Tuesday 2 June 2015

Stephanie Nixon

Stephanie Nixon, a third year Criminology student who will graduate this summer, has become the first ever recipient of the University of Northampton’s Changemaker GOLD certificate.

The Changemaker Certificate was designed to significantly enhance employability by focussing on problem solving skills, developing awareness of social impact and developing entrepreneurial thinking to tackle social problems.

Stephanie’s Changemaker project was created to help students with autism, by offering a mentoring scheme to provide support and advice. Stephanie explained: “The inspiration behind my project came from a meeting with a member of the community, who was extremely worried about her son starting university. She had found me on social media via our Students’ Union autism society, Auto-Circle Spectrum. I met with her in person and we discussed her concerns, such as the transitions and available support.”

The Changemaker certificate allows students to identify a need and experiment with possible solutions before successfully implementing a solution to a cause. As part of the project, Stephanie arranged meetings with the University’s Additional Student Support and Inclusion Services (ASSIST) team and Student Services, to discuss issues and potential ideas for the project. Stephanie explained: “At this point, the main ideas focussed on setting up an internal student-support mentoring scheme with trained volunteers. This did not remain static, however. The main concerns raised at this point were recruiting volunteers, providing training and supporting students off campus.”

The final product of Stephanie’s venture resulted in a taster day, held last September, which enabled new students with autism to visit the campus. Stephanie explained: “The day was designed to help students to adjust to the transitional change of moving from home to university – transitions are very difficult; when it comes to autism, a transition can be so much harder, due to the breaking of routines and change. The taster day gave all the student support services teams a chance to promote their offering to the students and parents; making them aware of what is available to help them through their studies. The event also gave parents a chance to ask questions, and the students the opportunity to meet the support staff, and find out what student life is like at the University of Northampton.”

Stephanie added: “I feel that the Changemaker Certificate programme is making a real difference to students. It has given me many networking opportunities, and alternative avenues to help students with autism adjust to the transition of starting university.”

Tim Curtis, Senior Lecturer and leader of the Changemaker initiative at the University of Northampton, commented: “I am delighted that Stephanie has grasped this opportunity so firmly and demonstrated her capabilities to make positive change in her life and that of future students.  Employers value this grit and determination and universities will be better able to welcome students with autism. Fantastic all round!”

After her graduation this summer, Stephanie will be undertaking the LLM in Legal Practice course part-time at the University, while supporting other students via her project.

University of Northampton staff and students can register for the Changemaker Certificate at any time, and work through the modules at their own pace. For more information contact Tim Curtis. For more information regarding Auto-Circle Spectrum, visit Facebook or Twitter: @AutoCircleSpec1

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