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Beacon Awards 2024: winners!

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The Beacon Awards: chosen by students, celebrating achievements.

 


 

This year, we launched our new awards ceremony: the Beacon Awards!

The Beacon Awards ceremony took place on the evening of Tuesday 30th April 2024 in Rolle Marquee, located on the University of Plymouth campus, in celebration and honour of the incredible students and staff in our community at the University of Plymouth. 

The ceremony combined multiple areas of the student experience at Plymouth, celebrating the work of students through their extracurricular activities, their academic achievements, as well the recognition of the fantastic staff that have supported them, all of whom were exclusively nominated and chosen by students. This was a prestigious evening, with the winners and those highly commended within each awards category announced and supported by the attendance of family, friends, and those shortlisted.

The night began with celebratory drinks which continued to flow throughout the night, live music by the wonderful University of Plymouth Big Band, and a beautiful buffet enjoyed by all. 

 

 

Before the winners were announced, Tonari Arikekpar, SU President, took to the stage and gave a powerful welcome speech, along with John Cornow, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Education and Student Experience.

 

We're thrilled to gather to honour the exceptional achievements of our vibrant community in sports, societies, volunteering, and academic excellence. Tonight, we shine a spotlight on the dedication, passion, and impact of individuals and groups who have illuminated our campus with their remarkable contributions.

From the adrenaline-fuelled victories on the field to the enriching experiences within our diverse societies, every endeavour has played a vital role in shaping our collective journey. Together, we celebrate the spirit of teamwork, resilience, and service that defines our community.

As we applaud the accomplishments of our peers, let us also recognise the power of unity and collaboration in fostering positive change. Each award presented tonight represents not just a moment of recognition. but a testament to the transformative potential within each and every one of us. 

 

The glamorous atmosphere created by the decorations and formal dress code, alongside the high spirits of those in attendance, made the evening a delightful celebration and one to certainly remember.

A huge congratulations to all the winners, those highly commended, and those who were shortlised. Please be proud of what you have achieved!

 


 

Categories and winners: 

 

Fundraiser of the Year

  • Highly commended: University of Plymouth Dance Club
  • Winner: University of Plymouth Big Band

Support Staff of the Year

  • Winner: Jodie Fisher

Supervisor of the Year

  • Winner: Dr Chiara Boschetti

Activity of the Year

  • Winner: Sikh Society?

Outstanding Contribution

  • Highly commended: Global Plymouth
  • Winner: Josh Akinde

Student Representative of the Year

  • Winner: Emily Akister

Community Contribution

  • Winner: STAR Plymouth

Sports Person of the Year

  • Highly commended: Ellen Keirle
  • Winner: Eloise White

Academic Support Staff of the Year

  • Highly commended: Dr Poorna Gunasekara
  • Winner: Paul Cumbers

Resilience Award

  • Highly commended: Jenna Wigley
  • Winner: Chloe Peters

Staff Choice Award

  • Highly Commended: Guy Ludford
  • Winner: Iga Wieczorek

Society of the Year

  • Winner: SwitchUp 

Inspirational Teacher of the Year

  • Winner: Adam Kyte 

Sports Club of the Year

  • Winner: Lacrosse

 


 

Fundraiser of the Year: This award goes to an individual or group who has made a significant contribution to a particular charity or charity over the year. 

Highly Commended goes to a student group that has raised thousands of pounds for their chosen charity (BEAT Eating Disorders UK) and promotes a healthy dance environment, positive body image and mental and physical wellbeing. Their commitment to fundraising is evident through the varied events they run involving their members, family and friends to raise awareness of eating disorders. 

Congratulations to the University of Plymouth Dance Club, for winning Highly Commended in Fundraiser of the Year! 

 

The winner of this award is a student group that has supported various mental health charities over the past two years, with the joint focus stemming from members' and committees' shared drive to represent the feelings of those impacted by mental health. This was spurred on from last year, when members were individually touched by the passing of Leo, and have worked closely with Leo's loved ones to provide opportunities to commemorate and remember Leo together, whilst also fundraising for mental health charities. 

