Testimonial: Maya Little
Maya Little (English, 2017- 2020)
I had an open offer, so I didn’t find out what college I would be at until results day. I’d never heard of Mansfield before. I first saw it on the ‘Family and Friends Day’, where we could look round the college before the start of term. The Senior Tutor Lucinda, one of the tutors who would be teaching me, immediately knew who I was and offered to take me and my parents on a tour. This pervasive friendliness at Mansfield quickly put me at ease, and I think it’s the genuine excitement about welcoming people to the college that makes Mansfield uniquely good at its access work.
Lucinda herself is a force of nature in supporting the outreach work of the college, travelling with the access team up and down the country to do sixth form visits. At least two of the people studying English in my year were convinced to apply to Mansfield after talks at their sixth-forms from Lucinda, and there’s a joke that one particular sixth form must supply one English student to the college every year (we’re about four or five generations deep at this point). There’s just something about her genuine enthusiasm, unpretentiousness, and reassuring presence that gives people confidence. It takes an underestimated level of skill to take Toy Story as seriously as Chaucer. I feel really lucky to have been taught by Lucinda, to see that her commitment to supporting and looking out for people never wavers.
I’m from a low-income background, and I benefited hugely from Oxford’s summer school for state school students, UNIQ. It’s a great example of how brilliantly self-perpetuating these programmes can be; the majority of student helpers on UNIQ are former UNIQ participants, and helping out for two weeks last year has allowed me to entice a lot of students to Mansfield. After taking care of twenty students across two summer schools, a quarter of them interviewed at Mansfield. Three of them had a series of taster sessions with the English tutors at the college, where they got to chat about their favourite books over some cake (cake is a very important part of access), and the other two were persuaded by the quickest tour I’ve ever conducted, finished with a visit to Lucinda’s (extremely magical, tea-filled) office.
I’ve never felt more like I was doing a job with genuine purpose than helping out on UNIQ and on Mansfield’s school visits. Helen and Sara are the tireless access power duo of the college. They run tours, Q&A’s and taster sessions for students ranging from sixth formers to my personal favourite, Croydon Children’s University, a group of much younger students who were filled with delightful, unbridled curiosity about the college’s fire safety procedures. It’s so exciting to get to interact with students as an ambassador, to reassure them about all the things I used to worry about and give them the opportunity to show themselves just how intelligent they are.