loves a good story”, he goes on to add that “if you tell someone a story… people will make up the moral of the story in their own mind, they will make a decision by themselves and they don’t feel like somebody pushed something on them”. Since his first year of teaching, his class has “ballooned to over 80 students” and he now teaches across multiple MBA and MSc programmes.

Discussing the course Nico says, “when I teach my students storytelling I always tell them about the hero’s journey, which is an archetypical story structure. At the end of the class I explain to them what a hero is and what a hero does.”  And what does a hero do? “The lowest common denominator of all heroes is that they are willing to sacrifice – so to speak – themselves for the greater good. The opposite is not a villain but a bystander”, Nico explains that he believes bystander behaviour has led to bad, unethical business practices and scandals in the business world – “there were too many people who didn’t step in and didn’t act heroically”.

“How can we become more heroic?”

Nico explains that his students were the primary motivator behind his desire to write a book on the role heroes play in society and business. “My students kept asking me, ‘we understand the concept of a hero, but can you elaborate on that and how can we actually become more heroic?'” He realised there wasn’t much literature on the topic and decided to tackle the topic himself.

The Hero Inside aims to motivate people to consider how they can behave more like a hero and improve the world around them: “I believe if there were more heroes then the business world would be way more ethical”. But the book isn’t just for business students or professionals, it is aimed at anyone who is lacking inspiration. He hopes his book will create a ripple effect of people acting positively, even if it only impacts a few people directly then Nico says he will be happy with the contribution his book has made to society. He believes firmly that “we learn from stories… and we learn from heroes. If we believe in the deeds of heroes, then that might create this ripple effect and might lead us onto a more heroic path”.

 

Such is his quest to spread the universal benefit of the hero’s journey that Nico has recently published a children’s book The Little Asteroid which seeks to convey the message to children. The book is told through the eyes of an asteroid who leaves his orbit to explore what is really out there: the aim is to motivate children to always be curious (a key trait of a hero) and begin their own heroic journey.

Teaching at the Business School: “it felt like coming home”

Nico has found returning to the Business School as a teacher very rewarding, he tells us “you try to be the teacher you always wanted to have” and has relished the opportunity to share his wisdom and experience with the students who sat where he once did, “it almost felt like coming home”. He goes on to discuss the impact lockdown has had on his teaching: “I had the pleasure of teaching both my MSc and MBA classes online… it worked surprisingly well!” He highlights the benefits of using breakout rooms and inviting guest speakers more easily but admits he can’t wait to be back in the classroom.

 

Sharing a final piece of advice, Nico encourages not only his students but everyone to invite more inquisitiveness into their lives: “always stay curious!”

Find out more about  The Hero Inside and The Little Asteroid

A lockdown start-up: a Smoofii ride

Alumni Stories, Business School Stories.

Launching a start-up takes self-confidence and nerves of steel, regardless of when you decide to take the plunge. But setting up your own business during a global pandemic while still studying? That takes more bravery than most could summon. Yet this is precisely what Fabian Ronig (MSc Entrepreneurship, 2020) has done, launching Smoofii a new brand selling and delivering ready-to-blend smoothie kits.

Fabian completed his Bachelor’s degree in Germany before deciding he wanted to move to London to study MSc Entrepreneurship at the Business School (formerly known as Cass), where he was a recipient of the Stelios Scholarship – funded by Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou. Fabian explains, “on the financial side, it was a huge relief”, adding that “the scholarship wasn’t just about the financial support, it was about really being part of the Stelios Foundation as an ambassador”.

 I always had [an entrepreneurial] mindset… but the foundation relieved the pressure of feeling that you are all alone”

As part of the Foundation, Fabian attended a reunion with the previous Stelios scholars which he said, “opened up great networking opportunities”. Meeting inspirational people with the same entrepreneurial spirit, who had been in the same position as him in years before, gave Fabian the inspiration and courage he needed to start his own business. He notes that he has always had an entrepreneurial mindset but “the foundation relieved the pressure of feeling that you are all alone, they created the community feeling”.

This environment said to me ‘hey, go for it!’”

