Tuesday 17 January is International Mentoring Day. To celebrate, we wanted to remind you of the great Peer Mentoring programme available to students at UoB.
What is a Peer Mentor?
Peer Mentors are students with a bit of experience of the University and of Bristol. They are usually in their second or third years and can give guidance to our new students, who might still be learning their way around the city and University. Where possible, we aim to match new students to mentors studying a similar subject to them. However, you may choose to be matched based on a protected characteristic; this could be:
Faith, ethnic or cultural background
Care leaver or estranged student status
Mature student status.
How can a Peer Mentor help me?
Peer Mentors can help point you to services and support if and when you need it. They can also help with practical advice, such as:
• What to bring to university
• Local amenities and attractions
• Help finding societies and events
• Meeting for a chat
• Giving you a campus tour.
What can being a Peer Mentor do for me?
Being a Peer Mentor can help with:
• Training & skills development
• Influential reference for future employment
• Work experience which can count towards the Bristol PLUS award
• Increased confidence and self esteem.
Feedback from 2021/22 showed that students who had been peer mentored felt more settled at university. 78.3% felt the programme had Improved their student experience and 73.9% felt more confident at university!
Thoughts from current Peer Mentors
‘University is a scary, exciting and new time. Having someone kind to guide you through it can make a huge difference.’ – Leanne Price, Senior Peer Mentor
‘Peer Mentors offer amazing support to new students. Mentors understand that starting university can be a daunting experience, and thus, ensure that they pass on their knowledge and experience, making it much easier to settle in. They are also always available to listen to any issues, and will provide suitable advice, either directly, or by signposting to other support services.’ – Current Senior Peer Mentor
We spoke with Rebecca Scott MBE – cofounder of the BAME Staff Network and Employability and Opportunity Manager at the University, to talk about the Network and Black History Month
Can you tell us a bit about the founding of the BAME Staff Network?
We didn’t have a network to represent the racially and minoritized groups within the University. So Nishan Canagarajah and Tracy Brunnock popped out a call in the Staff Bulletin, asking for people to come and discuss the opportunities of having a network.
Nishan was the chair of a Race Task Force that had come into place in 2017 after some awful incidents. In one, two of our students were walking and some of our other students walking behind them decided to make monkey noises. This was reported to the police. It made the national news, and the race task force was set up.
Michelle Alexis, who has now moved on, and I were asked if we would like to be the Co-chairs of this new group and have the pleasure of getting it off the ground.
The Network now has 144 current members.
What are some of the initiatives the Network has been involved in?
We aimed to collect information around how people felt as an employee working at the University, look at recruitment and staff progression, representation, or lack of it. That led to the work around diversifying our workforce and looking at positive action initiatives that target racially minoritized groups, particularly those from Black African or Caribbean backgrounds who are underrepresented across the University.
Has the University made enough progress with diversification?
I have some great colleagues and some days and I think we’re making progress, on other days, and I wander around our campus and get scowled at by people that perhaps think I shouldn’t be there. Then you think, no, we haven’t made any progress.
Until our workforce reflects our City we still have lots of work to do.
I have experienced living in a very discriminative society. It’s important to consider how you bring in structures and systems in the workplace to reduce and prevent against discrimination that in turn increases areas of disparity.
What are some of the challenges the Network has faced?
Being Black, or an ethnic minority at the University is quite challenging. But it’s not just being Black at the University that is a challenge, it’s existing as a Black person in our society.
Black History Month is an example of that. Black people are often asked to do work for free, to educate others about traumatic periods of time, such as our enslavement, that are a very small part of our history, even if it was a large part of White British History.
It would be great to focus on a more diverse Black History Month that informs, promotes and shares our positive legacy and history?
The University recently posthumously recognised Roy Hackett with an honorary doctorate. Does the University have plans to honour any of the other people that took part in the Bristol bus boycott?
I’m not actually directly involved with the nomination process. I have had the pleasure of working with Lawrence Hoo, who is getting honorary doctorate in November. Whilst a lot of people know him as a poet and a Black history educator and founder of CARGO Classroom, he was the driving force that got the law changed to prevent having accommodation housing sex offenders within a certain distance of places that provide childcare. This was a result of a paedophile hostel right next to the door to the nursery on Brigstock Road in Saint Pauls.
