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A look back on this year's Warwick Sutton Scholars Year 9 scheme

Sutton Scholars working in groups during one of the campus days

What is Warwick Sutton Scholars?

Warwick Sutton Scholars is a two-year programme for highly able Year 8 and 9 students from under-represented backgrounds in higher education across the West Midlands. The aim of the programme, coordinated by Maria Kehr (Widening Participation and Outreach team), is to inspire students to consider university as an option for the future.

Our involvement

The Year 9 programme is run in collaboration with our Department. The programme consists of a two-day residential and several campus days, culminating with a graduation event.

The GSD team involved in the programme this year included two GSD student ambassadors, Hana Chua (final-year single honours GSD student) and Marina Zorila (final-year Economic Studies and GSD student), working under the guidance of Dr Marta Guerriero, Associate Professor in GSD, to design and deliver the academic content of the programme. GSD student ambassador Elizabeth Disdel (second-year Philosophy and GSD student) was also involved in one of the campus days.

This year the participants worked in groups on a research project titled 'Every Plate Tells a Story', aimed at addressing a problem linked to food and sustainable development. They put together a research question, conducted primary research (involving questionnaires), and designed an intervention aimed at tackling the problem.

"Being a GSD Student Ambassador for the programme has been a wonderful experience for me. I think the best part was getting to see the young people go through the entire research and intervention design process — from the very beginning of their ideas and their understanding of food sustainability, to presenting their intervention with confidence and clear knowledge of their topic. I’m really glad I got to play some part in each of the groups’ journeys, whether that meant helping them understand the role of fair trade or perhaps guiding them in thinking of the long-term implications of their interventions. Having studied GSD and undergone this process myself numerous times was certainly what enabled me to support the young people the best I could."

Marina Zorila, final-year Economic Studies and GSD student and student ambassador

Students taking part in the food trail activity as part of the residentialStudents taking part in the food trail activity as part of the residential Students taking part in a food trail activity as part of the residential.

The programme launched on Wednesday 9 October 2019, beginning with an introduction to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. Later in October, the programme included a residential visit to Kingswood's Colomendy centre in North Wales. This was a great opportunity for the participants to bond more, aiming to develop their teamwork, leadership, communication skills, resilience, and the confidence necessary for the rest of the project and beyond.

The first campus day took place on Saturday 7 December 2019, and the second campus day took place on Saturday 15 February 2020. The two events scheduled for April were moved online due to measures in place in response to COVID-19, and included a virtual quiz competition where the participants were able to test what they had learnt throughout the year.

The culminating event of the programme, the graduation, took place online on Thursday 4 June 2020. All groups had the opportunity to showcase their research to a panel of judges. The panel included Dr Jess Savage, Senior Teaching Fellow in GSD, Akshaya Shekaran, second-year single honours GSD student and student ambassador, and Dr Damien Homer, Widening Participation Co-ordinator (Arts Faculty).

During the graduation event two teams were awarded the following:

Best project portfolio

This was awarded to a project on food waste, titled ‘Designing an intervention to fulfil the 11th and 12th Sustainable Development Goals: Sustainable Cities and Communities and Responsible Consumption’, which was praised by the judges for a particularly creative and well-thought intervention.

Best teamwork

This was awarded to a group working on a project titled "Food Miles", aimed at creating awareness on this important sustainability issue, which was commended by the judges for demonstrating a very good understanding of the complexities of this problem.

The prizes for the winning teams ranged from book vouchers to the opportunity to participate in the Global Scholar programme, a two-week digital programme exploring urgent global challenges and connecting young people from around the world.

"I was really impressed with all of the research projects from the Sutton Scholars event. I found them so enjoyable to read because of their wide-ranging research and unique intervention ideas. I particularly appreciated how many of the projects evidenced their relevance to Global Sustainable Development through very creative and engaging means. Being one of the judges for the Sutton Scholars event was a great experience to be part of!"

Akshaya Shekaran, second-year single honours GSD student and student ambassador

The quality of all portfolios was excellent, especially considering the disruption of having to move online towards the end of the project, and the judges were very impressed.

Congratulations to all the Sutton Scholars for your hard work during this year’s programme. You should be proud of what you’ve achieved during your time with us, and we hope to see you on campus in a few years!

Hear from the Warwick Sutton Scholars

"I appreciate all of the opportunities that the Warwick Sutton Scholars program has presented me with and the new people that I have met there."

"I really appreciate the amount of thought and help which has gone into the Warwick Sutton Scholars programme and appreciate how it has given me an insight into university which I wouldn't have seen without it."

"One of my 'Aha' moments would be learning about the SDG Goals in depth and I have discovered a lot which was new to me at the time such as what these Goals were and it has been great to research this."

"One of my memorable aha moments were when we were told the amount of food that is wasted on the planet and UK. This moment [helped] me to understand that my food wastage contributes to much larger issues around the world."