Celebrating Success 2021: Kimberley France  

Art & Design Student of the Year
Kimberley France  

Kimberley, from Basildon, studied Level 3 Art & Design (3D Design) at the college’s Southend campus. 

Kimberley was nominated for the award for her exceptional work, development and skill in a number of areas.

Tutors praised her for her dedication which meant she completed each unit with a distinction grade.

They said: “She has been a credit to the Art and Design department and has an exciting career ahead.

Kimberley said she was very grateful and surprised to have won.

She said: “It's so nice of the college to recognise their students and show that they know how hard everyone works during their time here. 

“The best part about being here I've found is that anyone is welcoming and happy to help, tutors and students alike. 

“The course allows for a lot of practical work, which is really fun because I got to try different machines and materials a lot. The college is also a very sociable place, you can interact with a lot of different people. In the art department you get to see others work a lot which is great.” 

Kimberley is now going to university in the hope of pursuing her dream of becoming an architect. 

Success stories

Will Thatcher

Will Thatcher

Course studied

Graphic Design & Illustration BA (Hons)

My greatest achievement so far has been breaking into the industry of my choice at an agency where I am able to work with dream clients.

My name is Will Thatcher, I am 28 years old and I studied BA Graphic Design and Illustration at South Essex College until July 2023 after graduating with a first class, and this is my story.

I wasn’t a big fan of school when I was younger, so I did a Business Admin apprenticeship in London. I then stayed at that company for another four years working in IT but decided it wasn’t for me. I have always been passionate about art and design, so I came to South Essex college to pursue a more creative career. I first enrolled on the Access to HE Art & Design course for a year, which helped me solidify my choice of graphic design.

I have just finished a six-month internship as a Graphic Designer at West Ham United FC organised through the college. It was part-time, so I was lucky enough to be able to do this alongside my studies and continued this a few months after graduation. Working at a Premier League club was an unforgettable experience, and I learnt so much from it. I am very grateful to those involved, and I still can’t believe it happened.

I have just landed a job as a Graphic Designer at IMG | Seven League. They are a consultancy and digital marketing agency working with major sports brands such as the NFL, Premier League and NBA to increase fan engagement and attract new audiences.

My job involves working within the design team to come up with creative concepts for both client and internal briefs, such as social media campaigns, and producing exciting graphics to be used by the clients. Sport is super visual, and I get to work with different clients, each with unique identities, so no job is the same.

Having to give up my job to study full-time meant I knew I had to make myself as employable as possible. The great thing about Graphic design is that you can combine it with any passion. I am obsessed with sports, so this became the focus of most of my work, leading me to be selected for my West Ham internship. I also reached out to various football clubs for freelance work and developed passion projects. It was great for my portfolio and ultimately secured my current job. My advice to anyone studying for a creative degree is to push yourself and focus on a specific area/industry you would like to work in. It will make you stand out from the crowd.

I chose to study at South Essex because they offer a variety of courses on my doorstep. It allowed me to study while living at home, close to my family and friends. I also loved how diverse the college is, and I have made friends from all different backgrounds and ages. Enrolling on the Access to HE Art & Design course enabled me to try many mediums before making my choice.

Studying on my course allowed me to gain insights into the industry from my experienced lecturers and guest speakers. I learned design principles and essential skills such as Adobe Illustrator and printing methods.

The best thing about doing higher education was that I had the freedom, time, and space necessary to develop my knowledge and skills while under the guidance of my lecturers. It also gave me a lot of focus, which I may have struggled with if I had self-taught myself outside of my job.

I had no graphic design or media option at school, so everything was new, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. I now consider myself skilled in them, but like everyone, I am still learning new things every day. We also learned how to present more effectively in crits to my peers and open myself up to feedback. Responding to feedback is a crucial skill in the creative industry, and the course provides a supportive and encouraging environment to help develop this.

The college provides access to Apple Macs with an Adobe Creative Cloud, which I previously had never used before. Although they are not absolutely necessary, it was good to learn how to use this industry-standard equipment and software. There are also brilliant printing facilities.

I would recommend South Essex College because it is a good option for anyone living locally who wants a supportive environment to learn at their own pace. A smaller number of students on each course also allows more interaction with your lecturer. You would rarely get this at larger institutions, and I don't think I would be at the same level I am elsewhere.

Coming here has massively helped me with my confidence. Before I came here, I wasn’t sure where life was going, but I realised it was the best decision I've made. Like anyone, I still have days of self-doubt, but these are much rarer now due to the strides I'm making and the encouragement of others.

My greatest achievement so far has been breaking into the industry of my choice at an agency where I am able to work with dream clients. I always knew I wanted to work for major brands. I still have to pinch myself.

