VC honours student civic campaigners

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Niel Bowerman is well-known in environmental circles for his tireless campaigning. Now, along with six other charitably-minded students, he has had his achievements recognised by an award from the Vice-Chancellor.

A spokesperson for Oxford Hub, the student-run charity organization, said the inaugural Vice-Chancellor’s Civic Awards aim to highlight “exceptional individual achievement and contribution to volunteering in the community and the wider world”.

While in his final year of his Physics degree, Bowerman co-founded and former the climate policy analysis group Climatico, named as one of the most influential websites on climate policy by Social Media Labs.

Along with numerous other achievements, he has given speeches on climate change at institutions such as the World Bank and the European Parliament.

Bowerman hopes the award will inspire others to follow his lead. “There are hundreds of students across Oxford giving their time to the community and the wider world, and I hope this award will fuel this hub of activity,” he said.

Although the award was not an end in itself, Bowerman was pleased to have been honoured.

“Campaigning gives me such a buzz when I realise what a difference a small group of motivated people can make,” he said.

Rachel Dedman from St John’s College and Suzanne Sheehy from Lady Margaret Hall were also among those to have their work acknowledged.

Dedman, who was President of RAG in 2009/10 and raised £45,000 for charity this year, said: “Simple recognition that voluntary work with Jacari, fundraising with RAG and raiding for Helen and Douglas House are fun, worthwhile, and socially important activities would increase the participation, support and scope of these projects.”

Sheehy, who created a science outreach program for schools, said she hoped the award would “encourage students to use their own unique set of skills and experiences to start their own initiatives”.

A spokesperson for Oxford Hub said the idea for the awards had been around for some time.

“Oxford Hub first proposed the idea to the University around twelve months ago, and we have been working with them since to develop the Awards,” she said.

A second-year undergraduate said that the awards seemed to fill a gap. “For sports and other achievements in the university you get a blue and that’s seen and quite widely recognised… there’s a lot of prestige attached to that and there’s been no equivalent in the charitable ethical field,” he said.

Bowerman echoed this sentiment.

“Athletes get blues, musicians get scholarships, and I’m glad that people trying to make a difference are now being recognised too.”

The awards will be presented at the Rhodes House lunch after the honorary degree ceremony on 23rd June.