Alumni Association Student Awards: 2016 winners

Read more about the winners of the 2016 Alumni Association Student Awards.

Kai Forde (BSc 2014 - ), School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience
Proposer: Hari Sood, MSci, School of Mathematics

Kai has overcome considerable obstacles in order to achieve his place, studying Physiology at Bristol. He has coped with severe family difficulties and challenges. At a young age he was homeless and struggled with depression and anxiety. Kai decided to attend college in order to prepare for A Levels but personal circumstance conspired to once again leave him homeless and troubled. With a supreme effort of concentrated will and determination, in a few stable weeks living with his grandmother, Kai prepared for his A Levels, and achieved A*AA in Maths, Further Maths and Physics. As a result Kai gained a place at the University of Bristol. Kai spent the next year as a carer for his mother, a time in which he was isolated from most social interaction. When he arrived at University he struggled with finance and accommodation which impacted on his health and as a result he terminated his study. Eventually, after his mother passed away, Kai was inspired to return to University but now to study Physiology because he wanted to do a degree that he could use to help other people and make an active difference. Kai has an insatiable curiosity, loves learning and is thriving in his studies. His fascination for study and his work ethic are inspirational. 

Hong Chin Ng (PhD 2012 - ), School of Earth Sciences
Proposer: Dr Mary Benton, Director of Undergraduate Studies, School of Earth Sciences

As well as having a distinguished and flawless academic career as both undergraduate and postgraduate, Hong Chin has made an enormous contribution to enhancing the experience of international students in the School of Earth Sciences. As a result of his experiences and observations, he masterminded the establishment of the Bristol Earth Sciences International Group, BESIG. International students are paired with an experienced mentor who contacts them before they arrive, meets them for lunch on their first day and looks out for them through the coming months. BESIG organises a series of events and orientation exercises throughout the year, including a Halloween party, a traditional Sunday lunch, Christmas dinner and an International party. The mentors regularly meet their mentees to help with different study skills, lifestyles etc. The difference this programme has made is exceptional. International students comfortably integrate and engage with all students. No student will return to their own country without having visited a British home. Hong Chin still manages to find time to be active in the Pantomime Society, to be a lynchpin in the Earth Science Band and to work with English Language study groups, giving talks and holding debates on scientific issues to encourage those who are learning English. His contribution is priceless.

Natalie Jester (PhD 2012 - ), School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Proposer: Gilberto Algar-Faria, Senior Research Associate School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

Natalie is driven to share her passion for her area of study and to improve outcomes for all the students with whom she works, constantly seeking to ensure high quality teaching in the department. Her commitment goes way beyond what may be expected and she acts as a role model and supporter for others. Natalie works hard to support international students, many with English as a second language. A highly participative member of the SPAIS Gender Research Centre, Natalie created a workshop for the ESRC-sponsored Thinking Futures Festival, which resulted in the ‘Decoding Gender in the Media’ workshop which has engaged pupils from a number of schools. Natalie was part of the team behind the hugely successful TEDx University of Bristol, attended by 100 local Bristolians and University members and watched over 60,000 times online. She has written for Rife, a young peoples’ magazine and presented public panels on masculinity. Natalie is on the advisory panel for the Bristol Festival of Ideas, and will be chairing a public discussion on European defence and security. As part of the University’s High Quality Research Support programme to strengthen research abroad, Natalie designed and delivered a module in a week-long training course on ‘Gender and Social research’ to researchers from Somaliland, Puntland and wider Somalia and mentored five researchers. Natalie is leading this module again next year.

Sophia Robey (BA 2013 – 2016), Department of Classics and Ancient History
Proposer: Dr Ellen O’Gorman, Senior Lecturer in Classics, Department of Classics & Ancient History

In her first year at University Sophia was continually active as a volunteer, working every week with Bristol student action for refugees, providing help for children in local schools who had difficulties with reading. She also worked on campaigning and fundraising for groups working on violence against women and girls. In her final year, Sophia trained as a facilitator for the ‘Mind Your Head’ mental health support groups for students, providing sessions such as ‘laughter yoga’ and raising awareness of health and well-being issues. Throughout her three years, Sophia made a significant contribution to Bristol Nightline. Firstly, as a trained listening volunteer, providing confidential, non-advisory support for students, clocking in 368 hours of helpline work as well as being on call for 12 hour shifts to support other volunteers. She then undertook publicity officer work for Nightline to ensure that students' awareness of the service was widely disseminated. In her final year Sophia acted as a Nightline coordinator, overseeing the general running of the service, the recruitment and training of volunteers and new initiatives such as the exam time Mindfulness sessions. Throughout her time in university, Sophia also undertook 500 hours part time work in community policing and emergency response.