Alumni to watchAnthony Coleman shares the stories of alumni who are making a difference around the world

Caroline Faraj

MA International Journalism, 2001

Caroline is Vice President and Head of Arabic Services at international news company, CNN. She was the first female journalism graduate from Yarmouk University in Jordan and, after graduating, spent a decade as the country’s palace correspondent.

“I had the privilege of travelling the world and meeting many world leaders,” she says. “Travelling with King Hussein taught me a lot, especially when I was covering the the Arab-Israeli peace negotiations in Washington. But after the King’s death in 1999, I was not sure what to do next.”

The answer was to successfully apply for a Chevening scholarship – a scheme designed to encourage outstanding individuals from around the world to study in the UK. Caroline joined City’s MA in International Journalism and says her time here was incredibly valuable in shaping her career.

“As a graduate of City, I have first-hand experience of the incredible academic rigour in the institution. Enriching experiences as well as quality teaching run through the entire faculty. Even today, I’m still applying the same strategies and tips I learned from my tutors.”

While she was at City, Caroline was approached by CNN to help launch the network’s first operation in the Gulf, as well as its first Arabic-language website. “We had just 16 days! It was full of challenges, but when I look back I remember the great moments and smile.”

Over the years, Caroline has witnessed and navigated radical changes in the media landscape. Today, CNN Arabic is the Middle East’s leading independent news platform. “That is something I am enormously proud of,” she adds. “I believe we stand out because of our credible, authentic, factual reporting. My team and I feel responsible for providing pivotal news and analysis and my goal is to keep building the CNN brand. Getting to the truth is at the core of what we do as journalists – that is my mission and it always will be.

“I also want to empower more young Arab women by training them to tell their stories, inspire others and carry the torch onwards in our profession.

“One thing I learned from my late grandfather, who helped raise me with my parents, is that nothing is impossible. That has always been the guiding star on my journey. You just need to dedicate yourself to achieving a certain goal that you believe in.

“It is an old saying but if you truly believe in yourself and know your abilities, you can overcome any challenge that stands in the way of your success.”

Daniel Taylor

Bar Professional Training Course, 2021

For Daniel, the law is empowering. “It gives me the confidence to know I can stand up for my rights and the rights of others by using it as both a shield and a sword,” he says.

Defending his rights is something he is well used to. A tetraplegic and wheelchair user for 20 years, Daniel says he was faced day-to-day discrimination that is both demoralising and exhausting. “Wanting to counteract problems in relation to disability should never be difficult, but it is because those who are not disabled do not understand the daily problems disabled people face.”

Despite the challenges over the years, Daniel has earned several degrees and a PhD. He puts his success down to “sheer bloody mindedness and determination, as well as a strong work ethic”.

Before the pandemic struck, Daniel commuted to City for lectures and seminars from Norwich, regularly spending nine hours a week on the train and sometimes not getting home until 2am. “I did a great deal of work and preparation for study on the train,” he adds. “It was exhausting, but I was still able to balance study with my work commitments in Norwich.

“The one thing I remember most about my time at City was just how approachable and friendly the senior members of staff in the department were. Some had been teaching the same material for a long time, but they were just as excited to teach it as they’d ever been. That enthusiasm was infectious.”

Things were made more difficult for Daniel during the pandemic. As someone who is clinically vulnerable, he could not leave his house for six months, so he spent his time reading course material. “The anxiety and worry were all-consuming, but I was still able to press on under dire circumstances and pass the Bar.”

Today Daniel is working as a pro-bono advocate and paralegal as he looks to build his professional experience. He remains as determined as ever and hopes to attain pupillage, train as a barrister and eventually become a King’s Counsel. He also has an eye on a possible career in politics.

“I’m someone who does not like to accept no for an answer and I push on regardless – it is a difficult but ultimately rewarding mindset,” he says. “No matter how many times I’ve failed, I always pick myself up and get on with it.”

Kim Smith

MSc Food Policy, 2021

“It honestly perplexes me that we do not educate our children on how to eat well for life,” says Kim Smith. Having recently completed her MSc at City’s Centre for Food Policy, she is hungry to study further and drive real change in children’s food education.

“The National Curriculum aims to equip children with the knowledge to be educated citizens, but it just does not do that when it comes to food, health and eating well for the planet,” she says. “The food system is the biggest contributor to the public and planetary issues facing the next generations, yet we’re not educating them about it. My dream is to change that.”

