Aston Achievement Awards

AAA 2018

The Aston Achievement Awards 2018 ceremony took place on Wednesday 19 September. Held to celebrate the achievements of the 18 award winners, over 70 people gathered to share in their success and congratulate them. The evening opened with a short speech from the Vice-Chancellor, after which the winners, their guests and colleagues from their schools and departments enjoyed a superb dinner at Conference Aston. The awards were presented by Helen Higson, with each recipient receiving an engraved glass diamond and certificate from the Vice-Chancellor.

 

Adam received six nominations for this award, from staff and students within the School. All of them commented on the outstanding level of support which Adam offers to students, whether personal tutees, module tutees or simply a student in need of someone to talk to. His door is always open. He puts in a lot of time preparing students for important mooting competitions, establishing career development opportunities, organising events in the Law School, mentoring and, of course, teaching. What is even more rewarding to know is that Adam is himself a graduate of Aston’s Law School and is now giving back so much to a School which he gained so much from as an undergraduate.
Bahar was nominated by both staff members and students. The citations refer to Bahar’s innovative and inspiring teaching practices, his break from traditional convention to make learning interactive, creating workshops, inviting guest lecturers and then supporting his students to think critically, investigate the topics thoroughly, but then present their findings succinctly. He is known for reading widely and being able to discuss wide ranging topics with his students and then encourages his students to take an equally broad and holistic approach to their studies, to give them the best possible understanding of a specific module or an over-arching theme. His course materials are though-provoking and draw on practical examples of how what is being taught relates to the real world and he has been commended by undergraduates, postgraduates and his PhD students on the way in which he has nurtured their development and learning.

The nomination centres around a highly ambitious yet ultimately successful bid for European Commission research funding. At his own admission, the proposal was “a crazy idea, with a high risk to reward ratio”, but Anton’s clarity of vision, determination and incredible hard work saw the granting of the proposal. The research behind the proposal has already been recognised, but it is acknowledged that this project will be of great significance to both Anton and Aston’s Sociology and Policy department, in its creativity, its ambition and in the opportunities it will open for many within the School. The example set by Anton in taking the risk and bringing the application to fruition, particularly securing EU funding in these challenging times, is outstanding and richly deserving of the award for Excellent Research.

This is awarded specifically for their development of the Computer Science Industry Club. The Club started operating in late 2016 with the aim of building long-term strategic partnerships with technology companies to help Computer Science enrich its curriculum, enhance employability and establish research relationships. Two years on, the Club has eleven company partners, including Capgemini, Tata and Lanner and is expecting to almost double in number in the coming academic year. The Club has clear benefits for both parties – the companies get direct access to academic staff and students, which in turn drives student engagement, there are clear opportunities for work experience and recruitment, company employees have the opportunity to give guest lectures, research collaborations have been formed and a number of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships created. It is an excellent example of how all three of Aston’s beneficiary groups – students, businesses and the region – can gain significant advantage from a single collaboration.

Martina is an outstanding member of the Careers+Placements department and an active champion for internationalisation. She has redesigned the study abroad process and surpassed all her targets, increasing international placements across the university. She has worked hard to forge cross-departmental collaborations with the International Office and the individual Schools, creating a more cohesive and streamlined approach to international placements, which has been positively embraced both internally and by our external partners. Martina took on the challenge of learning new software to help manage international partnerships, not only taking the formal training, but making time to fully understand how the system works and is now the go-to person for help with the software, helping her colleagues to use it to its full potential and, of course, enabling Aston’s students have a well-managed, central location for applying to study abroad. She is a valued member of the C+P team, but also the International Office team and has done so much in just a few years to really enhance Aston’s study abroad offering.   

Amanda is single-handedly making a difference to the lives of young people from less advantaged backgrounds in our local community through her management and administration of the Sir Doug Ellis Pathway to Healthcare programme, which is now in its second year. Amanda’s dedication and passion for enabling these students to have the opportunity to enter Higher Education is readily evident and is the major reason for the success of this programme to date. Without the work which Amanda has put into widening participation, the central ethos of Aston Medical School would not have been realised to its maximum – that is to aspire to inspire the next generation of Doctors without the inhibitions of social or economic barriers that their backgrounds might otherwise dictate. She is an accomplished administrator and works with dedication and commitment to the Medical School and the young people on the Pathway to Healthcare programme.  

Citizenship is commonly seen as an outward-facing attribute, but we often overlook the good citizenship and underlying values that are displayed within our own university community. Julie shows these in abundance and over her twenty years at Aston has proved to be a trusted, reliable and community-minded member of every team she has been in. She volunteers to help with many things outside of her remit, from hosting VIPs at graduation, to manning the phone at Clearing or distributing student cards at enrolment, and has a clear sense of how she can contribute to a cohesive, collaborative and high-achieving work-based community. Julie is a colleague to whom many will turn for help, support or guidance, and despite a busy workload will always give attention to those who require her assistance. She is loyal to her colleagues and always gives her best.

