The Neil and Gina Smith Student of the Year Award

The Neil and Gina Smith Student Of The Year Award comprises a cash award of £5,000 to recognise a student of outstanding achievement at Keele University. It is open to all undergraduate final year students.

Applications are now closed for the Student of the Year 2021/22 Award. You can read about our amazing 2021/22 finalists below.

Lincoln currently studies Learning Disability Nursing. The passion for his work is demonstrated by his continued involvement on a voluntary basis of a number of workstreams, some of which are at a National Level.

Lincoln undertook Resilience Base Clinical Supervision commissioned by Health Education England which was to support the health and wellbeing of learners. From this he was invited to become a Subject Expert with the Florence Nightingale Foundation and this group highlights the importance of clinical supervision for nurses and midwives at a national level.

Lincoln is also a member of the NHS Digital Shared Professional Decision-Making Council and the newly formed Learning Disability Nursing National Shared Professional Decision-Making Council, representing people with Learning Disabilities across the UK by sharing his ideas of new ways of working clinically, and operationally with regards to the benefits of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence.

Lincoln has also recently joined the Nursing and Midwifery Council Standards Development Group setting out how nursing and midwifery courses should be delivered to ensure that programmes leading to registration are fit for purpose.
Another recent appointment is that of the new Communications Lead for the Chief Nursing Officer’s Black Minority Ethnic (BME) Strategic Advisory Group, focusing on the governance of issues affecting BME staff and patients within the NHS.
Lincoln is also a NextGen Nurse Learning Disability Ambassador with the NHS where he talks to Secondary School and College learners to encourage them to consider a career as a Learning Disability Nurse.

Abasiama currently studies Media, Communications and Creative Practice. Abasiama arrived at Keele from Nigeria and spent her first year at the International Study Centre. Having to navigate a pandemic both here and Nigeria, ultimately left her solely responsible for her upkeep with no support from family in the UK.

Abasiama is a member of the winning team chosen to participate in the Caribbean Elective; Project Anse-La-Raye competition. This entailed working in a student team to research solutions to poverty on the island and presenting these solutions to a panel of experts. Following this, her team made it as finalists to make a presentation at the Saint Lucia High Commission in London. She has since been invited to visit the Caribbean Island by the High Commission.

Abasiama undertook an internship at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Crewe for which she produced a high-quality documentary showcasing the impact of the pandemic on the staff and residents. This documentary was showcased on Keele's website and had a viewing at the YMCA. As a result of Abasiama’s success in the production, she was nominated by Keele's internship team and became a finalist at the National Undergraduate Employability (NUE) Awards in the Best Interns category (2022).

As a complement to her academic studies Abasiama was elected and served as the Student Voice Representative for her English Module in her second year and is currently the Media and Communication Representative on the Student Voice Committee. She is also a member of the Decolonising the Curriculum Committee which seeks to improve the experience of international students at the university.

Kate currently studies Media and Marketing, however she began her journey at Keele as an administration apprentice in the Faculty of Medicine before the Universities creative environment inspired her to enrol on an undergraduate course.

As a Digital Ambassador, Kate has promoted inclusion among students, hosted a baking show on Instagram during lockdown and presented a ‘self-care’ Q&A on the Universities Instagram page to motivate and engage thousands of students throughout national lockdowns.

Kate has also been an activist for women in STEM, collaborating with Plan International, AstraZeneca and the BBC. Engaging in 1:1’s with AstraZeneca’s leaders, critiquing representations of women in STEM careers and stereotypes holding them back. As a result of this work, Kate was offered a Youth Activist role with Plan and has presented findings back to Keele.

Kate has also engaged with Keele’s internships programme, still maintaining employment with Mondrem Group in Keele’s Science Park, working to support the wellbeing of public servants at work. Kate’s digital marketing role has allowed her to promote Community Interest Companies such as Mondrem, whilst also becoming involved in projects like Keele’s Institute for Social Inclusion and fundraising for mental health charities Visyon and YoungMinds.

Kate is now hoping to go on to postgraduate study, to enter an academic career researching women's rights and social inequality.

Taran is currently studying Medicine and is a committed and hardworking student who has made the most of all his opportunities to learn in clinical practice. He actively contributes to medical school activities, such as student away days, and is always available to represent the students whom he studies with to ensure that their voices are heard.

