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Some of the winners of this year's Valedictory awards

The annual Valedictory prize-giving service is a highlight of the University calendar and recognises a number of students for their outstanding academic accomplishments and others for their contributions to the community and University life; their dedication to volunteering or sporting success.

This year the celebrations took place online, bringing the University community together virtually while it currently cannot be together physically.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Eunice Simmons, said: “I wish I could congratulate you in person, but rest assured the sentiment remains the same in 2D, as in 3D and we applaud you all. Although the University is physically dispersed at the moment, the technology with which we’ve all become familiar recently still enables us to come together as a virtual community.

“It is a privilege to salute the well-deserved success of those of you who have contributed to the University and to the wider world in so many different ways. The University is immensely proud of all of you. Well done!”

Among the awards and winners were:

Four students, who received the Ede and Ravenscroft Award for Excellence, which recognises students who have performed outstandingly outside of their academic subject:

  • Rebecca Brett; Natural Hazard Management with International Development Studies. Rebecca has completed over 1,000 hours of volunteering including at a Red Cross shop; organising and delivering several projects in Slaley First School (Hexham); volunteering at a children’s sensory play organisation (SPACE); taking on the roles of peer mentor, Student Experience Representative, and Departmental mentor; and representing the Department at Open and Applicant Days. Rebecca’s volunteering qualified her for the University of Chester Platinum Plus Volunteering and Outstanding Contribution to the Community Awards. Rebecca was instrumental in the organisation of the UK’s first Youth Climate Conference (LCOYuk).
  • Doreen Hengary; Social Work. Doreen came to the University whilst seeking asylum in the UK and during her studies actually had her claim for asylum refused, before winning an appeal and securing leave to remain. Whilst she was anxiously awaiting the outcome of her appeal, her fellow students started a campaign for Doreen to remain in the UK. This was a testament to her kindness and generosity as a fellow student. Doreen has always been happy to help others during her studies, despite her personal adversity and has even volunteered to educate other student cohorts about the UK asylum system. Doreen has also volunteered with Bawso, an All Wales voluntary organisation, providing specialist services to victims and people affected or at risk of Domestic Abuse and all forms of violence; including Female Genital Mutilation, Forced Marriage, Honour Based Violence, Human Trafficking and support services to asylum seekers and those granted leave to remain. Doreen also worked part time as a bank staff for The Whitechapel Centre, the leading homeless and housing charity for the Liverpool region. In her final placement on the Social Work course, Doreen was placed in a Homelessness Outreach Team within a community mental health setting. Despite the outbreak of COVID-19, Doreen volunteered to remain in placement until the end of her 100 days to provide much needed crisis outreach. This was an extremely brave decision which had tangible effects in terms of ongoing service provision.
  • Katie Simmons; Adult Nursing. Katie was part of, and supported the Rona Sailing Project, a non-profit and volunteer-based training organisation, which allows people to take part in sail training voyages. Katie was selected to take part in one of the most difficult races, the Transatlantic (run by Sail Training International) which took 29 days (Portugal to Bermuda). Katie was key in identifying and treating health related problems such as dehydration, heat exhaustion and burns with the potential to become infected at sea. The all-female crew was awarded the most courageous team during that event. Money raised during these events goes towards providing people with learning disabilities, mental health problems and/or physical difficulties, therapeutic voyage experiences. Katie’s main passion is to raise awareness and money for disadvantaged children and young people so they have the opportunity to experience responsibility, resourcefulness and teamwork in a remarkable environment. Katie recently completed a level 4 qualification in Rescue and Emergency Care as well as becoming a Heart Start instructor (British Heart Foundation). She has also volunteered in various physical challenges; develop and organise specific health-related workshops for young people at an all-boys school in London and is a freelance Mountain Leader supporting a range of organisations and events.
  • Gemma Thomas; Adult Nursing. After being inspired by Mental Health Lecturer Dean McShane at the Warrington Campus, Gemma became a Dementia Friend in 2017 then underwent further training to become a Dementia Champion for the Alzheimer’s Society, promoting education around how it is possible for people with a diagnosis of dementia and their families to live well.  She has helped Dean run sessions both at the Campus and in local schools. She is also a community first responder and trained with the North West Ambulance Service. She carries life-saving equipment including a deliberator and oxygen, which allows her to administer CPR at a patient’s side and start life-saving treatment before the ambulance crew arrives. 

The following students received an Outstanding Contribution to Community Award:

  • Amiee Leigh Morgan (Biology) volunteered for 375 hours as a Peer Mentor; Student Ambassador; Student Experience Representative; a member of the Orchestral Society and a volunteer at Chester Safe Space.
  • Danielle Timmins (Nutrition and Dietetics) volunteered for 658 hours as a Peer Mentor; an Active Camps Ambassador; Captain/Coach of the Fencing Society; and a volunteer for Hoole Community Centre, Wirral Rainbows, Brownies and Guides, Chapter Ltd and other one-off volunteering roles.
  • Emma Gray (Theology and Religious Studies) volunteered for 217 hours  for CHEW; as a Peer Mentor, Student Ambassador; the Rotaract Society; Theology and Religious Studies Society; Chester Women’s Aid; CSASS (Chester Sexual Abuse Support Service) and Body Positive.
  • Gemma Thomas (Adult Nursing) who also received an Ede and Ravenscroft Award, volunteered for 248 hours as a Community First Responder for the North West Air Ambulance and as a Dementia Champion for the Alzheimer’s Society.

