“The award helped me realise that everything I did, big or small, mattered and made a difference”
By: Rebecca Hart
Last updated: Wednesday, 14 December 2022
As part of the Spirit of Sussex Award spotlight series, we connected with Mahima Mehra, Graduate in Masters in Poverty and Development at the Institute of Development Studies.
Mahima is the recipient of a Gold Spirit of Sussex Award, for her exemplary leadership and co-curricular activities. Mahima is now working as a Research Analyst for Triple Line, a global development consultancy and credits her participation in the award for helping her secure this role as well as improving her overall University experience.
Q: You studied for a Masters in Poverty & Development. What motivated you to choose this course and why did you choose to come to Sussex to do it?
Before attending Sussex, I worked as a researcher in South Asia, India, and Bangladesh. During this time, I realised that the problems we were facing were rooted in deprivation and multidimensional poverty. I realised that we cannot begin to understand development without looking at these problems first. Undertaking a Master's in Poverty & Development would offer me the opportunity to not only understand development but to actively take part in it as well. The main reason I chose to study development studies at Sussex is that it is the best in the world! Brighton as a city also really stood out to me due to its diversity and the variety of cultures here.
Q: When did you first hear about the Spirit of Sussex Award Scheme?
The first engagement I had with the award scheme was through the University’s instagram. I interacted with a post that appeared in collaboration with the Spirit of Sussex Award and that's when I realised I could also participate.
Q: What influenced you to continue participating in the award scheme?
I think that the Spirit of Sussex Award ade me more conscious of my actions and my contributions to society and my peers. It made me realise that even the small thing matters, going through the award platform there's a section for each and everything that you could be doing at Sussex. It was the realisation that everything I did, big or small, mattered and made a difference!
Q: You were incredibly involved with sustainability initiatives. What motivated you?
My work and research are centered around nutrition and the health of women and children. My time at Sussex made me realise that you cannot talk about social inequity without looking at sustainability and economic viability, because climate change impacts women and children in such profound ways; looking at food, security, livelihoods, displacement, nutrition, and health outcomes and just sort of getting a 360-degree approach to whatever you study.
That's how I became very drawn toward sustainability activities, both in academia and extracurricular. I think Sussex was a good place to explore sustainability, because there were so many discussions and initiatives going on. Sussex itself is a very sustainable university, they have their farming activities on campus and their waste and recycling disposal efforts. I obviously couldn't solve all the big problems in the year I was at Sussex but what I could do, I did!
Q: Could you tell us about your involvement with the H&M clothing recycling program as well as the work you did during your time with GIST Impact as an intern?
I worked briefly in fast fashion during the Christmas sales period and working in this industry made me realise how much it negatively impacts the environment. This experience made me think about what more I could do to make a positive impact and that’s when I came across the H&M sustainability initiative. Essentially, you donate a bag of clothes to them, and they give you a discount for any shopping that you do in the future! This works particularly well for students because we are always moving to different places and always looking for better places to buy from and keeping up with trends. I always made a point to know where my donations were going to, and H&M informed me they were donated across Europe to vulnerable women and children.
This role was closely linked to my time at GIST Impact Advisory, which is a sustainability consulting firm. I collaborated with European clients in the sustainability space, who are legally required to produce a sustainability and a social impact report. My role was to do quality checks on these reports to understand the social and sustainable impact these big clients were making in Europe. It gave me such a different perspective on how these big corporations operate and what happens in everyday business spaces.
‘Being a support worker and ambassador had a very profound impact because you realise so much of your privilege and you realise how challenging it can be for some students.’
Q: During your time at Sussex, you worked as a support worker and student ambassador, could you tell us what impact these roles had on your perception of student life at Sussex?
As a support worker, you are paired with a student who has learning disabilities, and your role is to provide them with academic support. I was paired up with an Undergraduate student who I supported through writing notes and being vocal and more confident in seminars. The experience had a very profound impact because you realise so much of your privilege and you realise how challenging it can be for some students. Being a support worker and ambassador helped me develop my interpersonal skills.
Q: How did the Spirit of Sussex Award support your student experience and opportunities at Sussex?
Taking part in the award scheme made me realise that everything matters and that even the small things we do, contribute to something bigger. The award motivates you to continue doing more as you know you are getting recognition for it. The Spirit of Sussex Award provided a real sense of community, especially when taking part in their events, which is very important, particularly for international students.
The award is amazing in terms of adding to your CV and improving your interactions on LinkedIn. It also shows employers that you're great at multitasking which is important in today’s market. Everything you do matters and can be leveraged somewhere. The experience made me a better person!
Q: Tell us more about your current role. Did the award help you to achieve this position?
Currently, I’m working as a research analyst for an international organisation that is based out of London. The Spirit of Sussex award helped me on a personal level, to be able to relate to people in diverse ways and improve transferable skills such as communication. Now, in my role, I interact with people from different cultural backgrounds, and I now appreciate how the award contributed to this development. The award connects people and makes them so much more aware of the things happening around them and the things that they can do to make a difference.
‘The award helps to show employers that you're great at multitasking. Everything you do matters and can be leveraged somewhere.’
Q: Would you encourage current students to get involved with the awards? And what advice do you have for students who may be considering taking part in the award?
I would encourage every single student to take part in it. The interactions I had with people and my transformation in confidence and people skills were a direct result of my taking part in the award scheme. My advice would be to start early because you can then easily track the things you’ve done. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and remember whatever you’re doing at Sussex, there is a category for it on the award platform. Finally, have fun. You're not at university for very long so you might as well make the most of it!
Author: Chikondi Maliki, Spirit of Sussex Award Student Connector