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.

Neil and Gina Smith 2014 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

Since the 1990’s Neil has been President of Keele in the USA, the organization and network for American alumni of Keele University.  With his wife, he founded the prestigious Gina and Neil Smith Student of the Year Award (now in its 11th year), 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.

The award is open to all final year undergraduate students who meet the following criteria:

Outstanding academic excellence / achievement together with outstanding achievement / contribution as an individual to student life and/or the university.

(i) To meet the criteria for outstanding academic excellence/achievement, applicants should demonstrate any one or a combination of:

  • An expectation at the time of the application to obtain First Class Honours in class mark aggregate
  • A Distinction, or equivalent exceptional achievement, in a major piece of examined independent work such as a project or dissertation


(ii) To meet the criteria for outstanding achievement/contribution as an individual, candidates should demonstrate any combination of the following:

  • An achievement or contribution in citizenship in the form of making a difference to the life of the University community (this could include work on or off campus such as volunteer activity)
  • An achievement or contribution specifically connected to a sport or sporting activity
  • Overcoming hardship, disability or other personal adversity

Applicants must ensure that TWO signed references are provided to support their application from both:

1) An appropriate academic referee (e.g. Head of School, Director of Undergraduate Studies)


2) An appropriate referee for personal achievement (e.g. Head of HEACF/student volunteers, SU President, AU President, personal tutor, volunteer organiser)

It is the candidate's responsibility to ensure that references are provided by the closing date by email to

For a Staff Nomination

Nominations of candidates for the award by a Head of School or Faculty Dean must be submitted on the Student of the Year Application and Nomination Form below.

Nominators are advised to inform their nominee that they have been nominated, and to ensure that the nominee provides a personal statement and a non-academic referee to support their nomination before the closing date.

The Nomination Form must be completed as appropriate and by the closing date of 5pm Sunday 28 April 2019.

Note: nominees must complete and send a personal statement and provide a non-academic reference, by email, to by 5pm 28 April 2019.


The award Panel may invite shortlisted candidates for interview. Interviews will take place 3 June 2019. Invitations will be sent out as early as possible, but candidates are advised that they may be given relatively short notice of an interview.


The final decision will be confirmed after the Final Examination results are known, and the successful applicant notified within seven days of the results of the Final Examinations being published in June.

The Award will be presented at the Summer Degree Graduation Ceremonies. The Student of the Year will be invited to attend the Vice-Chancellor's Graduation Dinner in July 2019.

The name of the successful candidate will be recorded in an appropriate Roll of Honour to be established by the University.

2018: Lauren Mullan

SOTY 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 Lonsdale 200

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 student of the year

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.