Joanna Abeyie (BA English and Sociology 2008)
The University of Reading was honoured to present Joanna Abeyie MBE with the 2019 Distinguished Graduate of the Year Award in recognition of her work helping organisations diversify their workforce and leadership to better represent society.
Ms Abeyie graduated from Reading in 2008 with a BA in English and Sociology. She went on to launch Blue Moon, the latest of a series of consultancy and recruitment enterprises she has founded to help organisations source talent from BAME and working class backgrounds.
Her work has included advising the likes of BBC, ITV, Sky, Facebook, and Barclays, and has seen her recognised by former Prime Minister, Theresa May, and the Mayor of London.
Ms Abeyie said: "I'm driven by real and lasting change. My mission is to lead the diversity agenda and enable businesses to create an inclusive working environment, secure and retain the best and most diverse talent through bespoke recruitment processes, workshops and training from entry level to boardroom."
Joanna has since gone on to be awarded an MBE in the Queen's New Year Honours list, again for services to diversity in the media and creative industries.
Rosalynd Roberts (PhD Law 2011)The University of Reading was honoured to present Dr Rosalynd Roberts the Alumni of the Year award. After graduating with a PhD from the School of Law in 2011, Rosalynd played a central role in prosecuting the war crimes committed during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.
Acting as a Legal Officer in Chambers at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) between 2011 and 2017, the majority of her time was spent assisting the judges in the much publicised case against Ratko Mladic, who was finally convicted of crimes including genocide in November 2017.
James Green, Professor of Public International Law, who supervised Rosalynd's studies at the School of Law proudly spoke at the ceremony, outlining her contributions to the case. He said:
"It is a huge honour for me to have had the opportunity to speak to you today about the contributions made, and that are still being made, by Dr Rosalynd Roberts, in relation to the prosecution of the very worst crimes imaginable, to ensure that they do not go unpunished.
"It is entirely appropriate that the University is today honouring Rosalynd, and recognising the huge significance of the work she has done in the pursuit of justice, and particularly - although far from exclusively - for her contribution to the Mladic case and final judgment."
Since the closure of the ICTY in December 2017, Rosalynd has become Legal Adviser on War Crimes and Rule of Law for the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Drawing on her vast experience amassed over the last decade, she advises relevant actors on trends observed in war crimes trials.
Speaking at her award ceremony, Rosalynd said: "I am very grateful for the University's recognition of the Tribunal's efforts to achieve justice for the victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed during the 1990's conflict in the former Yugoslavia. I am honoured to be chosen as Alumna of the Year 2018 for my contribution towards international criminal justice."
Felicity Aston (MSc Meterology 2000)On Thursday 7 December at our annual graduation ceremony, we were delighted to recognise the outstanding achievements of Felicity Aston MBE with our Alumnus of the Year Award. Felicity studied Meteorology at Reading, graduating in 2000. Many of you will be aware of her story, which we also featured in the last edition of Connected.
In 2012 Felicity not only became the first woman to ski alone across Antarctica, but also the first woman to complete the 1,744 km trek using just muscle power (we're still astounded every time we hear her story). In a field usually associated with male explorers, Felicity has shattered stereotypes and continues to challenge convention.
Professor Giles Harrison, who presented Felicity Aston MBE with her award said:
"Amongst many distinguished awards, Felicity received the Queen's Polar Medal in 2015 and was appointed MBE for services to polar exploration. In the Department of Meteorology we are very proud that such an exceptional individual is amongst our alumni and alumnae, and she is without question an outstanding candidate to be honoured by the University of Reading."
Felicity is now in advanced training for her next adventure. In April, she will be leading a team of women from across the world to ski the last degree to the North Pole. The aim of the trip is to create better communication and understanding between women from Western and Arab cultures by joining together to overcome this incredible challenge. She also aims to inspire all women to achieve their life ambitions.
We would like to congratulate Felicity on her achievements - and we wish her great success with her next expedition.
Three Alumni of the Year
Laura Tobin (BSc Physics and Meteorology 2003)Laura Tobin, current daily weather presenter on Good Morning Britain (ITV), was presented the award by Prof Keith Shine, Regius Professor of Meteorology on Thursday 7 July 2016.
After graduating from Reading in 2003, Laura joined the Met Office and the Royal Air Force and later became a BBC weather presenter. She joined ITV in 2012 as a member of the Daybreak team.
Throughout her career, Laura has been a visible promoter of scientific subjects and education. As well as introducing her audience to the scientific basis of forecasting, Laura is also a STEM ambassador and actively encourages young people into science, technology, engineering, and maths.
Presenting her award, Professor Shine said: "Laura is a highly visible role model who shows where a scholarship in STEM subjects can lead."
Upon receiving her award, Laura said: "It's weird to think people are looking up to me, because I still look up to so many colleagues at various places where I have worked.
"My geography teacher really inspired me to love the weather, and then I've gone on to do this. It would be lovely to think that I could inspire at least one person to think that they would want to be me one day. I'd happily hand over that alarm clock for 3:30 am."
