04 November 2021

The reach and impact of the many thousands of University of East London alumni has once again been demonstrated at the third annual Alumni Awards which celebrated those who have gone above and beyond the call of their careers. 

Alumni, UEL staff and guests gathered at the SportsDock to hear citations and meet the recipients drawn from more than 300 nominations.

The revamped event that saw the addition of a new tranche of awards. The new Alumni Advisory Board Change Maker accolade recognised six alumni, one from each school, who have made a deep and lasting impact and enter into the equivalent of a "hall of fame". 

Alumni engagement manager Charlie Werren reminded guests that this time last year the country was in lockdown and the event took place online.

She said, "After such an unprecedented time in all our lives I am so pleased to be here at SportsDock today in person for this year's ceremony and I am also pleased so many of you have chosen to be here with me."

The Change Maker awards were presented by Jacqui Bashford, chair of the Alumni Advisory Board, and the other awards were presented by Vanessa Varvas, UEL's chief marketing officer.

Vanessa Varvas presenting Ruth Cooper Dixon with award

The Alumni Advisory Board Change Maker awards

Lucy Quist graduated from our BEng Electrical and Electronic Engineering degree in 1999 and is now a managing director at Morgan Stanley and author of the book The Bold New Normal.

She said, I just want to say that it's not always about where you've come from, it's about where you can go. Sometimes we are boxed in by saying 'oh look how far you have come, you done so well'. But we need to think about how much further we can go because sometimes there's a lot more inside of us than we realise."

Danielle Jawando graduated from the BA Creative and Professional Writing degree in 2009 and MA in Imaginative Practice degree in 2012. Since then she has worked on Coronation Street and her debut novel And The Stars Were Burning Brightly has won a number of awards. She said,

"Studying at UEL was a truly life changing experience for me. It was where I found my passion and my place in the world. It's the people that make UEL and I'm truly thankful to have been taught by three of the best."

Talal Rafi graduated from the BA Business Management degree in 2013 and is now a leading expert on entrepreneurship, reduced inequalities and gender equality in Sri Lanka and a World Bank climate ambassador. He was unable to attend the awards.

Nicole Posho Bellow graduated with a BSc in Early Childhood Studies in 2016. Since then she has launched Sphere Support which helps women and girls who have been victims of domestic abuse enhance their skills and build new lives.

She said,

"Thank you so much for this great opportunity. I didn’t think I would win this award because there's a lot of people who are achieving a lot. Being a student at the University of East London was amazing and I would thank everyone who helped me to get to this place."

Dr Vasiliki E Kalodimou graduated from the BSc Human Physiology degree course in 1999 and has since been engaged in research into the regenerative properties of stem cells in Greece and author of two patents.

She said,

"Winning this award would not be possible without receiving the inspiration I received from my tutors and from whom I have derived the strength to challenge myself to perform better. I would like to tell students you should never give up. Even if you are convinced it is over, it's not unless you want it to be and the example of that is me, standing in front of you."

Dwayne Fields (pictured at top of page)  graduated from the BA Psychology, International Development with Career and Business Management degree in 2014. He has thrown himself into many physical challenges, including becoming the first Black Briton to walk over 400 miles to the magnetic North Pole. His work with disadvantage young people has been acknowledged by the Queen and earned him the Freedom of the City of London.

He said,

"I've been fortunate enough that I've been able to see through some of the challenges I faced and come out the other side slightly better off. My plan is to keep doing that for many people, especially young people, as I can going forward and that's why I spend as much time outside as I can. UEL just keeps giving and so thank you. It's such an honour."

Other awards

Alumni Lifetime Achievement award

Winner: Nahim Ahmed, who has been working the the London Borough of Tower Hamlets for over a decade helping to bring about positive sustainable change. In June 2021, Nahim was recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours list and awarded an MBE. 

Rising Star of the Year 

Winner: Cameron William Brogan-Higgins, who, at 24, is growing his music career through videos, promotions, radio air play and Spotify where he has reached 50K listeners. He has shot a music video in the deserts of UAE and worked with sound engineers from across the globe.

Entrepreneur of the Year

Winner: Abdal Ahmed, director of The Ottoman Doner Ltd, a fast food operation that now has six stores across London selling popular kebabs and supporting food distribution across London to families in need and the homeless.

Alumni Engagement award

Winner: Jacqui Bashford, chair of the Alumni Advisory Board, who has been supporting students through mentoring programmes and inspirational talks about her own successful career in the telecommunications industry. 

Diversity award

Winner: Micha Nestor, who founded Past Futures, which is focused on raising the inclusion of diverse people within the heritage and arts sector.

Mental Wealth Advocacy award 

Winner: Ruth Cooper-Dickson (pictured above), who founded Champs for Change which supports survivors of domestic abuse and marginalised people who have experienced trauma and adversity.

East London Glocal Engagement award

Winner: Viola E Okoro, founder and executive director of Leadership Foundation for African Girl, Child and Women. 

Industry 4.0 award

Winner: Constantin Singureaun, who founded Pufferr, a garlanded digital marketing agency working in the field of financial services, law, wealth management and accountancy. 

Alumni Sporting Success award

Joint winners: Hani Assi, a high performance strength and conditioning coach and consultant; and Julian Dominique, owner and director  of FAR Fitness, a health and wellbeing company specialising in functional fitness training and exercise rehabilitation.

Sustainability award

Joint winners: Cassie Quinn, founder of CQ Studio which combines science, craft and fashion and pursues research into regenerative fabrics; and Temitayo Sodunke, who champions sustainable goals in education, inequality and health in Nigeria.

Careers-Led award

Winner: Matthew O'Mullane, who created his own psychotherapy practice, A New Hope Therapy, based on the robust training and development he gained at the University of East London.