Beyond his experience as a Stelios Scholar he explains, “I was more inspired to actually found aSmoofii the book company, by London as a city: it’s a crazy place. The people on my masters had different ambitions and different perspectives on life and their journeys”. He explains the combination of the diversity of his course combined with the energy and support of “basically everyone from the Business School who were into entrepreneurship… be it lecturers or people from the LaunchLab” built a thrilling network of people eager to support young entrepreneurs. “This environment said to me ‘hey, go for it’”.

However, in March of 2020, Fabian’s studies were disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic. Rather than feeling demoralised, Fabian used this as an opportunity to innovate. He recalls the change to virtual learning, “I have to say the Business School managed it quite successfully, they took around a week to shift everything online”. Finding himself suddenly with more time on his hands, Fabian explains, “I wasn’t going to sit around doing nothing but my studies”.

I wasn’t going to sit around doing nothing but my studies”

Fabian explains he has always been interested in fitness and keeping healthy, but this was thrown into a new light during lockdown: gyms were closed and exercise was limited. He found himself hunting for a book on the benefits of specific micronutrients. He realised, “there is no such book – I just have to write it” and using his university access, he plunged into his own research.

Smoofii: smoothie ingredients

Armed with his new knowledge, Fabian decided that not only would this make a great book, but it would make an excellent smoothie product: thus, Smoofii was born. Smoofii delivers frozen smoothie ingredients packed with specific micronutrients to produce specific health benefits, offering door to door delivery across North London.

 

Any budding entrepreneur would be right to be inspired by Fabian, who has shown that the most trying times can still produce bold business ideas. Wrapping up our conversation, Fabian shares some advice for anyone seeking to start their own business: “Decide how much you are willing to trade – money- and timewise. Don’t be afraid to hire other people early on, be honest with your strengths and weaknesses. Spending money early on will allow you to economise your time and build on your specific skill set”.

We can’t wait to see how Fabian gets on!

Meanwhile, do visit and check out Smoofii.

To be or not to be; a writer’s journey

Alumni Stories .

Two-time alumna Tina Baker (Journalism, 1980 and MA Creative Writing Novels, 2017) has a two-book deal with Viper Books. Her debut novel ‘Call Me Mummy’ will be published in February 2021 and it has taken her 40 years to realise her dream! Here she shares her story, about writing her story.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

My first stint at City was the Post-Grad Journalism course in 1980. At this point, there was only this and a course at Cardiff offering post-grad journalism and it was the best year of my life. I was terrified! Parties and great lectures and work placements and challenging assignments.

It set me on a 30 year career as a journalist working in newspapers, magazines radio and TV, a 7 year love affair with a boyfriend who went onto work for the Financial Times and friendships I treasure to this day.

My second stint was my MA a mere 40 years later. I knew I wanted to write a novel since I was a child and I knew I wanted to do this course at City as soon as it started. It took me a while to allow myself the time to do it – evening classes clashed with my evening work as a fitness instructor. It was tough.

As a ‘mature’ student I found it challenging to get my mind back into gear. The feedback on what I wrote was sometimes crushing. But my colleagues and tutors and the experience meant I could finally say ‘I am a writer’ – 30 years in journalism hadn’t given me that confidence. And again, I have made friendships that I hope will last the rest of my life.

What happened after you graduated?

My first job after the post-grad journalism course was at the now defunct Northampton Chronicle and Echo newspaper. I did 2 years there before moving to the BBC as a researcher. It took 2 years after my course to get an agent – with a novel I started writing on the course, but not the one I completed for the course, if that makes sense.

I now have a two-book deal with Viper Books – the first will be published in February 2021, Call Me Mummy. A psychological thriller about a woman so desperate for a child she steals one and the mother who loses her child, who is vilified by the press and social media. Available to order now from Waterstones and Amazon.

How did the idea for your book come about?

