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A community through time

Tracing graduate timelines back through the years. With degrees as diverse as mining and animation, the lives of these USW alumni have extraordinary stories to tell.

1949

Frank Moore (Mining, 1949)

Let us introduce Frank. Frank Moore first walked through the doors of Ty Crawshay more than 70 years ago. Educated at Treforest at the then School of Mines, he joined the post-war mining industry from a young age. 

At the age of 92, Frank was able to revisit campus earlier this year with his son and took a trip down memory lane as he walked the route that he first took at the School of Mines, back in 1947. Growing up in Mountain Ash, Frank by his own admission wasn’t academically gifted but worked hard after leaving school, undertaking an apprenticeship in a local coal mine. From there, he worked as the assistant to the Coal Cutter and Conveyer Engineer. He learned the trade quickly before, at the young age of 20, stepping into the engineer’s shoes. 

Throughout this, Frank was working tirelessly in night school to gain the qualification he needed to join the management course at the School of Mines. Frank was to follow in the footsteps of both his father and grandfather – who, back in 1912, was in attendance as the School of Mines’ foundation stone was laid!

Following his time at the School of Mines, Frank answered the call of the armed forces and served as an Officer for over 26 years, including spending some time stationed in the Far East. But his career in the mining industry was far from over. After leaving the armed forces, Frank became a member of the Transport Industry Training Board and spent much of his time delivering training to the local coal board, which meant that he found himself back in the mines – though this time ‘in a pinstripe suit’.  

Frank shared that he had many fond memories of his time on the Treforest campus. One of the fondest being the regular trips to the (now) Otley Arms at lunchtime with the other 80 students who made up the entire cohort of the time.  Great days!

1949

1977

Chris Phillips (BSc Quantity Surveying, 1977)

As a graduate of the inaugural QS degree programme, Chris Phillips came to his studies from a family background in construction. Building on the foundation that his studies at the Polytechnic of Wales gave him, we catchup with Chris to hear more about his career that started in the early 1980s.

Chris Phillips now calls Houston, Texas home – a long way from his original Swansea roots. Retired from Marathon Oil Corporation for just under two years, Chris winds back the clock and takes up his story.

“Looking back, my degree gave me the foundation required to launch a career into private practice as a Chartered Surveyor. Although it was not apparent to me at the time, it provided me with a framework which allowed me to take my resultant career with a major integrated American oil and gas company into new areas that I had not previously considered.” 

Prior to his time in oil and gas and immediately after his studies, Chris spent his first 7 years of employment working on a variety of flagship projects across Wales. These included the development of the M4 north of Cardiff, construction of the Ford Engine Plant in Bridgend, the Swansea Guildhall extension and building of Wrexham General Hospital.

In 1981 he was seconded onto the project management team for the development of the British Gas Offshore Morecambe Bay Gas Field, and this led him to leave and join Marathon Oil Corporation (MOC) to build the large oil & gas platforms in the North Sea.

Chris adds: “The commercial skills obtained through my degree opened up opportunities within the company outside of my technical background, which led to a number of appointments including Financial Planning Manager in London for European Operations and a transfer to Houston in 1998 to spend 3 years in International Business Development.” 

This was soon followed by his appointment as Corporate Financial Planning Manager and finally appointment as Director of Investor Relations where Chris was responsible for communications with the investment community across the United States, Europe, Australia and the Far East.

Having spent almost 24 years with MOC, Chris is clear that while University study certainly provides students with a foundation for life, it’s what you do with it afterwards that makes or breaks your future.

“The process of learning does not stop when you graduate, and your degree does not necessarily limit you to your area of expertise. if you are not afraid to step outside your comfort zone the rewards can be great, so don’t waste opportunities as they come your way.”

Connect with Chris Phillips 

1977

1978

Gwenno Dafydd (CertEd Junior Secondary Teaching, 1978)

Meet Gwenno Dafydd Williams – teacher, professional performer, author, broadcaster and for the last 12 years, leadership & public speaking coach. It’s been quite the eclectic career!

We first join Gwenno at Barry Teacher Training College in the mid 1970’s where she had originally enrolled to become a physical education and drama teacher. Thwarted in her first term by a medical condition affecting her knees, Gwenno swapped physical education for Welsh, which culminated in her graduating as a Welsh and drama teacher in 1978. 

