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
It’s nearly the end of term – and we hope you have had a good one!
Many of you will soon be leaving Bristol to see family and friends, but when you return will it feel like you are coming home? And if you are staying in Bristol, does that mean Bristol is already home to you, or will you be wishing you were somewhere else… maybe somewhere warmer?
We asked our student champions Josh and Lottie about what they’ve done to make Bristol feel like home. For Lottie creating a playlist was the key to comfort, and for Josh it was about making his room a place to relax in.
To make my uni room feel more homely, I like to bring plenty of stuff from home to decorate with (and sometimes I go a bit overboard). I have photos plastered all over my walls (using blue tack alternatives to not stain the walls of course), and my shelves are chocked full of books, plants, and Lego.
Music really helped me transition to university at the beginning of first year. Before moving into my accommodation in September, I spent some time putting some playlists together so that I could carry a bit of home with me wherever I went.
My dad always plays music when we have a family meal together on a Saturday night and he has a very specific taste! I created a playlist with all of his favourite songs, mostly consisting of music from the 70s and 80s, and whenever I listen to it, it brings me comfort because I’m reminded of my family and all of our great memories together.
I really recommend doing this because you can listen to the playlist whenever you want: in the library, on the way to lectures or at night before bed!
In the meantime, we hope you have a happy and healthy winter break. If you’re staying in Bristol for the holidays, remember that the Residential Life team is running daily events, open to ALL students. And while the University is officially closed between Friday 23 December and Wednesday 4 January, you can still access some services if you need them. You can also request wellbeing support during this time if you need to do so.
With the very best festive wishes from the Student Comms team. We look forward to hearing from you in 2023!
Back in July we asked students minority ethnic students what content they would like to see in their newsletter. Here is what they told us.
Over 85% of you said that you like seeing a list of events
So we are including more events, both on campus and in the wider city that would be of interest to students from minority ethnic groups. Because of the cost of living we are going to only be sharing free events or those with a maximum of £10.
73% of you enjoy finding out about research that is happening at the University
So we are reaching out to academics from different faculties to see if they have any research they would like to share or signpost to.
All of you said that you wanted to be made aware of paid opportunities
With the continuing cost of living crisis we are going to be speaking with the Careers Service to find out what support, roles and training are available.
You had great suggestions for content contributions
There were many great suggestions for additions to the newsletter from more information about financial support, particularly for Widening Participation students, to videos of events.
We want to highlight student creativity and passion. Are you a blogger? Photographer? Aspiring filmmaker? Baker? If so, the student comms mailbox is always open, please get in touch so we can share and celebrate your talents.
Bristol Students’ Union is home to over 350 societies, clubs and networks and we’d like to use the newsletter to learn more about them. So, starting in the New Year we are going to feature a society spotlight with each newsletter focusing on a different society and what they do.
We are also going to make a conscious effort to share student and staff successes, as we all need to celebrate the wins when we get them.
We asked you if you liked the name BAME Newsletter
It was a resounding no. Now after two rounds of surveys we finally have a winning name. Going forward the BAME Newsletter will be called Horizons Newsletter.
Thank you to all of you who took the time to fill out the surveys, it is greatly appreciated.
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…!
This week we catch up with Jordan, an Advocate for the Be More Empowered (BME) for Success programme for undergraduates. Jordan is currently studying Engineering Mathematics, but has many more interests besides his degree. Read on to hear more…
Highlight of being an advocate so far:
The best part of being an advocate has to be seeing the impact we make on students, especially with the return of in-person events last year! Seeing so many people turn up to and take value from our ADHD workshop and the open Iftar, for example, were great reminders that the work we do is valued and necessary to help make students feel like they belong on campus. I’m hoping to really double down on that this year and provide more chances for students to get involved with in-person activities!
Goal for end of 2022-23:
By the end of this academic year, I would love for the BME Success Programme to have a well-defined set of digital material, from high-quality social media posts to (hopefully?) a video which highlights the work we’ve done over the years as advocates! Personally, I’d also like to have learned a few songs on my guitar. I’ve owned a guitar for a good 5 years now but have always shied away from picking it up and actually learning how to play anything, so here’s to adding “amateur guitarist” to my repertoire of “somewhat” useful skills.
What leadership means to you:
Leadership to me is more of an action than a status or title. I’m a huge football fan, so seeing my favourite players influencing the game, both on and off the pitch, taught me a lot about how I can be a leader in my own community and about what skills and qualities would help me achieve that! Firstly, it helped me acknowledge the differences between a leader (e.g. the captain) and a manager. A leader cares about their team and how they can extract the best out of everyone, vs a manager whose job is to make sure everyone fulfils their role and works towards a goal. Secondly, being true to your values in everything you do is important when maintaining integrity. Someone who demonstrates good leadership skills should act with integrity as that gives others the chance to understand their motives and intentions, thus enabling them to get behind or not.