Through the student groups' efforts in supporting mental health charities, not only have they been able to raise awareness and funds, but also inspired a space and theme of conversation within the wider student community and their members. 

Congratulations to the University of Plymouth Big Band, Winner of Fundraiser of the Year! 

 


 

Support Staff of the Year: This award recognises those members of support staff who, in any shape or form, aid students to make their lives and their student experience better. Be it a technician in your Faculty or a staff member from Disability Assist, International Advice Service, The Writing Café, PALS or elsewhere, these individuals can truly be one in a million. 

The winner of this award is Jodie Fisher: a lab technician who supports students with both postgraduate and undergraduate final-year projects, as well as those who wish to gain more experience in the labs. Jodie was also supporting a major move in the laboratories on the 8th floor of the Davy Building, as well as her daily requirements in her job role. Even with all this, Jodie has never failed to go above and beyond supporting students. 

Congratulations Jodie Fisher, winner of the Support Staff of the Year award.

 


 

Supervisor of the Year: Awarded to a University staff member who has helped students navigate through the challenge of a dissertation, thesis, or major project. 

The winner of this award has been recognised as somebody who goes above and beyond in their role as a supervisor, encouraging the personal growth of their students at all levels, as well as being a key figure of support and motivation. 

The winner of the Supervisor of the Year Award is Dr Chiara Boschetti: congratulations!

 


 

Activity of the Year: this award goes to a student group who has demonstrated?professionalism, outstanding achievements and teamwork across the academic year.  

The winner of this award is a student group that is relatively new and has achieved great things in such a short space of time. They hosted an event that was the first in the South West (usually hosted in every Sikh temple), where anyone can partake regardless of religion/race/sexual orientation or background. 

During this event, they provided hot meals to 300 students and non-students free of charge, with the money for the food provided by members and volunteers. This selfless act of service puts the fundamental Sikh principle of seva (selfless service) into practice and was in line with the continuing cost of living crises and the increasing amount of homelessness in Plymouth. 

Congratulations to the Sikh Society, winners of the Activity of the Year award!

 


 

Outstanding Contribution: awarded to a student or a student group that has continually shown commitment and passion to improve the experience for students at the University of Plymouth. 

Highly Commended goes to a student group that was created to enable our community to fight social isolation and sought to form sustainable links between the students and staff of the universities around Plymouth, and members and organisations of the local community. 

Congratulations to Global Plymouth, Highly Commended for Outstanding Contribution! 

 

The winner of this award has been extremely busy with numerous student groups. Over the past four years, this student has held practically every role there is within the music societies (and even created some that didn't exist before).

This student has proved to be an invaluable asset. They are informative and driven, and champion the ideas of others whilst helping them to stay within the guidelines and practicalities of the SU and University, whilst ensuring that the members are always put first. This student has helped positively shape societies and the SU and has added value to the student experience over the years. The amount of time and effort put into helping run societies is beyond measure, but he does it without complaint. 

Congratulations to Josh Akinde, Winner for Outstanding Contribution! 

 


 

Student Representative of the Year: awarded to a student academic representative who has continually shown commitment and focus to help strengthen the voice of students. The winner will have made time for students and used appropriate and tailored methods to proactively collect student feedback, feeding the outcome back to the students they represent. 

This year, the recipient of this award has left an indelible mark on the dental course. From her beginnings as a member of the Student-Staff Liaison Committee in her first year, to her remarkable journey as an EBL representative and a PALS leader in her second year, to finally ascending to the challenging role of Academic Course Representative and advancing to becoming a senior PALS leader in Year 3. Their dedication and passion have been truly exemplary, and they even extended influence far beyond the confines of the classroom, showcasing her commitment to promoting education and awareness beyond our campus borders. 

"This student’s unwavering dedication and remarkable contributions have undoubtedly enriched the student experience and positively impacted the entire university community." 

The winner of the Student Representative of the Year award goes to Emily Akister, congratulations!

 


 

Community Contribution: this award goes to an individual or group who has demonstrated that they have made a difference in the local community. 

