A holistic approach to student support

Vianna Renaud (MA European Cultures, 2005), an award-winning Placement Development Advisor at Bournemouth University, shares how she found her passion for supporting students while studying at Birkbeck. 

After moving to the UK from California in 2001, Vianna became accustomed to seeing Birkbeck advertisements on her commute and soon found herself thinking “Why not?” She enrolled on the MA European Cultures programme after speaking to the College and witnessing the passion and energy of the lecturers. 

“While it can always be difficult to find the desire, energy and time to continue with lifelong learning, institutions like Birkbeck College make this sometimes-impossible endeavour possible. I still consider this to be one of my most significant life decisions. I would simply not be where I am now without having taken that step.” 

I still consider studying at Birkbeck to be one of my most significant life decisions. I would simply not be where I am now without that step.”

Vianna was inspired by how Birkbeck encouraged students to participate in College life outside of their studies, and got involved at every opportunity. She served as a course representative, ran for student council and wrote for Birkbeck’s student magazine, the Lamp and Owl. 

“The wonderful student-focused support I experienced at Birkbeck, combined with my previous work experience, encouraged me to focus my career more specifically into higher education and working directly with students.” 

Prior to her current role as a Placement Development Advisor at Bournemouth University, Vianna held roles at Queen’s University of Belfast, University of Portsmouth and University of Southampton, as well as various roles in teaching and counselling. 

At Bournemouth Vianna supports undergraduate and postgraduate students during their year in industry placements, both in the UK and internationally. As an independent coach for students and employers, Vianna’s practice applies the holistic approach to student life that she experienced at Birkbeck. 

Vianna believes the key to a good placement experience is creating a mutually beneficial experience: “For students this could be realising what they do not want to pursue as well as what they would like to do. For businesses it is simply about connecting with new ideas and new talent; and for the universities it is building meaningful relationships with industry and the local community. 

“Having experienced such a high level of personalised support as a student at Birkbeck, now being able to offer it to my students makes my job truly rewarding. I love seeing them develop and grow towards achieving their dreams, both on and off campus. After recently being awarded the 2021 National Undergraduate Employability Award for Outstanding Contribution to Work Experience, I guess I must be doing something right!”