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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.

Sixty years at City: An interview with Alan Parish

Alumni Notice Board.

Written by Gemma Bradshaw

“I consider City to be the place which has provided the most significant influence on my life”

This year, Alan Parish is celebrating his sixtieth year as a staff member at City.

Reflecting on his time at the University, from his very first steps inside the then Northampton College of Advanced Technology as a student in 1958, to today, Alan recalls tales from the Student Rag, his work in External Relations and Examinations, and completing close to 400 City graduation ceremonies as University Mace Bearer.

Looking to the future, Alan comments:

Everything will be different in the coming months or years, depending on when Covid-19 is defeated. However, as the President would say, “We will have progressed”, and I have no doubt that everything at City will improve, until its ranking in the world is as high as possible.

What are your memories of joining City in the 60s, the then Northampton College of Advanced Technology?
The first time I set foot inside City (in those days the Northampton College of Advanced Technology), was September 8th 1958, straight from an apprenticeship with the General Electric Company. I was studying Light Engineering, in the Department of Electrical Engineering. I still remember my first lecture on Power Engineering, specifically electric motors.

In that first term, every new student took part in the Student Rag, which involved wearing fancy dress and walking around London to find such things as a six-inch nail and who was on the end of a telephone number. This was somebody from the Students’ Union who had been briefed to make the call as stupid as possible.

Anyone who didn’t take part in the Rag was dumped in the horse trough, (which still sits on the pavement opposite the old Blacksmith & The Toffee Maker pub on St John Street), or thrown into the old College Building swimming pool.

What was your first staff role at City, and tell us about your roles over the years?
After not passing my exams in my first year, the Head of Department, Dr Soper, recommended that I join the staff as a technician and spend one day a week repeating the course for a second time. I gladly accepted this suggestion and started as a member of staff on the following day, not realising that I would remain a staff member for sixty years.

My roles have changed over the years – and have included Experimental Officer, Examinations Officer, School Archivist and University Mace Bearer.

In 1986 I was asked to help the Departmental Examinations Officer who was struggling to provide the necessary service for an increasing number of courses within the School of Engineering. This was a great development because I became involved with examinations procedures for the remainder of my full-time employment at the University. I eventually took over as Departmental Examinations Officer and continued to develop methods of displaying results for members of the various Examination Boards. I was responsible for storing every examination mark and every coursework mark for every Electrical Engineering student so that I could produce comprehensive spreadsheets for the examination boards for each course. This was so successful that I was asked to do the same work for all Mechanical Engineering students and later for all MSc students.

Later, I was approached by the Head of External Relations to be a Clerical Assistant where I stayed for five years. I worked on the development of the alumni database, where I invented a system of data cleaning.

I was then asked to take back my old role as Examinations Officer. I left External Relations in 2000 and started 11 years in what I consider to be the most gratifying period of my employment in the University. My work not only involved keeping students’ marks but producing final examination papers for the academic staff. This involved formatting, liaising with the examiners and ensuring that they were satisfied with the adjustments made, dealing with examination timetables and sorting out problems which inevitably arise during the examination periods. For one resit session I had to produce 182 properly formatted examination papers.

Since 1996 I have acted as the University Mace Bearer at Graduation following an invitation from the Ceremonial Officer. This became a regular job and I have now completed 392 such ceremonies at the London Guildhall, at Southwark Cathedral, at the Methodist Central Hall and at the Barbican Centre.

Have there been any challenges along the way?
Probably my most challenging time at the University occurred in 2004 when the new computer system SITS was introduced. While far superior to the old system, I found the new system so complicated that it became impossible to use without experts being involved. It was a shame because SITS was obviously an improvement, but I felt the way it was introduced left a lot to be desired.

How has it felt to see thousands of City students graduate over the years?
It always gives me a sense of pride to represent the University every time I take part in graduation ceremonies. There is something magical about being watched by people all over the world, either in person or virtually.

