Marc Gené - Spain
Economics - 1995
My degree was the best investment I made. A degree is like having a passport. You might not need it, but it’s there.
When I was eight or nine, my father said that if I did well at school in Barcelona, he would buy me either a go-kart or a bike. I chose the go-kart and we – my brother and I – did it just for fun. One day there was a “spotter” who came – and he spotted my brother, not me. My brother got involved in racing go-karts and I thought, “If he can do it, so can I.” I was the Spanish champion at 13 or 14.
I wanted to study at the same time as racing, to have something to fall back on, but studying in Spain while racing in England was logistically difficult. The team I was racing with for the following year was based at Silverstone, so I looked at universities around the Oxfordshire area. I heard that Buckingham had an international atmosphere and went to be interviewed. At the interview, I asked, “What’s that noise?” Malcolm Rees of the Economics Department said, “That’s Silverstone down the road.”
I did the two-years Economics degree and a Masters. How has my economics degree been useful? Sponsors may ask about the economy of Formula 1 and I can explain that Formula 1 runs on the same principles as any other company. My favourite subject was macroeconomics. I’ve always been interested in the big picture. There was a Spanish community in the University and I still see friends from that time. Graduation was one of the most important days of my life; Margaret Thatcher gave me my degree.
In 1997 I did the International F3000 Championship and in 1998 I won the Open Fortuna by Nissan. Finally, I made it to Formula 1 in 1999. Three things stand out in my career. The 24 Hours of Le Mans: I’m the first and only Spanish driver to win that race and the day I won it was a big day in Spain. In future I’ll look back on it and know that I made something big and fulfilled all the years of hard work. Then there was the time when I first signed for Ferrari – I was never a racing driver for them but a test driver – and I put on the Ferrari overalls and joined the Ferrari family. And finally, in the history of Spain, only ten drivers had made it to Formula 1 before me.
My degree was the best investment I made and I’m so relaxed now. If the racing suddenly stopped, I would be very relaxed. A degree is like having a passport. You might not need it, but it’s there.
Bruce Van Saun - USA
OCC Student - 1977
Thinking back to my time at UCB, as it was called then, it was a wonderful experience.
I attended Buckingham from June through December in 1977, as part of a semester abroad program run by Bucknell University.
Thinking back to my time at UCB, as it was called then, it was a wonderful experience. The school had just been founded with high hopes, and it had attracted a very diverse and cosmopolitan student body.
I lived in a little house at the other end of town on Page Hill, and the 5 housemates each hailed from a different continent. I remember some outstanding teachers in various economics classes, visiting from Oxford (Bootle), LSE (Allyngham) and the US (Beazer). And a great German class where each Wednesday we went to a pub The Barrel (Das Faß) and had to speak German the whole evening.
England was in bad shape back then, it was pre-Thatcher and North Sea Oil. There were blackouts, queues galore, and my Nat West account paid 3% when inflation was 20%! We all decided that we would adapt and drink bitter (31p/pint) rather than lager (36p/pint) since we calculated a saving of over £100 from that pivotal decision. My friend Jeff Gartzman used to wear a yellow slicker raincoat wherever he went; even when it was sunny he knew it would rain at some point during the day. I remember Mrs Kay Long, who ran the cafeteria, as one fine cook and fine woman; she treated me like a son.
Koshu Kunii - Japan
Economics with French - 2014
Sometimes, life can only be explained backwards, and the little senseless choices you make can lead you to an adventurous path.
Life is an accumulation of choices, and a series of seemingly trivial decisions that I made at Buckingham led me via a scattered path to my current job in Paris, France. I originally enrolled at Buckingham to study BA International Studies. However, after two weeks I changed course to BSc Economics with French. During orientation I had come across the Modern Foreign Language department desk and, purely out of personal interest, decided to change course and take French as a minor.
After graduating from The University of Buckingham in March 2014, I started my career as an Analyst Intern at an event-driven hedge fund in Geneva, Switzerland. It was my minor in French that landed me the role. Little did I know that my interest in learning a little French would give me a kick-start in my career.