Person who has most inspired you:
I look up to many people in the entrepreneurship and tech spaces, but Marques Brownlee, the mastermind behind MKBHD, is someone whose path I particularly admire. For someone to make videos for fun while graduating from university and becoming a pro athlete, before effectively becoming the face of tech on YouTube, is quite exceptional – especially as a black man living in America!
Nothing beats a good curry goat with rice and peas!
I really enjoyed the movie Rocks, but I can’t recommend the book How to Win Friends and Influence people by Dale Carnegie enough!
Favourite place in Bristol:
Pitch 17 on the downs has a special place in my heart (UTFB), but I’m a big fan of Ashton Court Estate, especially in the summer, where you can catch some deer, great views and a local car boot sale on Sundays!
Huge thanks to Justin for sharing these insights into his experience of the programme, and some of his preferences. Please contact email@example.com if you have a story you would like to share on this blog for Black History Month, and beyond…!
My highlight has been working with a group of incredible people! I am grateful for their consistent support over the past year and the opportunity this position has provided in making connections across the university.
Goal (in reference to the programme) for end of 2022-23:
My goal as an advocate this year is to create a consistent and established support network for BAME PGRs. I hope to achieve this by creating safe social spaces and providing supportive workshops which encourage empowerment in academia for this community of postgraduate researchers.
Top leadership skill gained/developed:
I’ve enjoyed being a person who can listen and I have developed a skill for making people comfortable with openly expressing their feelings and thoughts. I believe that being heard has been a powerful method of peer support for BAME PGRs and has empowered those who have attended our events.
Anything from Trinidad, but a favourite would have to be saltfish and fried bakes!
Favourite place in Bristol:
My favourite place in Bristol is Stokes Croft. I think that Gloucester Road has some of the best food places in Bristol and it also reminds me a bit of home (London).
My favourite book at the moment is Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson. I really enjoyed the story, which explores themes such as belonging, vulnerability and mental health, and how the writing immerses you in the character’s thoughts.
Person who has most inspired you:
Both of my parents have, and continue to inspire me most in my life. I try to have the same courage and determination in everything I do and hope to make them proud!
Huge thanks to Nathan 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/
For the first of our Black History Month blogs we had the privilege to talk to Bristol alumna Sonah Paton, co-founder of Black Mothers Matter. Here, Sonah shares some insights into her own time at university, and the ground-breaking work she is undertaking to address the disproportionately difficult experience of expectant and early Black mothers in the UK.
Sonah, what made you decide to study at Bristol?
My dad had been a doctor at the BRI so I already had a connection with the city. My parents also had high academic standards for me and my two siblings, and Bristol met with their expectations.
What was your experience like at university?
I had a great time at university! I met Yomi and Aisha (the other co-founders of Black Mothers Matter) at an ACS (African & Caribbean Society) event at Freshers Week. There weren’t many Black British women in our cohort so I suppose that drew us together. It was a very white space, and there wasn’t much recognition that my experience would be different from that, but there was a good sense of community within my wider friendship group.
How did Black Mothers Matter start?
It basically started from a chat on WhatsApp! We had all become pregnant during 2019 and had given birth just before or during the first lockdown, so our babies were introduced to each other on Zoom. As well as talking about motherhood in general, we also discussed how lucky we felt that nothing seriously bad had gone wrong for us during our pregnancies and births, especially in the light of the 2019 MBRRACE report which highlighted that Black mothers are four times more likely to die during pregnancy. Between the three of us we have a combination of skills in marketing and medical expertise so we said to ourselves why don’t we take action and do something about these grim statistics.
That is a shocking statistic – why do you think that is the case?
The system was built for white people, for example when babies are assessed to see how much oxygen they are getting the measure is how red/pink they are. This just isn’t a relevant test for a black or brown baby. There’s also NHS advice on nutrition for pregnant women which might not include ingredients that are used in a traditional West African diet such as yam or plantain. Things like that may seem small but they can have huge consequences.
How do you help make a difference to Black mothers?
We have two work streams, one of which directly engages members of the community by pairing women with doulas, providing antenatal support hampers and that kind of thing. The other project addresses systemic issues and includes an anti-racist education and training programme for midwives and maternity assistants. One of our overall goals is to achieve zero disparity based on race by the time our own children are ready to be parents.
What is your opinion of Black History Month?
Black History Month has the potential to be a powerful campaign, but it really depends on the approach people take. For example, at my son’s school they ran a great project about Roy Hackett who was a local man and one of the organisers of the Bristol bus boycott. The content was really relevant and the children learned a lot. We do get lots of enquiries around this time and I sometimes find myself asking, where were you for the other eleven months of the year?! But it can be a positive reminder to celebrate black culture, even if it’s through a small gesture – if you are buying a book, why not choose one by a black author?
That’s a nice idea – do you have a book you could recommend?
Thanks so much to Sonah for giving her time to us and sharing the excellent work being undertaken by Black Mothers Matter. If you would like to know more about the organisation, or have other stories you would like to share with us, please contact email@example.com.