Even when at different venues, the ceremonies are almost identical. But the occasional ‘problem’, such as a rolling mace one time at the Barbican Centre and a fire evacuation at the Guildhall, all add to the experience of taking part in such grand events.

What has been the stand-out highlight of your career at City?
There have been two real highlights of my career at City. One was the occasion when I played the organ for a graduation ceremony at St Bartholomew-the-Great Church in Smithfield, to several hundred people. I felt very important as I knew if anything went wrong it would be noticed. As it happened, everything went particularly well.

The other highlight was being congratulated by the Examination Board Chairman after each board meeting after my spreadsheets had been considered, following months of work to get them finalised.

And a highlight from your life outside City?
Having gone as far as I wanted to in engineering, I started to concentrate on working towards a degree in music. I took postal lessons and then private lessons at Trinity College of Music. I consider appearing in front of the Queen Mother at the Royal Albert Hall in 1971 to be the highlight of my life. After that, I took several music diplomas and ended up with one either for teaching or general musicianship from each of the major London music colleges.

What does City mean to you in a few words?
Having worked for only two organisations in my career, the General Electric Company for three years, and City for sixty, it is no surprise that I consider City to be the place which has provided the most significant influence on my life. I have gained so many skills at City which I have appreciated so much.

Lights, Camera…Podcast

Alumni Stories.

Credit: Michael Shelford

Sagar Radia (Media and Sociology, 2007) is no stranger to the spotlight; you may recognise him from ITV’s The Good Karma Hospital. He has also acted in Jesse Eisenberg’s play The Spoils and is currently on-screen in HBO/BBC’s new finance show Industry. But now, Sagar is using his platform ‘to celebrate and ignite honest conversations with people from all different backgrounds’ via his co-hosted podcast Rule Not The Exception.

We caught up with Sagar to find out all about his acting journey and what we can expect from his new podcast.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

Going to a University in the heart of London was a different experience to those of my friends who opted for a more traditional campus feel in the north of England. I was surrounded by skyscrapers and Starbucks, alongside the melting-pot of multiculturalism and millennials.

I quite enjoyed my time at City. I had friends, who I’ve known since I was 12 years old, continue on our educational path together, whilst also meeting an eclectic mix of people who I could learn from and debate with about our lived experiences.

Northampton Square being the HQ of the University felt like a centre-point for pre-nights out, or post if the Student Union had anything to do with it. I remember frequently walking down the long hallway connecting the canteen to the Oliver Thompson Lecture Theatre, and everything in-between. This was where I saw it all happen – people rushing to lectures, grabbing a coffee or a bite to eat, social group used it as a meeting point, University groups used it to recruit members to the cause, and guys and girls would pass a smile over fleeting moments, or more.

Over ten years on and I look back on my time with fondness. Whenever I’m in the surrounding area I catch myself reminiscing about The Elbow Room, Pitcher & Piano, or closer to home, the destruction my friends and I caused during our tenure at a flat on Bath Street which sat adjacent to Old Street roundabout. Unrecognisable now to how it was then. Taken over by vegan cafes and WeWorks offices, the years between 2004-2007 seem like a lifetime ago, but one I won’t forget any time soon.

What happened after you graduated?

The rare feeling of certainty of what I wanted to do with my life was compounded after I graduated. Having already achieved professionals acting roles for the likes of the BBC and Channel 4, I knew I had to continue what I’d started.

The most unusual part of leaving the bubble of education can be the feeling of ‘you’re on your own’. But I didn’t fear this. If anything, at twenty something I felt pretty indestructible, as life hadn’t hit me with its best shot yet. I would attend countless auditions, get knocked back time and time again, and be told ‘no’ more often than ‘yes’. I got a part-time job in retail to subsidize the dream. I would have my heart broken once or twice to help me realise the harsh realities of being with an artist, and the lack of stability that came with. Across the way, I would see my friends setting up their lives working in finance, medicine, or engineering. The feeling of ‘not enough’ started to seep through but I kept moving forward no matter how small the steps were.