After finishing my internship and wanting to further my interest in economics, I joined The Economist’s Club at Buckingham. A small group of caring professors and interested students met weekly for a discussion of articles in the latest issue of The Economist. I thoroughly enjoyed the intellectual stimulation I experienced during these discussions, so I decided to pursue a master’s degree in International Economics and Finance at Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC, US.
After completing my master’s degree in 2015, I moved to Mexico City, Mexico, to work in corporate banking, providing financing to multinational corporations in Latin America. This move, again, was supported by Spanish courses I took at Buckingham. I found languages at Buckingham challenging, but the struggle of confusing Spanish with French bore fruit in a way that I could not have predicted at the time.
I am now a Junior Economist / Policy Analyst at the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in Paris, France, working with policy analysis on capital flows and clean energy finance.
Sometimes, life can only be explained backwards, and the little senseless choices you make can lead you to an adventurous path.
Sean Obedih - Rwanda
Business Enterprise - 2011
It wasn’t until I got my papers that I was allowed to do what I should have done when I first arrived, which was to catch up with my education. I read about the scholarship to study for a BSc in Business Enterprise at the University of Buckingham and applied.
A refugee from Rwanda, Sean Obedih has had a lot to contend with. When he arrived in Britain he was put into a refugee centre in Weston-super-Mare. He was 19 and it took nearly eight years for the Home Office to sort out his case. He moved around the country finding a series of jobs until finally, in 2007, he was given leave to stay.
“It wasn’t until I got my papers that I was allowed to do what I should have done when I first arrived, which was to catch up with my education. I read about the scholarship to study for a BSc in Business Enterprise at the University of Buckingham and applied,” he said.
By that time he was already working on a business plan for skin-tone sticking plasters: “A friend’s son came home from school in tears saying he had been bullied for wearing a white plaster on his forehead after an injury in the playground. We couldn’t find any skin-tone plasters in the shops and I realised that here was something I could change.” He won the scholarship from SEGRO plc, the industrial property developers, and was able to develop his business as part of the honours degree.
The expense of getting the plasters to market was daunting for someone without family money or influential friends. After a struggle to raise funds, he managed to get them manufactured and sells them now through his Urban Armour website.
Meanwhile he has started another business called the Founders Hive; an online platform supported by a series of events he organises on the Google campus in London to bring entrepreneurs and inventors together with suitable partners and investors. Entrepreneurs present their business plans and have a chance to “speed date” with people who could bring expertise or funding. “After what I went through, the idea is to help people get a team together with the right expertise to be able to go out and look for funding,”.
Faith Hall - Bahamas
LLB - 2001
I credit the University of Buckingham’s Law programme and faculty with training me to love research, history, justice, and methodical/analytical thinking.
Faith studied for a Bachelor’s Degree in Law at Buckingham. After completing her degree Faith was appointed a Vice Chair of the Progressive Liberal Party, she was invited to join the writing team for those elections. She quietly became a contributing strategist and writer to the Party, and its Leader, former Prime Minister Rt Hon Perry Christie for some 20 years. She eventually retired as head speechwriter of the Progressive Liberal Party after the 2017 General Elections.
It was after the 2012 Elections that, notwithstanding her continued political work as an analyst, writer, and consultant, and eventual formal employment in the office of the Prime Minister, Faith explored the more creative side of writing. She has been the editor in chief of Up and Away Magazine (the inflight magazine of Bahamasair), and has also become a sought after ghost autobiographer. One of her poems dedicated to the late Maya Angelou can also be heard on the latest album (Black Current Jam) of 7 x Grammy Awarded American bassist, Robert Hurst.
Faith says: “At present I am working on the story of a climate refugee who has also survived the Nigerian BiAfra conflict as well as the US invasion of Grenada. While I never held the desire to practice Law, I credit the University of Buckingham’s Law programme and faculty with training me to love research, history, justice, and methodical/analytical thinking.”
Cynthia Stroud - England
MBA - 2005
I now run a multi-award winning cake shop, have won several entrepreneurial awards and was honoured by The Queen in the 2017 New Year’s Honours list.
After graduating with my MBA in February 2005, armed with a student visa that would expire in 8 months’ time, I started applying for jobs. In the meantime, I worked for the Student Union, living in subsidised accommodation on campus.
