Students' Union Awards Night 2023

Written by: UPSU

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On Monday, 15th May 2023, the annual Students’ Union Awards ceremony took place in the Rolle Marquee, located on campus. This was a prestigious evening, with the winners and those highly commended within each awards category announced, supported by the attendance of family, friends and those shortlisted.

The University of Plymouth Big Band performed as guests arrived and enjoyed welcome drinks, followed by an inspiring opening speech from your Vice President of Activities 2022/23, Mitch Laughton: “You should all be extremely proud of what you have achieved and for being nominated. You have ensured the success of the student group that you belong to. Walk away from this year with your heads held high, feeling proud.”

During the evening, a beautiful buffet was enjoyed by all, and celebratory drinks continued to flow. The glamorous atmosphere of the night, alongside the high spirits of those in attendance, made the evening a delightful celebration. 

A huge congratulations to all the Students’ Union Awards winners, those highly commended in each category and those who were shortlisted. Please be proud of yourselves and what you have achieved!



What are the Students’ Union Awards?


The annual Students’ Union Awards exist to recognise and celebrate truly inspirational individuals and groups, highlighting the outstanding achievements of the incredible students at the University of Plymouth and to give gratitude for their hard work.

As a student-led organisation, the University of Plymouth Students’ Union (SU) ask you, the students, to nominate whoever you think deserves to win an award, whether its yourself, a student group, or anyone involved in supporting student activity. 

To announce the Students’ Union Awards’ winners, we put on a glamorous awards ceremony night each year to honour those individuals and groups. The event is primarily for those who have been shortlisted, however, tickets can be purchased by others who can come and support those in the running. 



The Students’ Union Award winners and those highly commended:


Category: Activity Group of the Year

This award goes to a group who has demonstrated professionalism, outstanding achievements and team working across the academic year. This group has consistently shown their commitment by either supporting or running activities in addition to being professional in their attitude whilst achieving great things. 


Winner: Feminist Society

The Feminist Society was adopted in May 2022 and quickly gained popularity with a current count of 117 members. They have always and continue to prioritise events focused on creating a community. Their monthly feminist discussion circles allow for serious discussions on feminist issues like body positivity, sex work, pornography, religion, feminism, and many more. 

Their dedication to ensuring all members feel comfortable during sensitive discussions, their ongoing interest in volunteer work, their collaboration with other societies, and their commitment to having an ethnically diverse committee, and non-binary and LGBTQ+ representation is the reason they are the winners of the Activity Group of the Year Award.


Highly commended: STAR (Student Action for Refugees)

Highly commended was awarded to a group of students who have made a real impact in the community. They have volunteered locally, providing opportunities for students to engage and interact with refugees, they have collaborated with the charity Community Horizons to make over 300 care bags, volunteered at a cultural kitchen, provided volunteers for the Plymouth Hope festival, and took part in 1-1 mentoring for young asylum seekers. Fundraising over the year included £300 for START and money towards offering free legal advice. This society campaigned heavily over the last year to raise awareness of the barrier’s refugees face including when it comes to accessing higher education. Congratulations STAR.



Category: Dedication to Volunteering

This award goes to an individual or group who has demonstrated a positive attitude and stands out from others. This individual or group has also shown a high level of commitment and enthusiasm to volunteering. 


Winner: Zoe King (Plymouth Marrow, Paediatric society (PUPS) and HOnc)

The winner of this award has completed over 250 hours of volunteering, including for the Special Olympics, South West Youth Games, Children’s Hospice South West and Plymouth Marrow. She has also been on the Plymouth Marrow committee and represented Plymouth nationally for two years, helping to raise over £10k for the charity and helping to get 300 people on the stem cell register, as well as creating a charity cooking book, mentoring at multiple universities, and arranging 3 national conferences across the UK. All of this was accomplished on top of a busy fifth year medical student schedule! She continues to make a massive impact both locally and across the UK. Well done Zoe King, incredible work!



Category: Fundraiser of the Year 

The Fundraiser of the Year Award goes to an individual or group who has made a significant contribution to a particular charity or charities.


Winner: Plymouth Riding and Polo

The winner of this award went to a group of individuals who have put in a great amount of effort in raising money and awareness for the Hoofbeats Equine Rehabilitation Sanctuary. The club members have completed a 100,000-step sponsored walk covering 54km, raised over £1k, and volunteered at the sanctuary many times. Due to the relationship the club has built with this local charity, they have committed to supporting them in future years to come.



Category: Outstanding Contribution

Awarded to a group or individual who has demonstrated success or made a huge impact to UPSU throughout the year. 