Sagar in character for ‘The Good Karma Hospital’, taken by Tiger Aspect

Stints in theatre, commercials and small TV appearances followed. Momentarily I went to work for a marketing firm in Leicester Square, when the pressure of no acting work became too much.

This hiatus gave me just the break I needed, and I came back fresh and ready to go for round two. I started attending classes, adjusted my look, read book after book and hit the industry harder. But also smarter.

I felt rewarded when I got a chance to perform on the West End stage at the Trafalgar Studios in a play called The Spoils, alongside Academy Award nominated Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), TV star Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones) and Olivier Award winner, Katie Brayben. #ImposterSyndromeAlert.

This was swiftly followed by a regular role in an ITV Sunday night drama, The Good Karma Hospital which I would go on to do for three seasons as I write this.

More recently I got to work with the holy-grail of television companies, HBO. Industry, which is currently showing on BBC iPlayer for UK audiences, was a chance to move away from my character on The Good Karma Hospital and I was grateful to get the opportunity to work with a fantastic team and the next generation of actors coming through to take the world by storm.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

Having never attended a traditional drama school you can’t help but feel like you’ve missed out on formal training. The London theatre scene is world renowned and respected. So, to get the opportunity to tread the boards of a London theatre, for me, has been the most rewarding experience.

To share the stage with the actors I did in The Spoils was surprising at first. Why me? Which actors said no before it came to me? All the standard imposter syndrome thoughts! I remember messing up a couple of lines on my first performance and like the pro’s they are, Alfie Allen and Jesse Eisenberg saved the day. The interval was basically me thanking them, like a fan at the stage door.

Working with our New York based director, Scott Elliott taught me a lot. He demanded the best and would push your buttons to deliver the performance he needed. Four months of working alongside him was both educational and rewarding, and I don’t think he will truly realise the impact he had on me unless our paths cross again.

What has been the biggest challenge with regards to acting?

I think the biggest challenges you can face as an actor are the uncertainly and rejection. It’s a timeless classic that this career warns you about. However, if you know deep inside that you can’t see yourself doing anything else, then you’ll know deep inside THIS is where you need to be. It’s one of the few industries that is not a meritocracy. You can be the best actor on earth and still not get the gig. Therefore, all you can do is be the best you can be, and that consistency will hopefully see you though. Add a bit of luck and a break and you can make a career out of it.

I’ve been extremely lucky with some of the breaks I’ve had and I put it all down to perseverance. My ability to take the L [loss] and keep moving is my biggest strength. Whether it be an audition that didn’t go my way, a bad performance, friends or family questioning my choices, or any number of a hundred deterrents, I never let it get me down for too long.

I think it’s also important to mention that as a person of colour in the entertainment industry, the lack of roles is clear to see. This is one of the biggest challenges to exist. I’m trying to be the change I want to see, and I’ve done that by starting a podcast called Rule Not The Exception. It’s a podcast that champions and celebrates the journeys of people from a minority background within entertainment, fitness, arts and beyond. We’re very much an inclusive podcast with exclusive guests so please go and check it out!

Why did you start your podcast?

I started my podcast Rule Not The Exception alongside my co-host Amrita Acharia (The Sister, Good Karma Hospital) as a way to celebrate and ignite honest conversations with people from all different backgrounds. We found there was a gap in the market for conversations with people of colour and people from minority backgrounds, and with our platform as actors we could hopefully attract guests to come on and talk about their experiences. To date we’ve been incredibly fortunate to have guests such as Ruth Madeley, Nabhaan Rizwan, Mandip Gill, Himesh Patel, Anjli Mohindra, and Eleanor Matsuura, to name a few.

 What topics can listeners expect you to cover?

