Your stories: Spring 2018

We’d love to know where your Birmingham education has taken you! Send us a photo of yourself at your workplace or location that shows what you are doing now. If you use Twitter, tweet us using the hashtags #hellobrum and #wearebrumalum

  • 1957

    Leslie Ellison (BA Geography, 1957; PGCE, 1958)

    50 years since his graduation, Leslie Ellison (BA Geography, 1957; PGCE, 1958) has developed his love of teaching geography into illustrating the beauties of the natural world.  

    Since he was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2014, Leslie has been painting as a form of relaxation. Although in need of regular blood and platelet transfusions, he is determined to continue sharing his passion for nature with others, following a successful career as a teacher and senior lecturer. 

    Leslie’s beautiful watercolours of wildlife and flowers were published in a calendar at Christmas and are attracting a growing following online. 

    Illustration of book and bird by Leslie Ellison

  • 1969

    Lynn Michell, née Dodd (BA English and Drama 1969, MEd and PhD Social Sciences 1976/8)

    This year I am celebrating the 10th anniversary of Linen Press which I founded to encourage and promote women writers. Today we are the only independent women’s press in the UK. We have grown from a first book which beat Ian Rankin in Blackwell’s best sellers to a diverse range of well-known and emerging women writers.

    As well as publishing women writers, I have written 15 books, fiction and non-fiction, including a novel set on the University of Birmingham campus (Run, Alice, Run), and a book of empathy and hope for those living with ME/Chronic Fatigue (Shattered: Life with ME). My latest novel is The Red Beach Hut.

    Lynn Michell

  • 1992

    Peter Sommer (BA Ancient History and Archaeology 1992, MPhil Ancient History and Archaeology 1995)

    I am delighted the travel company I founded, Peter Sommer Travels, has again won the 2017 Tour Operator of the Year award given by AITO (the Association of Independent Tour Operators). Studying Ancient History and Archaeology at Birmingham University enabled me to follow my passion for the past.

    Inspired by my 2,000 mile walk following my studies, retracing the route of Alexander the Great from Troy to Issus, I set up my own company specialising in archaeological and cultural tours led by expert guides. I am so glad to have had the opportunity to share what I learned at University by organising and leading historical tours and directing a selection of documentaries for the BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

    Peter Sommer

  • 1995

    Alex Eichhorn (BA African Studies, 1995)

    In his book The Road to Little Dribbling, Bill Bryson identifies the shortest distance one can travel the length of the UK without having to cross any lakes – a mere 569 miles! Together with my colleagues at Tanager Wealth Management, I’m embarking on a 30 day trek in June from Cape Wrath to Bognor Regis, to raise money for a range of charities including Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, which saved my life when I was 18 months old. Bill Bryson himself will join us for the first and last miles of the Walk the Bryson Line. I’m excited to have the chance to support treatments for children, having benefitted from ground-breaking treatment that saved my life as a child. You can learn more, including how to sponsor me at the website.

    Alex Eichhorn

  • 2000

    Fawzia Gilani-Williams (MA Theology, 2000)

    I am delighted that Yaffa and Fatima: Shalom, Salaam, won a silver medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award. As an international educator I see a profound need for more children’s books to share the message of peace and advocate that it is everyone’s innate burden and responsibility to help those in need, no matter who they are.

    My story promotes self-sacrifice, multicultural cognisance and quiet heroism. It is a retelling of a Jewish and Arab folktale with two neighbours, one Jewish, one Muslim, who find a way to help each other when they both fall on hard times. I hope the story encourages young readers to be reflective, to know that differences should never be causes for conflict, and that kindness should always be the first response. 

    Fawzia Gilani-Williams

  • 2012

    Buffy Randall (MSci Chemistry, 2012 and PhD PSIBS, 2016)

     It’s hard to find children’s books which combine science with exciting storylines and diverse characters, so I decided to write one. Poppy’s Big Idea is about a girl who can't quite find the words to explain her master plan and get her friends on board to help. As a scientist, I can certainly relate to Poppy's struggle! When explaining my job to friends and family, I find it much easier to say: "I help cancer surgeons work out how much brain tissue to remove from a cancer patient" than "I'm an analytical chemist working on mass spectrometry imaging for surgery applications in neuro-oncology."

    While writing and illustrating Poppy, I had in mind the children I met doing outreach work while studying at Birmingham. Teaching a group of enthusiastic nine-year olds, I found that pictures made a deeper connection than words alone. Picture books also reach both children and the adults who read them aloud, and the more people we have embracing science, the better. I hope that through writing books with engaging characters about ‘everyday science’, I can provide sorely needed role models for girls interested in STEM subjects.

    Buffy Randall

  • 2017

    Megan O’Brien (BA Modern Languages, 1995)

    I graduated in July 2017 with a BA in Modern Languages (French & Spanish) and absolutely loved my four years studying at UoB. I spent my Year Abroad in France as a Teaching Assistant with the British Council and travelled all around the country during that year. I had a great time.

    I have wanted to teach from a young age, coming from a family of teachers and having enjoyed studying at Birmingham so much, I decided to stay on another year to do teacher training. I had my interview in November of final year for the PGDipEd course and got the offer three hours later!!

    The course started in September and has been very full-on and busy, but enjoyable. I am currently on my second placement of 16 weeks in a secondary school and am really enjoying it! The year has flown by and I can’t believe I will be teaching my own classes, on my own from September! 

    I will be sad to leave UoB in June when my course ends, but could not have chosen a nicer, friendlier and more beautiful place to study.

    Megan O'Brien

  • 2017

    Sara Mills (BA History, 2013; MSc International Development, 2017)

    I am honoured to have been selected as a youth delegate to represent the UK at the G7 Summit in Canada. I’m looking forward to working with young diplomats from across the G7 Nations to help recommend policies that reflect the real priorities of young people. 

    As the UK’s youth delegate, I will draw on the wide range of experience I have been able to gather to date, including my Masters in International Development through the Distinguished Alumni Scholarship, my internship at the United Nations in New York, thanks to a postgraduate bursary provided by the amazing generosity of Birmingham’s alumni, and my current work on the Civil Service Fast Stream for the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall.

    Sara Mills