UCL News


Spotlight on Abbie King

13 October 2015

This week the spotlight is on Abbie King, UCL ChangeMakers Manager, UCL Centre for Advancing Learning and Teaching (CALT).

Abbie King

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am the UCL ChangeMakers Manager and my role is to support students in undertaking a research project focusing on improving, enhancing or innovating the learning experience at UCL. Typically students propose action research projects, where they are looking to change something for the better. The ethos behind UCL ChangeMakers is that students, as critical and creative individuals, have a valuable contribution to make at UCL. As experts in their own learning experience, students can propose changes that would have the greatest impact on their learning and, as a university, we should be acting upon that.

UCL ChangeMakers offers central support, project funding (of approx. £500) and payment to students wishing to undertake this work (£150 for students taking on a lead, coordinating role; £50 for supporting students). Initial ideas for projects are open now with a deadline of 5 November. You can find out more on the UCL ChangeMakers website.

We also offer UCL ChangeMakers Staff Grants of £500, plus payments for students. The purpose of these grants is to enable staff to work in partnership with students to enhance research-based education at UCL.

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

I have been at UCL for almost four years now. I moved here from the Royal College of Surgeons where I had an amazing view from my window looking out over Lincoln's Inn Fields. Previous to that I worked at the British Library in the Rare Books and Music Reading Room. No view but some of the most beautiful books I have ever seen in my life.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

Definitely UCL ChangeMakers, which I have got off the ground. I had always thought the idea of students as change agents was the best idea ever since attending a SEDA conference back when I started at UCL. When our director, Dr Dilly Fung, arrived from Exeter University wanting to initiate something similar here, I couldn't wait to get involved.

For me, the exciting thing about UCL ChangeMakers is that UCL is saying to its students that it values them, that it wants to support their ideas and that it will take them seriously. A university that offers this sort of opportunity to its students because it genuinely believes they need to be involved in its development is one that wants its students to reach their aspirations through challenging, authentic research opportunities. UCL ChangeMakers isn't about just accepting the education you receive here, but actively contributing to it. I think UCL ChangeMakers is offering an alternative role to 'students as consumers' and moves them to being equal partners and co-producers.

Tell us about a project you are working on now that is top of you to-do list?

Top of my to-do list is helping next year's students get their UCL ChangeMakers projects up and running. I am really looking forward to seeing what they come up with. I am already in conversation with some pretty interesting projects including writing retreats for PhD students and affiliate student mentoring. Probably one of the most common suggestions I get for a project is improving module selection, so we are working with Wendy Appleby and Derfel Owen on this.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

My all-time favourite album is Ride the Lightening by Metallica, although my current fav is Great Western Valkyrie by Rival Sons. I'm also a massive Stone Sour fan.

Film would probably have to be, depending on my mood, The Labyrinth for the awesomeness that is David Bowie as the Goblin King. If I was in a less childish mood, it might be Leaving Las Vegas.

Although it's technically a novella, I'd say The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil by George Saunders is my favourite novel - it is the funniest thing I have ever read and I have probably made at least 20 other people read it who also loved it.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

No idea >.< Maybe I'm not very funny?

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Someone who is happy with a glass of red wine and scrambled egg on toast. Seriously though? I'm not sure. I sort of struggle with the idea of celebrity or putting people on pedestals. To me, everyone is the same and I like to treat people equally. I think everyone has an interesting story, whether it appears as though they have achieved great things or not. You just have to get to know them and take the time to listen to what people really have to say.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Never turn down the offer of a new experience, no matter how far it pushes you out of your comfort zone. You will always learn something from it, meet new people and understand something new about the world that you probably didn't know before. I used to be very nervous about everything and I am a shy person. When I was younger, I think it held me back. Now I am so used to being scared about things it feels normal so I may as well do them.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I'm not sure. I am a pretty honest and open person so I always think everyone must know everything about me and I must be very unsurprising. I have a ¾ length tattoo on my arm, which I tend to keep covered at work so it comes as a surprise to people if they ever see it. I also have a pet chameleon, called Dizzy, who I adore. Most people are surprised when I tell them that.

What is your favourite place?

I love Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I spent a year at university there and it is so beautiful and so unusual. If you are there when the sun sets, the sculptures cast strange shadows all about you - it is eerie, magical and disorientating. I used to like sitting on a bench on my own in the extensive grounds and just being alone with these strange and fascinating shadows transforming around me.