We’ve found what works for us is trying to let the conversation flow in a natural direction. That way it can feel more like an authentic chat, which is really important to us, so the guest can feel as comfortable as possible. Ultimately, we want to cover themes such as representation and inclusivity so, we do bring up how that may have affected them throughout their careers, both positively or negatively. Our USP is to acknowledge our guest’s accomplishments, and as people from minority backgrounds ourselves, we want to provide that platform for people who don’t always have the opportunity to do so.

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

I started during a time where the power of the internet was nowhere near what it is today. My advice is to use that to your advantage. If you want to be an actor, filmmaker, writer, producer or anything related to the entertainment industry, there has never been a better time to get your product to market. The quality of mobiles phones is nuts, the ability to reach millions of people at the click of a button is mind-blowing, and the reliance on conventional routes into the industry are becoming a thing of the past. You can film your performance or make your own movie and distribute it yourself. If the product is good enough, it will attract the attention of the right people.

Another piece of advice is to try and explore different skill sets. As well as an actor, I’m also a writer and podcaster. Find what your strengths are and build on those. It doesn’t have to always been within the same field, but don’t underestimate a side hustle. It can help give you longevity!

 

Find Sagar on Twitter and Instagram

Rule Not The Exception Podcast is available across all podcast platforms @rulenottheexception

Industry airs on Tuesday nights, BBC2, 9:15pm or BBC iPlayer.

High-flyer

Alumni Stories, Black History Month, Oct 2020.

As a black female pilot you could say Faith Odushola-Boegheim (Air Transport Management, 2013) is defying gravity; contributing to the reimagining of an industry that was typically male-dominated. Faith has had her fair share of doubtful passengers but that hasn’t stopped her from pursuing her dreams. Here she talks about her experiences as a pilot, the impact of the pandemic and being part of a different narrative for black people.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

It was quite an exciting time. I was accepted into City based on merits (points for my professional qualification, years of experience and hours flown as a pilot) and since I had never been to the university as most people would have, acquiring an Honours degree before the MSc. programme, I thought it to be a daunting task. As much as I loved the challenge, my first two classes at City were intense. Fellow classmates were very active and participated in discussions and team activities and I felt lost as I could not follow or comprehend what was being said and I struggled to make any contributions. I did not give up though.

I had the opportunity and great privilege to have studied under the guidance of the late Prof. Roger Wootton. He was very helpful and gave me insights and advice on how to prepare and engage in research. He shared lots of links and books that I could read up in advance, websites I could get data from, and direction for how to complete my coursework. I was also able to connect with other students who were more than willing to share their understanding of the subjects. It took a bit of hard work but soon I saw myself more active in the classes and in group activities. With support from my family, I graduated in 2013 with merit, surprising even myself.

What happened after you graduated?

After I graduated, my bosses supported me and encouraged my personal growth. This was a huge benefit for me and a sort ‘Industrial Training’; I was now able to see in practice all I had learnt at City.  I was involved with non-flying roles such as an Auditing, Fleet Planning and Safety. I conducted several audits within the company and was part of the team that worked to achieve a successful IOSA certification. I investigated incidents and occurrences and worked with the Quality Manager and other team members to improve and maintain a high standard of safety within the company. Those were years of great progression in my life.

When did you decide to become a pilot?

My father is a pilot and even though a part of me considered it, I felt it was too expensive, we could not afford it, and it was not a suitable profession for a woman. I had just written my exams to study medicine at university. My father came home and spoke highly about a female pilot he had just flown with. At that moment I stopped burying that part of me that considered being a pilot and started to talk about it as much as I previously talked about being a doctor. My parents supported me completely and that was it. I think I was about 15 years old.

What has been the most rewarding experience in becoming a pilot?

Being a pilot entails discipline and responsibility. You are not just responsible to yourself or the company you work for but also to your entire team and the passengers you fly. For me it is not only about getting the job done, but also seeing the satisfaction on a passenger’s face having arrived at their destination safely, and their expression when they find out one or both pilots are female – priceless!