Looking back Gwenno shares: “Barry Teacher Training College was acknowledged as one of the best colleges in Britain for my course and from my earliest years, all I wanted to do was to become a physical education teacher. Imagine my devastation when my medical condition meant I had to swap my specialism!“

However, with a passion for drama that began in Gwenno’s early School years, any shortfall in having to swap out physical education for Welsh, was made up by the enjoyment gained through taking part in drama productions and through delivering welsh language drama in welsh medium schools. As described by Gwenno herself: “We famously did a wonderful production of Under Milk Wood one year where I played several roles, and with only two males in our mostly female group, I managed to nab all the comic roles that no one else fancied. This helped to develop my life-long love of comedy.”

Gwenno’s lifelong passion for comedy has since seen her work as a comic actress, a stand-up comedienne and become a published author – ‘Stand Up & Sock it to Them Sister’ was published in 2016.  

Running parrel to this passion for comedy and performance, Gwenno went on to achieve further qualifications and professional achievements with a strong emphasis on altruism and provision of support to others. Early years teaching English as a foreign language gave way to a career in broadcasting, which then led to time spent with the Welsh Development Agency focusing on equality & diversity – a passion that was ignited through her activities with the Students’ Union at Barry.

In changing direction once again in 2008, Gwenno reflects: “In qualifying as a Leadership and Public Speaking Coach, I recognised my desire of wanting to bring out the best in everyone – like I had done in teaching – had never really left me and I’m pleased to have been pursuing this path for over 12 years now.”

Advice to students or graduates searching for their professional future? “Find your passion, don’t take no for an answer and never give up!”

More about Gwenno Dafydd Williams

1978

1982

Walter May (HND Mechanical & Production Engineering, 1982)

From ‘best student in year’ to successful engineer and entrepreneur. We meet Walter May, now Founder of GlobalWelsh, who is at the forefront of helping Wales prosper.

Walter May is a proud Pontypool-born Welshman and you can find him passionately promoting Cynefin (one’s personal habitat) and hiraeth in his most recent venture, GlobalWelsh. From roots initially laid down in 2012 at his Welsh Entrepreneurs conference, this non-profit organisation was launched in 2017 and focuses on connecting and engaging the Welsh diaspora ‘to bring about new connections, opportunities and ideas that will enrich the lives of Welsh people all over the world.’ 

But where did this mission first come from? Walter explains: “Wales is such a fantastic place to live, do business and grow and I believed, and still believe, that we’re not alone in this feeling. In light of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, having established a network such as GlobalWelsh to actively promote the interests of Wales and its peoples, our reach will undoubtedly be all the more important. In the next few years, we’ll need every tool at our disposal to pull together and be resilient – so reaching and looking outward will be key.”

While GlobalWelsh is a relatively recent initiative, Walter has long championed Wales and has had personal success in business, engineering and other entrepreneurial ventures.

With inspiration credited to his HND Mechanical & Production Engineering lecturer, John Williams, Walter progressed to further study attaining an MSc and MBA along the way.

Success has seen him be UK Managing Director of a £30 million turnover engineering software company, subsequently owned by Siemens. In later years, Walter ran a northern European business development team within IBM and by the mid 2000s, Walter was working in Wales across a number of technology and engineering concerns.   

So, what advice would Walter share with today’s students or graduates as they make their way in life? “While academic ability is important, the most important skills that allow you to excel in your career relate to communication, being a team player, having personal drive and always having empathy.”

Keep up with Walter May

1982

1996

Merlin Crossingham (BA (Hons) Film and Photography (Animation), 1996)

Most of us are unlikely to recognise the name or face of alumnus Merlin Crossingham – but you will certainly know his work. As the talented creative behind family favourites such as Chicken Run, Creature Comforts, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and the relaunched Morph; Merlin has been bringing joy to the small and silver screen for over twenty years.

Merlin Crossingham joined Aardman Animations fresh out of University in 1996 and has gone on to have an outstandingly successful career in stop-motion animation with the studio ever since. 

“I chose Newport because it was one of the best courses for animation. I’m pleased to see this tradition continue through to the present day and I was delighted, if not a little bit nostalgic, to see the former campus recently star in the Netflix hit ‘Sex Education!”

Early projects saw Merlin work on commercials before taking key animator roles on family favourites including his first notable success, Chicken Run. Most recently he was animation director on the Aardman, Nick Park directed feature film, ‘Early Man’ and throughout the years has remained instrumental to iconic commercials for clients including PG Tips, nPower and Joules.