The idea for Call me Mummy came from a City assignment – to go somewhere you’ve never been. I went to Mothercare, a store for expectant mothers and children which now trades online. As someone who’d tried to have a child and failed, this was emotionally difficult. I wrote an assignment piece and it grew from there.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

After DECADES, fulfilling, my dream of being a published author. It is still rare for people like me – I grew up in a caravan; my dad was a window cleaner; my mum worked on the fairground – to be writers.

What has been the biggest challenge?

My own self-doubt.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

I’d encourage anyone with a dream to follow it as soon as possible. Having had to shield throughout the COVID pandemic (due to chronic asthma and advanced age) it’s made me even clearer about this.

Enjoy your time at City. Study hard but enjoy the social aspects. The petting zoo was a highlight for me as much as the lectures – although the Shetland pony has never replied to my letters!

 

Call Me Mummy is available to purchase from
Call Me Mummy – Serpent’s Tail

City Alumni recognised in New Year Honours list 2021

Alumni Notice Board.

Each year, the New Year Honours list recognises the achievements and services of extraordinary people across the UK, from all walks of life. City is delighted to announce and congratulate our fourteen alumni who have been recognised for their commitment to various services, including healthcare, inclusiveness, public services, music and dance.

Here are our City, University of London alumni on the New Year Honours list:

Dames Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Dame Jane Glover CBE (Hon DA Honorary Doctor of Music 1994)
Conductor
For services to Music

Knights Bachelor
Sir Robert Chote (PG Dip Newspaper Journalism 1990)
Former Chairman , Office for Budget Responsibility
For services to Fiscal Policy and to the Economy

Companions of the Order of the Bath (CB)
Ms Malini Nebhrajani CB (PG Dip Law 1993)
Director of Litigation Government Legal Department
For services to Government Legal profession, especially during the COVID crisis.

Officers of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)
Mr Tanjit Dosanjh OBE (BSc Optometry 2007)
Founder of The Prison Opticians Trust
For services to Optometry in Prisons and Reducing Re-Offending

Miss Melanie C Hopkins OBE (MA International Communications 2002)
Former British High Commissioner to Fiji Foreign & Commonwealth Office
OBE – For services to British foreign policy

Mrs Fozia Irfan OBE (MSc Grant making, Philanthropy and Social Investment 2018)
Director of Children and Young People, BBC Children in Need
For services to the community in Bedfordshire, particularly during the Covid-19 Response

Mr Ian Lush OBE (MA Arts Administration 1986)
Chief Executive Officer, Imperial Health Charity
For charitable services to the NHS

Mrs Catherine J Morgan OBE (MSc Nursing 2001)
Chief Nurse East England, NHS England and NHS Improvement
For services to Nursing

Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)
Ms Janet C Arthur MBE (PG Dip Arts Administration 1982)
Council Member, University of Leicester
For services to the community in Smeeton Westerby, Leicestershire

Mrs Jill Demilew MBE (BSc Social Sciences with Nursing Studies 1977)
Consultant Midwife Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
For services to Midwifery

Ms Joanne E Hobbs MBE (PG Dip Voluntary Sector Management 2012)
Chief Executive Officer, British Youth Council
For professional and voluntary services to Young People

Mr Andrew J Hurst MBE (MA Cultural Policy and Management 2012)
Chief Executive Officer, One Dance UK
For services to Dance, particularly during the Covid-19 Response

Ms Sylvie E Provan MBE (PG Dip Professional Legal Skills 2008)
Team Leader, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
For services to British foreign policy

Ms Deborah Scully MBE (PG Dip Arts Management in Education 1997)
Deputy Principal, Royal Central School Of Speech & Drama
For services to Drama Training and to Higher Education

Mr Manoj Vasani MBE (Executive MBA 2017)
CEO and Founder SOS Supplies
For services to Protective Care during the Covid-19 Response

City recognises long serving staff

Alumni Notice Board.

Written by Gemma Bradshaw

An online celebration was held on Thursday 19th November to recognise colleagues who reached 25 or 40 years of service at City before the end of the 2019/20 academic year.

Professor Sir Paul Curran and members of the Executive Board gathered to celebrate and show appreciation to colleagues for their personal contribution to City.