Flying exposes you to people and places. It makes you see the world from a different and more beautiful perspective. I cannot pinpoint a particular experience that was most rewarding as there are so many. This job brings joy and inspiration, not just to myself but to other people too and that is probably most rewarding of all.

Have you faced any challenges as a black female pilot? Or as a pilot generally?

Being a pilot is a predominantly male occupation and so as a female, it was not an ‘open-arms’ welcome from everyone. In my earlier years, some passengers had their reservations and refused to be flown by a female. My cabin crew friends personally told me they have had to convince some passengers before they decided to board the plane. Others were super impressed and wanted a picture with the ‘female’ pilot.

In the work environment, you pretty much have to work twice as hard to prove yourself. It is not enough to be okay or good enough. A male and a female with the same level of proficiency up for a promotion, the male is always chosen first. As a female, you really have to be far better to make sure you are not ignored and even that is no guarantee. When you ask questions, depending on the culture, you receive more negative attention because you are expected to stay silent. Overall, it is mostly positive nowadays; I have had supporters in my corner, people coming to my defence, but I wouldn’t say it was a walk in the park.

As a black female, I would say, look around you, I know that the percentage of female pilots around the world is already low, with the highest in India and parts of Africa but how many black female pilots do we have in Europe? How many of them are captains?

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

This pandemic has turned out to be the worst blow to have hit all sectors and areas of the world and most especially the travel and airline industry. I was in the middle of a job change when Covid-19 happened. I had successfully completed an assessment for a new job in January and was supposed to start in the second quarter of the year but due to the pandemic, it is on hold. So many friends and colleagues have been furloughed and are working or searching for jobs in non-aviation sectors now, just to make ends meet. I am having to source ways to maintain my proficiency and it is quite amazing to see the support pilots are giving each other in these times.

It took me a long time to find a way, and not without help from a complete stranger. In the meantime, I have also engaged in online studies and research to improve my non-aviation knowledge and skills and even though the times are horribly challenging, a few good and personal developments have emerged from it.

What does Black History Month mean to you? Do you have any heroes? 

Growing up in Nigeria, Black History Month was not something I was aware of. Of course, we have our heroes and role models that makes me proud of being a Nigerian but moving to Europe I began to pay more attention, especially after my kids, on separate occasions, told me they didn’t want to be black anymore. When we look at Black history, in Africa, America and the rest of the world, they were known first for being victims of slavery and oppression but, in strength, emerging out of that to achieve illimitable and prestigious successes and roles.

The media and society mostly associate black people with violence, drugs and criminal activities. When a black person succeeds, they quantify his or her blackness making them not black enough. I actively tell my children about the likes of Daniel Hale Williams and Shirley Chislom. People like President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfery, Chimamanda Adichie, Serena Williams, International economic expert Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, world bank VP Oby Ezekwesili, fashion icon Deola Sagoe, 787 Captain Irene Koki Mutungi, Airforce Major Mandisa Mfeka, astronaut Mae Jemison, media entrepreneur Mo Abudu, and many more. I know I have mentioned a lot more females, but I’m mostly inspired by people of my gender, as that is a levelled playing field.

We need to change the perspective of the world, starting from home, about the image of ‘black’.  Teaching our children that being black doesn’t make you a second-class citizen, being black doesn’t mean people clench their bags when you pass by, being black is not all drugs and crime. Being black is strength and power and riches and achieving the biggest implausible dreams you can dream of.

My biggest hero in all of this is my dad, Captain Odushola. Not just for being my role model but also for teaching me to take it to the next generation.

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

Believe in your own dreams and persevere. Being the best version of yourself or being wherever you want to be will take some commitment and hard work to achieve and it usually won’t come without some obstacles. But have a little faith, be ready to push through and persevere for as many times as it is necessary, and you will overcome. Someone once said to me there was no path to her dreams anymore as she was too old. My answer; create your own path to your dreams. If you are not able to achieve your dream, with all the skills and knowledge you have acquired, you might find more joy in helping others achieve theirs.

