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Insightful career experience

Insight days enable students to better understand what a career involves, helping them develop their skills, and work out what career they might be suited to. The days involve visiting a workplace, meeting different staff, and often taking part in exercises or workplace activity.

Many of these days are set up thanks to alumni who work with their employer and colleagues to organise the days. Thanks to alumni, students benefited from insight days at a wide variety of organisations last year, including video game developer Square Enix, wealth management company LGT Vestra, Longley Farm dairy, the Ministry of Housing and Wigan Council.

Historic collection

A sea chest from a ship commanded by Lord Nelson is one of the most outstanding pieces in a remarkable collection bequeathed to the University by former antique dealer John Victor Bedford. Originally concentrated on the history of furniture, the scope of Mr Bedford’s lifetime of collecting grew to incorporate all aspects of the classic English home – interiors, furnishings, paintings, drapery, lighting, architecture and gardens.

Now a gift from the trustees of his will is enabling these resources to be opened up for scholarship, research and public engagement in the Brotherton Library.

Find out more about leaving a gift to Leeds in your Will, at campaign.leeds.ac.uk/your-legacy

An exercise in wellbeing

Mental health is an important issue for the University and our students. Over the past year, student demand for our student counselling services has increased by 35%. Gifts from alumni to the Footsteps Fund have established the innovative Lifestyle and Wellbeing Programme, which uses exercise and physical activity to support students’ overall health – tackling issues around stress, diet, lifestyle and sleep. Thanks to alumni, 183 students benefited from this programme last year.

Find out more about the Footsteps Fund at campaign at www.campaign.leeds.ac.uk/footsteps-fund

Supporting children to achieve

Established with donor support, our IntoUniversity centres are raising aspirations and attainment among young people in inner-city Leeds. In 2018 – 19, almost 4,000 children aged 7 to 18 took part in sessions run by the Beeston and Harehills centres. Of those who were school leavers, 70% progressed to university in 2019.

Therapy by robot

Your gifts to support stroke rehabilitation robotics are pushing forward development of the MyPAM Robot, which provides valuable exercise to those with reduced arm function. Alumni have donated £77,835, enabling our undergraduates to refine the video games at the heart of the robot, with the aim of optimising its performance in upcoming clinical trials.

Award for frontline medics

A legacy from Dennis Parker (Medicine 1953) will fund an annual Innovation Prize, awarded to the student whose idea is judged to have the greatest potential impact on education, leadership, teamwork, clinical practice or the community. Dr Parker served as a medical officer in the RAF and was awarded the MBE in 1967 for services with the British Joint Services Training Team in Ghana. The inaugural prize went to student James Nicholson who developed the Leeds Medical Student Community First Responder Scheme. The scheme has given students the chance to support the care of acutely ill patients outside the hospital, building on a range of skills integral to the University’s medical curriculum. Thirty medical students have been trained so far in basic life support, providing oxygen therapy and using a defibrillator.

Alex is students’ TV guide

Broadcast Journalism students benefit from the expertise of Alex Gardiner (Politics and Parliamentary Studies 1989) who comes back to campus every year to talk about working in television. Alex, who until recently was managing director of factual programme maker Shiver, provides insight and careers advice to students, offering reassurance about their future careers: “Leeds gave a lot to me, so it’s good to give something back. And in doing that I get a lot back myself so it becomes a virtuous circle.”

Gifts bring brain cancer hope

With the support of generous donations to our Footsteps Fund, Leeds researchers are pushing forward their search for a new treatment for brain cancer. Professor Susan Short’s research group, based at Leeds Cancer Centre, is investigating the use of an oncolytic virus which can be injected into patients to target and kill brain cancer cells. If successful, the virus will attack tumours while leaving healthy cells unharmed and ‘switch on’ the natural defences of the patient’s immune system to recognise cancer cells and destroy them.

Following our appeal in autumn 2016, gifts flooded in to support this research. More than 1,000 donors contributed a total of £137,000 to support this pioneering research – enabling Leeds to recruit a full-time Lead Research Radiographer. This valuable new member of the team will work closely with patients taking part in clinical trials of the new treatment and monitor possible side effects. More patients will be able to participate and receive the pastoral and medical support they need. “This support is so valuable,” says Susan. “I truly hope we can repay your faith in our work by delivering a new therapy which could be genuinely life-changing for patients facing this terrible disease.”

Using micro bubbles to revolutionise treatment

Leeds scientists are developing a potential way to load tiny ‘microbubbles’ with drugs, send them around the body and then remotely release anti-cancer drugs at exactly the right place. Currently, a patient receiving chemotherapy is given drugs to attack and kill cancer cells. But these drugs also spread around the patient’s entire body, causing damage to healthy cells and side-effects such as fatigue, hair loss and nausea.