The City Law School’s Lawrence Pickett, who celebrated 40 years at City this year, recalls a memory from before the Inns of Court School of Law (ICSL) link with City in 2001. He notes how the historic association between the Law School and overseas jurisdictions has flourished at City in recent years, which gives him great satisfaction both as a teacher and as someone who remembers a time when the link was almost lost. Lawrence comments:

“From 1989 to 1996 I headed the Bar Examination for non-intending practitioners in England and Wales. ICSL launched the BVC but as sole provider it was unable to accommodate such students, so the superseded Bar Examination was continued to meet overseas demand. Courses were available at non-validated institutions. In retrospect, it was not a happy solution, but it did help maintain valued overseas links.

“I gained much experience of exams, committee work and liaison with professional bodies, here and overseas, which proved valuable. With the advent of BVC validation, overseas students could join a BVC and the Bar Examination withered.”

Keith Wood, in City’s IT Department also celebrates 40 years at City. He commented:

“I guess there have been many achievements over the 40 years I’ve been at City, but without fear of retribution the proudest must be meeting my wife when she worked here in the 1990s.

“I have worked with so many people it would be impossible to name check them all, but special mention must go to Richard O’Connor who has put up with me for over 25 years and has made my time at City a really enjoyable experience.”

Waheeda Dhansey, in the School of Health Sciences, who celebrates 25 years at City said:

“Time seems to have flown by! I joined City hoping for it to be a small stopover before I moved onto a teaching profession, and here I am 25 years later! It has been an amazing journey at City full of learning, laughter, friendship and inspiration. I have worked, and continue to work with, some wonderful people.

“Working in the School of Health Sciences makes me feel so proud of our students, and for the small contribution I make in the bigger role they play in our healthcare service. Hoping that the learning, friendship, and laughter continues…”

Also recognised in this year’s cohort were:

  • Marcus Soanes, City Law School, (25 years)
  • Kanthasamy Kiritharan, Information Technology (25 years)
  • Professor Lorenzo Strigini, School of Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering, (25 years)
  • Professor George Spanoudakis, School of Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering, (25 years)
  • Tracy Rowson, School of Health Sciences (25 years)
  • Professor Charles Baden-Fuller, The Business School (25 years)

Overcoming barriers

Alumni Stories.

In conversation with Aleksander Napieralski (BSc (Hons) Finance, 2020)

Despite the challenges of living with Dyslexia and ADHD, Aleksander Napieralski (BSc (Hons) Finance, 2020) continues to show a huge commitment to working hard! Not only did he graduate from his undergraduate degree with the Business School (formerly Cass) earlier on this year, he is already studying the MSc Computer Games Technology course at City, not allowing anyone or anything to stand in the way of his goals. 

Find out more about Aleksander’s experiences and why you should “never, ever give up, and always believe in your greatness”….

Can you tell me about why you chose to study at the Business School and your experience there?

I was not the one with good grades, due to my undiagnosed Dyslexia and ADHD. I was not expecting to get into University, even until the very last day before starting the course.

I worked hard in college and gave myself the opportunity of going to university by picking the Business School as my primary choice on UCAS. I do not regret this. Although, if I had failed to achieve the required grades, I would not have been able to get into the University that year.

I still remember that when I did not receive my grade for English that my application could potentially be discarded, despite getting the required grades for the course. Thankfully, on the last two days before the deadline we managed to work on an accredited certificate for me to pass my GCSE and join the Business School.

Studying at City, truly brought me an amazing experience. It is difficult to explain. It requires a lot of work, self-discipline and most importantly, determination. If one does not have such, they will surely fail. We had many who did not complete their degree or dropped out every year because they were not up to the task. Although, we also had many who would do everything in their power to complete it and with those, I received our degree.

I was a student representative for three consecutive years at the Business School and tried my best to help the University to be a better version of itself. Using feedback of students and my ability to acknowledge professors’ points of view, helped me to find a middle-ground and apply many changes over the years.

Additionally, I used my learning experience to help the younger generation get better at Maths and English skills, in order to support them with their tests and GCSE exams. I did this because I remembered how I struggled and believed it was not possible. Although, the only thing I needed was someone to just explain it to me in a different way.