I want to continue working in sports and have ambitions to be a creative director one day, as I enjoy motivating others and hearing other perspectives and ideas.

Sophie Wade My Story

Sophie Wade My Story

Course studied

Graphic Design & Illustration BA (Hons)

The best thing about completing a higher education course is the sense of accomplishment

My name is Sophie Wade, I am 24 years old, I studied BA (Hons) Graphic Design and Illustration at South Essex University from 2020 until 2023, and this is my story.

After finishing my A-Levels in 2017, I spent three years working in Local Government Administration roles. I wasn’t finding the work enjoyable or fulfilling, so in 2020 I decided that I would return to education and embark on a new creative career path.  

I liked the idea of studying local and being able to commute to and from the University every day. When I first expressed an interest in joining the course, I met with John, who was the course leader at the time, and he reassured me that despite not having any previous creative experience, with my proactive and conscientious approach, I would be able to succeed on the course. Having a tutor who believed in me from the get-go was amazing and just from these few conversations I had with John prior to joining and the amount of support and encouragement he provided, I knew that enrolling would be the right decision for me.

There were around twelve students in my class in total, which meant that I received a huge amount of one-to-one support, something which is not always possible at larger universities. The tutors were very responsive and were always there for me whenever I needed them, both in person and via Teams. I loved working with them as they are just as passionate about Graphic Design as I am! The overall environment is also very welcoming and inclusive.

The best thing about completing a higher education course is the sense of accomplishment which you feel when a hand-in day finally arrives, and you submit everything you’ve spent so much time working on. My tutors knew how much I wanted to do well and pushed me every step of the way to ensure that I achieved my goals.

My greatest achievement so far is being given the opportunity to work in partnership with the RSPB on my final major projects for both my second and my third year. It has been a pleasure to work with the Community Engagement Team and the young people who volunteer at Rainham Marshes, and I will be forever grateful to my tutors for facilitating this collaboration.

As a HE student I have been able to undertake extracurricular opportunities which alongside my degree programme itself, have significantly boosted my confidence. I was a HE Peer Mentor during both my second and third year, and throughout my final year, I have been part of the college’s board of governors. Being at the university provides you with so many amazing opportunities to grow, thrive, and develop both professionally and personally

Since completing my course in May, I have been busy job seeking, and I have also been preparing for the D&AD New Blood Festival – our final degree show. I am on track to receive a First-Class Honours degree which has been my goal since starting the course, so I feel immensely proud of the fact that my hard work and determination has paid off.

Within the next few months, I am hoping to secure a London-based role as a Junior Graphic Designer, where I can work on creating both print-based and digital solutions. From here, I would love to gradually progress into the position of Senior Designer, and eventually, I would love to work my way up to Management level and oversee my own team of creatives. In the future, I would love to set up my own.

Chloe Wade

My confidence has boosted massively and my work is recognised here. Last year I won who wants to be an entrepreneur and student of the year in business and logistics

South Essex College Group student, Chloe Wade, has been accepted as an Apprentice Marketing Executive for the BBC in White City.

Chloe is currently studying Level 3 Interactive Digital Media. She previously studied business at the college before swapping over to the Digital Media course. Other colleges didn’t supply the course she was looking for, and she felt that South Essex College Group provided the perfect environment and location to suit her needs.

Chloe applied for the apprentice position on Boxing day in December 2022 after finding the advert on Indeed. The interview process took six months and there were six different stages of the interview. Originally, there was supposed to be only five stages, however towards the end on the interview process it was whittled down to Chloe and another candidate so the BBC added an extra interview on top. The role is for a Marketing Executive Level 4 for 18 months, as well as being full-time with one day-a-week apprentice study through the online external provider.

When asked about the support from tutors, Chloe said: “They were all so encouraging, as each stage went on I informed my tutors. Darren who teachers audience theory, was so interested and excited, he was helping me prepare for everything and teaching me certain areas such as core values to put me ahead of everyone. They were so supportive, and I don’t think I would of got this far without their help.”

Chloe enjoys the flexibility at the college and secured work experience at which she created content for a zen and holistic company. She said: “The college offers such a variety of courses and freedom. 

“The courses are structured, but you get freedom as well, for example for my final project I chose to rebrand a cosmetic palette, where as another student created a music video. You all have the same criteria but freedom too. If you are worried, try it and give it a shot, the opportunities here are so wide.” 

She added: “My confidence has boosted massively and my work is recognised here. Last year I won who wants to be an entrepreneur and student of the year in business and logistics. My work recognised given me a boost. I work really hard and I’m so proud of how far I have come. The college appreciates you as an individual and gives you praise when you do work really hard.”
Chloe hopes to have her own business one day, in marketing, doing social media and content creating. As well as hoping to study Level 5 and 6 at the BBC.