Spotlight on Alison Home

17 November 2011

Alison Home

This week the spotlight is on Alison Home, Senior Officer, UCL Outreach.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am a Senior Officer in UCL Outreach. The Outreach Office leads the development and implementation of UCL’s UK undergraduate recruitment strategies, with particular emphasis on increasing the proportion of students from under-represented backgrounds.

Every year, thousands of teenagers get support and inspiration from our summer schools, taster days, mentoring and master classes.

We also offer guidance to academic departments on their own initiatives. With tuition fees increasing, outreach is more important than ever: UCL has committed to increasing the numbers of applicants from lower socio-economic backgrounds by 5% annually. You can read more in the UCL Access Agreement.

My main job is managing UCL Horizons, a long-term programme for bright, but disadvantaged teenagers from state schools. Every Autumn, I recruit 100 students and work with them from GCSE to A level.

They start with the Year 10 Saturday School, taking modules in subjects such as law, public speaking, maths, medicine and psychology. Sessions develop confidence and communication skills and expose them to a wide range of academic subjects and future career possibilities.

They are mentored throughout the year by a team of trained UCL undergraduate ambassadors. I also run a debating summer school, a careers conference, half term workshops and work experience placements.

I really enjoy my job. Chatting to teenagers is fun; they are witty and smart and it is great to see them develop. I get to be creative in thinking up ideas for activities such as our Saturday School film project (you can watch last year’s films on UCLTV).

Apart from Horizons, I support the Outreach team on events like UCL’s annual Open Day (next year, on Wednesday 4 July 2012) and our school visits programme. You can read more about Outreach here – we are always happy to hear from staff and students who want to get involved.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I joined UCL in May 2009. Before that, I worked as an Outreach Officer at Kensington Palace, a 16th-century palace that has been home to King Georges I and II, young Victoria before she became Queen, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana.

My job was to involve local community groups in the palace and bring its history to life for them. I ran sessions like Georgian mask making for children, reminiscence sessions for elderly people  and writing workshops for migrants learning English.

Kensington houses the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection – an incredible collection of antique regal costume. I was able to handle some amazing objects such as Queen Victoria’s baby slippers.

My biggest achievement at Kensington was organising Rock Around the Palace, an outdoor dance festival inspired by a 1950s fashion exhibition at the palace, as part of the Mayor of London’s Big Dance week.

I got permission from English Heritage and the royal household to have a huge marquee and dance floor erected on the palace lawns. Ballroom dancing in the morning was followed by an afternoon of swing and rock and roll classes from the London Swing Dance Society.

The event was a massive culture shift for a very traditional heritage site where visitors were not normally allowed to walk on the grass.

You can check out some of the dance moves here.

Overall, Kensington was a bizarre, but fascinating place to work!

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

Getting hundreds of young teenagers out of bed very early on Saturday mornings from September to June – I think that’s a massive achievement! The Saturday school has an average 85% attendance rate, which is very high for a voluntary youth programme. This proves that our students benefit from Horizons – if they didn’t enjoy it or find it useful, they would vote with their feet.

What is your life like outside UCL?

I’m a Londoner born and bred: I love exploring my city and finding out new places. I lived in Madrid for two years and I miss speaking Spanish, so I try to go back once a year (and I watch lots of Spanish films).

I’m in the final year of a part-time British History MA at Birkbeck, so most of my spare time is spent in the library or in front of my laptop. I’m also a TV addict – I currently love The Killing, True Blood and Misfits.