 

Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2020

Alumni Notice Board.

Each year, the Queen’s Birthday Honours list recognises the achievements and services of people across the UK, from all walks of life. City is delighted to announce and congratulate our ten alumni and staff who have been recognised for their commitment to various services in the Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List 2020.

Professor Caroline Alexander   
Group Chief Nursing Officer
Barts Health NHS Trust
Honorary Doctor of Science, 2017
CBE for services to Nursing

Ms Natalie Campbell
Chief Executive Officer
Blu Water Ltd
PG Dip Television Current Affairs Journalism, 2009
MBE for services to Social Entrepreneurship and Business

Ms Carrie A Deacon
Head of Social Action Innovation
NESTA
MSc Innovation, Creativity and Leadership, 2014
MBE for services to Social Action during Covid-19

Mr Thomas M Drew
Head of Counter Terrorism
Faculty
MA Newspaper Journalism, 2008
OBE for public service

Mr Alan R McCarthy
Chairman
Western Sussex Hospitals
MBA Engineering Management, 1991
MBE for services to the NHS

Ms Una McCrann
Speciality Lead Feeding Disorder Practitioner
Great Ormond Street NHS Hospital for Children
Dip Nursing, 2000
MBE for services to Nursing

Rabbi David Meyer
Executive Director
Partnership for Jewish Schools
MBA Marketing MBA, 1992
OBE for services to Education

Ms Neeta Patel
CEO
New Entrepreneurs Foundation
MBA Marketing 1995
CBE for services to Entrepreneurship and Technology

Mr Graham A Race
Accessible Aviation Expert
Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People
PG Dip Voluntary Sector Management, 2003
MBE for services to Overcoming Disability Barriers in Aviation

Professor Lorna Woods
Professor of Internet Law
University Of Essex
Former Staff
OBE For services to Internet Safety Policy

Message from Professor Sir Paul Curran – October 2020

President's Message.

I trust that you, your family and friends are well and are coping with the current constraints. I would like to take this opportunity for us to remember and recognise those members of the City community who have lost their lives to the coronavirus. You may have seen their stories on the In Memory tribute page created in their honour.

Here in London, we have been welcoming our new and returning students to the start of the new academic year. While this year will look and feel different from normal and while much of the education we offer will be online, we are determined to provide our students with the best education and experience possible. We have put measures in place to make our campus Covid secure, enabling us to deliver safely some small group, in-person teaching. This blended approach has enabled us to move quickly and deliver more education remotely as restrictions tighten. In the future, when restrictions ease, we will be able to expand our face-to-face on-campus activities.

It is my hope and wish that we can soon welcome our alumni as well as all staff and students back to campus.

As I announced at the end of last year, it is with a heavy heart that, after eleven years at City, I will be standing down as President and leaving City in the summer. Being President of City is a daily privilege and the decision to step down was a hard one to take, as I will be leaving the colleagues, students and alumni who make City such a special place. I feel exceptionally proud to serve as President and look forward with great enthusiasm to the remainder of my time.

I am delighted to confirm that Professor Anthony Finkelstein has been appointed City’s new President. He will join in June from his position as the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser for National Security. Previously, he was Dean of the University College London Faculty of Engineering Sciences and Head of Computer Science. Upon joining City, Professor Finkelstein will be appointed Professor of Software Systems Engineering at the School of Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering. Meanwhile, I look forward to keeping you informed of our progress.

The process for renaming our Business School started during the summer, will continue with Council approving the new name in the spring and will end with its launch in September. Alumni, students and staff will be invited to contribute to the search for a new name once the consultation starts later in the year. As you may have seen, in the interim we are using the name ‘The Business School (formerly Cass)’ with the additional strap line ‘Changing more than a name’ to signal our commitment to the name change and the wider changes we will be making.

