Volunteering Stories

Gillian Grainger, from volunteering to Head of Equality and Diversity

Gill studied a Masters in Community Leadership at UCLan, and graduated in 2017.

She chose to study the course because she had a personal interest in the topics covered. Also, she had desire to achieve a higher level of qualification  as she had not studied at this level for a long time and she wanted to test herself. She had desire to achieve a recognised qualification in a relevant subject to support her career aspiration in relation to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. After graduation Gill secured a promotion within her chosen field of work. She is now: Head of Equality and Diversity at Staffordshire University. This means that she leads the development and delivery of the University’s Strategic Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Plan.

Gill’s  background is in the voluntary sector. She worked at Gingerbread [lone parent support organisation] for a number of years after graduation as a mature student in her late 30s. Then she worked in local government for 16 years supporting and enabling partnership working with local voluntary sector organisations. In 2005 her work moved into community cohesion with a focus on developing positive community relations and tackling discrimination – 2/3 of the public sector equality duty. Following a number of local government restructures she was responsible for equality, diversity, inclusion and community cohesion. She had a very broad remit from compliance with the requirements of the Equality Act, tackling hate and bullying, leading on Prevent and Modern Slavery

Taking the Masters at UCLAN helped broaden her understanding around these agendas and gave her the confidence to step up to a leadership role.

Gill’s lasting memories of UCLan are:

The teaching staff were extremely knowledgeable about their subject areas and always had time to explain complex issues – sharing their experiences to make the topic more real, more relevant. Gill was always impressed at how ‘real’ the lecturers were – everyone in the group felt genuinely valued and all the personal experiences we brought to the lesson were valued and respected. She thinks the approach of the lecturers on this course demonstrated their inclusive values. Gill says that the parking and catering staff were so kind and helpful

Gill’s greatest achievement since graduation:

Gill says her greatest achievement is using her new qualification and confidence to secure a new and exciting [and very challenging] job role

Gill’s advice to graduates wanting to do something similar and message  to those thinking of taking up study:

 “Go for it!

Don’t think too far ahead – focus on the semester you’re in and just do your best – it will be good enough

The benefits from study in later life extend far beyond the qualification – to your confidence, drive and ambition.

For me, using the learning in a work environment was always a very secondary consideration in taking up the course – space and time for personal growth, development and stretching your mind are terrific presents to give yourself.”

 UCLan’s impact on Gill’s current employment and life in general:


 Gill says it put her ahead of the field in applying for jobs and she got the first one she applied for, and it’s a significant promotion. One of her adult children has taken up and completed a training course which he would never have considered if he hadn’t seen her example.