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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Southampton scientist features in national university campaign

Published: 1 May 2024
Jess Boxall
Jess Boxall

Southampton research scientist Jess Boxall has backed a call to celebrate the diversity of UK graduates.

Jess’s story features in Universities UK’s 100 Faces campaign, highlighting the stories and achievements of those who were the first in their family to go to university.

The 24-year-old came to the University of Southampton in 2017 to study Biomedical Sciences. As the first member of her family to attend university, and coming from a single-parent household, she had many obstacles to overcome. But her perseverance and the support she received from her family and the university have helped her succeed. 

“Physically moving away from home and being away from my family was difficult, even though I knew this is where I needed to be,” said Jess. “But financially, it was even harder. I got the maximum maintenance grant and I got by for those first two years but my year in industry was a big financial obstacle. I had to fight to get my maintenance grant for the year I returned to studying, and then had to continue working one day a week in my final year.”

Now studying for her Masters degree in public health and nutrition, Jess helps to inspire other first-generation students at Southampton by supporting the My Generation Career Coaching scheme which provided such crucial support to her.

Launched in 2019 to support students who are the first in their family to attend university, the programme aims to address unique challenges that first generation students face, helping them to be more prepared as they transition towards the graduate labour market and their career goals. 


Jess during a research trip to Ghana
Jess during a research trip to Ghana

To date, My Generation has supported more than 100 students to increase their career-readiness. 

Jess added: “The support I got from the My Generation programme here at Southampton was really empowering and the opportunities that came with it increased my confidence. As part of the programme I was kindly bought some smart clothes for my placement and that was a massive help, as student budgets don’t tend to extend to new work wardrobes.

“Coming to university has opened more doors for me than I ever thought it would. It’s also helped me become independent and stand on my own two feet. It’s been far more than just a stepping stone.”  

The University of Southampton also helps to create a fairer future for students from other underrepresented backgrounds via its flagship widening participation programme, Ignite. So far, Ignite has supported 90 students, with 63 per cent of those being the first in their family to attend university.

Gino Graziano, Director of Widening Participation and Social Mobility, said: “Ignite is entirely funded by alumni and supporter donations and provides financial, academic, career and mentoring opportunities to help students reach their full potential and achieve their ambitions in life.”

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