There is a rhythm to the year which is recognisable, sometimes reassuring – we all feel good about the familiar – and sometimes mildly irritating – time cannot fly by that fast, surely. So the Easter eggs appear in the shops as the Christmas decorations are put away – squeezing the Valentine’s cards in between – and we are increasingly aware that the Christmas decorations will appear again all-too-soon after summer holidays (which, of course, will be booked well before the Easter eggs are off the shelves). Of course, this is punctuated by the University’s own cycle of A-Level results day, enrolment, Freshers’ Week, Open Days and so on; I write this having attended another superbly-organised Course Open Day this weekend, which gave us the chance to show the University off to several hundred prospective students and their families. So, slotting into the seasonal sequence, we are about to launch the third Hallam Fund telephone campaign. This year, it runs from 12 February to 23 March. As you’ll know, the campaign runs annually and is aiming to raise £250,000 over five years through regular donations from alumni and single gifts. Over the past two years, we have raised £131,000 in pledged donations which puts us on course to reach the campaign’s target.
The Hallam Fund underpins three strands of the University’s activities. It supports students from disadvantaged and under-represented backgrounds, and particularly those leaving care, who have carer responsibilities and who face estrangement because of their family or financial situations. It supports opportunity bursaries which ensure all students can access career-enhancing and inspiring opportunities regardless of their background and financial situation, and it supports transformational research grants focused on tough social challenges. This type of giving is important to the University; it offers a very wide range of people the opportunity to contribute as part of a growing community making a difference. But it is significant in another way too: the core of the Hallam Fund activity is provided by students who will be making telephone calls to alumni over the next month. The students, who will have been trained for their role, will get to speak to a diverse range of alumni from the University and Polytechnic – one student managed to secure a work placement during his call – and meet students from different courses; for them, it is a development opportunity.
The money raised through the Hallam Fund is already having an impact on our students and our researchers and is going to support a variety of projects which are helping us achieve our ambitions as a University. For example, we know that the number of students who drop out of university with mental health problems has more than trebled in recent years. Supporting student mental health is a priority for this University and the Hallam Fund has funded a new Residential Wellbeing Mentoring programme committed to improving student wellbeing and reducing the numbers of students who withdraw from university by training students buddies based in Halls of Residence. We think this is a pioneering approach to interventions. We’re also supporting student mental health by donating £3 to Student Minds for every completed National Student Survey, which is open until 30 April.
Thanks to donations to the Hallam Fund, students will be able to develop their critical thinking skills and broaden their professional networks through the Hallam Fund Career Mentoring Bursary. This bursary programme supports students with travel or accommodation costs during mentorship, which is normally six months in duration. Students from underprivileged backgrounds, in their final year of study or who have little work experience or networks to support their development are prioritised.
Significant progress has been made on global engagement, work outstandingly led by Professor Roger Eccleston, and the Hallam Fund contributed £20,000 to support global engagement visits for students who are otherwise least likely to participate in global exchanges due to lack of experience, social capital or funding worries. Over the next year a number of exchanges will take place with some of our trans-national educational partners and this work compliments work ongoing as part of the GoGlobal Fund.
Since the inception of the Hallam Fund, three innovative applied research projects have been funded by donations – research to improve the lives of men with prostate cancer, further development of a bra for women undergoing breast radiotherapy and early stage research into a revolutionary auxetic metamaterial. The applications of this material are wide-reaching, but it is hoped that the material will mitigate much of the trauma premature babies experience if they need to travel in emergency vehicles, by dampening the vibrations and sounds.
There are other important development activities which are impacting on the University. One of the world’s leading pump and seal makers, AESSEAL, and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers have funded 26 female engineers over the past two years to support their career development through their courses and into postgraduate training. The impact of this donation has not only made a difference to our female engineers in building their experiences and opportunities, it has also informed our thinking on our new equality and diversity objectives, which will be launched later this month.
We are now working with Santander Universities UK to support students on developing their enterprise skills and also international experiences which will give many students the experience to take them to the next level. This year’s enterprise awards were generously supported (and judged) by Santander. Class of 2015 events management graduate Max Scotford won the first of these awards, receiving a £5000 prize to support the development of his start up Bullion – Yorkshire’s first craft chocolate company. The winners of this year’s awards have been to speak to Santander’s SME network about the challenges of setting up businesses in the region. The Santander donation encourages and grows partnership and it is great to see Sheffield Hallam join the world’s biggest CSR scheme.
Finally, a team of staff will once again be running the Sheffield Half Marathon on Sunday 8 April to raise money for the Hallam Fund. So far we have 27 staff in the team, but there is still time to join. They will be raising money for students from care backgrounds, estranged from their families and young carers. In 2017 #TeamHallam raised funds which helped launch the Estranged Student Transition Fund which meant Josie (who has been estranged from her family since she was 14) had help to move to Sheffield to start her course. If you are interested in joining Team Hallam for the event, please contact Louise Syder or do, please, show your support for the team by donating here.