What have you been up to since graduating?

After I graduated, I changed my major to a different one. I am currently studying MSc Computer Games Technology at City, University of London. I was advised not to do MSc in Finance, as most of the subjects in the MSc, I had already completed during my Bachelor. It would be much more efficient if I was to do an MSc in a different course and then go back to Finance in the future if I wish to do so.

That said, I have chosen a bit of a scary path as it is a completely different course and not something I have studied previously. I had to put a lot of effort in during summer to complete two coding courses (C++ and Java), in order to prepare myself for the course.

That’s great to hear you are still studying with us at City. What encouraged you to take on the MSc Computer Games Technology?

I was looking at a variety of Master choices but the only thing I knew, was that I wanted to stay at City, due to the many people I had met and knew there. This includes students, teachers and also administrative staff.

Someone mentioned to me during that time, “maybe you should do Computer Games Technology degree? After all you are passionate about games and love programming and creating games in your own time.” I had to admit it was a very interesting idea. Although, I knew it would be challenging because I had no actual background in coding or educational experience in creating games. The University confirmed it would be hard work but that I could do it and, thankfully, I got accepted.

What have been the most rewarding experiences of studying?

The most rewarding experience for me is being able to study two degrees at the institution, despite not having studied such modules before. My passion and hard work is what took me there. I have received a great amount of support from the University and my college, that has helped me to become more than prepared for these degrees.

Throughout the years, I have also grown substantively. I barely remember who I was before I went back to education. I was working random jobs with small salaries and no grades to find any career that I wanted to settle with. I never believed I could reach where I did at that time. However, because I put so much effort in and I believed I could do it, I have found it all very rewarding.

This was one of those decisions where one puts everything one has on one card and understands that failure would leave one with nothing. Although, if one manages to pull it off, one only gathers rewards for the sacrifices made.

What have been the biggest challenges with studying?

My ADHD and Dyslexia have always made it difficult for me to pass my exams or finish my work with specific deadlines. I was always bad at doing exams, although my coursework grades were usually high. So, passing my degree with the grade I wanted was fairly difficult.

Being able to adapt to the workload and lifestyle that university (especially the Business School) requires was difficult. In addition, the extra activities I was doing, such as tutoring, made it more challenging.

Lastly, I believe that my biggest challenge was fear that I could not do it. That I was not capable of accomplishing it. That in some way I was fooling myself. It took me a long time to overcome this issue but since then, I have grown significantly and become a much better person in everyone’s eyes. I tried to inspire others with my story back in the day, which I believe was a great success. Many people go through this kind of fear, so observing someone who overcame it and pushed no matter what, can help them to overcome their own challenges.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

The only advice I could give is believe in yourself, no matter what. I came from a background where I believed that our future is determined by the hand we are dealt . What I did not know back then is that it is possible to put your cards back into the deck, shuffle and try again if one chooses to do so.

It can be very scary, which is the most challenging part of it all. Making life decisions is always scary, so is choosing a different path but we have to have the guts to give it a go sometimes.

Never, ever give up, and always believe in your greatness. We choose who we are and what we will accomplish. I have personally overcome many mistakes and always put effort in to grow from them, no matter what.

I am a music creator, in a band, a singer. I have a degree in finance, I am creating my games and still planning on running my own business in the future. There is nothing that stops us from doing whatever we want in life.

My ADHD and dyslexia makes my life hard, especially with achieving the grades I want. However, it is not just about grades but the fact that you’ve tried to achieve something you’re passionate about. Always seek self-growth no matter what. Take risks: ‘it is better to aim high and miss, than aim low and hit’. Only then you will truly know yourself.

Thanks to Aleksander for sharing his inspirational studying journey. We wish him the best of luck with the MSc!

Cultural Appreciation

Alumni Stories.