Winner: Euan Crago (Plymouth Night Patrol)

The winner of this award has been extremely busy this year logging over 150 volunteer hours in addition to countless hours outside of the society. As clinical lead, he has created brand new training courses for members and given up weekends to ensure courses ran smoothly and were of good quality. Euan has used his knowledge to mentor clinical trainers developing their skills and set up CPD evening sessions with external speakers. He has helped ensure the sustainability of the society by recruiting members from all faculties and secured funding for new kit. Euan has also spent a considerable amount of time maintaining the bikes and equipment to ensure it is safe, charged, and ready for use. Thank you Euan for your work for the Plymouth Night Patrol!


Highly commended: Feminist Society 

Highly commended went to a group of students who are dedicated in the liberation of women. This year they have delivered several events supporting change to the University and Plymouth community, including a peaceful demonstration to show solidarity with Iranian women and raise awareness about current events in Iran. They have launched a campaign to reinstate trans-affirmative posters in the University of Plymouth toilets and launched the campaign ‘Safe Campus Now’, delivering a letter to the Vice Chancellor and leading on a national survey about student experiences of sexual violence on campus with the goal of improving current sexual misconduct policies. Amazing work!



Category: Sports Club of the Year

This award goes to an outstanding sports club who have excelled this year and made a positive difference to the lives of their members. 


Winner: The University of Plymouth Sailing Club

The winner of the award has offered a range of opportunities for students to engage in their sport, running 14 beginner sessions to get as many students as possible learning the skills of sailing, with 71 attending a ‘Come and Try’ session. They have entered 11 events across the country, with their top teams going to the BUCS racing qualifiers, with one team making it through to playoffs. They have also organised their own racing event called the Plymouth Pasty where 15 teams from all over the country took part, which also gave the opportunity for first years to gain experience in high-level racing and apply skills learnt in training. Outside of club sailing activities, they have won Gold in the RYA Sustainability Challenge and arranged a quiz to raise money for their nominated charity the MND Association. 


Highly Commended: Men’s Rugby 

The first highly commended went to a club who had their highest ever fresher intake and subsequent retention rate – this was all thanks to a culture shift and by creating a more inclusive and appealing offer. Success on the pitch this year saw the 1st team win Varsity, finish top of BUCS league and gain promotion, in addition to reaching the semi-finals of the BUCS Conference Cup.?There was also improvement in the 2nd team performance where they finished mid table in the BUCS league this season.?They raised over £2k in November for the charity Movember and are planning to offer volunteer opportunities for their members by collaborating with Plymouth Night Patrol soon. Well done Men’s Rugby. 


Highly Commended: Swimming, Synchro & Water Polo

The second highly commended was awarded to a club who have made significant change by responding to their members’ feedback. They have put on a range of fun events such as Aqua Zumba, a bake sale, and pub golf. Feedback also led to changes in the time of the Water Polo sessions, which helped to improve attendance and enabled better results with more swimmers achieving a personal best and a noticeable shift from recreational into competitive swimmers, and for the first-time synchro entered a competition. In addition to this, the club has raised over £1500 for charity and supported the shoebox appeal and the Hear If You Need campaign. Congratulations Swimming, Synchro & Water Polo!




Category: Staff Choice Award

This award is chosen by the staff at the SU 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. 


Winner: Will Johnson (Men’s Rugby)

The winner of this award goes to someone who has worked hard to recover any negative reputation that the club may have had from previous years. He has boosted the club morale and invested his own personal time into ensuring all members are the best sportsmen they can be, both on and off the pitch. This has led the Men’s Rugby to success, performing at excellent standards in BUCS and fielded for every fixture. Will took a front seat approach with Varsity, including helping to sort sponsors and ensuring the team followed the time-honoured pre-Varsity drinking bans. Will has also supported one of his club members in running a student-led campaign advocating for men’s mental health and wellness, breaking down the stigma and promoting self-care. Congratulations Will!


Highly Commended: Isla Symons (Netball)

The first highly commended went to a student who has worked incredibly hard to create a more welcoming and inclusive club. This is not an easy feat with 8 teams across BUCS, PDNL and Intramural leagues. They have been present and approachable across the season, regularly attending all team training sessions and fixtures to ensure all members have felt valued and equal. In addition to this, a successful campaign called Here if you Need was created to help build a better sense of community and approachability within clubs and societies for women. Thanks for your hard work and well done Isla Symons. 


Highly Commended: Monty Jackson (Swimming, Synchro & Water Polo)

The second highly commended went to a student who has shown great dedication to the Swimming, Synchro and Water Polo club this year and has gone above and beyond the role of Chair. Monty has been a regular, friendly face in the office, updating the team with all the different aspects of the club and ensuring all sports run smoothly. Monty was the driving force for getting swimming and Men’s Water Polo re-entered into Varsity this year and has put in an enormous amount of his own time to support the event, including being PA on the night. A massive well done to Monty Jackson.