The winner of this award is a student group that has made a remarkable impact on refugees and asylum seekers in the student community. They provide vital support through a diversity of initiatives; from mentoring schemes and volunteering at cultural kitchens to fundraising events and clothing drives with local organisations, their dedication extends beyond the university walls.?Furthermore, this group actively campaigns for policy changes to ensure refugees have equal access to higher education.

This group work tirelessly with University leadership to improve scholarship applications and support current scholars. Their efforts don't stop there, as they also partner with the university's EDI team and law clinic to address any barriers refugees face in accessing education. This unwavering commitment to building a more understanding and just society for refugees makes them highly deserving of this award. 

The winner of Community Contribution is Student Action for Refugees Plymouth (STAR Plymouth). Congratulations!

 


 

Sports Person of the Year: this category is awarded to a student who has demonstrated elite performance within their sport, makes a difference within their student group, contributes to the success of the club, champions their cause and has been an ambassador for students. 

The Highly commended award goes to a student who has demonstrated outstanding progression and commitment to training, games, charity events, and supporting others. 

"She is a crucial and valuable member of the club because of her caring nature and feisty play on the court. We are grateful for her being a member of UPNC." 

Congratulations to our Highly Commended Winner of Sports Person of the Year: Ellen Keirle. 

 

The winner of the Sports Person of the Year award has been a "shining example of excellence, growth and impact within their respective sport."

They have demonstrated exceptional commitment to the club, with their positive influence significantly impacting the club's dynamics, allowing them to foster a sense of camaraderie and unity among members, which has undoubtedly contributed to the success and growth of the student group.

"Being able to navigate the complexities of running a massive club whilst entering a new team into a local language speaks volumes about their resilience and determination. [...] Above and beyond their role as Chair, they have created safe and supportive spaces for players, providing them a platform to express private issues and seek advice. This personal touch adds a unique and invaluable dimension to the club, making it not just a sports team but a tight-knit community."

On top of this, they have organised four highly successful charity events across the year, showcasing a commitment to making a difference in the community. 

Congratulations to our Winner of Sports Person of the Year: Eloise White, Chair of the Ladies Hockey Club. 

 


 

Academic Support Staff of the Year: this award recognises a staff member who has gone above and beyond in their role to support and enhance the experience of students throughout their time at university, providing a positive experience that makes them stand out from the rest - creates a lasting impact on the students that they meet.?? 

The Highly Commended for this category is a recipient recognised for promoting equality and diversity across the university and the wider community, surpassing their passion for teaching by encouraging the celebration of cultures both in Plymouth and internationally.

Congratulations to the Highly Commended Award winner: Dr Poorna Gunasekara!

 

The winner of the Academic Support Staff of the Year has been noted to have a significant impact on both the personal and academic growth of the nominator: “Without this staff member’s support I do not think I would have achieved the level of growth and development that has been possible during my course, and I know I leave feeling confident, competent and ready to take on the next challenge in my career. However, I also hope to model their willingness to go above and beyond so that I can better support the learning and development of others within my organisation “.? 

The Winner of the Academic Support Staff of the Year is Paul Cumbers! Congratulations!

 


 

Resilience Award: awarded to a student who has faced significant challenges this year but has shown strength and resilience to persevere and achieve. They continue to demonstrate a positive attitude and are an inspiration to those around them. 

Highly commended goes to a student who has demonstrated outstanding resilience and professionalism throughout their studies in dental school. Sadly, their mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, which is a difficult diagnosis to come to terms with. This student had to take on the daunting task of becoming a financial guardian and coming to terms with this diagnosis, all whilst continuing their degree. 

"This student deserves to be recognised for persevering and succeeding despite significant challenges.?"

Congratulations to Jenna Wigley for your Highly Commended in the Resilience Award!

 

The winner of the Resilience Award goes to a student who has worked selflessly to support their family alongside their university work.

"I admire how open and honest this student has been about the difficulties they’ve faced and has worked hard to look after their mental health by working closely with their mentor and reaching out when in need. In her role as supervisor in the SU Shop, she has become everyone’s go-to in a crisis and is happy to help anyone who needs her."