Rob Wilson MP (BA History, 1987)Rob made his name as an entrepreneur, successfully building several small businesses before being first elected as Member of Parliament for Reading East in 2005.
Philip Hobbs (BSc Agriculture, 1975)Philip was brought up surrounded by horses and he rode 160 winners in his 10 year career as a jockey. Philip started training in 1985 with only six horses and he now trains 112 horses at his yard in Somerset. He has sent out over 2000 winners and has finished in the country's top six National Hunt trainers since 1999.
Sarah Hacker (BSc Rural Environmental Science 2000), former Mayor of ReadingCouncillor Sarah Hacker is a Labour councillor for Battle ward and former Mayor of Reading. She is Chair of the Town's Arts Forum, Labour Group, and Housing, Neighbourhoods and Leisure Committees. Whilst in office, she successfully campaigned for more school places and a new primary school in West Reading, and helped to secure 1.65 million pounds in funding to benefit residents.
She joined the University of Reading in 1997 where she studied for a BSc (Hons) in Rural Environmental Science. Sarah cites the numerous field trips and wide curriculum covered by her degree as being key factors in driving her passion for the subject.
"I recently visited the Whiteknights campus and was given a tour of the Agriculture Department. There are some beautiful new buildings, coffee shops and the library has undergone an impressive refurbishment. I am very proud that the University has chosen me as its Alumna of the Year 2015 and I will fulfil the role to the best of my ability."
Andy Mackay (BA English and Music 1968), saxophonist and oboist of Roxy MusicBorn in Cornwall and raised in London, Andy Mackay immersed himself fully in university life at Reading, developing his interests not only in music and literature, but also in fine art. Amongst his circle, he counted Stephen Buckley, later Professor of Fine Art at the University and Simon Puxley, publicist for Roxy Music following the formation of the band in 1971.
Working as a teacher during the day and performing with Roxy Music by night, Andy recorded a solo instrumental album, In Search of Eddie Riff, in 1974; wrote and produced the music for Rock Follies, a British TV series about a fictional female rock group; and continued to work with Roxy Music while releasing a prolific output from other solo projects.
Andy's varied career in the music industry has involved collaborating with artists such as Duran Duran, Paul McCartney, and Arcadia, and is largely credited with bringing the saxophone into modern music. Perhaps his most recognisable saxophone solo features on Roxy Music's haunting cover version of John Lennon's Jealous Guy, itself an international No.1.
Rhianna Dhillon (BA English and Film & Theatre 2011), Radio 1 Film CriticRhianna worked at BBC Radio 1 as their in house film critic. Rhianna landed the prestigious role during her third year of study at the University of Reading. She was discovered after attending a Radio 1 Movies Team visit to the University and immediately impressed them with her knowledge of film and her bright personality. Rhianna's film reviews were heard every week by over five million people, but she still finds time to mentor current students studying Film, Theatre & Television at the University of Reading.
On receiving her award, Rhianna said she had a fantastic time studying in the Department of Film, Theatre & Television: "all the tutors are passionate about their subjects and I have had a lot of fun learning from them. A particularly great aspect of the seminars is the amount we were encouraged to contribute-who doesn't like talking about film?! The depth of analysis that is expected from both the English and Film, Theatre & Television departments has helped me enormously as the film critic for Radio 1."
Beth Morgan (BSc Psychology 2005), England cricketerOver her career, Beth played in seven Tests, 72 ODI and 28 Twenty20s. She represented the Middlesex Women cricket team (where she was made captain in 2010) and was in the England women's cricket team. Due to shoulder injury, Beth retired from cricket on 15 January 2013.
She was a member of the team which competed in the 2009 World Twenty20 competition, with Beth personally scoring a vital unbeaten 46 from 34 balls in the semi-final; retained the Ashes in Australia in 2008; and won the Women's World Cup in 2009, playing in all the games including the final.
Her uncle is the former test cricketer Eddie Hemmings who played for England 16 times, who Morgan has said is great to have on the end of the phone for support. She has also spoken about making the most of her time a Reading, saying:
"My experience at Reading gave me the confidence to chase my dream of playing international cricket and to realise it. It is a huge honour and privilege to even be considered for this prestigious award. I feel very lucky to have been given such great opportunities, both throughout my sporting career and also in gaining a superb education."
Nicky Kinnaird (BSc Land Management 1985), Founder of Space NKNow an MBE, Nicky is known as the Belfast-born founder and president of British cosmetic retailer Space NK, which she established in 1993.
Kinnaird's first Space NK store was in Covent Garden, before the brand expanded across Britain and into America. Space NK is credited with turning brands like Eve Lom, By Terry, and Laura Mercier into household names, with Kinnaird's eye for a cult product and her close edit of the best in beauty ensuring that it is a go-to for beauty fanatics and newcomers alike.
"I don't believe one brand offers the top-to-toe solution," says Kinnaird. "It's not in a sales associate on a monobrand counter's interest to refer you to another counter, so you're never getting the best solution there."