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Student of the Year 2017
Keele University is delighted to announce the twelfth Neil and Gina Smith Student of the Year Award. From an exceptionally strong pool of candidates, the awarding panel decided that Steph Lonsdale should be the recipient of the 2017 Award, which comprises a prize of £5,000 and recognises a student of outstanding achievement at Keele University.
Steph, who graduates this week with a first class degree in Psychology, joined Keele as a mature student, returning to education after a 25 year break and with few qualifications.
Steph’s diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Condition gave her the inspiration to study Psychology and since joining Keele she has dedicated a great deal of time and effort to supporting students and members of the community who share an autism diagnosis.
Speaking about her university experience and prize win, Steph said:
“It feels amazing to have won the award, although I admit at first it didn’t seem real. The cash prize will be really helpful; as a mature student, giving up a wage to return to university means less available funds to spend on the house and family. This award will mean we can get some much needed work done and spend some of it together as a family too.”
Steph founded and is the current President of Keele SU’s Spectrum Society in addition to volunteering with the National Autistic Society. She has also established new ties with LifeWorks Staffordshire including fundraising and organising an outreach visit. Through her hard work, Steph has helped improve the lives of individuals with autism and received an Autism Ally Award in 2017.
Steph has also researched new and improved ways for staff and final year Psychology students to recruit participants for research. By linking up with the SU Volunteering scheme, research participants can now be rewarded for their time.
Steph recently won the runner up award for Peer Mentor of the year and has also worked as an ambassador for the University.
Reflecting on her time at Keele, Steph said:
“I’ve loved being at Keele. The campus is often referred to as the Keele Bubble and I think that’s very true, I love seeing the wildlife on campus and it’s not difficult to find somewhere quiet if you want to just sit and relax. That doesn’t mean it’s dull though, even as a mature student I’ve had great fun joining some of the societies and having the occasional night out. I’ve made some fantastic friends of all ages and I’ve felt really accepted by them, it was lovely to find that there were other mature students on the course too. ”
Steph will be back at Keele in September to begin a Masters degree in Cognitive Psychology. She added:
“I hope to do more research and clinical experience over the next year to support a future application for the Clinical Doctorate in Psychology. In the future, I hope to divide my time between working with adults and children affected by autism spectrum conditions, and continuing research into how we can reduce the negative effects of autism while celebrating and utilising some of the more positive aspects.”
Student of the Year finalists Jack Tacchi, Anne Gahart and Stacey Lyons were all highly commended by the Panel.