So, what was Merlin’s response to our question about what has been his professional career achievement so far? He explains: “I’m tremendously pleased to have a career that I’m still in and that I still love it. When I graduated there wasn’t really an animation industry like there is now, so the future was far from certain. My grandparents were really worried that I was going to be destitute and suggested I got a proper job, like joining the RAF. But I had a dream and stuck with it… and it paid off.”

“For students coming up through the ranks today and seeking a career in the arts, you should always be yourself, make mistakes and learn from them, but most of all keep having fun.”

Connect with Merlin Crossingham

1996

2007

Punit Jaipal Shah (MSc Electronics & Information Engineering, 2006 and BSc Top Up Electrical & Electronics Engineering, 2007)

Originally from Mumbai, India, Punit Jaipal Shah is the epitome of having an entrepreneurial mindset. Currently seconded to a role in Perth, Australia, Punit explains how he balances his personal and professional ambitions amid competing demands on his time.

Following numerous undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications gained in South Wales, Punit has had the fortune to have been continuously employed since graduation by some of the world’s most renowned consulting engineering firms. These include Atkins, AECOM, Mott Macdonald and most recently RINA. In addition, his career has taken him across the world and he has experienced life not only in the UK, but also Ireland, Switzerland, Qatar and currently Australia. 

Punit explains: “I have worked on some of the most iconic rail, highways and building projects in the world including the Doha Metro, Sydney Metro, Perth Metro, Crossrail, Birmingham New Street Station refurbishment, London 2012 Olympics, the M4-M5 motorway communications designs and the North Wales Tunnel Systems Feasibility study.”

“I have been committed to my education – past and present – and as a result I have been awarded Chartered Status by the Engineering Council UK, Chartered Institute of Management UK, Engineers Australia and the Chartered Building Institute UK.”

However, it’s not all been work-focused as Punit is currently mid-way through completing a PhD from Newcastle University (UK) focusing on his passion for Indian classical music & film studies, and he continues to regularly perform as a classical sitar and tabla artist.

Punit adds: “Some of my fondest times at the then University of Glamorgan were when we’d have communal kitchen parties and I’d have the opportunity to jam with my friends in the flat! I have fond recollection of the beautiful countryside and ever helpful staff who made my time at University some of my most precious memories.”

In exploring how he manages to balance a demanding professional life with his hobbies and musical performances, Punit explains: “It’s all about ‘smart’ work. Working hard is one thing but balancing your time to get the most out of time available is even better. Secondly, I advocate being flexible and openminded to new opportunities. I almost turned down my very first job offer as it meant relocated to a north wales community I didn’t know. On reflection, if I hadn’t made the move, I would have missed an excellent opportunity that has since seen me go from strength to strength.”

“Be brave, take calculated risks and enjoy what you do!”

Connect with Punit Jaipal Shah

2007

2008

Darren Mark Douglas (BA Moving Images, 2008)

Gdansk resident and independent film director, writer and editor, Darren Mark Douglas (BA (Hons) Moving Images, 2008) reflects fondly on the support he received during his studies and shares more about where his career has taken him since time on campus.

Darren takes up his story: “I studied Moving Images under the tutelage of Ieuan Morris and I must say he was an excellent tutor – I simply wouldn’t be doing what I am today without his kindness and guidance. He helped sharpen my skills and for that I am truly grateful.

Like today, back in the mid noughties USW had a good reputation for positive things coming out of the Faculty of Creative Industries and I just knew it would be the right fit for me.

At that time we had a wide variety of subjects available to us, ranging from comedic traditions in TV and film, to experimental cinema and scriptwriting. Ieuan’s guidance was a highlight of my time at university, he never stopped believing in me personally, and he really gave me the confidence to do extraordinary things.”

So where has Darren’s professional life taken him since his time in Cardiff? With success in music videos, film nominations and various category wins, Darren has seen success across the world. From Sweden, Argentina and the US, to London, Wales and back to his current home in Poland. 

However, has the life of an independent creative always been paved with success? 

“The sector has changed indubitably, and the playing field has levelled out with the introduction of social media and a growing number of independent festivals. Before, and I can personally attest to this, it was really difficult to get a foot in the door. I found the adage ‘it’s not what you know but who you know that matters’ so true, which is why I always recommend investing time in your network.  With YouTube, Vimeo and the like, traditional barriers are a lot lower, which is great and creative content is no longer restricted.”

