Week 3 Biographies

Helen Cooke

Helen Cooke is the Director of MyPlus and Founder of the MyPlus Students’ Club. Helen is passionate about ensuring that having a disability or long-term health condition will not prevent anyone from having the career that they want to have. 

Helen works with both employers and with disabled students. She works with organisations to help them to recognise the unique talents and strengths that individuals with disabilities can, and do, bring to an organisation. And through the MyPlus Students’ Club website and events, Helen provides disabled students with the advice, support and motivation to make the most of their time at university and prepare for employment. The MyPlus Students’ Club website enables students to find opportunities, approach relevant organisations and go on to realise new possibilities with progressive employers.

The uniqueness of Helen’s approach comes from her expertise in HR and graduate recruitment combined with her first-hand experience of living with a disability; Helen is a wheelchair user as a result of a childhood spinal injury. She started her career on the Marks & Spencer graduate management programme before moving to Mars where she spent 10 years, mostly in HR and Resourcing. In 2006, Helen set up MyPlus.

Clare Beynon

Clare leads the Talent Attraction team at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, after joining as a graduate on their Management Training programme.  Through her career Clare has experienced successfully working in various operational and HR leadership roles. 

Clare’s role now is to ensure Enterprise Rent-A-Car are hiring the best and brightest diverse talent into the many opportunities the organisation offers and works with other employers and partners to share ideas and best practice.

Now part of the Diversity and Inclusion task group at the ISE Clare continues to explore ways to reach talent that face additional barriers to the majority, as well as supporting those candidates through the recruitment process.

Keren Coney

Keren Coney is a Careers and Employability Consultant at Liverpool John Moores University and Co-Chair of the AGCAS (Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services) Disability Task Group.  She is co-author of AGCAS’ annual ‘What Happens Next?’ reports, which examine the destinations of UK disabled graduates. 

With a particular concern for disabled students and graduates and the challenges that exist when many of these individuals seek to enter and succeed in the workplace, Keren regularly speaks on this topic at conferences, events and training sessions.  In addition, Keren is currently studying for a PhD that seeks to explore what can be done to support autistic students to successfully progress to employment when they graduate, based at the Autism Centre for Education and Research at The University of Birmingham. 

Lucy Crittenden

Lucy is Head of Career Services at Birkbeck, University of London, having previously managed Graduate Recruitment at a global law firm.  In her current role Lucy leads the careers provision for students and graduates at Birkbeck, supporting them to realise their career ambitions and make and take opportunities to fulfil their potential as innovators, practitioners, employees and entrepreneurs.

The University admits a much larger proportion of students with disabilities than the sector as a whole: over 23% of their full-time entrants in 2016/17 disclosed a disability compared with 13% in the sector (HESA 2017/18 data).   Lucy designed and implemented Birkbeck’s Ability Programme for students with a disability or long-term health condition.  Working closely with the Disability & Dyslexia and Wellbeing Services, the programme comprises bespoke workshops, employer-led sessions, inspirational speakers and paid internships funded by the Ian Karten Trust.

Klara Holmes

Klara is a Consultant at Accenture, joining the company in 2018. Klara has suffered from mental health issues from a young age, finally being diagnosed at 19 with depression and anxiety. This, combined with the loss of a friend to suicide, has meant Klara is passionate about raising awareness around mental health and encouraging people to open up about their struggles.

At Accenture, Klara is involved with the Mental Health Ally programme – leading events to promote the topic of mental health & removing the stigma in the workplace. Outside of the office, Klara strives to reduce the stigma through fundraising efforts for various Mental Health charities, completing the London Marathon for CALM in 2019, alongside a number of other events.

Julie Spencer

Julie Spencer is the Head of Student Wellbeing at the University of Lincoln and has worked within the sector for over 20 years. Julie has led a team of Wellbeing and Mental Health Advisors through the development of a service which now supports nearly 7,000 students. Julie was an integral part of a team who placed a successful bid to the Office for Students in June 2019 for development of a project around bettering mental health outcomes for students.

The project that the University of Lincoln are currently involved in looks at the transition from further education to higher education and aims to ease that transition with the intended outcome of reducing impact on services, both within universities and in their local community. Julie continually works hard to ensure that the Student Wellbeing Centre at the University of Lincoln supports students in the best possible way, throughout their time at the university. By creating new and innovative solutions, Julie has created a service which provides a wealth of support, in a variety of ways, to every student.

David Swayn

David is the National Disability Coordination Officer, STEPS Group Australia and his work over the last decade has focused on maximising the potential of people with disability through education and employment in Australia.   As one of the key developers and drivers of an Australian service model now available at 13 Universities, David has contributed to enabling a free service which provides a staff member to work directly with students, across the internationally recognised gap between disability and careers services. 

The service model is designed to provide tailored, individualised careers and employment support to students with disability, with the trials now providing recommendations for improvements in systems and services that enable graduates with disability. 

He is a recipient of the “Champions of Change” award from Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australasia (EPHEA), a regular content contributor to the Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET) and has personal lived experiences of negotiating for disability related adjustments in education and work.”