"This student has focused so intently on their degree in the face of adversity, and I think it’s important to celebrate the students who don’t always receive the recognition they deserve. Seeing this individual grow in strength and confidence throughout their time here is truly inspiring."

Congratulations to Chloe Peters, winner of the Resilience Award!

 


 

Staff Choice Award: this award is chosen by the staff at the SU and University who work closely with students across a variety of activities, and they see the effort and passion students put into helping others and making a difference. 

The recipient of the Highly Commended has gone above and beyond for their club, branching out by volunteering countless hours of their time to provide students with exciting opportunities that have allowed them to meet other people they wouldn’t otherwise come into contact with and try out new activities. They also successfully won a funding bid for students in their club to be upskilled and earn qualifications that they can use in the future.

Highly Commended for Staff Choice is Guy Ludford. Congratulations! 

 

The winner of the Staff Choice award for 2024 is Iga Wieczorek! Iga is a BSc Biomedical Science student who works tirelessly to help others and improve their university experience. She has been a PALS and writing cafe mentor for two years, and this year she is the Senior PALS leader for second-year Biomedical Science students, first-year Biomedical Science students as well as for Human Biosciences students. Outside of University, she is also a 1-1 tutor. 

"Iga has formed close relations with her peers, developing trust together, and I have seen first-hand just how much she inspires the students she helps to strive for the best grades possible. Students will often email her after grades saying they wouldn’t have been able to do it without her."

"I have seen how difficult it can be for her to work 5 jobs alongside her degree, and sometimes it does get overwhelming having so many people rely on you for help and support. However, she has a strong passion for helping others and I believe one day she will make a fantastic academic herself and inspire future generations of students."

Congratulations to the winner of the Staff Choice award: Iga Wieczorek! 

 


 

Society of the Year: awarded to a society who has demonstrated professionalism, outstanding achievements and working as a team throughout the year. They have had a positive impact on the work they have done for their members by hosting regular events and activities whilst showing a positive attitude and achieving great things. 

The Winner of this award goes to a society where everyone is welcome and included. The society demonstrates that they listen to what their members want by consistently asking for feedback, which is acted on with thought and care by the committee. For example, they have been implementing accessible events for those with sensory needs to ensure that all members have a safe space to come to, whilst at the same time, providing other members opportunities to compete outside of their regular sessions by entering tournaments.

Congratulations SwitchUp for winning Society of the Year! 

 


 

Inspirational Teacher of the Year: this award is for a staff member or team who shows passion and enthusiasm for teaching and inspires their students to be the best they can be. They make time for students and treat them as individuals, show a willingness to listen and champion student development in their chosen field. 

The winner of this award leads by example of what it means to be a lecturer and a staff member at the University of Plymouth. Their work ethic is huge, they supply vast amounts of module resources and constantly develop and respond to feedback, ensuring content is relevant, insightful and engaging. 

The winner of Inspirational Teacher of the Year is Adam Kyte! 

"We have many brilliant lectures at our university. What makes Adam Kyte special is how responsive he is to his student's needs. He delivers brilliant lectures and is a brilliant role model for budding engineers. He provides comprehensive and cutting-edge understanding and does it with a smile and a bundle of good humour."

 


 

Sports Club of the Year: awarded to a sports club that has demonstrated professionalism, outstanding achievements and teamwork across the academic year. They will have demonstrated a positive impact on the work they do for their members. 

The winner of this award has had a very successful year on and off their pitch, with the club actively encouraging members to chase regional and national pathways exposing them to a higher level of playing and coaching.

Off the pitch, they have taken a massive approach to help their members' mental health with the promotion of their Wellbeing Secretary, and the Men’s committee creating a dedicated night ‘Men’s Mental Health Mondays’. Within the year so far, they have provided many opportunities for members to raise money for charity and volunteer for the local community and have raised around £1000 for various charities.

One of the main aims of the club this year was to develop and qualify their umpires and referees so there wasn’t a struggle when sourcing them for matches. Over this season, the club has helped fund 5 members to qualify in either the men’s or women’s discipline, which encouraged a further 3 to qualify themselves under their own accord. This has led Plymouth to be one of the most proficient sports officials within the South West. 

