Above and beyond with Heather Sykes

Heather Sykes, a recent Worcester graduate, sat down with us to talk about the work she did alongside her studies. From being a Sustainability Mentor and Student Ambassador to hosting Bird-Drawing Workshops, Heather was always on the move. Written and interviewed by Rosie Bramwell.

A bit about Heather

Heather Sykes: Worcester alumni and Digital Creative for susthingsout.com.

Heather Sykes is a recent graduate from the University of Worcester who studied Creative Writing with Illustration. Throughout her studies, Heather worked several roles at the University, including working as a Sustainability Mentor for susthingsout.com (STO).

Expanding on her creativity, Heather became a lead writer for the team. Here she worked with and interviewed many inspiring people who visited the University.

“I was regularly given the opportunity to have my own creative input.”

I first got involved with SusThingsOut when I saw the job advert on the university’s page as I was applying for a student ambassador role.”

STO team – three digital creatives taking promo photos for Go Green Week 2023. Left to right: Heather Sykes, Lovro Fučkar, and Rosie Bramwell.

Working the annual Go Green Week

Working with STO introduced Heather to the sustainable efforts and work done by the University. At the annual Go Green Week, Heather helped run the team’s Instagram, capturing the successes and events taking place.

Heather was also able to run a small Bird-drawing workshop in the Hangar, St Johns Campus. This workshop used illustrations she had created for students and staff to use as templates.

“One of the key events I experienced as a digital creative was the annual Go Green Weeks. These were a highlight for me as so many students from local schools got involved with activities with university students.”

To round off the week, Heather also spoke at an Air Quality Debate. Here she was able to raise her concerns surrounding living conditions in student accommodation. Speaking to an open panel, she directed her questions to the local council and representatives from the NHS. Heather then also collaborated in a walking interview across campus with Lord Victor Adebowale, Chair of the NHS Confederation.

Heather Sykes talking with students about Sustainability at University.

Being a Sustainability Mentor

“I hadn’t realised there would be opportunities for students beyond ambassador positions so I was very excited to find something that aligned so well with my interests. In my role as a student ambassador I was able to join in on open days and graduations as well as outreach events at schools and colleges.”

Heather Sykes running a sustainability stall.

As a sustainability mentor for STO, Heather worked on several campaigns and events on campus. This included the Sustainability at University stall.

Here she shared illustrations on postcards and spoke to students about the work going on around the university.

“Sustainability is a huge passion for me. It’s one of the few things you can genuinely say you’re really passionate about as it is such an integral part of our future. We must all work to be more sustainable and challenge those with the power to make great change. Having the opportunity to work within the sustainability sector was an extremely valuable part of my university experience.”

What do you think you gained from working for susthingsout.com?

“STO (susthingsout.com) taught me so much about writing for the web and how to use web interfaces such as WordPress. I learnt to write successful SEO and to write to the flesch readability score. I feel I am now better equipped for a career in copywriting as I understand how to write for search engines such as Google.”

As a writer for STO, Heather created community posts such as ‘Green Living in Worcester’. Many of her projects as a writer focused on Worcester students and giving advice on campus. For example, ‘Save Water Drop by Drop with Five Top Tips’. Across the two years working as a digital creative, Heather contributed and developed many of the featured projects for STO. Her projects have set an example to the new and future creatives, leaving her work as a legacy for her commitment to the team.

“Beyond just the writing & technical skills, I learnt a lot about working in such a creative team. Working amongst talented students with various creative skills meant working on a joint project that felt satisfying and really enjoyable.”

A stage with a row of chairs and colourful boxes on the side at Go Green Week.
Stage set-up for the Air Quality Debate at Go Green Week 2023.

What was it like reaching out and interviewing people?

“I was also given the chance to improve my public speaking skills as I had the opportunity to speak at conferences, interview people on camera, talk on the radio, and raise questions at debates.

Having not been a hugely confident public speaker before university, I was pleased at how much I enjoyed the interviewing experiences I had.

I received media training so I could confidently talk on the radio and I learnt how to hone my questioning skills to get the most out of an interviewee.

It was a privilege to be asked to interview such respected professionals such as Lord Victor Adebowale and Dr Paula Meth as they had such interesting insights to share in their fields of work. In terms of personally what it was like to talk to them, they were both lovely to work with and made it very easy to interview them!”

Illustration by Heather Sykes.

Bird watching and drawing workshops

“I was particularly interested in the work we did around birds. We had bird identification boards introduced on campus which I loved. I met Dr Mike Wheeler and wrote a ‘Bird Watching for Well-being’ article all about the benefits of bird watching. For this I was able to use my illustration skills too, drawing the typical garden birds we can spot in the U.K..

More recently I had the opportunity to visit an RSPB reserve and interview a volunteer about their experience and this was really special. I learnt about the history of Osprey’s and the role the RSPB has in looking after our British bird life.

I really loved running my own craft activity, especially on Earth day as it was so fun to see the young children and families getting involved and getting excited about birds and the environment!”

Heather as an illustrator

Heather also featured on the university website discussing her experience on the Illustration course and as a joint honours student. Her school of arts experience story is available to read for prospective students looking at Worcester.

Heather has also started sharing her own work as an illustrator on her Instagrams: @heather.s.creations and @thepageforpicturebooks.

Throughout her studies Heather developed a passion for children’s literature, creating stop-motion short films and illustrating her own stories. Having now finished University, Heather plans to work within the creative industries in a sustainable role. She also plans on working with the publishing industry, specifically children’s literature and illustrations.

Illustration by Heather Sykes, as featured on her Instagram: @heather.s.creations

Heather has always been an incredible and reliable asset to our team, and we wish her the best in all of her future goals and endeavours! From, the STO team.

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