We are delighted that Nicola Edwards, a Criminology and Sociology student has received the Neil and Gina Smith Student of the Year award. This award was established in 2006 and four of the winners have been students in Criminology or Sociology.
Nicola's achievements are described in more detail here and below:
"From an exceptionally strong pool of candidates, the awarding panel decided that Nicola Edwards should be the recipient of the 2014 Neil and Gina Smith Student of the Year Award.
"Nicola graduates from Keele in 2014 with a First Class Honours Degree in Criminology and Sociology. She has been accepted onto the Masters in Criminology and Criminal Justice at Keele.
Nicola was nominated for this award by the School of Criminology and Sociology. She is described by her Head of School, Professor Bill Dixon, as an “exceptionally able student” who has made a “unique contribution to Keele and the wider community”.
Having left education at 16 and worked in a succession of low paid jobs, Nicola made a decision to turn her life around. She came to Keele via an access course which she completed at the same time as carrying out voluntary work in her local area. Her referee from the Apex Charitable Trust in St Helen’s where she worked as a peer mentor says that she brought “fresh ideas” to the project and became a valued member of the team.
Whilst at Keele, in addition to attaining exceptionally high marks for her academic work and attaining three school prizes in her first two years as an undergraduate, Nicola has been instrumental in establishing both a Criminology and a Sociology Society and she is a prominent member of the Women’s Society, which was nominated for a Most Improved Society award in the Students’ Union awards this year. Nicola’s involvement in these societies has ensured that they have been active and have provided positive experiences for their members with an ethos based in community involvement, establishing foodbank collections and raising money for Women’s Aid. In addition, Nicola has been a course representative, providing representation and advocacy for her colleagues at university level in relation to their academic studies.
Nicola has shown an interest in social enterprise and applied, with other students, for funding for one of their ideas. They were ultimately unsuccessful, however she has recently been awarded, a Santander Student Fellowship of £5,000 to study street art in Chile later this summer.
The interview panel members were extremely impressed with the warmth and passion with which Nicola spoke about her journey into higher education, her academic subjects and about her enthusiasm for volunteering and her future plans either in academia or in community-based work, enthusing and facilitating others to reach their potential. Nicola’s achievements are even more impressive when taking into consideration that she has four children and came to Keele a single mother."
UPDATED - Nicola has kindly written this reflection on her achievements:
I just wanted to add a few things to the university statement to say that my achievements within and outside of Keele are testament to the support that the Sociology and Criminology lecturers and support staff offer. During the three years of my degree, life has been far from plain sailing. However, every problem has been overcome with their support; from claiming EC's, to helping me with exam or timetable problems. Each time they have come through for me, filling me with confidence and believing in me when I couldn’t believe in myself.
Studying at Keele gave me confidence to volunteer at Probation, teaching clients to read. Taking part in societies, such and the sociology & criminology societies, helped me make friends and actually address social inequality within the local area with food bank collections, plus much more. Being at Keele pushed me to be the best version of me that I can be, which has enabled me to achieve some awards along the way; including getting the chance to fly to Chile this summer and look at graffiti / street art, and an award for my criminology dissertation.
However, I am still completely overwhelmed to have been given this award! I am truly grateful to have been given this opportunity, and the award means that I will be able to return to Keele this September and complete an MA in Criminology & Criminal Justice, whilst working part time. I am really excited to be staying on at Keele and hope to go on to complete a phd someday!