Congratulations Lacrosse, winners of Sports Club of the Year!

 


 


 

Half Colours: Awarded to students in recognition of excellent performance or commitment within a student club or society.

 

  • Aaron Cheung (Open Water Swimming)

"From the beginning (he) has shown dedication to the club and created a positive, welcoming environment."

  • Abbie Brockway (Dance Club)

"As a strong willed and determined person, she does an excellent job of running the club and ensuring all members are happy, whilst balancing her studies.

  • Amelia McCabe (Concert Band, Musical Theatre Group)

"Millie has worked extremely hard with the band to create a more together and balanced sound. In my opinion, the band sounds better than it has in years."

  • Cameron Smiley (Big Band)

"Cameron has collaborated on many events within the student community such as society balls and a memorial Jam House. He showed dedication, kindness and leadership by supporting members impacted not only by the passing of Leo but the cause that we fundraised for too."

  • Caroline Brown (Nursing)

"Caroline has been an asset to the committee this academic year she has offered to go beyond her role on many occasions."

  • Daniel Carney (Racing: Formula Student)

"He has been invaluable to the commercialisation department and is greatly respected by the team."

  • Elizabeth Harrison (Netball)

"She has been welcoming towards all members and an approachable face for anyone who needs it. She has worked hard to improve the club, and under her leadership it has thrived."

  • Ellie Brindley (Concert Band)

"Ellie has been invaluable to Concert Band. Despite being Treasurer, Ellie has essentially stepped into the formost roles within the society when required."

  • Ellie Cherrington (Lacrosse)

"Ellie has been a role model president and a step above both of which I have had in the past... and has upheld core values of the club."

  • Emily Digman (Jiu Jitsu)

"She supports all the extra bits the committee asks of its members and always has something constructive to contribute."

  • Finlay Roe (Racing: Formula Student)

"I truly don't know anyone who can match Fin's dedication to this team and to providing students with a stepping-stone into the motor sport industry."

  • Finley Dunk (Big Band)

"His caring nature to those in committee and members helps to knit a team throughout the whole band and committee."

  • Frances Burdett (Dance Club)

"Without her, UPDC would not be able to compete at the regional and nationwide competitions that she has organised for us."

  • Guy Ludford (Adventure and Expedition)

"He is a very approachable and kind person, setting the precedence that his committee follow his lead. He is very knowledgeable in his area but never comes across patronising, instead keen to help you learn and develop."

  • Henry Bennett (Swimming, Synchro and Waterpolo)

"Henry will be leaving some big shoes to fill for the Treasurer role this year and the benefits the club has received as a direct result of his ongoing contributions will be felt for many years to come."

  • Jack Slator (Swimming, Synchro and Waterpolo)

"Jack is a very friendly and approachable member of our committee... where on several occasions, Jack has walked members home at the end of the night, showing his dedication to the safety of our members."

  • Joe McLachlan (Swimming, Synchro and Waterpolo)

"She has acted as a role model to not only the wider members in the club but also to members of committee by showing dedication to the role despite the challenges we have faced as a club."

  • Joshua Le Pla (Jiu Jitsu)

"Without Josh, our club would not be at the capability or size that it is now and we would be unable to inspire and grow so many students to such a high level within the martial art."

  • Katie Fryett (Storm Cheerleading)

"She is so determined to be the best she can be whilst helping others to too. She is always so positive and even when she is having a bad day she will not let this show and will keep helping others before herself."

  • Kayleigh Banyard (Debate)

"Kayleigh devotes a considerable amount of her personal time to write resources for the society including for our weekly sessions and manages the Comms with our members."

  • Lucy Howling (Choir)

"They've been an absolute star in organising the Student Choir, especially when times were hard with last-minute dropouts and decisions needing to be made fast."

  • Martha Griffiths (Med Soc Sports)

"Without her constant dedication to the club UPMD wouldn't have been able to transition so smoothly from it's own finance system to the SU system.

  • Megan Letchford (Netball)

"She is the face of this club and an inspiration to myself and those around her I want to be like Megan when I grow up!"