At present, nominations have to come from a University member of staff. It would be great if we can encourage the public to work with the University staff to make a nomination? I think it would be a great way for staff to get to know different communities.
How do you feel about the University’s plans to change the names of some of its buildings?
I’ve been speaking to younger members of the City about this, but I’ve approached it in terms of “You’re a board member and this is the decision you’ve got to make. Here are some people’s views, you’ve got to decide where it’s best to spend your money.”
We are often not considered as an employer or place to study so many said they’d rather that any available funding is used towards the scholarship fund and give out more scholarships or for employment related support. They don’t care what the building’s going to be called if they haven’t or can’t go in it.
Some of us are quite traditionally academic and enjoy an academic debate or other discussion, but is this the best use of limited money and resources? Our future customers and workforce have different interests and priorities and I feel it is important that their voices are key in making our decision.
Huge thanks to Rebecca for sharing these insights into the BAME Staff Network. Please contact email@example.com if you have a story you would like to share on this blog for Black History Month, and beyond…!
Note: The BAME Network will be renamed over the coming year to adopt a more neutral term that will reference all the ethnic minority groups.
This week we catch up with David, an Advocate for the Be More Empowered (BME) for Success programme for undergraduates. David is currently studying History. We caught up with him about the programme, his interests, favourite places in Bristol and more…
Highlight of being an advocate so far:
Getting to know such great people, it’s just a nice safe space to talk.
What leadership means to you:
Leadership means supporting a team, and being compassionate, empathetic and kind.
Goal for end of 2022-23:
To at least get one academic policy through, as it is difficult currently to get the university to actively provide changes to their rigid structures.
I don’t only have one favourite food I have many and it varies from time to time, Ghanaian food is always going to be my favourite. Currently, my favourite Ghanaian dish, though, is Banku with fried fish, pepper and shito.
I couldn’t just do one of the two – I have both a film and book recommendation. If you haven’t watched it already, I would recommend watching Judas and the Black Messiah, a powerful historical film. There is criticism, such as it only focuses on Fred Hampton, for example, but overall, it’s a powerful watch. I’m reading this currently, but I would really recommend Walter Rodney’s book, How Europe underdeveloped Africa. It’s a really great read.
Favourite place in Bristol:
Malcolm X Community Centre – I was part of a public history project last year called Decolonising Memory Digital Bodies and the place along with the sense of community I felt there was great. It was space where we could talk about our raw feelings regarding the sensitive topic of enslavement. It’s a culturally sensitive, caring and compassionate environment. I also love the illustrations in the centre of Black inspirational people.
Who would you say is your biggest inspiration and why?
My biggest inspiration would be my family, this because of their fight against adversity, their willpower and confidence, which has always been something I have admired and lived by.
Huge thanks to David for sharing these insights into his experience of the programme, and some of his preferences. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a story you would like to share on this blog for Black History Month, and beyond…!
The theme of 2022’s World Mental Health Day, set by the World Federation for Mental Health, is ‘Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority‘. In an often unequal and changeable world, it is important that each of us are able to look after our own mental health, while passing on ideas and techniques to those around us.
Self-care is an important part of how we manage our mental health. As each of us face challenges, we develop strategies to help handle stress and protect our wellbeing.
Below are some tips, from the NHS and mental health charities, which can be helpful self-care reminders to ourselves and those around us:
Stay aware of your mental health
If you know what helps your mental health, let others know too. Tell your friends and family how they can support you and encourage them to let you know how you can best support them.
Keep a mood diary
Tracking your mood can help you find out what makes you feel better or worse. This can help empower you to make good decisions for yourself and avoid situations which negatively impact your mental health.
Seeing friends and family can have a great positive impact on your mental health. If this isn’t possible, a phone call or even a text can make you feel connected and less isolated.
If this isn’t possible, events in your community, or university events can help you meet new people, who may be feeling the same way you are. We have a list of university resources and events below.