The Dean's Commendation Award for Performance - Chester Business School@Warringtonwent to MSc Management student, Abdul Muqeem.

Karl Sinnott, Postgraduate Programme Leader, said: “Abdul joined the MSc Management programme at the University’s Warrington Campus in February 2019. His work and managerial experience, which came across in his interview, were key factors that influenced his acceptance on the programme. Despite being out of education for some time, Abdul embraced the opportunity from the outset. As he progressed through the programme, Abdul’s academic performance included Distinctions in two modules, including his 60 credit Management Research Project. Alongside his postgraduate studies, Abdul runs his own family business and is also a father to young children. Nevertheless, his commitment to the programme and to studying has been nothing short of exemplary.

“All the programme tutors fully support Abdul’s nomination for this award. His general enthusiasm and willingness to learn have been noted by all of his tutors across the programme. His Personal Academic Tutor and Dissertation Supervisor, Diane Yeoman, said: “He always contributes in class and is full of enthusiasm for the subject.”

Abdul is now intending to continue his studies to PhD level.

The Hilary Tucker Prize is awarded to the student who has made the greatest contribution to the Warrington Campus at the University of Chester.

This year the award goes to Katie Anderson-Hammersley (BA Business Management with Advertising). Katie was nominated by her tutors, Diane Yeoman and Andrea Harper.

They said: “Katie is a highly conscientious and motivated student, currently in Year 2.  She is well liked by both her peers and staff alike, including those in a wider role at the University.

“Katie started her HE academic studies with a Foundation Level course in Chester, with the long term aim of gaining her degree. She has consistently produced work of a high standard showing high levels of commitment and determination throughout. Her attendance is exemplary, particularly given that she juggles her studies with being a mum of three young children. The key reason for nominating Katie is how she has a positive influence on other students on the Warrington Campus. She was also instrumental in securing the support from staff and students for enabling the Venture Programme to run at the Warrington Campus. This was achieved by rallying the support and interest from her peers and convincing staff the programme would be well supported. This is indicative of the way Katie’s continually focuses on ways to improve and enhance both other students’ and her own overall University experience.

“Katie is also a Student Representative and volunteers as an Ambassador on Applicant and Open Days. She is always complimentary about her experiences and has appeared in a number of promotional campaigns and videos for the University. It is a delight to see her confidence and skills grow and develop as she progresses with her studies. Consequently, she would be a worthy recipient of the Hilary Tucker prize.”

The KM Herring Award is presented to the Department of Music, Media and Performance student who has made an outstanding contribution in the field of visual craft.

This year the award goes to Music Journalism student Rhys Thomas.

Dr Simon Morrison, Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader for Music Journalism, said:“Rhys Thomas showed real incremental development over his three years at Chester, making the most of each year he was at university – for instance joining ‘field trips’ to gig venues in Manchester, Liverpool and Chester, joining the study trip to Amsterdam, proactively sourcing his own work placement at two PR agencies in his second year, and contributing music reviews to the Silent Radio website.  

“However, it was in his media production work that Rhys’s abilities really came through, notably in the PR campaign he put together for a real-world music client, and in his video documentary on the role of the media in the story of Welsh popular music, which formed his final year dissertation project. The film saw Rhys travel from Manchester to Liverpool, from Cardiff to North Wales, interviewing Welsh musicians from both newer groups, and also established bands like The Super Furry Animals. The resulting documentary was highly commended by the External Examiner for Rhys' degree programme, Music Journalism.”

The JL Dobson Trophy is presented to a student who has studied in the field of Education and made a significant contribution to fellow students.

This year’s winner is Alexandra Tuson, who is a Level 6 BA Childhood and Youth Professional Studies student.

Alexandra said: “My role as a mental health support worker involves supporting individuals with a range of mental illnesses and learning disabilities, including autism, to live as independent as possible. The support I provide includes managing money, promoting healthy eating and healthy lifestyles in general, supporting with relationships and support with learning basic life skills such as cleaning and cooking. It is person-centred depending on the requirements of each service user. During the three-year programme, my knowledge and understanding of why the individuals I support behave in the way that they do has deepened, enabling me to become a more caring, compassionate and understanding practitioner. I now feel more confident in being able to talk to the service users about their childhood and what has caused them to need 24-hour support and monitoring and I feel that I am able to provide more substantial advice as a result of what I have learned over the past three years. Personally, I feel that I had the practical experience due to my seven years as a support worker and now, as a result of completing the programme, I have the academic knowledge that has enabled me to be a more well-rounded practitioner which will hopefully make me stand out to future employers.”

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