Meet the team

Meet our friendly team, find key contacts and follow us on social media.

Key contacts

Email Laide Bissessar, Head of Widening Access and Student Success

Email Julie Vuolo, Deputy Head of Widening Access and Student Success

Email Nick Howell, Widening Access Manager

Email Jonathan Sage, Widening Access Manager

Email the Aspire Higher team

Follow us on social media

Follow our Widening Access team on Instagram 

Follow our Student Success team on Instagram

Follow Aspire Higher on Instagram 

Follow Aspire Higher on Twitter

Meet our team

Nick Howell

Nick Howell - Widening Access Manager

Nick oversees much of our primary and secondary programme and is also designated safeguarding lead for Widening Access and Student Success (WASS). Nick manages our WASS Ambassador scheme and co-leads on our partnership schools Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme which is heavily delivered by external providers.

Nick is a qualified teacher and previously worked as a primary school teacher, SEND outreach advisor and also worked for Youth Connexions running youth centres across East Hertfordshire. Nick is a volunteer scout leader and school governor.

Email Nick

Jonathan Sage portrait

Jonathan Sage - Widening Access Manager

Jonathan is a Widening Access manager and lead of the Aspire Higher programme. He works closely with the teams at the Universities of Bedfordshire and Northampton to support schools and colleges, as part of the Uni Connect initiative to increase the progression of underrepresented and disadvantaged learners into higher education.

Prior to joining the team as an officer in July 2018, Jonathan had been working in education for 10 years, where he gained experience in a variety of roles across primary, secondary and further education settings. As a former college teacher, Jonathan believes in empowering students to explore their passion for learning and promoting a better understanding of the opportunities their achievements can open up for them.

Email Jonathan

Emma Pearce - staff portrait

Emma Pearce - Widening Access Officer

Emma is Widening Access officer for the Aspire Higher Hub and works closely with our partners at the Universities of Bedfordshire and Northampton to bring outreach to schools and students through our online Hub. She specialises in producing innovative online events and linking local schools with wider outreach opportunities.

Joining the team in July 2018 she has worked in education in both secondary and Further Education (FE) college settings for over six years and specialised in supporting students with completing the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ). She has also worked in educational roles within the heritage sector and recruitment and training within a corporate setting. She has a Level 5 diploma in education and training qualifying her to teach in an FE setting and is a trained learning coach, experienced at working on a one to one basis with students to help them overcome challenges to achieve their personal and academic goals.

Email Emma

Daniel Boham Widening Access Officer

Daniel Boham - Widening Access Officer

Daniel is Widening Access officer for Aspire Higher and works closely with local schools to support young people with their progression in education. He ensures that all students are able to reach their full potential and explores their talents through the process.

Joining the team in September 2020, he has worked in higher education for two years. Prior to this role, he has worked in Marketing and Communication as an education liaison coordinator where he was able to find his passion for working with young people.

Email Daniel

Maria Moss Administrator

Maria Moss - Administrative Assistant

Maria works part-time and provides support for the Aspire Higher and Widening Access officers. She joined the team in April 2018. Maria is a mum to two girls (secondary school/university) and helps the team from a ‘parent’ perspective.

Email Maria

Matthew Maddock Administrative Assistant

Matthew Maddock - Administrative Assistant

Matthew helps the team prepare the foundation of the events they run, from arranging the logistics of activities to helping analyse the outcomes of those events. He also acts as one of the first points of contact in the team, answering phone and email queries from in and out of the University.
Lucy O'Shea portrait - staff

Lucy O'Shea - Data and Evaluation Officer

Lucy works closely with Widening Access officers and Student Success officers to evaluate the impact of their initiatives and programmes. She also works to develop and analyse data sets to understand our student population and the young people we are working with in the local area, as well as supporting the University more widely with monitoring of the Access and Participation Plan.

After graduating from university, she joined the team in 2016 as a project and data assistant before being promoted to assistant data analysis in 2018, and data and evaluation officer in 2019. She completed a masters degree in education in summer 2021.