I got my first job offer in Hertford working as a marketing developer for scientific instruments. I was there for a year and was grateful to have a job. I worked hard, but truth be told, my heart wasn’t in it after the first 6 months. I didn’t like the job much and because I didn’t know anyone or have any friends in the area, I used to bake as soon as I got home just to keep myself busy. I would take the cakes in to work and my colleagues would rave about them. In fact, my first real order for a fruit cake came from one of my colleagues. I stayed on for another six months before I handed in my resignation.
I went to work for a different company within the marketing department where I was enticed by the prospect of creating exciting campaigns. But I wasn’t particularly happy there either as I struggled with a lack of creative outlets. Baking was still important to me, so when I went on maternity leave, I made the decision to leave my job and invest my savings in starting a cake making business. It wasn’t long before the orders started coming in and I mustered up the courage to sign up for a wedding fayre.
I was aiming to earn £500 a month, which meant I would need to make one wedding cake per month. I set this target because that was exactly how much I would be left with if I went back to work and placed my son in a nursery. I now run a multi-award winning cake shop, have won several entrepreneurial awards and was honoured by The Queen in the 2017 New Year’s Honours list. You may even have seen me on the BBC programme ‘The Sweetmakers: A Tudor Treat’!
Justin Albert - Wales
LLB - 1989
Bravery is not inherited, it is learnt and given, and my courage was given to me by my parents, my school and the University of Buckingham.
Many people’s lives seem to be planned from an early age. Sometimes you can be lucky, like my son Oscar, and know that you want to direct films from the moment you saw your first movie. Others have careers imposed on them, as a result of parental pressure or a rigid education system that makes children fit the system rather than finds out what the child will do best. I don’t fit into either of these camps. I was a very dyslexic student in the 1970s when dyslexia was neither accepted nor understood. If it were not for a few people and institutions who believed in me, my life could have gone in a very different direction.
Firstly and crucially, I have loving and supportive parents who understood that raising a dyslexic child is an adventure in tolerance, understanding and challenge. When I came home at age eleven from Fox Primary School I showed my mother a merit certificate for making tie dye T-shirts (it was the late 1970s). She realised that while I could clothe myself in fun colours I could not read aloud the words on the award. Two years later the brilliant headmaster and educator, Dr. John Rae, interviewed me for a place at Westminster School. Just like my parents, he saw past my bad spelling, atrocious writing and appalling reading and gave me a chance. He gave me a copy of the Times newspaper and asked me to talk through all the articles. Three hours later he approved my conditional admission with me promising to work hard so that I could ‘get the boring stuff out of the way’ and choose my own path. I am forever grateful for his trust and friendship.
A few years later and Buckingham gave me the same chance. With good teacher reports but appalling A-levels, the Law School decided to take a chance. For the next two years I flourished. Admittedly, I may have achieved more in the Student Union bar and rugby field than in my law classes, but I left the University and Westminster School with a confidence and optimism that has served me well.
This confidence has allowed me to run TV channels like Animal Planet and the Science Channel, ride a horse down the spine of Chile, make films in China, give speeches to thousands, and most recently, be Director of the National Trust for Wales. Bravery is not inherited, it is learnt and given, and my courage was given to me by my parents, my school and the University of Buckingham.
Marie-Alexandrine Burrows - France
MSc Service Management - 2010
I met my husband, Jamie, while studying at Buckingham and in the seven years since leaving, we’ve had a combined four house moves, two deaths in the family, four job changes, and two beautiful children.
I met my husband, Jamie, while studying at Buckingham and in the seven years since leaving, we’ve had a combined four house moves, two deaths in the family, four job changes, and two beautiful children, Gabrielle and Caspien.
We’re interested in urbanisation and health: two words that aren’t linked a great deal. Over the last twenty years, the rate of urbanisation across the globe has been unprecedented. We’ve seen a resurgence of cities and this is expected to continue. So, travelling on a packed train to work, standing in line for a coffee, or sweating in a club were all insightful opportunities that allowed us to think about the future – and how we can make a difference.
