A new project has launched to tell the stories of a diverse range of English alums who work in tech, business, activism, law, and beyond. Telling Our Stories Better is led by Dr Sophie Ratcliffe and Dr Ushashi Dasgupta in the English Faculty with support from the Diversity Fund.
The project aims to challenge misconceptions about who studies English and the career paths they can take. Building on the success of projects like Diversifying Portraiture, the Stories project will create a gallery of 20-25 new alumni photos and biographies for the English Faculty's website and building in Oxford.
Ariana, a first year English student, said of the project: “I think this is a great idea because it will help both current and prospective students think more imaginatively about the possibilities that an English degree opens.”
Another first year English student, Johnnie, said: “As an English student who has little idea of what route to take after life in Oxford, I really look forward to seeking inspiration from a new set of alumni photos and biographies. The different career prospects open to me are exciting and will become more so when I am able to see them carried out by real people in real life.”
Professor Ros Ballaster, Chair of the English Faculty Board, said: “Oxford is the home of great story tellers. Learning to tell the story of the long life of literature and the ways that it has enriched our lives is a fundamental part of studying English here with us. As our students and alumni know from their studies, stories have a compelling power to reach across barriers and concentrate minds. And that skill in telling compelling stories, always pushing the boundaries and opening up new lives and stories for us to explore, is one that our alumni carry into the world. Learning to listen attentively is equally important.
"This project will open our ears and minds to the rich variety of lives that have passed through and grown from studying English at Oxford University. We want more young people from diverse backgrounds to view Oxford as a university that they could belong to and thrive in. And to leave them equipped with the confidence and determination to apply what they’ve learned as well as maintain a love for that learning. ‘Telling Our Stories Better’ is an important step for us in doing so.”
Current students from all English courses will interview alumni about their career paths, how they’ve used the skills and knowledge they gained studying English, and why they’d recommend English to students today. The project will also build a reading list, based on book recommendations from the alums, that can help to inspire current and aspiring English students to think about the subject in new ways.
Alumni interviewing will take place in the coming months, with the online gallery beginning to take shape in the autumn. It is hoped that the physical gallery will be completed in January 2022.
You can follow the progress of the Stories project on the Faculty's website.