Email Lucy

Shannen Rock profile photo

Shannen Rock - Widening Access Officer

Shannen is one of the Widening Access Officers working across both Primary and Secondary schools, supporting young people on their education journey through to higher education whatever form that be. She is passionate about genuinely getting to know the students she works with and supporting them to achieve their goals and aspirations. Shannen leads on various projects including our Looked After Children Summer School and strives to always create immersive and impactful experiences for our young people; creating memories and developing skills for life.

Shannen joined the WASS team in 2017 but has had other roles at the University. Prior to joining the team she worked in the airline industry as cabin crew. Shannen is currently studying for her Level 3 in British Sign Language.

Email Shannen

Julie Vuolo staff portrait

Julie Vuolo - Deputy Head of Widening Access and Student Success

Julie supports the head of Widening Access and Student Success (WASS) to deliver the University's widening participation strategy and the WASS team vision. She also plays a key role in implementing and evaluating the University's Access and Participation Plan 2020-25.

Julie joined WASS in October 2020. She has worked in the University for 20+ years in various senior academic roles including as a student experience lead and associate dean. Prior to joining Herts, Julie worked in various senior nursing roles in the health service. Her qualifications include a doctorate in education and a masters in learning and teaching, and she is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Julie is committed to challenging inequalities, empowering students and transforming lives.

Email Julie

Laide Bissessar portrait

Laide Bissessar - Head of Widening Access and Student Success

Laide is the head of Widening Access and Student Success (WASS) and leads the the University's Widening Participation strategy. She is responsible for the WASS team vision, directing activity to ensure it is evidence-based, inclusive and impactful.

Joining the team in May 2018, she has a varied range of experience and has worked in education for 12+ years. Prior to this role, she worked in the charity sector in both strategic and operational roles including as a senior fundraising manager, overseeing the corporate portfolio.

Email Laide

Stock Photo admin team

Maryam Zaman - Widening Access Officer

Maryam is one of the Widening Access officers who organises and delivers workshops to support students from WP backgrounds. She has recently joined the team and strives to support students to reach their academic and professional ambitions. Outside of University, Maryam is an award winning radio presenter who presents live radio shows weekly.

Email Maryam

Stock Photo admin team

Michelle Day - Administrative Assistant

Michelle provides support to the Student Success team of officers, supporting students across the University.

Prior to joining the team in April 2018, Michelle worked for 19 years in business and professional magazine publishing, including 15 years of that in both operational and management rolls as a direct marketer. She has an undergraduate degree, a postgraduate diploma in direct marketing and is an associate fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Email Michelle Day

Michelle Wakefield portrait

Michelle Wakefield - Student Success Officer

Michelle is one of the Student Success officers providing support and guidance to students throughout their time at the University. This work supports the University's Widening Participation strategy. One particular area of focus within her role is Care Experienced students. 

Michelle has been at the University since 2010, joining the Widening Access and Student Success team in 2014.

Email Michelle Wakefield

Rachel Nield portrait

Rachel Nield - Student Success Officer (Go Herts)

Rachel is one of the Student Success officers who is responsible for the Go Herts Award and the University of Hertfordshire Connect Common Reading Programme. Through these projects she aims to support students in their educational journey to make sure they are graduating with more than a degree. 

Rachel previously worked for Hertfordshire Students' Union where she found her passion for engaging with students and ensuring all students had a great university experience, she is currently perusing an MA in Student Engagement in Higher Education and is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Email Rachel

Stock Photo admin team

Ramees Nharakattil - Project Officer

Ramees is a Widening Access and Student Success placement student who works across the whole team. He works with the officers to plan and assist special projects. Ramees also oversees the WASS and Aspire Higher social media accounts and supports the rest of the team with day-to-day operation.

Ramees is a sandwich year student doing a BSc (Hons) in Information Technology Management for Business and joined the team in October 2021.

Email Ramees

Stock Photo admin team

Tope Bamgbelu - Student Success Officer

Tope works part-time as a Student Success officer within the team providing support and guidance to underrepresented student groups throughout their time at the University. One particular area of focus his role is Estranged students.

Tope has been working within the Widening Access and Student Success team since 2018.

Email Tope