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Jessica Duncan | University of Sunderland

Applied Business Management

Common Purpose

This week I graduated from the Leading Lights course ran by Common Purpose and I cannot recommend it enough. The course ran for 4 days and it was pretty intensive, I was going home afterwards ready to go straight to sleep! I have learnt a great deal, specifically on leadership and also met people I never thought I would have the chance to even speak to. I feel much more confident about applying for graduate jobs and being a future leader.  It has been a great start to University and I made some friends for life during the course.

My personal highlights from the course;

Day 1:

I was a bit nervous at first about the course, mainly because I didn’t know anyone and I hadn’t been at the University for over two years.  That passed after about 15 minutes. As soon as I arrived we got put into groups. Then we had an ice-breaker and asked everyone in the room a question about themselves, mine was ‘If you had more spare time what would you do?’.  Soon after the Ice-breaker activities we had our first guest speaker, a senior police officer from Durham Constabulary. He spoke a lot about how we shouldn’t make assumptions and we should use effective questioning, with some clever brainteasers that really got the group thinking hard. We had more group activities including one where we had to create our perfect leader in groups and present to the rest of the class.



Day 2:

The day began at the Chamber of Commerce in Sunderland, we had a speech by Stuart Miller, a Membership Manager on his perspective on power in the Sunderland area. After this we did some field work and in groups interviewed local residents in Sunderland about what they like/don’t like in Sunderland. It was really interesting to find out that Sunderland has a great sense of community, which was the most popular answer and everyone agreed on the same issues.

Chamber of Commerce

Chamber of Commerce

My favorite part of the day, being a typical girl was the Tyne and Wear Fire Service visit! We had the option to choose from a number of different organisations including Nissan, Tadea and UK Land Estates.


Straight after this photo we all got blind folded, given a gas mask and pushed through a tiny maze, i didn’t enjoy it, at all. We had to crawl through tiny holes not being able to see anything. The person in front of us was supposed to be the leader and tell us where to go next but we lacked communication and we were all over the place!



 Day 3:

Day 3 took place in the Sunderland Minster, which is actually right next to City Campus, I had never noticed it before! We had a speech from Kate Welch, the Chief Executive of Acumen social enterprise. She is such an inspiration, she works with organisations aiming to help get offenders and the disadvantaged in the labour market. She gives lectures at Teeside University and Durham University and works on a number of other different projects all for the helping of other people.

We also had another organisation visit, this time we got put into groups and I went to Sunderland Football Club Foundation. We had to propose a project with for the University and the Foundation. We came up with the idea ‘Fit For Freshers’ which aims to give new students advice on how to keep healthy during University, how to prepare nutritional meals by giving free cooking lessons and working with local supermarkets to promote ingredients and offers to show it is affordable to eat healthy. The Foundation  really liked our idea and said that they will definitely look further into it. We also got a tour of the whole stadium!


Day 4: 

On the last day we had 4 different leaders speaking with us. They were all from different backgrounds, my favorite was speaking with Phil Richardson, the Managing director of Atlas Cloud. He came up with the whole business idea himself, and took the risk of quitting his job and finally going with his dream. It was amazing being able to ask him anything and he gave some really good advice. Overall the main point I learnt from all the leaders I met today is that networking is extremely important. Phil managed to maintain a good network of people he had met even from University in order to achieve what he did.


Graduation was very emotional! We all had to graduate someone in the course and say a little about that person. It was sad to say goodbye to everyone after spending so much time together. We all have an ongoing project, mine is about Graduate Internships and researching why some companies do not want to engage with the University on hiring Graduates. We will try and remove barriers that may exist and increase awareness. We have a meeting in a few weeks so I will keep you posted!


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  • Name: Jessica Duncan
  • Age: 22
  • Studying: BA (Hons) Business and Management
  • Hometown: Darlington, UK
  • Ambitions: To be managing a successful International Business and to travel the world!

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