The team received six different nominations from around the University, all of which commended the team for their friendliness, attentiveness and good humour with which they serve the hungry staff and student population throughout the week. Accolades range from the serious and compassionate way in which dietary, religious or behavioural needs are understood and catered for; the way in which so many of the team, particularly in Café 66, know all their customers by name – and what they might want in their sandwiches; to the relentless enthusiasm, cheerfulness and professionalism they show when serving food and drinks to people from early on Monday morning to last thing on a Friday. They have, individually and as a team, been described as ‘a burst of engaging entertainment in a charming and cheeky way’, ‘a real gem’, ‘customer focused’, and ‘a team who has eased homesickness and served happiness with every meal’.  

As a newcomer both to Aston and as a lecturer in 2017, Caroline had to adapt to teaching in not one, but two different departments, namely Politics and International Relations, and Languages and Translation Studies, and in a variety of modules for first, second and final year students. Her scores in the module feedback have been exceptionally high and students have praised her enthusiasm, her teaching materials and her willingness to provide helpful feedback and support. Caroline’s research is also making an impact, with an article already accepted for publication and a book contract signed, along with a strong media and conference presence, and engagement with the Spanish embassy. Caroline has proven herself to be a dependable and popular member of both departments and her colleagues are very much looking forward to her continued presence in LSS.  

Carol is described as one of the most professional individuals at Aston. She is passionate, strives for perfection, places excellent customer service at the forefront and is a strong advocate for the University, ensuring Aston is portrayed in the highest regard to our external stakeholders. Carol works tirelessly to find a solution to any problem, but does so by working with both internal and external stakeholders effectively. She has been a significant force in growing APEC’s numbers and reputation, a key contribution being the development and growth of degree apprenticeships. She has gone out of her way to support the other schools in the development of degree apprenticeships which includes bid writing, tenders, negotiations with companies, and provides the support needed to deliver on all the reporting and governance centrally, taking that burden away from the other schools and ensuring the University is seen in professional light. Carol’s dedication and professionalism has significantly helped her own School, the wider University, many degree apprenticeships and, therefore, a number of important external stakeholders.  

A number of the team were put forward for a variety of good ideas over the past year, but two particularly stood out to the panel. The first was the introduction of a crowdfunding platform, led by Geoff Savage and Mariya Kauser. The project is achieving its objective of enabling a range of people to successfully raise money good causes. However, there are much deeper consequences of this initiative, including building a closer relationship with the Students’ Union societies, reengaging with Aston’s alumni who are interested in particular events or causes, contributing to the development of links with University donors, generating positive news stories and last, but not least, supporting Aston’s students. The second idea was the result of collaboration between Marc Hornby from DARO and Harry Goldingay from Computer Science. Between them they worked closely with the CEO of GoCompare to devise a degree apprenticeship programme, despite the company being based in Wales and therefore unable to use their apprenticeship levy for an English-based degree. The belief that this could be accomplished and then the work that went into making the idea a reality shows great determination and collegiality between two different parts of the University and is an example of how a little creative thinking can have really positive results. 

Over the last six years Adam has worked on developing a strategy to improve the infrastructure of the campus, much of which was close to being 50 years old. Adam developed a five-year plan to replace all substations around the campus and his attention to detail in terms of planning shut down of power and plant and managing the delivery of the project is second to none. He has set standards in terms of specification and ensures that there is a consistent and future proof approach. As a result of his meticulous planning and careful delivery, Adam’s work often goes unseen by staff and students. His projects involve electrical and mechanical systems hidden in walls or plant rooms out of sight and we often only notice when things don’t work. The delivery of Adam’s plan has not only improved the resilience of the electricity supply for the main building, enabling capacity for future growth in electrical loading, but has freed up space to allow for expansions of key teaching space. All of this goes unnoticed, but today it is not going unrecognised.

James has done an outstanding job of raising Aston’s profile in life and health sciences through his extensive media work. He is one of the most visible academics at Aston and has made his work accessible to the wider population through his highly engaging and interesting TV and radio engagement. Despite his teaching and research workload he is always highly responsive to last minute media requests and will fulfil these whenever possible, often at antisocial times of the day or week. James has also done an excellent job as one the University’s Media Champions in encouraging colleagues in LHS and across the university to engage with the media and to see this as a normal part of our work. James also volunteered to mentor a colleague to build her confidence to take on the role of joint Media Champion in the School of Languages and Social Sciences with a view to encouraging more female research staff to become media spokespeople and, in turn, help to address the gender imbalance in the expert voices heard in the UK media.

James’s enthusiasm for public engagement saw him take on the position of one of the key academic leads at this year’s Big Bang Fair where he used his passion for education and energetic personality to capture the imaginations of all visitors, from young children to grandparents alike. His dedication to this event and others like it also extends to the sheer amount of time and effort he puts into ensuring these events are the very best that they can be and isn’t shy of rolling up his sleeves to get the work done.  In the last two years James’s articles on a range of topics relating to diet and health have been widely republished in the mainstream media and have received nearly 1.5m reads. He is very much a role model for others at Aston as to how a modern academic can communicate their ideas to a wider audience as a ‘public intellectual’.

 

These annual Awards celebrate the amazing work carried out by Aston staff every day, commending the dedication and commitment shown within Schools and Departments to our research, students, and to the University as a whole. 

Photos from the 2018 Awards Ceremonies can be found here

Nominations for the 2019 Awards will open in April 2019. Further details will be posted here, when available.