How do you use your degree and the experience you gained at the University of Stirling in your current role and throughout your career?
My degree was in politics so that gave me a good understanding of the world around me and the political environment I would be entering into after graduation. I was also lucky enough to get a placement with an MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) in fourth year through a Careers Department programme.
It’s fair to say that placement changed my life and provided me with a focus and sense of direction I was lacking before I came to Stirling. It showed me that a degree is a good thing but if it can be matched with real experience you will have much more chance of being able to do what you want with your life.
What made you choose to work for a campaign group?
I come from County Antrim and grew up during ‘The Troubles’ so witnessed sectarianism destroy lives and poison minds. When I moved away to study at Stirling I thought I was getting away from those type of attitudes but, sadly, they can still be found lurking in Scotland. When another – more illustrious – Stirling graduate Jack McConnell was First Minister he made a number of powerful contributions to ridding Scotland of sectarian bigotry and that also had a deep impact on me. I saw politicians pay more than lip service to the issue. This job presented a challenge that I couldn’t let pass me by. If you are doing something you believe in you will get the best out of yourself.
What do you like most about your current role?
I work alongside good people with a moral compass pointed in the same direction as my own. My job gives me the chance to create change on an issue of deep personal importance to me. We are also a small and focused charity which means we can respond to events quickly and, hopefully, with a certain degree of flair and imagination without interminable meetings or consultations.
What have been your career highlights?
Seeing Nil by Mouth’s schools campaign grow each year since I arrived. We seek to bring children and young people from all faiths and none together in order to help them better understand difference. From a very small base in 2011 we have since worked with more than 30,000 pupils in more than 100 schools in over 20 local authority areas across Scotland. Through it we have seen strong friendships made across old dividing lines and help a new generation find its voice on this complex problem.
What did you enjoy about your time at the University of Stirling? What are your favourite memories?
My four years at Stirling were amazing. I’d came over here with an old girlfriend and we broke up after a few weeks. I was tempted to drop out and go back home to my old job in a DIY shop but something about the place said ‘stay’. And it was without doubt the best decision I ever made. I met people from all over the world, had so many of my old intellectual, political and social certainties challenged, won £100 at ‘The Med’ one night and blew it all within an hour at the bar, found myself a career, found myself some friends, found myself another place to call ‘home.’ Of course it would be remiss of me not to mention Stirling was also where I met my wife and, old romantic that I am, every so often we go for a walk around the grounds and relive old memories.
If you could give current University of Stirling students’ one piece of advice, what would it be?
We’re lucky Stirling attracts students and staff from all around the world – many of them places you’ll never visit. So take the chance to meet them here and find out more about the view of the world from where they are from.
Also don’t let any religion, ideology or other person tell you who you can friends with or who you can fall in love with. Find these things out for yourself.
Where do you hope to be in five years’ time?
Sure if I knew that where would the fun in life be!