The Provost’s Awards for Public Engagement 2014/2015
By Kilian Thayaparan, on 29 January 2015
UCL’s Main Quad was the setting for the sixth annual Provost’s Awards for Public Engagement, which recognises the exceptional work that UCL staff and students are doing to engage with the public in collaboration with the UCL Public Engagement Unit.
Bringing together people from both within and outside of the UCL community, the event was a celebration of the individuals and achievements that continue to put the university at the forefront of two-way public engagement activities.
Professor Michael Arthur, UCL President & Provost, opened proceedings by briefly introducing Simon Cane, UCL’s recently appointed Director of Public and Cultural Engagement.
“Simon’s obviously a man of good taste as he’s joined the best university in the country for seriousness about public engagement,” he joked. “We hope that UCL’s excellence in public engagement will become evident over the course of the evening.”
Simon Cane reiterated this, adding: “I’ve been astonished by the quality and scope of public engagement work carried out by UCL staff and students – it really is an extraordinary spectrum of people and projects.”
A focus on public engagement comes at an important time for UCL as it looks to establish UCL East – a brand new campus in the heart of east London – and achieve its longer-term goal of being “an accessible, publically-engaged organisation that fosters a lifelong community” (as outlined in UCL 2034, UCL’s 20-year strategy).
The first of five awards was for ‘Engager of the year (researcher/academic grade 8 and above)’, which was presented to Dr Carl Sayer (UCL Geography) for his work with communities in Norfolk. Carl’s research on freshwater habitats has been enhanced by and provided collaborative work opportunities for local people, with great benefit to the natural environment.
The ‘Engager of the year (researcher/academic grade 6 or 7)’ award went to Dr Nick Shepley (UCL English). Nick’s work has focused on encouraging public engagement with literature and London, and, more specifically, he was involved in a partnership project with Keats House called ‘Keats in London’, which inspired people who hadn’t come across the poet before to engage with his work and the city that he loved.
Gwynneth Lloyd (UCL Surgery and Orthopaedics) received the award for ‘Engager of the year (professional services staff)’, as a result of her work at the London Implant Retrieval Centre (LIRC), which she manages. Gwynneth’s work involved the creation of a patient group that encourages patients to share their experiences, enabling them to not only receive support from clinicians and fellow patients, but also to inform future research activities.
Delivering the citation for the winner of the ‘Engager of the year (student)’ award, Professor Anthony Smith, Vice-Provost (Education), reminded the audience that the event wasn’t just to acknowledge the achievements of staff at UCL, but also to honour the “fantastic work of students”.
Natalie Ohana-Eavry, a UCL Laws PhD student, was awarded for a project that made use of art-based dialogue workshops to encourage a deeper understanding of the subtle legal realities of women living in refuges. Providing these women with space, time, materials and support, the workshops were extremely effective, yet fun and creative.
The final award of the night was the ‘Institutional leadership award’, and this went to Professor Anthony Finkelstein, Dean of UCL Engineering, for his practical and financial support of staff, students and projects in the area of public engagement within the faculty. One such project is Engineering Exchange, which has seen the formation of strong partnerships between UCL Engineering’s world-class researchers and the local community.
Throughout the evening, it was evident how much pride public engagement instils in the UCL community, with the words “exceptional”, “innovative” and “inspirational” often used to describe the winning individuals and their achievements.
But it was also clear to see how much the event meant to the winners themselves: “Having my work acknowledged and appreciated is an incredible boost,” said Natalie Ohana-Eavry. “This has been the perfect opportunity to look back at what I’ve achieved and to share it with my family.”
View images from the Provost’s Awards for Public Engagement 2014/2015: