Holly Cobb receives the Increasing Access Award.
Image credit: Michael-Akolade Ayodeji

SU Student Awards celebrate inclusivity

On 12th June, the Oxford SU held its 2023 Student Awards event at Freud, celebrating students who do impactful work on issues of equality, inclusivity, and progress.

These awards first took place in 2015, setting a precedent of acknowledging the influence the nominees have made on the community.

The night began with SU President Michael-Akolade Ayodeji introducing the event as a chance to “[celebrate] those who go above and beyond”. CEO of the SU Dom Anderson called it a display of “all the things that are best about Oxford students”.

First to be presented was the Race Equality Award, recognising those involved in the fight against racism at Oxford. Gloria Ngaiza won this category, as last year’s Vice-President of the Black Student Society and creator of a GTC Black Students Journal to document the history of black students, alumni, and academics in Oxford.

Continuing the theme of inclusivity, the Welfare Award was presented to the student who has had the most impact on making Oxford a kinder and safer space. 

This was Daniele Cotton, who has been the Graduate Common Room Welfare Officer and Peer Support Co-ordinator at Green Templeton College. He started initiatives such as new contact cards with emergency and welfare contacts, alongside making a new easier welfare items request service.

On the topic of students initiating change, the Paving the Way Award was awarded to recognise students’ innovative approaches to activism and beyond. This was given to Tori Ford, the feminist health researcher who founded Medical Herstory.

This organisation aims to eliminate stigma and sexism from healthcare. In her own words, Ford said it was “great to be celebrated” for something “born out of a lot of my own shame and struggle”.

The Increasing Access Award was then given out on the basis of internal progress and outreach to improve Oxford’s accessibility. Nominees for this category had improved access for carers, organised BSL classes, and improved equality in sport.

Holly Cobb won the award, described by her nominator as the “most selfless, kind, and thoughtful” person. She juggles her commitments as a young carer and student, alongside organising events for fellow carers at the university.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Irene Tracey spoke at the interval, saying it was a “wonderful thing” to reward “what makes this community so special”. She also mentioned the marking boycott, promising affected students attending the event they were “doing everything [they] can” and to reach out about concerns.

The Sustainability Award restarted the presentations, with ambitious student actions including work with the botanic gardens, JCRs, and university-wide programmes receiving nominations.

PhD student Tiffany Walmsley, who was called an “absolute sustainability powerhouse” by her nominator, took this category. As the Environmental Representative of the Jesus Middle Common Room, she lobbied the college to divest in fossil fuels.

Walmsley thanked all the diligent gardeners at the Jesus College’s Gardening Club which she co-runs, alongside the rest of the MCR committee.

Next was the Volunteer Award, which went to Gabriele Paone for his research on the hidden talents of children growing up in harsh environments. This helped tailor his education approach in these communities, improving engagement and the learning’s efficacy.

The Student Voice Award was for those amplifying the views and priorities of the student body, given to Abdulazeez Imam and David Cruz Walma. As representatives in the Nuffield Department of Medicine Graduate Studies Committee, they oversee graduate studies and canvassed students on the challenges of meeting living expenses.

Finally, the College Community Award saw the largest “long short list” of nominees, with the presenter explaining this importance as “what is Oxford without its colleges?”.

Amongst these candidates, the winner was Dixa Thakrar. She single-handedly took charge of her college’s under-advertised Diwali formal, emphasising its importance by lobbying the Domestic Bursar on the invitation policies and singing devotional songs at the event.

She celebrated the win saying that it “doesn’t take much effort to make the environment around you a better place”, encouraging the audience to “treat others the way you want to be treated”.

The night concluded with recognition of the work done by the SU Campaigns, showing the range of SU action for greater inclusivity at Oxford.

A summary of the nominees and winners is as follows:

Race Equality Award

Nominees: Mosopefoluwa Sarah Akintunde, Gloria Ngaiza, Kwabena Osei, Mathilde Labuthie, Nikita Jain

Winner: Gloria Ngaiza

Welfare Award

Nominees: Aljawharah Alrubayyi, Sean Gleeson, Bhadrajee Hewage, Daniele Cotton, Amiad Haran Diman

Winner: Daniele Cotton

Paving the Way Award

Nominees: Theo Sergiou, Lara Hankeln, Amelia Inglis, Anita Okunde, Tori Ford

Winner: Tori Ford

Increasing Access Award

Nominees: Holly Cobb, Judith Valerie Engel, Rafiah Niha, AneĹľka Macey-Dare, Marta Antonetti

Winner: Holly Cobb

Sustainability Award

Nominees: Tiffany Walmsley, Nell Miles, Tino Lukas, Amy Pryce-Jones

Winner: Tiffany Walmsley

Volunteer Award

Nominees: Gabriele Paone, Patricia Sampedro, Eleanor Bogie, Holly Cobb, Wantoe T Wantoe

Winner: Gabriele Paone

Student Voice Award

Nominees: Abdulazeez Imam and David Cruz Walma, Shermar Pryce, Niall Pearson-Shaul, Inam Teja

Winners: Abdulazeez Imam and David Cruz Walma

College Community Award

Nominees: Alfie Davis, Elyse Cox, Dixa Thakrar, Piotr Sliwa, Morten Thomsen, Phoebe Winter, Natalie Shteiman, Wantoe T Wantoe, Hala Heenan and Niamh Townend, Inam Teja

Winner: Dixa Thakrar

Image credit: Michael-Akolade Ayodeji