  • Niamh Blundell (Dance Club)

"Her love for the club, enthusiasm to create new opportunities for members and positive attitude makes her an excellent candidate for this award."

  • Nicole Bennett (Storm Cheerleading)

"She is so organised and it is evident through how well the club is running this year. She regularly checks in on her committee to ensure everyone is doing what they need and if they need help she will make sure they get it."

  • Olivia Holmes (Wilderness and Expedition Medicine)

"Olivia has made a huge effort to get to know every new and returning member of this society and this has been wonderful for every trip and workshop that we have ran."

  • Paige Flower (Swimming, Synchro and Waterpolo)

"Paige has set an incredibly high bar for future captains within our club. The impact she has made will be felt for a considerable amount of time and much of our club's success this year would not have been possible if not for her."

  • Rebecca Cartwright (Swimming, Synchro and Waterpolo)

"The relationships she has built with the committee and the rest of the club has allowed her to become a popular leader and make everyone's experience on the committee to be an enjoyable one."

  • Saffron Vanderkolk-Pellow (Debate)

"Saffron's leadership has breathed fresh life into the society and brought it back from the brink of folding."

  • Sophie Philips (Swimming, Synchro and Waterpolo)

"She has gone beyond what was expected, what we have done as a club... has increased the positive impact the club has on the local community."

  • Thomas O'Brien (Big Band, Musical Theatre Group, Night Patrol)

"Tom has dedicated so much time to MTG that it probably wouldn't be anywhere near show ready without him."

  • Tom Condon (Wilderness and Expedition Medicine)

"Despite not holding an official role, Tom has eagerly taken on responsibilities, offering invaluable support to the committee and fellow members alike."

  • Uthsara Dissanayake (Student Action for Refugees, Global Plymouth, Malaysian Society)

"Uthsara's remarkable contributions as a pillar of strength within STAR transcend mere volunteerism; they embody the ethos of selflessness, dedication, and innovation."

 


 

Full Colours: Awarded to a student who has achieved half colours in recognition of excellent performance or commitment within a student club or society. This is an award chosen by student groups.

 

  • Matthew Oram (Big Band, Cycling)

"Matt leads with compassion and a genuine desire to see the very best from the main band as a whole, and from members as individual musicians. His encouragement and openness has created such a comfortable environment for freshers and older members alike."

  • Isabelle Tucker (Big Band)

"Issie has been a driving force for inclusivity this year. Despite her busy schedule studying medicine, she has managed to be a present and interactive leader. She very clearly cares a lot about her members and their well-being."

  • James Stansbury (Lacrosse)

"He is a strong leader, someone who the younger members looks up to and admire and someone you can go and talk to when needed. He did an amazing job last year as 1st team captain, but I believe he has done an even better job with our Men's Second team."

 


 

Creating the physical awards 

The Beacon Awards were designed and created by University of Plymouth students from the School of Art, Design and Architecture. Thanks to:

  • Jacob Donohoe
  • Jack Pattison
  • Jack Wells
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Kess Smith
  • Rory Williams
  • Thomas Lanigan

 

"Sailing has always been a quintessential part of Plymouth, so it made sense to create an award that celebrates that. The simplicity of the design ensured that the award would take pride of place in any home. The main body of the award is ash, which has been hand finished and oiled to maximise the natural beauty of the material.

The jib is made from blue acrylic, taking inspiration from the sea. Sustainability was key in our material sources, hence the mainsail being made from wood that was locally sourced and cut and finished here at the university. We juxtaposed the usage of an age old material like ash, with the modernity of laser cutting to add the crucial detail of all the amazing award winner's names.

We worked as a group to guarantee each of these awards reached the exacting standard required so that the winners will be (almost) as proud to own them as they will be with winning the award itself!"

 

 


 

It made me feel incredibly proud to be a part of a Union and University community that really cares and celebrates each other, especially in challenging times. I can honestly say that the student stories are incredibly powerful to me and fill me with pride to feel that the work we do supports them to achieve. - Oliver Horne, Director of Student Experience.

 

UPSU staff and Sabbatical Officers in attendance:

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