Skip to main content

Alumni of the Year Award winners 2020

Alumni of the Year Awards

Alumni of the Year Awards 2020

Graduates making an impact across business, healthcare, media and engineering have been named the winners of BU's Alumni of the Year Awards 2020.

The awards set out to recognise and celebrate the diverse achievements of BU's graduates, with nominations sought from the university's staff and alumni community.

This year there were five award winners across four categories linked to BU's core purpose – inspiring learning, advancing knowledge and enriching society. New for this year – and to coincide with the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife – was an Outstanding Nurse or Midwife of the Year category, designed to recognise a BU-educated healthcare professional.

After a record number of entries, the following were selected as winners by a panel of judges.

Lisa Ward – Enriching Society Award winner

Lisa Ward

Lisa studied BA (Hons) Multi-media Journalism and graduated in 1995. Today, she works as the Head of Communications for NHS Providers, the membership organisation for the NHS hospital, mental health, community and ambulance sectors and strives to help improve and shape the system in which they operate. Lisa has worked in health, government and NHS communications for nearly 25 years and during that time has had the opportunity to shape and lead communications at a national, regional and local level.

Lisa said: "It's a huge honour to even be nominated for this award and I'm so proud to be this year's winner.

"The last few months have been some of the most challenging and exciting I have ever experienced in my career and my organisation has been on the frontline of the national narrative and debate about the NHS response to the coronavirus pandemic. I've been working closely with colleagues in hospitals across the country to help tell their stories, advocate for them and also provide advice and support through an incredibly busy and unprecedented period.

"When I graduated from the very first year of multimedia journalism, I could never have imagined I would be here today. But it was my degree and practical, hands-on experience at BU that got me my first job as a press assistant in a national charity communications team. It was there I discovered my passion for health and the public sector and I continue to be passionate about what I do all these years later. 

"My time at BU and the work experience I had in journalism has been invaluable in terms of my writing skills, understanding how the media works and forming relationships with journalists.

"My advice to students is to make the most of any opportunities – get hands-on experience and be open-minded about what your degree can lead to. I was set on being a journalist, but found a career that has helped me to continue to learn and develop. It has been challenging at times, but always rewarding."

Francis Annan – Inspiring Learning Award winner

Francis Annan

Francis Annan graduated from the BA (Hons) Television Production course at BU in 2006 and has since gone on to a successful career in TV and film. Francis is a film director and writer who began his career at the BBC 16 years ago. He has won awards for his short films and has directed a drama for BBC One. 2020 saw the release of Annan's directorial debut on the international big screen with the political thriller, Escape from Pretoria, starring Daniel Radcliffe, which has been well received by audiences and critics alike since its release in March. Despite his busy schedule, Francis regularly returns to BU to talk to students from the Media Production Department and is a source of inspiration to our students looking to achieve big things in the industry.

Talking about his win, Francis said: "One of the things I remember most about my time at BU were the talks given by those who worked in the industry. Our lecturers would invite people to talk to us about their roles, to give us that real, first-hand practical knowledge. This – balanced with the academic side – really helped give us a sense of the 'bigger picture'; it's what I loved most about being at university.

"So to win the award for this category due to the impact I've had through some of my guest lectures is great. To know I'm able to help people in a way that helped me at university has always been my aim.

"While the practical elements of any course are clearly important, one of the things that had a big impact on me at BU was the academic side. Regardless of what industry you end up going into, having academic rigour – being able to carry out your own independent research, write essays and theorise – are all invaluable skills to have and the benefits are incredibly rewarding in later life. 

"If I could offer a piece of advice to students, it would be to look at what sets you apart from the crowd. University gives you the time and opportunity to think about what you can do to help you stand out – whether that's through extra-curricular activities or something else. Working out now what your USP is will be so helpful later on in life."

Russ Taplin – Inspiring Learning Award winner

Russ Taplin

Russ gained a Master's in Business Administration (MBA) and graduated in 2002. He is a Consultant and Managing Director for Mmm…Thoughtful Business Ltd, a company which provides both general and specialist business consultancy. Russ is a Virgin Business Start-Up Mentor, which involves him working alongside new businesses to help them stay on track with their business plans and to keep them motivated in order to give them the best chance of success. He continues to have strong ties to BU and currently supports the MBA programme through its Alumni Panel. He also promotes BU students to the local community for placements and short projects to help them gain additional experience while fostering collaborations between education and industry.