Since the start of the pandemic, our alumni (as well as our staff and students) have shown so much resilience, tenacity, initiative and support to City and their communities, worldwide. I am very proud of the difference our City community has been making to society on a global scale and I am pleased this edition of Alumni News features alumni stories and achievements in celebration of Black History Month. Throughout October, City and the Students’ Union are hosting a series of events to mark and explore the meaning and importance of Black History Month. Do join in if you can.

I would like to close by extending a warm welcome to our new graduates, who have recently joined City’s global alumni network. To our new alumni and to you all, stay safe, best wishes and success in your private and professional lives for the months ahead.

I hope you enjoy this edition of Alumni News.

Paul

Professor Sir Paul Curran
President

The President will see you now

Alumni Stories.

Saqlain RiazMeet Saqlain Riaz (Economics, 2019), the newly appointed President of City’s Students’ Union. Whilst his top priority is of course City’s vast student community, Saqlain is keen to connect with alumni. We asked him a few questions to find out what he’s planning for his presidency and how alumni can support the cause.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

I was born and raised in North-West London and decided I wanted to commute to University early on. I joined City in 2016 and decided to study the quirkiest degree I could think of, Economics (sarcasm, although I did enjoy the programme). I challenged myself from my first day to set out and find, or build, a community for myself at City, and that’s exactly what I did. I attended every event I could physically find the time for throughout those first two years and established a robust network of friends from across the University. The sheer diversity of our Student body was always something that appealed to me and I had no trouble finding my way around the different opportunities available to me. I graduated in July 2019 and had the honour and privilege of clapping every single student from the class of 2019 across the stage at the Barbican centre. The reason for this was because I was now an elected Student Sabbatical officer at City Students’ Union.

What prompted you to run for Student Union (SU) president?

My early experience of University forced me out of my shell. My friends from School always mention how much I’ve changed, hopefully for the better! I quickly got involved with Student societies and a range of Student campaigns across City and the National Union of Students. In 2018 I became the Finance officer of the Friends of Palestine Society which enabled me to engage with a number of societies at City as well as other universities in London and across the UK. In my final year I held up to four positions in the Students’ Union, one of which was being a delegate to represent City SU at the NUS conference 2019 (good times). I cared massively for the entire City community and decided to take a massive leap of faith and put myself forward to become the next Vice President Education, a full-time position which would begin a week after my last exam. I ran a successful election campaign and was voted in to represent our 19,000+ strong student community over the 19/20 academic year.

How has your role been impacted by the pandemic? What does the new normal look like for you and the other officers?

The pandemic posed new challenges to the world as we know it. I ran my second election campaign, this time to become the SU President, in the weeks leading up to the lockdown. I started the role in July and have been learning new ways of doing things ever since. My fellow officers, Shaima and Ruqaiyah have never experienced a day working on campus, and so their natural abilities have made the virtual handover much easier than it might have been. In terms of the Union, much like the rest of the world, we’re looking to adapt what we offer to students. Collaboration between the Union and the University is at an all time high which is always positive for getting things done the right way. Our calendars are packed with virtual introductions, meetings and events and we’re always looking at new ways to improve the way we do things. As time goes by, we hope to incorporate some of the lessons we’ve learned this year to improve ourselves as an organisation; why shouldn’t we be able to offer the exact same experience to students both on and off campus?

What are your priorities as SU president?

My top priority is listening to students. I don’t believe there’s a single student perspective or experience, rather every student has a lived experience which is unique to them and it’s important for us as a Students’ Union to be in tune with that. We’re a small organisation, but we work hard to ensure our members i.e. every single student at City, are represented fairly in every decision the University makes. My priorities include, but are not limited to, improving the democratic processes at the Students’ Union, continuing to fight for a high quality, accessible education for all students, working with our mental health and counselling services and keeping our students at the top of their game through meaningful employability work. It’s a lot, I know! But it’s the nature of Students’ Unions, to keep fighting the good fight and hopefully doing it well!

What would you like future City to look like?

