Your stories: spring 2024

Where did your Birmingham education take you? Share your updates with us through our website or tag us on social media @birminghamalum using #wearebrumalum.

WIN! For your chance to win University goodies, tell us what animal graduate Mark Ferguson has been recording (below). Send us your answer with your name, address and phone number by 28 July 2024. Check our Old Joe competition terms and conditions.

  • 1980

    Marc Zakian (BA Drama and Theatre Arts, 1980)

    Marc Zakian

    I set up a Theatre in Education company called Flying Pig with a fellow Birmingham graduate Chris Burgess (BA Drama and Theatre Arts, 1980), then worked in theatre and TV in script and production, including for the BBC and Carlton Television and as a journalist for various newspapers.

    I started the podcast Extraordinary Stories of Britain in 2021, bringing together my interests in British history, writing and production. Each episode covers a different theme and aims to make British history fun and accessible. I brought in two former friends from the Drama Department in Birmingham: Tony Lewis (BA Drama and Theatre Arts, 1980) who is a great voiceover artist and Jeremy Pattle (BA Drama and Theatre Arts, 1980), who writes original music and FX.

    We have about 20,000 downloads a year and were delighted to be nominated in the history category for the first Independent Podcast Awards in 2023.

  • 1995

    Audrey Osler (PhD Education, 1995)

    Audrey Osler

    My career in education saw me work as a Senior Lecturer at Birmingham before taking up a Chair in Education at the University of Leicester and then moving to the University of Leeds to found the Centre for Citizenship and Human Rights Education. I worked abroad in Hong Kong, the USA and Norway and my travels – combined with my time researching teachers' lives and careers, children's rights and racial justice – all provided inspiration for the book Where are you from? No, where are you really from?

    The book explores empire, migration and belonging through the stories of my ancestors who I trace back to 18th century India. It includes a love story, child abduction and enslavement, and takes the reader on a journey from 20th century England, via Singapore, revolutionary France and other places back to India at the early stages of the British Empire.

  • 2009

    Grant Baker (LLB Law, 2009)

    Grant Baker, centre, receiving award

    While a career in law wasn’t the right path for me, studying the subject at Birmingham helped me identify that I was a natural seller. After exploring a few possible avenues, I joined a global recruitment firm and found my calling. Specialising in IT account management, I joined the Birmingham-based recruitment agency VIQU in 2019 and was honoured to win the Best Contractor Recruiter at the 2023 Contracting Awards (pictured, centre). It was really rewarding to take the award back to my team to celebrate our collective success.

    I have many fond memories of my time on campus and formed many lifelong friendships. I knew when I graduated that I wanted to stay in the city and appreciate the fact I’m still connected to the University.

  • 2009

    Josh Singh (BSc Geography and Planning, 2009; MSc Urban and Regional Planning, 2016)

    Josh Singh

    After graduating, I stayed in the West Midlands, getting a job at Sandwell Council and had the chance to understand local government from the ground up. I was able to put my degree into practice by joining the Planning Enforcement team, and my career has progressed since at the council, where I am now Regeneration Team Leader. 

    I was delighted to be named the regional and national winner of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Young Planner of the Year Award for 2023, and the acknowledgement the reward gave to my career to date shaping regeneration in the West Midlands. Together with my team, we are in the process of developing plans to transform West Bromwich town centre. We’re also focused on a long-term project to pivot our manufacturing base towards the industrial space sector and how this can contribute to growing our regeneration pipeline to £5bn.

  • 2013

    Emily Gray (BA American and Canadian Studies and English with Year Abroad, 2013)

    Emily Gray

    I was very fortunate to spend a year abroad studying at McGill University Montreal as part of my studies with Birmingham. Undoubtedly, that experience changed the course of my life and career, and gave me the confidence to pack up and try a new life in Australia, where I spent almost a decade working for the global marketing and communications company Omnicom.

    In 2023 I took the plunge in joining my friends to found the international strategy studio Untangld. We now have offices in London, Melbourne and Sydney and have worked with partners like Carlsberg, Vanguard, Amazon Prime Video, Westpac, University of Melbourne, and Flaus. We’re working hard to scale up the business and would like to open an office in New York in the next few years – watch this space!

  • 2015

    Satya Mouland (LLB Law with German, 2015)

    Satya Mouland

    I look back fondly on my time at Birmingham, where I honed my skills as a lawyer. My professors and lecturers were invested in my future and their doors were always open for me to chat and develop my career strategy, while my year abroad in Berlin played a huge part in my ability to become a barrister.

    After graduating, I went on to complete a Masters in Commercial Law at the University of Edinburgh and then a PhD in International Law and Arbitration at Queen Mary University of London. I am now a barrister practising out of 36 Stone, a leading commercial and shipping Chambers in Gray's Inn, London.

  • 2022

    Mark Ferguson (PhD Musical Composition, 2022)

    Mark Ferguson

    Following my four-year PhD, my professional work has been split across three main areas: freelance wildlife sound recording and sound art projects, technical support for professional audio manufacturers, and higher education lecturing with Buckinghamshire New University. I’m heavily involved with sound recording projects for wildlife conservation, and recently released an album of guided bat-detecting walks, entitled Walking with Bats (November 2023). The album - funded by Arts Council England - has been played tens of thousands of times worldwide, raising awareness of the many positive contributions that bat species make to our ecosystems.

    My time in the Electroacoustic Music Studios at the University of Birmingham has underpinned every facet of my audio career over the last couple of years. I can’t imagine doing my work without the knowledge and skill-set gained throughout my PhD research.

  • 2022

    Charis Hawkley (MA History of Warfare, 2022)

    Charis Hawkley

    During the pandemic, I discovered the Dyspraxia Foundation online, and found the community provided by the Foundation was exactly what I had been missing. Previously, I had not received much support for my dyspraxia. When the opportunity arose to become a youth champion in 2022, I jumped at the chance to give something back to the community and to provide a young person’s view on the charity. I am the first editor for the Foundation’s blog and I opened the charity’s first adult social group as the coordinator for the Warwickshire local group.

     I am absolutely thrilled to have been nominated in the Positive Role Model for Disability category for the National Diversity Awards, which is open to a public vote until 15 May. I feel that the nomination has fulfilled my desire to give back to the community. Hidden disabilities do not always receive the support and understanding required and I hope this will benefit the dyslexic, dyspraxic and autistic communities.