In asking him about some of his most notable achievements, Darren continues: “As an independent creative, sometimes it’s just getting the work out there that is the blessing. However, one that I am particular proud of is a music video called No Way Back, which in 2016 was selected from among 4000+ submissions from 105 countries and judged as a finalist by 338 international juries at the International Open Film Festival in India.

Secondly, and more recently, I’ve had success with an animation I made called the CoRaven (with apologies to Edgar Alan Poe), which was made during lockdown and has been picked up by festivals in the States, Poland, and England. It also won a Merit of Achievement Award at the One-Reeler Short Film Competition in California.”

Darren’s final thoughts? “Try to have your own voice and not to imitate others. keep pushing the boundaries and telling stories which resonate with people.”

Darren has also recently published his second Detective Izabela Kiel book, Broken Dolls – sequel to The Hatchet’s Game.

More about Darren Mark Douglas

2008

2014

Erin Larnder BA (Hons) TV & Film Set Design, 2014)

A creative graduate pulled towards the business side of the entertainment industry post-graduation; Erin Larnder shares her insights into taking the ‘path least travelled’ and inspiring females who wish to follow in her footsteps.

Erin Larnder is currently Director of Global Content & Integrationwithin Branded Entertainment Network (BEN), abrand integration companywith offices in London, LA, New York and Utah. 

Eringraduated from the Universityof Glamorganin 2014, although even during her degree, she reflects that she always had the feeling that she wouldn’t be following the usual set design route after graduation. 

“I was always pulled towards the business elements of the entertainment industry, even back in University. I’m now keen to demonstrate that you don’t have to follow the ‘traditional’ trajectory after graduation having studied that subject. There areso many other options out there if you work hard andcontinue to learn.”  

In Erin’s role working with global brands and their placement into tv and film settings, it’s fair to say that no two days are the same. Working by her own admission”.. where the eyeballs are..” and keepingup to date with new developments within the entertainment industry –  particularly the rise of online streaming and gaming which has revolutionised thesector – there’s always something to keep her on her toes. 

Nevertheless,despite these changes, Erincontinues to use the skills and knowledge gained from her studies every day, which has really helped herget ahead in the industry. 

“A role like mine means that a lot of my work is working with art departments in TV and film. My degree inTV and film set design has significantly helped me to understand their processes and practiceswithina studio setting.”    

On a daily basis, Erin and her team work closely with brands to integrate their products and services into film and TV – often providing support on set to ensure these integrations are seamless.“It’s a very fast paced environment where we are oftenliving in content – it means we often have office conversations about characters and storylines that, out of context, would sound very bizarre!” 

Erin isvery passionate about supporting and inspiring women in her industry andwithin her role is very focussed on giving people the opportunities that they deserve based on merit and skill.   

“So many peoplehave no idea howmany women are in senior leadership roles in the creative industries. There are so many inspirational women,both here at Branded Entertainment Network as well as in the wider industry, and I want to celebrate that fact. There’s definitely still more work to be done to ensure a level playing field forfemales in this industry, but if you’re willing to learn and you have a good work ethic, there will be no stopping you. It’s an industry where, at the end of the day, the most important thing is the quality of the work – the opportunities are there to be seized!”

Connect with Erin Larnder

2014

2018

Dr Nana Ama Barnes (PGDip Diabetes, 2018)

Meet Dr Nana Ama Barnes, a healthcare professional achieving great things in her Ghanaian community, helping improve the quality of life for children, teens and families affected by diabetes.

Pride In her work and that of her team was no greater for Dr Ama Barnes than when she was awarded the award for Excellence in Health at the 2018 Ghana Women of the Year Awards. This accolade was in recognition of the work done over more than 6 years since the launch of Diabetes YouthCare in 2012. In establishing this network, Nana’s aim was to support age appropriate interventions for young people suffering with chronic diabetes. Diabetes YouthCare provides education and medical support to encourage personal growth, knowledge acquisition and independence.

Nana adds: “Getting the young people and their families to understand the basics of diabetes and work through each step of the necessary intervention has helped tremendously. Giving them the tools to take better care of themselves, I am able to guide them into making the right choices.”. 

Reflecting back to her studies, Nana continues: “I wanted to increase my knowledge in the field of diabetes as it had always been my passion to support, empower and educate people living with this disease. I found the online course at USW to be flexible and the modular system helped structure my learning.” 

Top tip from Dr Ama Barnes for others who may be considering a similar professional path? “Know what you want to do, it’s never too late to start or change your career. Make your passion a reality through further study.”

More about Nana’s work

2018