Director: Lisa Vine - Advocacy. Consultancy. Training.
Alumna Lisa graduated from Loughborough University in 2009 with a B.Sc. in Sociology. Having been heavily involved with the University's LGBT Association, Lisa now owns her own business aiming to support and advocate LGBT inclusion.
I always knew I wanted to go to Loughborough, from the minute I stepped out of the car when I first went to look round. The feel of the place is indescribable and I knew almost immediately that I would feel at home there, which of course I did!
Originally I applied to do Geography but I quickly realised that I’d probably struggle with the physical and science sides of the course. Sociology and the broader social sciences then caught my eye. It was brilliant, as I could also study modules in Criminology, Politics and Social Psychology too.
Wow, I’m not sure I can answer this in just a few sentences! Loughborough University gave me independence, an identity and a confidence to be myself and also to find myself, as cheesy as that sounds.
I love learning, meeting new people and getting involved in extra-curricular activities; all of which you could do endlessly at Loughborough. Loughborough was where I learnt to write a good essay, learnt about politics and LGBT+ rights for the first time and met my first genuine LGBT+ friends. Loughborough inspired and enabled me to be myself, gave me the confidence to think outside the box and push forward to develop new skills, both in and outside of academia.
Would there be one piece of advice that you would give to current or prospective students looking to study the same course that you did?
Do as much as you can! What this means will be different for different people and that’s fine - do what it takes to get you to where you need to be.
I found the support of the Social Sciences’ staff to be invaluable. Initially, I thought I shouldn’t take up their time and that university was supposed to be about being more academically independent. However, staff drop-in times and actually asking for help and guidance made me think about something differently and helped me develop academically. When I was at Loughborough, Sociology was in the top three courses in the country after Oxford and Cambridge. Therefore, talking to staff and learning from them was a brilliant tool to boost my academic skills and my way of thinking.
How did you get involved with the LGBT Association at Loughborough? Did you take part in any other extra-curricular activities whilst you were here?
This is quite a funny story actually and really shows my age. When I was 16 I got a job working at Ralph Lauren in Bicester. I grew up in a small village nearby and didn’t have an LGBT+ youth group to go to or any LGBT+ friends. One of the managers at Bicester Village at the time was a lovely gay guy who, without knowing it, made me feel more comfortable about who I was. I suppose he was the first real LGBT+ role model I had. One day when I told him I’d got a place at Loughborough he said "Darling, you must join the LGBT society!" I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about; an LGBT society...what was one of those?
So in the first few weeks of being at Loughborough I found Loughborough’s LGBT Association (LLGBTA) as it was then called, and I went to the first meeting. I met my first LGBT+ friends, my first girlfriend and a new sense of belonging. I was even encouraged to be the Chair, a role which I was nominated for and then elected to be in my first year. Given what I do now and what I’ve done since, it’s fair to say I haven’t looked back! I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the wonderful Babak Erfani and the LLGBTA.
After Loughborough I had a year out and worked in a deli - one of the best jobs I have ever had, but I put on so much weight! I saved up some money and then went to do an MA in Parliamentary Politics at the University of Leeds. I then took a temporary contract as Researcher for a Member of European Parliament (MEP) and afterwards went travelling.
When I got home I was headhunted to work as a Parliamentary Researcher for a Member of Parliament in Westminster. It was during this time that the Same-Sex Marriage Bill passed and it was wonderful to be in Parliament when it happened. I didn’t think I’d see it in my lifetime, and I’m no pessimist.
Knowing that policy in the third sector was where I really wanted to be, I went on to work for over three years for two charities in the Midlands, both as a Policy and Public Affairs Officer and a Public Policy Executive. Looking back, everything changed when I was lucky enough to be given the job as Project Lead for the Young Transgender Centre of Excellence (YTCE), a flagship BBC Children supported project at the Leicester LGBT Centre.
This was without a doubt the best job I have ever had. I supported over 70 transgender and non-binary young people and was nominated and won Leicester Pride’s Unsung Hero Award. This role involved using so many of the skills I had developed in previous roles, including where my passion for LGBT+ rights all began, as Chair of the LLGBTA.
My career has had its ups and downs for sure, but I wouldn’t change it for the world as it has taught me so much and made me the person I am today.
I now own and run my own business - Lisa Vine - Advocacy. Consultancy. Training - a business I set up to support those striving for LGBT+ inclusion. I work with schools, businesses, charities and local authorities who are seeking information about how best to support LGBT+ students, colleagues and clients. By running workshops and assemblies for young people, training for professionals and much more, I can help people who are looking to be truly LGBT+ inclusive.
Advocacy is a huge part of what I do and my experience of this helps to shape the training and consultancy that I deliver. From representing the LLGBTA at the NUS’ National LGBT Conference whilst at Loughborough, to challenging schools who are indirectly discriminating against a transgender student; advocacy drives my passion for doing this job.
I love so much about my job and this is a tough one. I love training people and helping them to look at inclusion in a way they may not have done before. When someone turns to me and says, "I feel so much more confident about supporting LGBT+ people now", that’s what makes it all worthwhile.
I just want to keep making a difference. As just one example, if I can help reduce LGBT+ bullying in a school and encourage acceptance by running workshops, that’s what makes me get out of bed each morning. I’m also hoping that I’ll be able to expand and grow the business to develop the services I offer and even recruit employees of my own.
When I look back at everything I have achieved to date, I have to pinch myself! I am so unbelievably proud and I often wonder "Am I dreaming?" or "Has this all really happened?"
The proudest moment of my career to date has to be when I was asked to lead a workshop at one of Stonewall’s national conferences. Stonewall has always been a charity that I have admired since I was much younger and it was a real privilege to speak at their event and to be able to share my knowledge and expertise.