Winners of the Westminster Alumni Awards, recognising the extraordinary work of graduates from the University of Westminster, have been announced.
The Westminster Alumni Awards are an annual event to recognise and celebrate the outstanding achievements of graduates from the University of Westminster, as well as from the University’s predecessors including the Polytechnic of Central London and Regent Street Polytechnic.
The winner of each category is decided by a public vote, with a record high of almost 7,000 people from around the world voting in the Alumni Awards this year.
The winner of the Contribution to the Creative Industries Award is Joshua Baker. This award recognises a graduate who has excelled within the realm of arts and culture. Baker, who graduated from the Contemporary Media Practice BA Honours course in 2012, has built a career in documentary journalism, investigating stories that focus on humanitarian issues from some of the world’s most dangerous conflicts. He has made over ten films for the BBC, Frontline PBS, ITV, ITN and others. He has been nominated for two Emmy Awards, listed for three Grierson Awards, and nominated for eight other awards for reporting and directing films. He now trains journalists in safety and consults for other productions on their risk planning. He is also a board member of the Frontline Freelance Register, which advocates for the rights of freelance journalists.
Lettija Lee, a graduate of the Law LLB Honours course, is the winner of the Entrepreneurial Award, which is given to a graduate who displays entrepreneurial spirit in their endeavours. After noticing a lot of plastic waste at Wireless Festival in 2012, Lee decided to create her own biodegradable rain ponchos, with the brand name Peco Poncho, which was shortlisted and made it to the finals of the Virgin Media Pitch to Rich competition in 2014. Peco Pancho has now supplied numerous brands including Virgin, Savills, Net-A-Porter and The Royal Collection in the Buckingham Palace gift shop.
The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Professor Christopher Evans, who graduated from the Science BSc course in 1976, recognising his ongoing and significant contribution over a number of years. Dr Evans is a Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and holds the Stefan Hatos Chair for Neuropharmacology in the Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA. Dr Evans’s research accomplishments include the identification and characterisation of several novel endogenous opioids or endorphins/enkephalins, the cloning of the first opioid receptor as well as further formative studies. He has published over 220 peer-reviewed publications and has over 11,600 citations of his research papers.
Dr Evans said about his win: “I was overwhelmed by the support. I want to thank my mum for still believing in me despite the head of Grange Park Primary School telling her I was below average intelligence and unteachable, and then failing the eleven plus. Westminster College planted the seeds for me to find my calling.”
Kow Essuman, also a graduate of the Law LLB Honours course, is the winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award, which recognises a graduate who had notable personal or professional success. Last year, Essuman was appointed by the President of Ghana as a member of the governing board of the State Interests and Governance Authority and the Minerals Income Investment Fund. He has previously been voted the Most Influential Young Ghanian, nominated as one of the 100 Most Influential People of African Descent and one of 100 Most Influential Young Africans. In 2019 he was accepted into the highly competitive Executive Course on Oil, Gas, Mining Governance for senior policy makers and business leaders, organised by the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford.
Essuman said about the award: “It is an honour to have won the Outstanding Achievement Award among such deserving candidates. I want to thank God, my family, my parents for sending me to the University of Westminster and to all of you who voted for me.”
The winner of the Recent Graduate Award, which is awarded to a recent graduate who has achieved something extraordinary within just three years of leaving Westminster, is Ethel Tambudzai, who graduated from the International Relations and Development BA Honours course in 2018. In October 2019, Tambudzai founded Sonaaar, a platform connecting black communities around the world through arts, culture, and heritage. The platform consists of the Sonaaar App, Sonaaar Events and the soon to be launched Sonaaar Magazine. It was nominated as one of Google For Startup’s 2019 start-ups to watch.
The Social Impact Award, which recognises a graduate who has made a positive contribution to the lives of others, went to John Bert Macato, a graduate of the International Development Management MSc. Mercato joined the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and has been doing his part in protecting civilians affected by armed conflict, where he manages hospital projects of the ICRC in these settings. In 2019, he was sent to Syria during the upsurge of internally displaced people in Al Hol Camp where he managed the hospital project, enabling around 6,000 consultations and admissions in a four-month period. The camp covers around 75,000 individuals, 95 per cent of whom are women and children affected by the armed conflict.