Gaining industry insight and experience is a key part of attaining a valuable degree and finding a graduate job. However, finding the right opportunities for students can be difficult. To counter this, here at the University of Salford, we offer a variety of ways in which students can access this essential professional development. One of these ways, mentoring, is generously provided by alumni who volunteer some of their time each week to support students in their learning. 

One of our alumni volunteers, Thomas Byrne Class of 2014, took part in an interview to share their experiences providing mentoring to a fellow Salford student. Tom, an actor, musician and puppeteer is a multi-skilled graduate, who provided a unique look into the world of alumni mentoring to celebrate Volunteer Week. 

Thomas Byrne - Salford alumni and Puppeteer. taken by Theo Kirkpatrick
Thomas Byrne – Salford alumni and Puppeteer. taken by Theo Kirkpatrick

Why did you choose to mentor at the University of Salford? What effect do you think mentoring has on the student experience?  
I chose to mentor at Salford because I see it as an important way of giving back to the institution that helped me find myself, both in terms of my profession and as an individual. My time at university was incredibly formative, and with that in mind, it makes me keen to play a small part in other people’s journeys of self-discovery. 
Mentoring helps to bridge the gap between educational study and the professional industry. I think it provides students with some further insights into what life might be like working in the industry after they leave higher education and helps prepare them and set realistic expectations. Creative industries, such as working in the arts, can be very challenging. Talking to people who are currently making their living from that can help to prove that working in difficult sectors is possible. 

As an actor, musician, and puppeteer, what unique skills, experience or advice are you able to share with the University of Salford students?  

Since leaving university in 2014 I’ve been a full-time freelance artist. I bring those 9 years of experience into the conversations I have with mentees. Often this comes across in a creative capacity but there are also many practical skills that we cover, such as registering yourself as self-employed, completing a tax return, applying for funding etc. 

Thomas working with a Puppet
Thomas working with a Puppet

What do you enjoy the most about being a mentor?  

For me, it’s all about seeing the mentees learn to solve their own problems and overcome challenges. It’s such a great moment to see the gears start to turn in their heads and watch them start to forge their own path. 

Finally, what made you choose Salford for your Undergraduate Degree?  

During the audition, I fluffed one of my monologues. I remember being really upset, apologising for auditioning so poorly, and leaving feeling utterly dejected. To my surprise, I got an acceptance letter from Salford. They saw something in me that I couldn’t even see within myself at the time. Through 3 years of careful nurturing, particularly under the wonderful lecturers Denise Vernon and Roland Metcalfe, my eyes were opened. Salford took a chance on me, and I’ll always be grateful for that. 

It was fantastic to chat with Tom about his volunteering at the University and the impact he is making on the lives and future careers of our students. If you are an alumnus who wants to share their story or advice, please do not hesitate to contact me or the alumni team. 

Amos Brooks – Alumni Engagement Officer:  

LinkedIn: Amos Brooks | LinkedIn 


Alumni Team: