We finish for Christmas today so this week we have wind-back Wednesday in place of our usual Throwback Thursday, catching up with former student (and colleague) Stephanie Atherton. Steph went on to Oxford University from college and is now back in the city she loves working as Academic Outreach Manager at Oxford Brookes University.
Steph says: ‘Terrifyingly, it’s now 10 years since we were wrapping up for Christmas in my first term at Winstanley College! Whilst there, I studied A Levels in Psychology, Maths and History, finishing in the summer of 2011. As is probably obvious from my mixed subject choice, I didn’t really know I wanted to do post-18. However, alongside the excellent teaching I received during my time at Winstanley, I was given support to apply to the University of Oxford, with lots of admissions test prep, mock interviews, and guided extra-curricular learning. Before going to Winstanley, this wasn’t even something I would have previously considered, never mind thought possible!
It was challenging, but overall I had a fantastic three years in Oxford, graduating from Christ Church with a BA in Experimental Psychology in 2014. I was however still plagued with indecision about my career pathway, so I moved back home to figure it out – and actually returned to Winstanley as a member of staff (working alongside some of the wonderful support staff and teachers who had helped me as a student!) .
I started off in the Schools’ Liaison and Admissions team, going out into schools across the North West to tell students about Winstanley and assist Year 11s to apply. After a few months in that role, I was given an additional opportunity to work in the High Flyers team and support Winstanley students making applications to Oxbridge and Russell Group universities. This was the perfect role for me to give back to the college which had helped me so much! (And when I wasn’t doing that, apparently I was jumping around in an elf costume…….)
As part of this role, I liaised with academics at Pembroke College, Oxford and at a range of local universities to facilitate outreach activities with Winstanley students. I really enjoyed this aspect, and it encouraged me to pursue a career in higher education outreach and widening participation, to assist students who are currently underrepresented in higher education to explore their options and make the progression they want. I started at the University of Winchester and now work at Oxford Brookes University – which means I’m back living in the city I love!
A few months ago I started a new job as Academic Outreach Manager, which means I oversee the work the Schools & Colleges team does with faculty academics to create university-level tasters and workshops for school and sixth form/college students. We’ve just held our 2019 launch for our sustained access programme called Brookes Engage, which is now in its sixth year, and are in the process of organising our Year 12 Discover Brookes Summer Schools in July 2020 – we’d love to see some Winstanley students apply!
Outside of work, I remain actively involved in the promotion of equality and diversity, particularly raising awareness and tackling discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community. When living in Winchester I was involved in Hampshire Pride, and now volunteer for Oxford Pride – in just my second year on committee I have become an Executive Director! Our theme for Oxford Pride 2020 is DiverseCity, and we have some exciting plans ahead for our week-long festival of events and main day taking place on Saturday 30th May 2020. I’m also an occasional cabaret performer, countryside walker, and have recently discovered I make the best Yorkshire puddings!’