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2001 Visual Arts and Sociology/Social Anthropology
What I am doing now:
I currently work in the Community Safety Service at Camden Council as a Community Intervention Officer. My remit is to work with the community and the local Police to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour to make Camden a safer place to live, work and visit.
How did you get to where you are now?
When I graduated my plan was to become an art therapist. To get onto the required MA I needed to gain some experience working with vulnerable people. My first job was as a support worker for Mencap, and later a deputy manager. By this point I had decided to put my MA on hold (reports of high unemployment in the field plus the tuition fees put me off!) and instead move into another area of social care. I volunteered at a walk-in service for sex workers and later ran an art group in a hostel for rough sleepers before landing a job at Camden as a support worker for homeless families.
Within 6 months of joining Camden in 2005 I had taken on a new role as a support worker for ex-offenders and drug users, assisting them to find private rented accommodation and developing skills to maintain their tenancies. I moved across to the Prolific and other Priority Offenders (PPO) team in 2008 into the role of Proactive Caseworker. This involved working alongside the Police, drug services and London Probation to work with some of the worst offenders in the borough, supporting them to move away from their current lifestyle.
My service was subject to a restructure earlier this year, and sadly my role was deleted due to a dramatic cut in local authority budgets. I applied for one of the new roles created… and here I am now!
Photo Below: From Michelle's Final Year Art Exhibition
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Not being made redundant! Seriously though, I can’t really pinpoint any major achievements since my graduation ten years ago, but I like to celebrate the little ones – from getting an NVQ in social care and completing my Counselling Studies course, to learning how to ride a bike at the age of 31 and completing a 10km Race for Life (without stopping!) this summer.
And your biggest mistake?
Moving into a flat without any gas, water or electricity. Don’t ask!
What are your ambitions now?
I am toying with the idea of a half-marathon next year, once I’ve recovered from 10km! I’m trying to get back in touch with my creative side too, and have been working on a few writing, art and craft projects on the side. I’d love to get something published or set up a website or market stall to sell a few bits. And then there’s the café I’d like to open. A house would be nice too, preferably by the sea…
What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?
For anyone wanting to get into social care, voluntary experience in invaluable. And whatever job you are applying for, remember all those transferable skills you have polished up whilst at uni. For example, I used playing in an orchestra as an example of team work! Whatever you want to do in life, just go for it – you’ll only regret not giving it a go if you don’t. Just break down your goal into manageable chunks and you’ll get there. And if you don’t, you’ll learn a lot trying.
What made you choose Keele University?
When I filled in my UCAS form there were only six universities that offered Art and Sociology Joint Honours – and Keele just happened to be one of them! Their conditional offer was achievable too, which was a bonus.
What kind of a student were you?
Well, let’s put it this way, all nighters were not unheard of, especially in my first year! I did pull my socks up in the second year when my grades started to count towards my degree but I have always believed in maintaining a healthy work life balance. I liked to get involved in a few extra curricular activities and was in the Big Band (on Alto Sax) and the Philharmonic Orchestra (on Clarinet). In my final year I had a go at DJ-ing on KUBE radio too. I was quite shy though and rubbish at presentations.
How has Keele influenced your life?
Academically, it certainly helped me develop a greater social awareness and opened up my creativity. Socially, some of the people I met at Keele will no doubt be lifelong friends. I love them to bits and will always be grateful that I got the opportunity to meet them.
Photo: Michelle with Darren at Keele Homecoming 2011.
What is your favourite memory of Keele?
Dancing in the Ballroom with my friend Moira Koune, who sadly died two years ago. She used to shout at me, “Wiggle woman!” Good times.
What is your impression of Keele now?
I will always be fond of it. However it does worry me that the Arts and Humanities seem to be under threat from the powers that be. Although I think it is fantastic that Keele now offers training in medical professions, I like to think us BA students enrich our society too.
Anything else you would like to add?
Yes – I was gutted that the Kiln ran out of cheese and beans at this year’s Homecoming! And whatever happened to a £1 a pint?