Category: Student-Led Project/Event/Campaign of the Year

This award goes to an individual or group who has shown commitment and enthusiasm for a project or event that has run this academic year. The outstanding and successful project or event could be ongoing or a one off.


Winner: University of Plymouth Big Band

This year’s winner waas a student group that performed at UPSU’s weekly Jam House on 9th of February 2023, dedicating the gig to celebrating the life and memory of Leo Johnson. Alongside the performance, a fundraiser was launched with £2500 raised going to Young Minds, the UK’s leading charity fighting for children and young people’s mental health: chosen by Leo’s friends and family to support during this difficult time. Well done University of Plymouth Big Band, an incredible achievement.


Highly Commended: Isla Symons Here If You Need/Netball

Our highly commended went to a student who launched the ‘Here If You Need’ campaign. The campaign aims to help female mental health and wellbeing by providing a safe space for women to talk. Isla identified the need for this campaign when she was seeing reoccurring problems between female sports clubs and wanted to create a greater sense of belonging and community amongst females. Isla has worked well with chairs and presidents of female clubs and societies to bring together females from all over the University. Congratulations Isla.



Category: Student Personality of the Year

This award goes to someone that stands out, they excel in their field, are enthusiastic and passionate about what they do. They make a difference but do not always get the recognition for it. A unique individual with a positive attitude towards their student group and UPSU.


Winner: Laura Alvarez Hidalgo (Volleyball) 

The winner of Student personality of the Year has dedicated themselves to 3 teams within their club, the first being BUCS, the second being Cyclones as the captain, and the third is Heatwaves. Her involvement with the teams includes the development of the ladies’ team, competing in tournaments and matches, organising training and socials, and building partnerships with the local community to secure a space for the club to train. She has dedicated her time attending home and away fixtures for Heatwaves and provides them with strategies, tactics, and encouragement. On top of this she has acted as the health and safety officer, aided others with duties and taken countless training sessions to support players and improving their overall experience. She successfully collaborated with another local club, Plymouth Mayflower Volleyball Club (PMVC), to create the charity EDVA Varsity with our local Devon league teams to provide an opportunity for those who were unable to experience playing in Varsity. All earnings were donated to the charity Breast Cancer Now


Highly Commended: Olivia Sims (Ultimate Frisbee)

Our highly commended award went to a student who over the past 5 years has put enthusiasm and passion into everything they have done whilst juggling their medical degree. This includes being captain of the Ultimate Frisbee club this year and helping them to get to the Nationals. They ensure that everyone has a fantastic time and training is relevant to all levels. One of their biggest achievements is creating mental health Mondays and ensuring a safe space within Frisbee to talk about mental health. Congratulations Olivia Sims! 



Category: Full Colours 2023

  • Joshua Akinde (Big Band)
  • Julia Newman (Lacrosse)
  • Lilly Winn (Lacrosse)
  • Isla Symons (Netball)


Category: Half Colours 2023

  • El Green (Archery Club)
  • Matthew Oram (Big Band)
  • Adam McClelland (Big Band)
  • Isabelle Tucker (Big Band)
  • Nina Davies (Dance Club) 
  • Olena Khailenko (Feminist Society)
  • Stephanie Maclean (Lacrosse)
  • Matilda Rosser (Lacrosse)
  • James Stansbury (Lacrosse (M)
  • Rhys Dumper (Lacrosse (M)
  • Samuel Dangerfield (Men’s Rugby)
  • Emily Williams (Netball)
  • Euan Crago (Plymouth Night Patrol) 
  • Anthony Haynes (Plymouth Night Patrol)
  • Amy Baer (Student-Led Volunteering Special Olympics)
  • Millie Saunders (Women’s Rugby)



The design of the Students’ Union awards:


The physical awards presented to the winners were designed and created by University of Plymouth students from the School or Art, Design and Architecture. Thanks to: Jes Donnelly, Kess Smith, Jack Wells, Jack Pattison, Amy Parker and Anisha Blake. 

The team’s design is inspired by various sources, including the iconic coastlines of Plymouth and Smeaton’s Tower and the importance of reusing and recycling. As a combined effort, the design of the award illustrates the connection between land and sea by visualising the raw materials, such as driftwood, and the effects of the ocean on them.

‘In my design, I liked the idea of using driftwood to represent the ocean, which was a key influence on my designs. From using wood that has already been used, we were able to maintain a sustainable design that accommodates the University’s values. As well as drawing inspiration from existing parts around Plymouth, like the Smeaton’s Tower, The Hoe, and natural resources.’ – Kess Smith, Lead Designer.