Getting enough rest will help you feel refreshed and help your mind deal with any stresses you encounter during the day. It’s vital that you give yourself some down time.
Get regular exercise
Even a short walk each day can clear your head and help you feel better. If you’re physically disabled, Disability Rights UK provides information about exercises you might be able to do. Alternatively, ask your doctor for advice.
Try to be mindful
Mindfulness – stopping to take notice of what’s going on around and inside you – can be a great way of keeping in touch with yourself. Being aware of how you are feeling at any moment can help you process feelings productively, rather than being caught up in a moment.
Improve your self esteem
Recognise what you’re good at! Are you a good singer? Cook? Friend? If you can engage in the things you are good at, you’re likely to feel better. Encourage those around you to do the same. We all need reminding of what we do well from time to time.
Wellbeing support at the University
The last couple of years has been challenging for everyone. Frightening world events dominate the news, and cost of living may have you feeling stressed and worried.
Or you may be struggling to settle in or get started. While perfectly normal, this can leave you feeling isolated.
Researchers and autistic students at our Elizabeth Blackwell Institute have produced an online infographic, highlighting some of the challenges faced by autistic students and a suite of resources available for students, families and staff: https://bristol.ac.uk/blackwell/media/autism-infographic/
We spoke recently with Danny Watts, an Executive Assistant in the School of Biological Sciences. Danny drums for Cosmic Ninja, who will be playing the mainstage of Bristol Pride at 6:25 pm on 9 July. While Danny doesn’t identify as LGBTQ+, the bands lead singer Tamsin Cullum does. We spoke to Danny about how Cosmic Ninja got involved in Bristol Pride 2022 and what it means to him to be an LGBTQ+ ally.
Can you tell me a bit about Cosmic Ninja?
Yes, so Cosmic Ninja started around 2015 and I joined the band in 2019. Musically, we could be described as rock/rave, or sort of dance, synth rock with like a punk rock like edge. Lyrically, it’s very left wing and politically active.
We’re motivated by a desire to write good music that you can have a dance and let loose to, while making people aware that inequality is happening all day, every day, everywhere and we need to do better.
Is this the first Pride you’ve played?
This is the first Pride I’ve personally played. The band themselves have played a couple of times before, including a completely berserk evening gig at Old Market Assembly a few years ago.
I did go a few years ago though, when it was in Castle Park. It was fantastic, so much happiness and joy.
This year we’re on at 6:25 pm on the mainstage, hopefully it’s gonna be a big one!
How did you get involved in Bristol Pride 2022?
Our singer Tamsin Cullum is a very proud member of the LGBTQ+ community and getting booked has been on the radar for a while, but obviously COVID caused everything to be backlogged. Because of the previous times the band have played and how successful it was, the decision was made that we should be moved to the mainstage this year.
Has the response to the LGBTQ+ nature of Cosmic Ninja changed over the time that you’ve been in the band?
If things have changed, I think that people are becoming more aware. It’s getting more into the minds of people that these inequalities exist. I wouldn’t say that too much has changed in a legislative way since I’ve been in the band, but you definitely hear a lot more about the LGBTQ+ community in media circles and on social media.
What does it mean to you to be an LGBTQ+ ally in 2022?
I think it is massively important to be an ally because of the inequality faced by the LGBTQ+ community. It still astounds me to this day that people who identify in that way are marginalized. As for myself, somebody who isn’t LGBTQ+ who doesn’t identify like that, I try to authentically be myself, wherever I am. And I find it very frustrating that other people can’t, or they feel like they can’t because of the pressure that society puts on them. So, I feel like I have a very important role in being able to push those voices and give them a chance to be themselves. This is the very least it seems you should be able to do.
We should celebrate everyone being themselves, and that’s why I feel like I can be an ally, especially in a band where the ethos that is front and centre of what we’re trying to do, is highlight inequalities via music.
A big thank you to Danny for giving up his time to talk to us. You can follow Cosmic Ninja @Cosmicninjaband on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can also see the band at multiple festivals over this summer. If you would like to know more about how we are celebrating Pride, please visit our Pride webpage. And if you have your own stories to share about Pride or being part of the LGBTQ+ community please get in touch: email@example.com.