Our latest “child” is our business, which we founded last September. Vertical Future (www.verticalfuture.co.uk) is a London-based technology start-up focused on improving health in cities. We identify specific problems in cities and develop technology-focused initiatives to assist in solving them. In short, we want to make cities healthier places to live for our children and future generations by acting now.
A new business should indeed be viewed as a baby that must be fed (with cash), nurtured (through many long hours), and rested (debatable in this context). Babies also learn quickly and that is what we’ve had to do. Our initiatives address three separate urban issues: food sustainability, pressure on healthcare resources, and air pollution. For this article, we’ll talk about the first of these only.
Looking back almost a decade, Buckingham helped form the theoretical basis for our thoughts and understanding of the business world, as well as preparing us for the personal challenges of life in general. Buckingham also taught us the importance of networking and surrounding ourselves with those who believe in our cause.
Nancy Zulu - Zambia
Law - LLB 2006, LLM 2007, PhD 2016
People are central to the Buckingham story. People who embody the values and ethos of the University. I have been privileged to be impacted and influenced by them over the course of the years that I have been at the University.
Why did I choose Buckingham? My reason was simple. A friend recommended the University to me. This word-of- mouth recommendation is the Buckingham way. I think it is true to say that when you have had a good experience, you can’t help but share it with those closest to you.
People are central to the Buckingham story. People who embody the values and ethos of the University. I have been privileged to be impacted and influenced by them over the course of the years that I have been at the University, first as a student and then as a member of staff. The first person I met was Professor Alistair Alcock. I was introduced to him by a lovely couple whose bed and breakfast I stayed in on first arriving in Buckingham, prior to my registration at the University. I was touched by his willingness to meet me and to offer me an informal introduction to the University. I went on to meet the most amazing academics, firstly in the Law School and latterly in the School of Humanities.
Working for the University, first in the Marketing Department/Central Admissions, then in the School of Humanities and in the Alumni Office and now in Central Admissions, I have met and worked with the most exemplary individuals. People who go the extra mile.
So, how do I sum up my time at Buckingham? The only words I can find are, “thank you”. Thank you to all the people, staff, colleagues, students and alumni who have made and continue to make this a worthwhile journey. I am sure many alumni will share my sentiment when they think of their own Buckingham experience.
Justin Codrai - Abu Dhabi
LLB - 1979
Our days at the University were happy times. I will always be grateful to the University.
I live and work in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and sat for my Law degree at the University of Buckingham having started my course in 1977 – the second year after the opening of the University.
In the most extraordinary turn of events, Christian (my brother) and I had read the news about a new, independent University about to open its doors – we both, quite separately, decided to apply. Christian was accepted into the first intake in February 1976 and I in 1977. We both decided to read Law. In 1976 I spent a lot of time at Buckingham with Christian, and I got to know most of the 60 or so students and the staff.
With hindsight, the thing that appealed to both Christian and I was the shortness of the course, the obvious internationalism of the new University and the whole premise upon which it had been built. It was a risk – but there was a sense of excitement about being at the start of something with huge potential.
Our days at the University were happy times and our decision to go to the University was not something that either of us ever regretted. It had been fun as well as educational – in every sense!
Christian went on to qualify as a barrister and I as a solicitor. Christian found Chambers in London. He then became Legal Counsel for the International Fund for Agricultural Development in Rome, where he lived for some 22 years before sadly passing away in 2006. I joined a firm of solicitors in London and rose to become a Partner, conducting some massive litigation on both sides of the Atlantic.
Some years later, after leaving the city, I set up a business called ‘Codrai Photographs’, and I later joined the National Archives of the UAE, where I continue to work. I like to think I am helping them build up their country’s historical records, both for posterity and for the education of generations to come.
If there is a common thread throughout my working life it is that the training I had at the University to become a lawyer has served me well – I have always acted as my own lawyer with the contracts I have had to sign and the many negotiations in which I have been involved. The University also continues to play a part in my life of internationalism – for example, the Executive Director of the National Archives, an Emirati, is also a graduate of the University of Buckingham!
I will always be grateful to the University. It is the main reason why both my children, Lorna and Ben, are currently studying for their degrees at the University – it has become a family tradition!