Taran has been a member of the Surgical Society committee for the past four years. During his third year, Taran organised the inaugural Keele Head and Neck Day, an event comprising surgical skills workshops and respected guest speakers.

Taran has also assisted in the running of several other national events, including How to Enhance Your Portfolio and Keele National Orthoplastics Workshop. Now, as the President of the Surgical Society, Taran has overseen an incredibly successful year, with over 165 members and regular events delivered to medical students at Keele and across the UK.

In February 2020, Taran delivered a presentation at the National Undergraduate and Foundation Surgical Conference in Liverpool, run by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and Liverpool Surgical Society. He has also won the Midlands Institute of Otolaryngology’s Student and Foundation Doctor Essay Prize (2021) with an article on the effect of COVID-19 on future ENT services.

When not studying, Taran is a keen sportsman and has been actively involved in the Medics football team since his first year at Keele. He has been a proactive committee member and was appointed as president in his third year. Through his leadership efforts the team has grown tremendously and is now involved in multiple national competitions. In addition to this he is the founding member of the Medics tennis society and team.

 2021: Jenna Volpert

Jenna joined the talented athlete programme and in 2017 was selected for the English Universities team. Jenna is now the highest capped women’s hockey player in the programme and also held the role of Vice Captain. During Jenna’s time at Keele, she captained both the Women’s first XI and the Medics hockey team, whilst also helping with coaching and mentoring younger players over the years. Jenna was recognised for her sporting efforts by winning the AU’s ‘Female Sportswoman of the Year’ award. 

Jenna is passionate about equality and held roles such as President of ‘Students for Global Health’, founder of ‘Women in Surgery Keele’ and as a student ambassador on the Medical School Exclusivity Committee. Jenna organised workshops with local charities to help medical students feel more empowered to contribute to improving health inequalities. 

With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Jenna organised an informational event run by SFGH Keele in collaboration with Public Health England. Over 100 students and staff attended followed by PHE ‘Covid – A year on’ follow-up event, analysing what we had learnt and lost. When Jenna’s medical placements were cancelled, she worked as a medical assistant on the front-line filling in shifts at her local hospital suffering from staff shortages.

2020: Euan Malpas-Vernon

Euan studied Geoscience which required not only extensive laboratory classes but extended periods of fieldwork, which can be challenging and exhausting for most students. Euan though suffers from chronic pain syndrome as well as cancer which has resulted in the amputation of his right arm along with undergoing more than 5 major operations during his time at Keele, all which required long periods of recuperation.

As a result, Euan took strong pain medication that has adverse effects on his concentration, daily energy levels and mobility.  Despite this though, Euan remained cheery and positive, determined to get a good degree and go on to a PhD in palaeontology at the University of Manchester.  

Independently of his degree, Euan has written several scientific papers for future publication in journals.  Euan was nominated for, and won, the 2018 Jones-Fenleigh award for Vertebrate Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy, where Euan’s research was presented at the International SVPCA conference.  Euan is the only undergraduate ever to win the award, and had to compete with other candidates all of whom were at MSc level or beyond.

Beyond Euan’s studies and University, Euan was chosen for the Paralympic Great Britain pistol shooting team - all achieved despite Euan’s health complications.

2019: Alice Gwyn-Jones

Alice had been the Chair of the Keele Trauma Course Society and an active committee member for several years prior to that. The Society was responsible for organising an extremely successful 1 day trauma course for around 100 medical students, junior doctors and allied health professionals. Alice was instrumental in the organisation, building links with partner organisations and for writing the course manual.

Alice studied Medicine at Keele after already completing an undergraduate course. Despite the demands of a busy medical course, Alice was also on the committee for the successful second Keele Anaesthetics and Critical Care Conference in 2018. On top of this, for the past 4 years Alice has also been a member of the Keele community first responders (CFR), a charity that works in the local community attending 999 calls in order to reduce the pressure on the ambulance service. Both through this charity and running the pre-hospital emergency medicine society, Alice has organised and been a part of multiple sessions teaching university staff and students, the local parish and primary school children basic life support and CPR.

Alice was also a Resident Adviser, working for Student Services in the evenings supporting students who live on campus with a range of issues and providing advice and guidance to them.

