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It's not just a job, this feels like a family

Charter Day 2018 was by turns poignant, supportive and celebratory

Written by Peter Quinn |

University of London staff at Charter Day 2018
"We really believe in what we're doing and it's so lovely to work with like-minded people."

With the beautiful Montague Street Garden bathed in glorious sunshine, and the strains of The Gin Trap House Band falling pleasingly on the ear, Craig O’Callaghan, Director of Operations, welcomed staff and invited guests to our 2018 Charter Day.

The afternoon began on a poignant note, as Craig announced a minute’s silence in remembrance of our friend and colleague, Richard Griffiths, who sadly passed away at the beginning of last week. 

Dr Mary Stiasny, Pro-Vice Chancellor (International), then shared the microphone with Craig to announce this year’s Charter Day Awards – voted for by staff and celebrating the contributions of our colleagues across a number of categories – with Mary reading excerpts from the respective nominations and Craig finally revealing the colleague’s name. 

The Rising Star Award, recognised an individual member of staff who has substantially grown in their role within a relatively short period of time, having initiated, coordinated and/or accomplished a complex activity.

Mary described the winner as “an extremely competent colleague, someone who wanted to take charge of projects and see them through to a successful conclusion. She has continued to be a go to person in all of the departments she has worked in. Another colleague said she is an oasis of calm and capability. The winner of the Rising Star award is Emma Voight.”

University of London staff at Charter Day 2018
"This isn't actually my award, it's an award for the whole team.”

The Sustained Excellence Award recognised the performance of an individual over a number of years which has led to a sustained contribution that has been of significant benefit to the University.

Announcing this award, Mary described the winner as follows: “There is no doubt that her ability, dedication, hard work and integrity has supported our financial and organisational aims, our surplus returned to the University and the returns to our member institutions. She exemplifies the highest standards of team working, collaboration and professionalism in her interactions with colleagues across the University. The winner of the Sustained Excellence award is Sasha Witterick."

The Lifetime Award recognised the contribution made by an individual that has led to accomplishments that may have significantly shaped the University, its reputation or the wider community.

“This colleague,” Mary said, “was described as being passionate about doing a great job to get the student the service they need, as well as possessing a wonderfully positive attitude that can have a great impact on others. She is always the first to offer to do a difficult job and always willing to take the short straw. Another nomination described this colleague as someone who will always give that extra bit of help and assurance. Someone who has dedicated themselves to this University with the utmost professionalism, spirit and compassion towards all stakeholders. The winner of the Lifetime award is Breda Buckley.”

The Engagement Award recognised an individual who has gone the extra mile in delivering excellent support service for external stakeholders.

The winner of this award was described as bringing a “fresh approach and commitment to the student experience, helping us to reach students in a new way. Her work has been described as being ground-breaking for the University of London Worldwide, adding value to the students’ overall learning and helping them prepare for a real job after completing their course. She is a great ambassador for the University. The winner of the Engagement award is Jo Harris.”

The Innovation Award recognised an individual who has noticed new opportunities and has demonstrated flexibility and adaptability in enhancing services for the University.

“She has helped the academics we engage with reimagine their work in the distance learning context, to the benefit of all involved,” Mary noted. “Another nomination said she has been tireless in her pursuit to find the best VLE tools and plug-ins and this has generated positive feedback from students. Her positive can do attitude makes her someone you would like on your team and her enhancement of the VLE will have an impact on cohorts of students spanning far into the future. The winner is Larisa Grice.”

Charter Day Award winners pictured with Craig O'Callaghan and Mary Stiasny
"I'm really honoured and humbled that my colleagues voted for me, I'm so grateful to them."

The final award, Colleague of the Year, recognised an individual who has consistently, and to an exceptionally high level, reflected the University’s guiding principles through their work.

Mary noted the words of one nominator: “He has such an amazing influence on his team and anyone he meets. On a personal level, he has such a caring nature and would genuinely do anything for anybody. He is approachable, kind and fair and makes coming to work a joy. Professionally, he has built strong relationships with students and stakeholders, particularly the LSE.”

Quoting another nominator, Mary added: “His work is always at an exceptionally high level and he is a fantastic manager who will go over and above what is expected of him. He is liked by all that know him, with a natural ability to get the best out of his team. He is a great asset to the University. Our 2018 Colleague of the Year is Gustavo Olivo.” As Gustavo was on leave, staff were under strict instructions to keep the award a secret until his return.

The prize winners each received gift vouchers plus lunch with Mary and Craig.

This year also saw the presentation of the inaugural Gundi Nabi Memorial Award, established in honour of a long-standing and well-loved colleague who sadly passed away in December 2017. 

Tim Wade, Director of Student and Academic Services, announced this award, flanked by Inge, Gundi's daughter, and Anton, her grandson.

"It's an honour to be able to give this prize in Gundi's name,” Tim said. “This award will go to someone who is an unsung hero, someone who works away in the background, someone who will always do a little bit extra for their colleagues, as Gundi used to do. This year it goes to someone who Gundi had a particular soft spot for – the Gundi Nabi Memorial Prize for 2018 is awarded to Stuart Parish."

Commenting on their respective awards, Emma Voight (Academic Services Manager) said: "It's nice to think that you're highly thought of. Charter Day is my favourite day of the work year – everyone's dressed up, everyone's happy, the sun's out. So it's nice to win an award on my favourite day.”

"The recognition feels great,” Sasha Witterick (Cost and Revenue Accountant) said. “People do care and appreciate what you do. It makes me want to try harder, perform better and match expectations. It's not just a job, this feels like a family."

Charter Day 2018
"It's nice to win an award on my favourite day.”

Breda Buckley (Senior Information Officer) commented: "I'm really honoured and humbled that my colleagues voted for me, I'm so grateful to them. It shows the feeling that’s there between all members of staff, and that's why I love working for the University of London Worldwide."

Jo Harris (Associate Director, Student Experience) said: "It feels overwhelming, I'm really touched. It's validation – the Student Experience team formed at the end of 2015, so to be recognised for the projects we've done within those two years is genuinely amazing. Collectively, we all bring something to the table which is complementary to each other, and I think that's why we work well together. We really believe in what we're doing and it's so lovely to work with like-minded people."

"This isn't actually my award, it's an award for the whole team,” Larisa Grice (Learning Technologist) said. “I'm just a little cog in this big mechanism. I'm really glad that my colleagues put me forward as a representative for the whole team, but I can't take all of the credit and I'm glad to share it with my colleagues. From day one I've felt part of this team and that's something I cherish and value. We all complement one another."

The full list of winners:

Rising Star Award: Emma Voight (Academic Services Manager).
Sustained Excellence Award: Sasha Witterick (Cost and Revenue Accountant).
Lifetime Award: Breda Buckley (Senior Information Officer).
Engagement Award: Jo Harris (Associate Director, Student Experience).
Innovation Award: Larisa Grice (Learning Technologist).
Colleague of the Year: Gustavo Olivo (Head of Section: Student Assessment, Economics, Management, Finance and the Social Sciences).
Gundi Nabi Memorial Award: Stuart Parish (Examination Materials Supervisor).