Miyuki Seguchi was born and raised in Japan. But it wasn’t until she returned after completing a Masters in Financial Journalism (2011) that she started to appreciate its wonder. Armed with her journalism experience and now also a qualification in tourism, Miyuki has created a podcast, Japan Experts, to share her reaffirmed love of Japanese art, history and culture.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

It was an intensive ten-month period. I was one of the first-year students for the Master’s degree in Financial Journalism programme, together with 13 other students, most of whom had a diverse background and unique international experience. We gained first-hand experience and skills required for print, broadcast and digital journalism through our programme, fieldwork and class visits to major media organisations, as well as through internship opportunities.

I would also like to share an unforgettable event in March 2011 when Japan experienced the biggest earthquake ever, followed by a massive tsunami. I still remember the morning that my eyes glued to a TV screen in the reception area of the journalism department. Soon after, I received a phone call from a British newspaper and a radio station to provide support for their stories and programmes. I felt emotional and uneasy about what was happening in my country but I went to their office to help. I worked day and night to find appropriate interviewees, arranged interviews, and acted as an interpreter; all of these efforts were appreciated in the newsrooms, which made me feel valued.

All of these experiences, together with City’s reputation as one of the world’s best journalism schools, helped me to achieve my high ambition, which was to become an English-writing (speaking) journalist.

I am grateful to everyone who supported me during my time at City including friends, lecturers and university staff, as well as senior editors and journalists at the Financial Times Group where I interned.

What happened after you graduated?

With an internship offer at Bloomberg in Tokyo, I decided to return to Japan and started my career as an English-writing journalist. After a few months, I moved to the Tokyo bureau of Dow Jones where I received solid hands-on training. I was very fortunate to not only learn how to write fast and accurately, but I also worked on feature stories for the Wall Street Journal, a paper I had always admired, as well as the Financial Times. After that, I had an opportunity to work at the English news section of Japan’s national broadcaster NHK.

Since then, I have moved into the corporate world, joining the PR & Communications team at major global companies. Throughout these times, I have enhanced my skills in crafting key messages (storylines), telling stories effectively, and leveraging multiple channels, while having deepened my understanding of the other side of the media world.

How have you continued to stay connected to City since graduating?

Since my graduation from City, I have taken a role in sharing my experience in the UK with prospective students through participating in Study Abroad Fairs and through written pieces. Through these opportunities, I have been fortunate to talk about my time at City and also to have stayed connected with the international recruitment team who provided me with huge support when applying to the journalism programme.

How did the idea for your podcast come about?

Through my professional experience, I found my passion in connecting with people, asking good questions, and identifying interesting stories to tell. Having experienced several years of the corporate life in different industries, I reconfirmed my interest in arts, culture, and history. Having gone through ups and downs in the past ten years, I gained confidence to follow my passion and to work independently.

While having expanded my professional field into regional tourism development, I have relearnt Japanese history, culture and everything related to my country. This helped me to become a licensed guide for international travellers and to realise authentic values in Japan’s long-lasting local culture and traditions, most of which are struggling to survive. I thought their stories were worth sharing with international audience who have limited access to such resources due to the language barrier.

The idea of podcasting came from all these thoughts and reflections. My podcast Japan Experts aims to introduce the cultural wonders of Japan in English, together with experts in a particular field. So far, it has covered a wide range of topics from flower arranging to swords to traditional stage performance.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

Discovering the many wonders of Japan is a true reward, so is talking to insightful speakers who have shared the love of their lifework. I am enjoying all of the new encounters and collaborations that would never have happened if I had not launched this podcast. I am truly honoured to have had the opportunity to connect with listeners across the world; from 57 countries so far.

What has been the biggest challenge?

Producing an episode that is appealing to listeners is not so easy. I understand that my podcast has huge room for improvement and I would like to make it better. At the same time, it is also tough to stay motivated and distribute content on a regular basis. I hope to create a sustainable business model that allows me to have some support so that Japan Experts can add more value to the listeners.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

My podcast was born out of my curiosity, which I believe is one of my greatest skillsets. Anyone who is keen to pursue a career into journalism should have a strong curiosity. If you are one of those people, I would encourage you to follow your passion. It may take many years to achieve your goal. It may end up leading to something else. In any cases, all the experience throughout your journey will become your greatest asset and will help you to discover your future path.