2018: Lauren Mullan

Lauren studied Psychology. She showed drive and resilience throughout her education due to becoming estranged from her family at a young age and taking on the caring responsibilities of her now late grandmother.

This drive propelled Lauren into succeeding academically, reflecting a combination of sound intellectual ability, self-discipline and time-management. This was also shown in her non-academic work,
progressing from working in the SU bar as a member of staff, to bar manager and now duty manager.

Lauren was an advocate for students facing similar situations as herself and has worked with Student Services to write a blog encouraging others to pursue university.

Through great personal adversity, Lauren has responded in the best possible way to what Keele University offers. Whilst studying for her degree Lauren found a new and vibrant family in the Keele community and continued to contribute to this community when she took up her place on the Social Work Masters programme in 2018/19.

2017: Steph Lonsdale

Steph 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 has dedicated a great deal of time and effort supporting students and members of the community who share an autism diagnosis. Steph founded and was President of Keele SU’s Spectrum Society in addition to volunteering with the National Autistic Society. She also established new ties with LifeWorks Staffordshire including fund raising and organising an outreach visit. Through her hard work, Steph helped improve the lives of individuals with autism and received an Autism Ally Award in 2017.

Steph received the highest mark ever given in the module Psychology and Community Action, going above and beyond in her work with a resident in a local supported residence to produce a book for the “This is your Life” inspired module.

Steph 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 won the runner up award for Peer Mentor of the year and also worked as an ambassador for the University.

2016: Adrian Craig

Adrian Craig graduated in 2016 after studying Medicine. Adrian's time at Keele was a little longer than an average student; taking a year out to read for an intercalated Masters in Medical Ethics and Law.

He volunteered with Marrow and Anthony Nolan during his time at Keele, eventually becoming National President, acheiving outstanding results in signing up students and others for the bone marrow register. He ran the London Marathon in 2016 with the aim of adding 34 new donors to the register.

Adrian was club captain of the Boat Club helping them to become the AU Club of the Year for its charitable and sporting efforts. He co-led and delivered the Keele International Anaesthetics and Critical Care Conference which saw students from across the UK and some students from Europe come to Keele for a day of lectures and workshops. And, as part of his degree in Medicine, Adrian undertook projects outside of the curriculum to further his interest in anaesthesia. This resulted in presenting at the World Airway Management Meeting in October 2015.

Adrian also volunteered with the Army Cadet Force and had done since before coming to Keele.

Neil Smith graduated from Keele in 1980 with a degree in Physics and Economics.  Neil was President of the Students Union (1979), President of the Athletic Union (1978) and Speaker of the Union (1980).  At Keele, he earned full colours in Rugby, Football and Cricket, ran the popular Keele five-a-side leagues, produced “Keele Over” on BBC Radio Stoke (before KUBE radio), contributed to Concourse and was Honorary VP of the North Staffs Physically Handicapped. 

After graduating, Neil became a journalist with Thomson, freelancing with both the BBC and the Sunday Times. In 1982, Neil won a Knox scholarship to take an MBA at the Harvard Business School.  He earned first-year honours and became the first British President of the HBS Student Association. 

After Harvard, Neil joined management consultants McKinsey in New York, where he met his wife Gina.  In 1991 he bought Midlands-based Tudor Dairies, owners of the Loseley ice-cream brand, in one of the UK’s first leveraged buyouts. Neil later returned to the USA to found consulting firm, EHS Partners, with 2 former colleagues. In 2009, Neil joined the former US Comptroller of the Currency to found Promontory Growth and Innovation, which helps Chief Executives of Fortune 500 companies to dramatically improve performance.  In 2012, PGI was credited with helping Bank of America improve profits by $8 billion a year - the same year Neil wrote his New York Times Best-Seller (co-authored with Keele graduate Rick Levak) – How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things

Neil was President of Keele in the USA, the organization and network for American alumni of Keele University from the 1990's-2016.  With his wife, he founded the prestigious Gina and Neil Smith Student of the Year Award which recognizes Keele students for their outstanding achievements. 

Neil was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of the University by Keele University in 2015.

Neil, Gina and their 4 children (Brianna, Alexander, Caroline and Charlotte) live in New York.