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UA Alumni - Amirah Muhammad

Amirah was a Highly Commended Entrant in the Literature category in 2020.

Since being awarded she has completed her bachelor's degree in English and American Literature from Goldsmiths, University of London and with a Distinction in an MA in Literary Studies: American Literature and Culture in 2021. She is currently working as a University Partnerships Coordinator at The Brilliant Club.

What are you doing now and what has happened since the award?

After the award, I was pleased to graduate from my undergraduate degree with a First following a challenging final year due to the pandemic. Over the next year, I continued my studies at Goldsmiths.

My MA degree was an extension of my undergraduate work, specialising more heavily in United States literature. The shift to totally virtual learning during my MA was a difficult adjustment to manage, especially because I studied a full-time one-year course which increased the pressure to perform well. Given the circumstances, I was elated to graduate with a Distinction.

During my MA, I decided to diversify my skills and experiences, so I attended a remote Digital Marketing Summer School course offered by Toulouse Business School (TBS) based in Toulouse, France. I learnt about how digital marketing works in everyday life, which put theory into a recognisable context. I also gained some practical experience of social media marketing as a volunteer with Humankind, a drug and alcohol recovery services charity.

In October 2021, I presented a paper based on my MA thesis at the Ain’t I a Woman? : The “Black Woman” in Historical and Contemporary Context conference, organised by Dr Juanita Cox, Dr Angelina Osborne, and Dr Elizabeth Williams and hosted by Goldsmiths.

I relished the opportunity to share my academic work and felt buoyed by my previous recognition at the Undergraduate Awards which reminded me that I was a serious scholar. Shortly after the conference, I took on my current role as University Partnerships Coordinator at The Brilliant Club.

Where do your interests lie?

My interests have two related strands, ultimately connected by a sense of fairness, justice, and the importance of representation.

My academic interests lie in exploring literature by and about people with marginalised identities, especially in genres in fiction such as the Gothic, science fiction and fantasy. As a diverse environment and the vanguard of disruptive thinking, it is important to me that academia provides and invests in opportunities to study histories, literatures, and cultures that are often excluded from the mainstream. This core belief compelled me to submit my work for the award.

My professional interests lie in education, specifically improving access to and widening participation in higher education for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. During my undergraduate degree, I worked and volunteered with education charities whose missions revolved around social mobility, such as Debate Mate, Team Up and CoachBright. Between my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, I undertook a remote internship with the Student Recruitment and Widening Participation teams at Goldsmiths, University of London.

These experiences motivated me to seek out my current role as University Partnerships Coordinator at The Brilliant Club.

What do you like the most about what you do?

The best thing about my work is seeing the launch and graduation events we plan come to fruition. I enjoy planning, organising, and solving logistical problems, so when the events come together smoothly; I am proud of my team’s work and that we have given the students a high-quality experience.

Has receiving an award for your hard work helped? How?

Receiving the award boosted my confidence in my academic ability and motivated me to continue my studies at postgraduate level – even during the pandemic. The award was a testament to my dedication to becoming a better scholar and honing my craft as a writer. It has also been an impressive achievement to list on job applications and for other academic opportunities, such as gaining scholarships or presenting at a conference.

What advice would you give current undergraduate students or recent graduates?

Persist! Wherever you are in your academic journey, you will come across a challenge that seems insurmountable – whether it is an essay or figuring out your career options. The key is to persist; more often than not, you are already resourceful enough to overcome the challenge at hand and you will be so proud of yourself when you do.

No path is linear, and yours may not be recognisable to others. Keep going. Put together a log (dates, times, relevant contacts) of all your extra-curricular activities, but pursue your interests indiscriminately. Start a blog, volunteer, go to a seminar – you can always change your mind later but now is the time to find out what you like which will inevitably mean becoming more familiar with what you dislike. No interest, however brief, is wasteful.

Finally, recognise that the foundation of networking is taking an interest in people. It becomes a lot less scary then.

Why should students submit their work?

Submitting your work to the UA Awards requires a lot of faith in yourself – it’s a big decision – but there’s so much to gain from it. Having your work judged by international experts and considered alongside some of the best in the world really boosts confidence in your abilities. If your submission is selected, having your work recognised beyond your university reinforces that you have worked hard and are committed to developing as an academic. It also opens up an international network that you may not have crossed paths with ordinarily.

Be brave – you might surprise yourself!