 

To listen to Miyuki’s podcast, simply search for ‘Japan Experts’ on Apple Podcasts or Spotify or visit the website: anchor.fm/japan-experts

You can also access Japan Experts via YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.

Miyuki is keen to hear from you, particularly if you might like to collaborate,  so feel free to get in touch via any of her social media channels.

Ode to a Grecian Alumna

Alumni Stories.

A finalist in the 2020 British Council Alumni Awards in Greece, Sophia Peloponnissiou’s (Museum and Gallery management, 2000) contribution to art and culture is more than noteworthy. Having set up the largely voluntary Katakouzenos House Museum, Sophia is on a mission to ‘revive a mid-20th century Athenian house and turn it from a residential venue to a community-oriented and education-based institution’. Read on to find out how it’s going and how she got there.

 Can you tell me about your time at City?

I started my MA in Museums and Gallery Management in September 2000. It was a year to remember. I had the chance to be taught by such great professors and I’ll always remember them not only as professors but also as personalities.

I’d like to especially mention Vicky Woolard the Course Leader, for teaching me the importance of method, John Last, for showing me a different way to approach my research and Dr Iain Robertson, for believing in me.

During my year at City I had the opportunity to discover many different paths leading me to knowledge and helping me discover art and culture. I visited so many museums and galleries and it was a real privilege to read at the London Library. The conditions there are ideal for research and it certainly helped when writing-up my various essays and my thesis.

Sophia at her graduation, 2001

Last but not least, during my studies I had the privilege to work as a volunteer at the Museum of the Bank of England. I’ll always be grateful to its curator John Keyworth, and all my colleagues there for their support and the way they treated me.

I cannot overstate the importance of the education I received at City University, 20 years ago, and the overall experience of that year, in achieving many of the things I did afterwards; this I shall never forget.

What happened after you graduated?

After my graduation I returned to Greece, at my previous position as an assistant to the Governor of the National Bank of Greece, but I knew that I wanted to follow a different path in my life.

A year later I returned to London and stayed there for five unforgettable years with my husband,

I had the chance to travel through England and Scotland, visiting so many museums, galleries, historical places, and house-museums. I also had the chance to collaborate with a gallery and present to a Greek audience an exhibition of works by English artists. In 2005, I gave birth to my daughter and we decided that it was time to return to Greece.

Thanks to my studies, I was reassigned at the Historical Archives of National Bank of Greece and from 2008 until now I have had the privilege to work at the National Bank of Greece’s Cultural Foundation.

Although I honour the opportunity given to me through my professional career, my true pride is that I had the chance to set-up the Katakouzenos House Museum (KHM),  inspired by my Master’s thesis and probably the first of its kind in Greece to operate as the house museums in the UK.

Can you tell us a bit more about Katakouzenos House Museum?

Houses, homes, go as far back as humans do. They have always played a major role in the life of people, safeguarding their values, preserving their memories, structuring their stories. Lives are remembered, retold, recreated but also inspired, planned and experienced inside, around and because of houses. They are the primordial shells of human thought and action, the primeval elements of what makes as humans.

Angelos & Leto Katakouzenos, 1930

Internal view of the Katakouzenos House Museum living room

ΚΗΜ’s goal is to revive a mid-20th century Athenian house and turn it from a residential venue to a community-oriented and education-based institution, following the principles and expanding on the possibilities of house museums.

The former owners of the house, Angelos and Leto Katakouzenos, belonged to the intellectual elite of their times and functioned as cultural ambassadors of their country abroad and arbiters of international tendencies to Hellas.

Since the 1960s, during the time the couple lived there, the house functioned as a literary salon: its rooms hosted many visitors of international fame, mainly artists, but also writers and poets. The flat also contains a representative collection of works by the most important artists of the so-called Hellenic “1930s generation”, and by many international artists too.

I am very proud of my volunteer work at the Katakouzenos House Museum from 2008 until now and its progress during the last twelve years, especially given the extremely limited financial support received.

