UCL News


Spotlight on... Cynthia Allen

12 January 2023

This week we meet Cynthia Allen, Student-Led Projects Manager for the Volunteering Service. Here, she chats to us about her flying a plane and completing the steepest zip-line in the world – as well as the projects she has lined up for this year.

Cynthia Allen

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am currently the Student-Led Projects Manager for the Volunteering Service. This involves managing the Student-Led Volunteering Programme, which supports UCL students to set up and run community volunteering projects in partnership with third-sector organisations and schools. The programme currently supports 61 student-led projects which work with a range of beneficiaries including children, refugees, older people, hospice patients and homeless people. Our current projects include our Dance-It project, which run dance workshops for older people, Project Impactive, which develops customised accessibility equipment for people with disabilities, and our UCL Fun Team which runs play activities for Afghan refugee children.

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

I have been working at Students’ Union UCL for nine years; during this time, I have always worked within the Student-Led Projects Team – previously as a coordinator, before being promoted to manage the team in 2018. Before joining UCL, I managed a project across a partnership of seven schools in Tower Hamlets and ran a range of projects for gifted and talented school pupils, organised personal development activities for parents and coordinated partnership training days for teachers across the partnership of schools.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

The work initiative that I am most proud of is forming the Volunteering Service’s Think Tank which is made up of student representatives from across UCL. I am extremely passionate about involving service users in decision-making. Before this group was formed, students had limited input into the way that the Volunteering Service was run. Now, this group forms part of the decision-making process for the Volunteering Service.

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

Having just returned from the Christmas break, I have spent the last week working on completing a 1000-piece puzzle with my 10-year-old daughter, Nyala. I loved completing puzzles before I had children but have not had the chance to do one since I became a parent, so it excites me to be doing so now and to share a hobby that I really enjoy with my eldest child.

In terms of work-related projects, I am starting to plan a Language and Cultural Day. It will be taking place in February, and involves school children visiting UCL to complete a range of cultural activities run by UCL students (and which showcases the vibrant community that UCL is!).

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

I come from a family of die-hard Michael Jackson fans, which is why my favourite album is Off The Wall. My favourite book is The Da Vinci Code. I don’t have a favourite film but I am a big fan of biopic films. The most recent film that I did not fall asleep while watching and which I really enjoyed was Hidden Figures.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

I do not have a favourite joke but I love the jokes that my middle child, Ayanna, makes up. She is only eight years old and makes me laugh every time. I think that she is destined to be a comedian.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

My 90-year grandmother. She has so many amazing stories to tell and every time I visit her, she shares a new one that inspires me.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Take more risks!

What would it surprise people to know about you?

Probably that I have flown a plane and that I completed the steepest zip-line in the world by myself. Everyone that knows me very well knows that I am scared of heights and jumping off a mountain is a big accomplishment for me.

What is your favourite place?

My favourite place is the Caribbean, with my favourite island being Antigua. I love the relaxed atmosphere, the food, and the weather, and even completed a Caribbean cruise by myself a year after I had my last child Cyrah, who is now five years old. I haven’t been to the Caribbean since 2019 but hope to return there shortly with my partner Francis and three children, who have not visited yet.

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