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Awards celebrate the success of amazing alumni

Published: 21 April 2023 at 10:30

ARU alumni awards winners 2023

Graduates return to ARU for ceremony to mark their achievements

Alumni who have achieved success and made a difference in their careers and lives returned to Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) for an awards celebration.

The annual Vice Chancellor’s Outstanding Alumni Awards ceremony was held at ARU’s Chelmsford campus on Thursday night (20 April).

Former students were nominated in seven categories, showcasing the excellent achievements of ARU’s graduates in their respective fields.

The Alumni Voluntary Service Award was won by 2001 graduate Mary Stretch, Mary is CEO and founder of charity Calais Light, which organises regular weekend convoys to France for UK people wanting to help refugees in Calais. The charity arranges and books everything from logistics to car-sharing to make it easy for ordinary people to work with Calais refugee charities, providing food and humanitarian aid, to refugees. Mary has now started a new UK volunteer network which helps refugees to establish their new lives in the UK.

European Business graduate Mark Songhurst was named winner of the Alumni Public Service Award, recognising alumni who have made an extraordinary contribution through their role as a public or private-sector employee whilst providing an essential service. Whilst at Anglia Polytechnic, Mark undertook a six-month placement in the NHS. Now 23 years and seven Acute Healthcare roles later, Mark is the Programme Lead for Scan4Safety at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS. He is responsible for finding solutions to many of the everyday challenges that acute hospitals face.

The Alumni Rising Star Award recognises alumni who graduated five years ago or less, and who have distinguished themselves professionally since graduating from ARU. This year, the award went to Aining Wen, an illustrator who has already published 16 picture books and has been recognised with numerous awards. After completing an MA, Aining returned to Beijing and worked as a children's book editor at China Publishing House. She has also worked as a translator, translating English picture books into Mandarin to help build links between the English-speaking world and China's children's publishing industry.

Technology graduate Joseph Simpson was named winner of the Alumni Contribution to Culture Award, having established a successful career in live music events after developed his engineering and production skills while studying and working in cultural venues in Cambridge. He has since toured the world with internationally acclaimed artists, serving as a tour and production manager in addition to his engineering role. Joe has worked in over 25 countries and has provided sound experience for prestigious venues in London, such as the Royal Albert Hall and the O2 Arena, as well as for high-profile events like the Mercury Awards and Glastonbury Festival.

The Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year Award was won by Tanyaporn Pichetpongthorn, who graduated from the MSc in International Business in 2016. Tanyaporn is the founder of a school in Thailand with the vision of creating an innovative and bustling language centre, offering effective help and instruction for learning any foreign language. For her amazing entrepreneurial work in Thailand, she has been awarded Best School Entrepreneur, Best School award and the Most Outstanding Teacher award by the Ministry of Education in Thailand.

Katherine Hasegawa-Perez, a 2020 graduate in International Business Management, was the winner of the Alumni Sustainability Champion Award, which recognises innovative work, projects or actions that have made a significant impact on addressing sustainability challenges. Katherine, who is from Venezuela created a dress made entirely from devalued banknotes to raise awareness of the economic, environmental, and socio-cultural crisis in her country. The dress was on display at the Economic Museum in Sweden for almost two years, before being exhibited at the Fitzwilliam Museum as part of the Late Museum special for the Defaced exhibition. Currently, she works voluntarily highlighting the impacts of illegal mining in the Amazon rainforest.

Michelle Brown was named the winner of the Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award. Essex-based Michelle overcame the challenges of being a single parent of three to obtain an LLB Hons in Law at the age of 39. She then had a 20-year career as a Senior Lawyer Manager for the Crown Prosecution Service, dedicated to improving the lives of others by prosecuting matters of domestic abuse, serious sexual offences, and child abuse. She was instrumental in drafting a new legislation to prevent coercive and controlling behaviour and was appointed a full time Judge within the Coroners Service in 2021. In 2022, she was awarded an OBE by the King for her services to Law and Order.

Professor Roderick Watkins, Vice Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

“Our graduates have been undertaking remarkable work in a wide variety of fields all over the world, and it was a tremendous pleasure to welcome so many of them back to ARU.

“Our alumni will always remain part of our ARU community and some of the stories we heard last night were truly inspirational. We are proud to have played a part in their success.”