The opening was made in collaboration with the John Martin Gallery and the Freud Museum. I had the privilege to present the work of Richard Cartwright side by side with the paintings from the permanent collection of the house (among them a painting by Marc Chagall) and it was really great that Richard, Jonh Martin and his colleagues came to Greece for three days in order to personally attend this opening.

I also managed to collaborate with the Freud Museum, in London, which was in many ways an inspiration for my work at the KHM.

I truly believe that a significant part of the success of the opening of the Katakouzenos House Museum was due to these two collaborations and this gave me the strength to continue my volunteer work and my efforts to stay close to the British civilisation and culture for all those years.

What sparked your interest in British art and culture?

Μy late father, Admiral Emmanuel Peloponnissios OBE, is the person who passed to me his love for most things British and whose example I try to follow. He was born in Kimolos, a Greek island, in1940. Ηis father was lost in the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest continuous military campaign in World War II. As he grew, he learned to speak English by reciting Shakespeare by heart. He managed to study in London in 1978 and his was honoured by Queen Elizabeth on 1989 as he saved 480 children who came from many schools from England for a cruise trip in Greece and were sunk by an another boat. His moto during his life was from the famous poem written by English poet John Keats:

Beauty is truth, truth beauty,
– that is all  ye know on earth,
and all ye need to know.

(Did you know that one of John Keats’ most famous poems ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ was inspired by a Greek urn that he saw in the British Museum?)

As you can imagine with such a father, it was my destiny to have an admiration in British art and culture and as I grew older I realised that through the Britons I had discovered many things about the Greeks that I once ignored.

Congratulations again on being a finalist for the British Council Lifetime Achievement award. Has being a finalist opened any new opportunities?

It was a real honour to be a finalist for the British Council Lifetime Achievement Award. It was certainly an exciting process and while gathering the information on what I had done at the KHM, I was reminded of many things I had forgotten over the years. It also led to do a bit of soul-searching, which is an opportunity in itself! And I re-connected with the City University twenty years after my graduation which was also really valuable for me!

Why might City alumni consider getting involved with the British Council in Greece or in general?

Since the years immediately after the Second World War and all the way until today, the British Council has had an important role in Greece. It is a strong link between the two counties, and especially after Brexit, its mission becomes more important than ever. So, I would certainly advise any City alum in Greece who wants to keep his/her connection – especially a cultural one – with the UK alive to actively keep in touch with this historic and increasingly relevant British institution.

How has the pandemic impacted your industry and your role specifically?

In my role as KHM’s curator, my main concern is to find ways to continue being helpful to our visitors and to our society more generally. Given the operational difficulties arising from the pandemic, I tried to find sponsors to develop and launch some virtual projects. I am proud to say -and at the same time thankful to the sponsors – that I managed to find support from three different sources for respective projects.

Having said that, and even though all the people working at the KHM are offering their time, ideas and energy on a purely voluntary basis. Covering the operational expenses remains a huge challenge under any conditions, but even more so, during these pandemic days.

What does the future look like for British culture and art in Greece?

Modern British culture and art have certainly been influenced by Greek culture and art, especially the classical ones, they have also significantly influenced modern Greek ones. British education was and is a source of strong interest for Greek students and British language, music, and art are still a dominant influence. I certainly hope that from a political point of view, the necessary conditions for this strong and mutual relationship, including travelling between the two countries and staying long-term at them, will remain in place.

What do you love most about the work that you do?

My work as a curator at the Katakouzenos House Museum made me realise how far my opportunities have driven me and helped me discover the path I wish to follow. Although following the moral principles I had adopted at the beginning made for a difficult path, it nevertheless gave me the opportunity not only to be creative but also to support many people and help create a lot of important works of art. Over the years, I have tried to do my best and I am proud of what has been achieved at the KHM.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Fight for your dreams and never give up. “Worthy is the price paid” as the Nobel-prize winner Odysseas Elytes wrote in one of his poems.

In closing, I would like to say that I could not have managed to go as far as I have without my family: my husband, and my daughter, who have stood by me all these years.

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.

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