Video Presentations

Sarah Hutchings

Sarah Hutchings is Head of Engagement at Brain in Hand. Her role involves working closely with higher education teams throughout the UK to integrate the Brain in Hand system into their support pathways. Sarah manages a team of regional engagement managers who collaborate with universities, colleges and their teams to adapt the Brain in Hand system to their unique requirements. The Regional teams also provide specialist support setting up students with the Brain in Hand system, helping them develop their own strategies for overcoming challenging situations, supporting and enhancing their education experience. With over 15 years’ experience working within higher education and working at Brain in Hand, Sarah is extremely passionate about putting the needs of students at the very forefront of the work she does.

Hannah Kelly

Hannah is a DCU Journalism graduate who utilised the HEAR programme when accessing third level education and was an active volunteer with the access team. As an Access Ambassador in DCU she gained a drive for equality of access and experience in higher education. She is the current GetAHEAD Co-ordinator at AHEAD, a programme which works to up-skill graduates with disabilities by providing training events and valuable information covering a wide range of topics and resources. This includes regular workshops on disclosure where she hears directly from students and graduates about their concerns. On top of the issues of disability and socio-economic disadvantage Hannah has a passion for other areas of social justice including LGBTQI+ rights.

Dr Chiko Ncube Makore

Dr Chiko Ncube Makore is an inclusive practice and disability practitioner with extensive experience in Further and Higher Education. She is an advocate for person-centred approaches to inclusion and equality and diversity in Education.

Her professional career in disability services began in Further Education, teaching and supporting disabled students in the 14 to 16 student group. She has worked in Higher Education Institutions for over 15 years in diverse roles, including lecturing, study skills tutoring, learning mentoring and as a Disability Adviser. She currently manages the Disability Service for Higher Education at Writtle University College in Essex. She acts as a member of the access and participation advisory group leading on strategic development of inclusive teaching and learning and digital accessibility.

Her academic background is in inclusive design, disability and design and inclusive practice and environments. She completed her PhD from the SURFACE Inclusive Design Research Centre at Salford University in 2018. Her research examined the intersection of disability, accessibility and the urban environment. She is an expert for the Design Council UK on accessibility and inclusive design and contributes as a researcher to multiple research council funded projects.

Megan McAuliffe

Megan McAuliffe is a  Wellbeing Advisor within the Student Wellbeing Centre at the University of Lincoln and is currently seconded as a Transitional Wellbeing Advisor for the duration of the project funded by the Office for Students.

Megan has worked at the University of Lincoln for nearly 15 years, starting within the Student Support Centre and moving to the Student Wellbeing Centre in 2012. As a Transitional Wellbeing Advisor, Megan supports students incoming to the University of Lincoln as well as offering support during their first weeks and months of enrolment.

A large part of the role also involves delivering outreach work delivering a variety of workshops and presentations around transition, with a focus on mental health. Megan has been instrumental in the project’s development and delivery and in championing its focus around the transition from further education to higher education, acting as both Project Lead and Wellbeing Lead.  

 Megan works as part of a wider team to deliver the award-winning WOW (Wellbeing Orientation Welcome) Summer School, designed to help applicants familiarise themselves with the campus and get a taster of university life. WOW 2021 will be the summer school’s 7th year.

Caroline McGrotty

Caroline is the Employment Manager with AHEAD overseeing its projects relating to transition to employment for students and graduates with disabilities, namely GetAHEAD and The WAM Programme. The WAM Programme is a work placement programme for graduates with disabilities. Caroline holds qualifications in Deaf Studies, Irish Sign Language Teaching and Equality Studies. Caroline has over 14 years’ experience of working and volunteering within the disability sector and various organisations within the Deaf community where she is currently Chairperson of the Sign Language Interpreting Service funded by the Citizens Information Board 

John McMahon

John McMahon is a HE Learning Mentor for the student success team at Writtle University College. His background is in training, and he was a technical trainer in Intel and Abbott medical back in Ireland. He has a qualification in adult education and taught personal development courses, also back in Ireland.

He came to the UK in 2007 where he completed his PGCE at Anglia Ruskin University. He has taught NCFE level 1 and level 2 Photography courses at Writtle for ten years in the FE sector to Floristry and Art & Design students. John, also, was one of the TLA (Training, Learning and Assessment) FE advisers for 4 years sharing good practice with his fellow colleagues.

His current learning mentor role involves 1:1 and group sessions on topics such as motivation, confidence, procrastination, and time management. He is heavily involved in the marketing of the student success team relying on his photography and photoshop skills.

Emily Toogood

Emily Toogood is a second year Veterinary Physiotherapy student at Writtle University College. She is currently a member of the student advisory board contributing to University policy and strategy from her lived experience of completing a University degree with mental health difficulties. She is also a student ambassador and represents the University for events including open days.

Mark Yates

Mark Yates is an experienced Careers Adviser, having worked in schools, colleges and universities. Mark qualified as a careers adviser in the mid 90’s and works as a Careers Adviser at Writtle University College. Mark is on the Career Development Institute Professional Standards Committee and the AGCAS national Learning and Development Committee.