It was an evening of praise, celebration and overwhelming emotions as nominees and supporters of the University of Sussex’s new Education Awards gathered for the big reveal on Tuesday (June 11).
Acclaimed broadcast journalist Clive Myrie stepped away from his BBC News anchor role to host the lively ceremony at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, where 17 trophies were presented to the winners.
The Sussex alumnus said: “It really is an honour for me to be here at the birth of these fantastic awards that recognise some of the true heroes of higher education, namely the staff who give so much to students every single day.”
Recalling his own student years as a law undergraduate in the 1980s, Clive paid tribute to the then head of the law department, Professor Sidney Previser, for his words of encouragement. “He said I could turn my mind to anything if I really wanted to.” It was enough to convince Clive that journalism, rather than becoming a barrister, was where his heart lay.
The awards, revitalised this year by Kelly Coate, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students, attracted more than 300 nominations from students across the five categories: Sussex Spirt, Teaching to Disrupt, Better World, Transformative Technology, and Learning Together.
Kelly said she was thrilled to see that the two most popular categories were Sussex Spirit, which incorporated the University’s core values of kindness, integrity, inclusion, collaboration and courage; and Teaching to Disrupt, which celebrates those who are innovative and pioneering in their teaching style.
She said: “It was great to see the amazing showcase of the many things going on at Sussex. Having been on the shortlisting panel, it was really, really hard to pick the winners. All of us sat around the table feeling proud to work at Sussex.”
The judging panel, which included student representatives and members of the Student Experience team, selected the 17 winners across the categories from a shortlist of 150 names.
The winners were each presented on stage by one of the students from the judging panels: Afreen Begum (postgraduate studying Criminal Law and Criminology), Robert Avery (postgraduate in Psychology), and Talia Fogelman (first-year American Studies and English Literature undergraduate).
The award recipients were then given the opportunity to say a few words on stage, although many were too overwhelmed to speak.
Among them was Irene Dallaway Gonzalez, teaching fellow in Education and Social Work, who received more nominations than any other nominee to make her a winner in the Sussex Spirit category. After the ceremony she said: “I can’t quite believe it. All I focus on are my students, who are amazing.”
Andy Field, Professor of Psychology and a winner of the Teaching to Disrupt award for his unusual but effective teaching techniques (he has delivered lectures dressed as a zombie to illustrate concepts of fear), was similarly lost for appropriate words.
He said afterwards: “I always try to be unique in the way I teach, and this was the category that I thought I would most like to win.
“I believe that if you challenge students and show that you believe in them, that difficult things are possible, and that you are passionate about what you teach, then they will rise to whatever challenge you give them. Year on year, teaching our amazing students reinforces this belief.”
Dr John Parry (ESW), who with Natasha Mansley (University of Sussex Students’ Union) won a Better World award for creating an elective module within ESW for peer mentoring in a local academy, praised the collaborative efforts of the University management and the students for “working together, listening to students and following where their dreams are taking us”.
Other winners included the Primary and Early Years Education Team in the Learning Together category for their work in developing a new undergraduate degree, and biology teaching fellow Dr Joanna Richardson, who received a Transformative Technology award for her use of interactive technology in lectures.
Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell closed the ceremony by congratulating the winners, adding: “These winners and nominees were nominated by those whose lives were touched. Inevitably in award ceremonies there are winners. But, cheesy though this may sound, I am genuinely pleased that there are no losers.
“The most important thing we do, however much we might think that the academic paper we are writing is going to change the world, is to educate minds. That is the most transformative job that we do.
“Kelly has an extraordinarily exciting vision to make this the place it was in the 1960s once again; a place that’s renowned for disruptive education, for an education environment that’s novel and engaging. The road map is really clear. It is the most exciting thing that we are doing at the moment.”
The full list of winners
For the Sussex Spirit Award, presented to those have demonstrably put into practice at least one of our core values of kindness, integrity, inclusion, collaboration and courage, the winners were:
- Elizabeth Mills (Global), whose teaching style has been described as inclusive, caring, safe and extraordinary.
- Irene Dallaway Gonzalez (ESW), described by her students as someone who “goes the extra mile” in the academic and pastoral support she gives to PGCE students.
- Verity Holmes (LifeSci), a lab technician who provides a supportive and caring environment.
- David Berry (MFM), an inspirational lecturer who challenges students to view their discipline from a different perspective.
- John Walker (SCLS), who provides a safe and inclusive environment in which people can learn about deaf culture and disability.
For the Teaching to Disrupt award, presented to those who have dared to be different, surprising, innovative and pioneering, and have inspired their students’ critical or entrepreneurial imagination, the winners were:
- Gurminder Bhambra (Global), who encourages her students to speak their minds, be unconventional, and to continually question things.
- Andy Field (Psychology), who uses novel teaching props (including chocolate and puppets) to explain complex theories.
- Lucy Finchett-Maddock (LPS), who epitomises interdisciplinarity through her art-law initiative in which students are encouraged to “cut up the law” as a way of challenging current practice and theory.
For the Better World award, presented to staff who, through creative and entrepreneurial ways, are making a positive impact in the local community and wider world, the winners were:
- Michael Taylor (MPS), who worked with the Hummingbird Charity to give one-to-one academic support for young refugees.
- Natasha Mansley (USSU) and John Parry (ESW), for a collaboration between the Students’ Union and Education and Social Work in developing opportunities for undergraduates to do peer mentoring in a local academy.
- Bright Med Programme (Sam Wickham, Charlotte Smyrk and the BSMS Outreach Teaching Mentors), a team of mostly student mentors who help young people from non-traditional and under-represented groups access medical education.
For the Transformative Technology award, which recognises staff who are using technology in interesting and innovative ways to enhance student learning and knowledge creation, the winners were:
- Femi Amao (LPS), who uses technology to help students connect theory to practice, including blogs to showcase their work
- Joanna Richardson (LifeSci), who uses new interactive technologies, such as You Poll Everywhere, to make lectures more engaging and to identify the concepts students find most challenging
- Verona Ni Drisceoil (LPS), who has developed bespoke videos that bring subjects to life for students
For the Learning Together award, which celebrates teams of both staff and students whose collaboration in either an academic or an administrative context has led to improvements in teaching and/or supporting the student experience, the winners were:
- Primary and Early Years Education - Matthew Westgarth, Christina Hancock, Denise Kingston, Chloe Ali, Emily Boswell, Aaron Britto, Tia Bryen, Kirsty Campbell, Raphaella Christou, Chloe Cole, Sophie Delafons, Luke Doddimeade, Jessica Douglas, Joseph Doyle, Bethany Duncan, Daisy Fish, Hollie Hannaford, Jackie Jeffery, Amy Knight, Paige Lee, Tia Rahman, Kimberley Scriven, Maya Smith, Victoria Smyth, Rheya Taylor Sharp, Ella Weston, Charlotte Whittaker, Joshua Wildman - for their working together in shaping and improving a new undergraduate degree.
- Sussex Clinic Legal Education (Amir Paz Fuchs & Team), for bringing together staff and students to deliver a much-needed service for vulnerable people in our community.
- Yuki Kikuchi, Andrew Donald, Susan Smith (Business School), a student-led collaboration that explored areas key to the student experience, such as opportunities for students to present their own research.
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By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Thursday, 13 June 2019