Researchers believe their approach could lead to big changes in cancer treatment, reducing the amount of drug a patient would have to be given – and avoiding the worst of the side-effects. Donations from alumni over the coming months will help Leeds to accelerate this research. To support this work, visit campaign.leeds.ac.uk

Sanders is our man in Taipei

One of our many overseas volunteers, Sanders Chen (MA Business Administration 2012), ensures that the University of Leeds Taiwan Alumni Association continues to go from strength to strength. The Association hosts an annual reunion which sees large numbers of Taiwanese alumni come together to network, dine and share memories of life as Leeds students. For this year’s Big Get Together, Sanders organised a barbecue in Taipei – and the association even has its own Dragon Boat racing team!

Florence offers first-hand advice

The Leeds Network is an online platform which enables students to read examples of what Leeds graduates have gone on to do, as well as to ask the alumni questions. Florence Henry (International Relations and Political Communications 2016) joined soon after graduating: “The graduate job market is hard, and as a student it’s hard to know all the career opportunities out there. Speaking to alumni is a great way to help students learn more about the graduate employment world and work out how best to market their experience.” Students can view profiles of more than 1,000 Leeds alumni.

Students’ transatlantic experience

Alumni support enabled 15 undergraduates to take part in a seven-day Leeds to New York Student Leadership Programme. The students participated in a series of intensive workshops, visits and events through which they explored the challenges facing business, community and cultural leaders in the two cities. The programme is designed to meet the demand of employers worldwide who are looking for the kind of talent to work fluidly across different geographies, sectors and generations.

The programme was funded by alumni donations to the Footsteps Fund, while Leeds alumni on both sides of the Atlantic gave practical support by becoming involved in the sessions, hosting visits to business premises and passing on their own skills, knowledge and experience. Marc Steatham (History 1983), Principal of Allen Street Marketing in New York was one of the alumni involved. “It was great to see so many undergraduates investigate issues, formulate answers and present their findings with such professionalism and passion,” he said. “I feel the future is safe!”

Our next generation of scholars

IntoUniversity students took part in a special study session on flooding and environmental planning run by consultants Mott Macdonald, whose Managing Director is alumnus Mike Haigh (Civil Engineering 1981). IntoUniversity centres, supported by donations from alumni, work with children from disadvantaged backgrounds in inner-city Leeds, inspiring them to succeed in education.

Mentoring future leaders

One-to-one mentoring can give students the know-how to thrive in their future career and help them work out what they want to do after graduation. Since 2016, 37 alumni have taken part in the Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme by helping develop students’ leadership, networking and communication skills in a professional and supportive environment.

Through one-to-one meetings, mentors help students to explore their strengths and weaknesses and how to make the most of them in a professional setting. The mentors also support students with their communications and relationship building skills. Our students feed back that the programme helps to build their confidence as they begin their career.

Leadership mentors are just some of the 994 Leeds alumni who have given more than 14,000 hours of mentoring time for Leeds over the last three years.

Find out more about alumni volunteering at alumni.leeds.ac.uk/volunteering

First-hand career support

Senior alumni across the world are helping recent graduates by opening their networks, sharing contacts and creating development opportunities. Last year, nearly 170 recent graduates learned from alumni volunteers about their chosen field of work at sector-specific workshops in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhao and Hong Kong.

Find out more about alumni volunteering at alumni.leeds.ac.uk/volunteering

Tailored prognosis

For patients and their families, the moment of a cancer diagnosis is something that will be remembered vividly for years. Giving patients detailed information is crucial in helping them come to terms with the diagnosis.

But no two cases are quite the same. Doctors currently have only limited ability to tailor their advice on survival to individuals. Research supported by Geoff Oatley (Gas Engineering 1959) is mining a wealth of NHS data to analyse the impact of pre-existing health conditions on cancer survival, which will help to develop a tool for clinicians to give a more accurate prognosis to each client.

The kindness of a stranger

Estranged from her father and having lost her mother to cancer, Sustainability and Environmental Management student Meegan Worcester studied for her A-levels while sleeping in the living room of her brother’s student house in Nottingham. “I didn’t have a desk so I’d stay on after school to revise,” she says.

She was determined to get to Leeds, having “fallen in love with the place” at an open day. After achieving high A-level grades she enrolled in 2018: “My brother and I came up on the train, but when he left I felt very alone. Other girls’ parents were saying they’d send money and visit. Everything was sorted for them.”

Meegan threw herself into the Plus Programme, a year-round suite of tailored support for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. “I joined lots of their Freshers’ Week events because I knew there would be people like me there.” There were. Meegan is one of more than 800 students whose studies are currently supported by a scholarship funded by alumni and other donors. “This helps financially, of course,” she says. “But it’s also good to know that a stranger thinks you’re worthy of support.”

Find out more about supporting scholarships at campaign.leeds.ac.uk