Russ said: "It was a huge surprise to find out I'd been nominated for this award, let alone won. I've always enjoyed being involved with BU; being around the talented students and staff continues to inspire me, so it came as a surprise to find out that I'd been seen to inspire others. We all try to do one thing in life and business, and that's to positively influence others, and so to be recognised for that is really special.

"My time at BU in the Business School as both an undergraduate and postgraduate gave me one of the most valuable things – context. BU was never about just the learning, it was also about the context in which the learning took place. We were also taught to be bold enough to create our own business models and not just stick with the ones we had learnt. These are skills and capabilities that can be applied to business then, now and in the future, regardless of how much business, technology or the world around us changes.

"If I was to give any advice to current or future students, it would be 'be bold'; don't just take what you have learned, but use what you have to develop your own thinking and create your own frameworks for your own context. That way you will be able to differentiate yourself, your business, or the business you work in and 'add back'."

Dr Connie Wilson – Advancing Knowledge Award winner

Connie Wilson

Connie studied a BA (Hons) Law degree before going on to complete an HND in computing and finally a Doctorate in 2003. She has spent most of her defence engineering career working at BAE Systems, whose advanced defence technology protects people and national security, and keeps critical information and infrastructure secure.

Connie's Doctorate involved collaboration with Microsoft USA to show how artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of software agent technology could improve the efficiency of the company and enhance its product range. She was awarded a WES Top Women in Engineering Award in 2018 and has also used her skills to volunteer in South America and Albania.

Connie said: "I'm extremely grateful to receive this recognition for Advanced Knowledge and the fact it relates to 'innovation and creativity' is particularly special, as this is one part of my life that I'm very passionate about. For many years I've tried to develop my ideas into workable solutions for my company, to enhance the lives of servicemen and servicewomen and to develop new product lines for the business.

"I've never stopped learning and I continue to develop my knowledge and skills in order to continually impact my working life and the lives of those I work with. BU has helped me to
understand the knowledge I have gained and apply it to the practical solutions throughout my engineering career and for that I am most grateful.

"I would add that BU is a great place to learn and if you haven't considered it as an option then you should. I would also advise current students that taking up a placement at some point during your university studies will help you with those future job prospects, as you will get a practical opportunity to apply your learning."

Jo Lake – Outstanding Midwife Award winner

Jo Lake

Jo graduated in 2014 after studying BSc (Hons) Midwifery, and now works as a midwife in Zambia. During her time at BU, Jo showed her aptitude for sharing her midwifery knowledge and skills with maternity care providers in low-income countries by completing an elective placement in Rwanda. Jo followed her passion by moving to a rural part of Zambia two years after she qualified as a midwife. She has spent the last few years working alongside Zambian trained nurses and midwives in a very hands-on, practical role as well as embarking on a strategic role by being a member of the clinic's Management Team, offering advice on clinical improvement and efficient day-to-day running of the facility.

Jo reflected: "I feel incredibly honoured and privileged to have won the Outstanding Midwife Award. I absolutely love the area of midwifery I work in and find it very rewarding, but it's also great to be able to share some of the work going on overseas with others. 

"I'd like to dedicate this award to all the nurses and midwives that I work within Zambia, who work so tirelessly and self-sacrificially but are sadly not in a privileged position to have their dedication acknowledged publicly. 

"My time at BU taught me to take the issues I was passionate about seriously and work hard to see them realised. I feel I was always encouraged by my lecturers to 'think big' in terms of my potential future role in the vast scope of midwifery. I was also taught a huge amount about advocating for all women which is such a huge part of midwifery.

"I'd advise current midwifery students to focus on the bigger picture and where they would like to see themselves in ten years' time. Midwifery can be quite a gruelling course, and even more so in the current climate, but it's so worth it when you reach the finish line. And really, that's only the beginning as there are so many different routes that your midwifery career can take you. And never lose sight of who we're doing it for; the women under our care."