I’ve met some phenomenal people working at City and there are fantastic examples of them doing work that other institutions wish they could do. A future City would be exemplary in showcasing this, demonstrating to students why they should come and study at our institution and exactly what they can expect to receive. We’re uniquely placed as one of the few commuter student institutions in London, if not the United Kingdom. What an achievement it would be to be named the number one destination of choice for commuting students, a place that is accessible both physically and digitally for all, regardless of who you are or where you’re from. That’s what I’d like City to look like, I’d like to think we’re on our way there.

How can alumni support you and the Student’s Union?

We’re always looking to expand our networks. We have a number of campaigns funded by departments and bodies external to our Union: every penny goes towards looking after our students. We also cherish every piece of advice, guidance and expertise we can receive; we have a number of external trustees on our Board, why not get involved? I would love for alumni to get involved by contacting me or the Students’ Union more generally. I’m all eyes and ears when it comes to learning from the wisdom of others and would love to expand the Union’s horizons when it comes to alumni engagement. Alumni are uniquely placed in that they were once City students and members of our Union – we have so much to learn from the experiences of those who came before us and can only do so if you get in touch!

 

To contact Saqlain or the City Students’ Union team, please visit citystudents.co.uk/contactus/

Film making, family, and festivals

Alumni Stories.

Ishan Mahapatra (MBA, 2013) is a filmmaker whose screen adaptation of his grandfather’s story won Best Set Design at the Madrid International Film Festival this year. We thought it was only fitting to give him the opportunity to share his story and also a few snaps of his award-winning film!

Can you tell me about your time at City?

The MBA was a fantastic experience. I would like to credit Professor Joseph Lampel for planting the seed of making movies in my mind. During our strategy classes, his admiration for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career was something that really made me think about working in the film and entertainment industry once I graduated. The other really strong memory I have is of our strategy projects – both of which encouraged me to go out and try novel approaches in my work.

What happened after you graduated?

After I graduated, I decided to move back to India after having spent several years overseas. I worked in marketing for a few years. In 2018, we had decided to make the film, and I had just started work at a new company. Realising that this was the opportunity that I had been waiting for, and I jumped at it.

How did the story for Josef – Born in Grace come about?

My grandfather, Umakanta Mahapatra, became a writer after his retirement. Josef was one of the stories that he wrote based on his experiences on being posted in the Northeast of India. It’s also a story that has stuck with everyone who has read it. It had always been a dream of my father’s to see this story adapted to the screen. Once he retired in 2018, we started work on making the dream come true in earnest.

How did it feel to win Best Set Design at the Madrid International Film Festival?

We were absolutely ecstatic when we saw our film named the winner. We jumped out of our seats and ran around shouting in joy. It was really gratifying to see the work of our entire team rewarded.

Taken from the set of Josef – Born in Grace

 

Aside from the award, what has been the most rewarding experience?

Just seeing the completed film on screen. It’s been a pretty long journey to get my grandfather’s words on screen, and through its ups and downs, I haven’t wanted to be anywhere else. We’ve had a few screenings for the crew, and it’s always fantastic to see all that hard work on screen.

What were some of the challenges?

It’s been quite a tough year to release a film, much less a non-commercial art film. Many of the festivals that we were hoping to attend have been postponed or moved online. That’s reduced our marketing and networking opportunities very significantly. Navigating this new normal of virtual events and meetings is quite challenging, especially in an industry that prizes face-to-face and in-person interactions to sell ideas and completed projects.

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

If this is something that you’re considering, and you have a relatively high appetite for risk and uncertainty, go for it. There’s nothing quite as magical as watching something that you’ve helped create come to life on the big screen in a darkened cinema (current climate notwithstanding). It’s important to remember that it’s still a business, and you can keep pursuing a dream only as long as it’s financially viable. It’s hard to dream when you can’t keep the lights on.

There are many different ways to pursue something that you’re passionate about. The common advice that you might receive is valuable, but it will only get you to the same place as everyone else.

 

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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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