Civil engineering, construction and building

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Alexandra Duffy graduation

Loving life in Brighton

Alexandra Duffy graduated from our Building Surveying BSc(Hons) in 2018 with first class honours. She’s now working on the Circus Street site in Brighton which is near to completion and set to deliver 142 new homes, 450 student bedrooms and 30,000 sq ft of new office space.

Here Alexandra tells us about her time as student at Brighton and how she came to be working on the Circus Street site, a project that she studied as part of her course!

What made you choose Brighton and this course?

I grew up in Brighton and would not have chosen to do my course anywhere else. I love the city and wanted to be part of the University of Brighton alumni. I originally chose to do a degree in Project Management for Construction, but having shared my first year with other disciplines, I decided a career in Building Surveying was the route I wished to follow.

I have a passion for buildings and absolutely loved every aspect of the course but having completed some work experience in a surveying practice I quickly decided that surveying was not for me. Having received a scholarship, I decided to undertake a master’s in Project Management for Construction, so you could say, I have gone full circle. Sadly, due to a change in family circumstances, I had to put my master’s on hold but hope to return to it in the future. Or possibly a PhD (at Brighton obviously!)

Where do you work and what is your role?

I am Assistant Project Manager, on the Circus Street scheme, working for U+I. After I left university in February 2019, I went to work for John Graham Construction on the Plus X building at Preston Barracks, as Assistant Site Manager. This is where I met U+I.

They offered me the role of Assistant Project Manager role at Circus St in March this year. It was a development I studied in year two of my degree, so I was keen to be part of the team. I have been involved in the completion of 142 residential units, which we have just taken possession of and now my focus is on delivering a 30,000sqft office building and a dedicated dance building for South East Dance.

Within my role, I am responsible for maintaining quality throughout the build and identifying defects, contributing to design details, and managing the programme for the office building and associated S278 road works. I am also involved in the public art being installed within the site, which includes Anthony Gormley bollards, a 4-metre wrought iron totem and Alex Chinneck’s exploding staircase.

Can you describe your experience of studying here?

I loved every day at the University of Brighton, and would do it all again tomorrow, given the chance. I made some lifelong friends and found all the lecturers to be knowledge in their field, engaging, supportive and always willing to help. The facilities are great and although I did not take full advantage of the social clubs, there is so much on offer.

What were the highlights of your course?

Constructionarium stands out as one of my favourite weeks of the course. Six months into the first year, we were all thrown together on an educational construction site in a very cold Norfolk. We were all so far out of our comfort zones, but it was one of the most enjoyable weeks of my life. We got to work on site (my team built a reinforced concrete domed nuclear reactor). We bonded as a year, learnt a huge amount, and had the best fun.

I also really enjoyed the practical aspects of the course, from surveying in the snow on Manor Place field, site visits to proposed and ongoing developments, to site surveys of churches and old buildings.

Would you recommend your course? What in particular would you recommend?

I would absolutely recommend this course to anyone and regularly do. I enjoyed nearly all the modules I took and there was such a huge range of options modules to choose from.

What has coming to Brighton done for you?

In my teenage years, I was never interested in going to university, as I was too focused on securing a well-paid job and getting on the property ladder. I’ve had a successful career, but in my early 40’s, I felt uninspired by my job and when my sister in law passed away suddenly from anaphylactic shock aged 32, it made me realise life was too short and I wanted more. It was a scary proposition giving up a career to return to studying as a mature student, especially being a single parent, but it was the best decision of my life and I have not looked back.

I found an unknown passion for studying and developed a huge thirst for learning. I was probably the geekiest student of my year! It has totally changed my life and I am in a career I absolutely love. Not many people can say that they look forward to going to work every day, but I can honestly say, I do, and part of my success is thanks to Brighton having faith in my abilities and offering me a place.

Tell us about your experience of teaching and support staff.

All the staff were great, and without the lecturers who teach this course my experience at Brighton would have been very different.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of applying for this course / this university?

DO IT!! You will learn so much, not only about your chosen subject but about yourself too. Best experience ever!

Stephanie Thomson • December 1, 2020


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