Kim has loved food and cooking for as long as she can remember. It is a passion that has taken her from making desserts for her mum’s dinner parties to an MSc in Food Policy – via a whole range of food industry roles.

She has developed products for supermarkets, run farmers markets and a gluten-free events company, and even dabbled in a butchery apprenticeship. But it was not until her two boys – raised to grow, pick and cook food from a young age – went to school that Kim realised how much food education was lacking.

“Their headteacher twisted my arm to run a cooking club and I quickly saw how levelling food is for children, and how much they loved it,” Kim says. “But teaching 10 children who could afford after-school clubs did not sit well with me, and the feeling that all children deserve that opportunity drove me to develop a curriculum-based food education programme. Seven years on, I’ve collaborated with staff to embed it and establish a whole-school approach.”

At the same time, Kim was pursuing a long-held desire to research and write academically, having applied for her MSc at City. “As a full-time mum, I had no confidence I’d be able to learn about politics and economics, read academic papers or write essays,” she says. “But with the support of incredible course friendships and City staff, I came to love and excel on the course, getting a distinction – and really enjoying it! It boosted my confidence immeasurably and I began to see what I was capable of.”

Kim worked with City academics to edit her dissertation for peer review and get it published. “Meeting these strong, intelligent women, passionate about changing things for the better, had a significant influence on me,” she says. “They shared their time, knowledge and passion. Seeing them leading the Centre’s cutting-edge work has totally shaped my approach.”

With her MSc under her belt, Kim has been awarded a City studentship so she can build on her research by studying for a PhD. She’ll examine how primary schools address food literacy, and how it can help children navigate the food system and eat sustainably.

Meanwhile, she’ll continue her work as Trustee and Co-chair at TastEd, a sensory food education charity that helps children learn to love fruit and vegetables. She runs the charity day to day, collaborating with teachers, local authorities, policymakers and the Department for Education to bring sensory food education to more children, in more schools.

As for her PhD, Kim ca not wait to start: “My time at City has already brought so many exciting opportunities my way and taken my career to the next level. If you’d told me five years ago that I’d have an academic paper published and be embarking on a PhD, I’d never have believed you!”

Jules Buker

BSc Management, 2017

Jules Buker is tackling the climate crisis head-on. “Almost everyone is aware of climate change,” he says. “But the majority do not know what they can do to fight it.” As one of the co-founders of innovative tree-planting app, Treeapp, Jules and his team are out to change that.

Treeapp enables anyone to plant a tree for free, every day, in less than a minute. As well as empowering people to make a positive impact, it enables businesses to integrate tree planting into their offering and offset their carbon footprint.

“We identified three main barriers to taking climate action,” he explains. “People do not have the time, do not have the money or do not know how. Treeapp circumvents those barriers, giving people a free, easy way to have an impact every day, from their phone.”

Since launching in 2020, the app has gained over 100,000 UK users and planted 1.5m trees in 13 countries across four continents. In that time, Jules and his team have partnered with over 300 brands including L’Occitane, DPD, Hello Fresh and Credit Suisse. They’ve also raised over £250,000 of angel investment and venture capital funding, as well as being featured in Forbes 30 under 30, Business Insider’s top 37 climate-tech start-ups, the Guardian and Sky News.

“One of the real highlights was Treeapp being named as the hottest app on the UK App Store,” says Jules. “That really put us on the map and increased our organic growth.”

It has not always been an easy journey. The app launched in April 2020, just a few weeks into the Covid lockdown, so building a team was challenging and raising funds during a macro-economic downturn was tough. But Jules had a great set of business skills to draw on.

“I studied management because I always knew I wanted to start a business and what I particularly enjoyed at City was the practical approach – I got to put the new things I learned into practice straight away, which really benefited me long term.

“The thing that stands out most from my time at City is the supportive staff and the diversity of the people I met. I really enjoyed making friends from all over the world – discovering new cultures and ways of thinking. It truly broadened my perspectives and made me open to new ideas.”

Jules is pouring all of those skills into his ambitions for Treeapp’s future. “Our goal is to become the largest platform for impact making, and to do that, we want to expand Treeapp internationally to enable literally anyone to have an impact, every single day. We’re also investing in our business services – because we believe it is by working with both consumers and businesses that we’ll truly be able to tackle climate change.”