Rachel Scowcroft, Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee

Rachel is currently in her final Ambitious Futures placement at Lancaster University. She tells us about what made her decide to go into HE, how the AUA helped broaden her horizons and how much she loves ice cream (we can relate, Rachel – the AUA staff LOVE their sweets!).

Rachel's career story

1. You’re an HE newbie! What’s your job role and what made you decide to go into HE?
I’m a Graduate Trainee on the Ambitious Futures Programme for University Leadership, which is currently the only nationwide grad scheme specifically dedicated to careers in HE. This scheme in particular appealed to me because of the opportunity to manage projects in three different HE placements, which has really helped me to broaden my knowledge of the sector and develop a range of skills. I started the scheme in September 2016 with a placement in Communications & Marketing at Lancaster University, where I did some work on brand perception, brand messaging and digital signage on campus. My second placement was in Development & Alumni Relations at the University of Manchester, where I was involved in planning and delivering events for donors and alumni. I’m now on my final placement of the scheme, which is in Student Based Services at Lancaster where I’m doing some work on how we can help students make the transition to university.
My first taste of working in HE came four years ago, when I’d just started studying at Lancaster. I got a casual job as a mentor on a widening participation programme. I love working with young people, so I really enjoyed this job and I became more involved with the University’s recruitment and outreach activity. It was so rewarding to see the impact our work was having on young peoples’ lives and I felt very lucky that my first ever job was doing something that I care about so much. The job opened my eyes to just how much is going on behind the scenes at universities, and I was curious to find out more. I applied for Ambitious Futures in my third year and was delighted to be offered a place. HE is a vibrant, diverse and forward-thinking sector that’s full of possibilities, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.
2. How has the AUA helped your career/development?
When I joined Ambitious Futures, one of the main benefits of the scheme was a year’s paid-for membership of the AUA. It’s great to be part of a network that gives you access to some of the best expertise this sector has to offer. I went to the Annual Conference and Exhibition in April, and as the first conference I’ve ever attended it was a key milestone in my career. I was a bit nervous about networking at first, but chatting to AUA members helped me to develop my confidence in this area as everyone was so friendly. The chance to share good practice with colleagues from all over the country, who I’d never usually encounter in my normal working life, was immensely valuable. The working sessions and keynotes that I attended were really interesting, and I learned a lot from them.
I gained a lot of events management experience in my second Ambitious Futures placement, and I’m now building on this by working with the AUA advocates at Lancaster to plan and deliver events for our local network branch. I’m also using the CPD framework to think about my professional development, which is really useful in my current situation as I complete the Ambitious Futures scheme in December and am now looking for my next career move in HE.
3. What can’t you start your day without?
For me, music can really set the tone of the day and transform me from being half asleep to being ready for whatever the day throws at me. I will listen to pretty much anything and can appreciate all decades and genres, but as I get ready for work in the morning I like blasting out something upbeat that will wake me up and get me motivated. At the moment, I can’t stop listening to The Greatest Man That Ever Lived by one of my favourite bands, Weezer.
4. What is your personal philosophy?
I try to live my life according to the principle of “do no harm, take no nonsense”. I think there’s a real misconception that being nice means you can’t be strong, and vice versa. You can be both. Being nice doesn’t mean you have to neglect what you want and let people walk all over you, but being strong certainly doesn’t mean you need to treat anyone disrespectfully. Kindness goes a long way; I love making people happy, and I try to do this wherever I can. But that doesn’t mean I won’t stand up for myself and for what I believe in.
5. What is the one thing you cannot resist?
I have a really sweet tooth – working on a campus that has its own ice cream shop is both a blessing and a curse!
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