This summer sees The University of Manchester confer degrees on the first students to have completed three years of transformative Stellify activities. They leave as Manchester graduates ready to light up the world.
Stellify means ‘to change, or be changed, into a star’. For University of Manchester students, this means a chance to plot their own path towards making their mark on their world.
Launched in 2016, Manchester’s Stellify programme provides students with extra- and intracurricular opportunities to contribute to local and global communities, engaging with issues of real-world importance.
Connecting with the University’s goal of social responsibility, they take on opportunities to lead, develop as future professionals and learn without boundaries.
Students who complete three annual Ethical Grand Challenges, 40 hours of volunteering and two leadership roles alongside their studies receive the Stellify Award – a mark of Manchester excellence.
Here, three students look back on these transformative experiences.
Creating their future
Coming from a family of teachers, Bethan Counsell wanted to do anything but teach. However, a summer internship in Uganda changed everything.
Bethan worked on a scheme for 17 to 22-year-old students that awarded fully funded scholarships to orphans to go to university in the UK, America or Japan.
The scheme has created some wonderful success stories. “One scholar is doing biomedical sciences and has just proposed a plan to the British Council about how plastic surgery can help burns victims in her home country,” Bethan reveals.
Alongside her Sociology studies at Manchester, Bethan signed up to be a PASS leader, assisting her fellow students. This encouraged her to work towards the Stellify Award, completing further activities such as volunteering with the Pankhurst Trust and Centre, Oxfam, the British Heart Foundation and Student Action.
“I want to impact people rather than just be a teacher in a classroom,” she explains. “I look back on the teachers in school and university who got me excited about the subject or helped me through difficult times, and I just want to be in that role – or perhaps go into the policy side of it and have more of an influence.”
Having completed her TEFL qualification, Bethan’s next adventure is a three-month placement in Colombia before potentially heading to Spain or China.
“It’s the activities I’ve done as part of Stellify that has made me a candidate for internships,” Bethan reflects. “There are so many jobs I want to go for where I can now tick the boxes because I know I’ve done it.”
Understanding the issues that matter
While studying for the BSc in International Development, Aya Wietzorrek took part in the University’s Ethical Grand Challenges, a set of activities exploring three of the 21st century’s biggest issues: sustainability, social justice and workplace ethics. These built on the interests in global inequalities and human rights that she’d developed while volunteering.
“Volunteering is a very short term experience and there’s a much more systematic problem. I thought studying it would be the correct path,” Aya recalls.
After an internship with the German government looking at conflict resolution in Jordan, she realised she wanted to be tackling the issues on the ground.
“I know now that I want to do development from a nongovernmental perspective. I want to tie together the politics and the action,” she says.
Having already experienced different cultures (she has German and Japanese parents, and spent her childhood in the Netherlands), Aya joined the International Society in her first year, hosting intercultural events for students.
“The bond we formed is something I will always cherish, as well as how much we got to learn about different cultures from each other,” says Aya, who has also helped fellow students as a PASS (peer-assisted study sessions) leader.
Following graduation, Aya hopes to further develop the Spanish language skills she has gained via Manchester’s University College of Interdisciplinary Learning. She’ll also begin an internship with the British Institute in Eastern Africa looking at environmental development. Beyond that, she plans to study development at master’s level.
Looking back on her time at Manchester, she concludes: “I wanted to study at a big university with a vibrant academic community and a lot of opportunities.
“To me, Stellify is an example of one of these opportunities I was looking for.”
Learning without boundaries
Originally from Moston, in Manchester, Callum Mogridge was never encouraged to aim for university until he went to college. After completing the Manchester Access Programme, he received a donor-funded scholarship to study Psychology at the University. Today, he volunteers with schoolchildren with behavioural issues and learning disorders, helping the next generation to realise their potential.
“You’re giving something to young people who won’t get that perspective otherwise,” he reflects. “They could be the one that comes up with a cure for cancer.”
In his studies, meanwhile, he has aimed to bring about change in organisational psychology. He’s conducted research into how unconscious biases against homosexual male applicants influence employer’s CV preferences.
“Research is the way forward to bring about change,” he says. “I want to continue this research into implicit attitudes towards minority groups and see how this affects policies in an organisation.”
Putting his learning into practice, Callum has started a voluntary role working with the LGBT Foundation in their human resources (HR) team.
“Working in HR you are a point of contact for someone, you’re not just there for recruitment. I’m gay myself and it does lead to difficulties. I live with depression and anxiety; it’s just a commonality in minority groups,” he says.
“The workplace shouldn’t have to be like that.”
Callum begins a master’s with the Alliance Manchester Business School in the autumn and hopes to progress to a PhD. Alongside this, he wishes to get involved with the Student Union’s diversity and inclusion ambassador scheme.
“I love the idea of learning without boundaries. You can get a lot out of your degree but you can get a lot outside of it as well,” says Callum. “Stellify has that framework to encourage people to do more with a degree.”