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2020 round up: Kingston alumni highlights from an extraordinary year

Posted Friday 11 December 2020

2020 round up: Kingston alumni highlights from an extraordinary year

In this unparalleled year, Covid-19 has affected how we all live our lives, but Kingston University's alumni, students and staff have continued to thrive, demonstrating resilience, innovation and community spirit. Here are some of the highlights from 2020.

This year kicked off with the opening of our multi-million pound flagship Town House featuring dance studios, a studio theatre, library, cafes, roof-top garden and more. In January, three Kingston alumni were recognised in the New Year's Honours list for exceptional contributions to industry and public service, including architecture alumna and co-founder of the award-winning dRMM studio Sadie Morgan.

We celebrated the achievements of over 3,000 new graduates at our winter graduation ceremonies. Civil engineering alumnus Dempsey Naidoo received an honorary doctorate in recognition of his outstanding contribution to black economic empowerment in South Africa and beyond. The Class of 2019 also raised almost £5,000 to support hardship grants for future Kingston students, as part of their graduating Class Gift.

In February, Kingston students showcased their innovative business ideas to a judging panel of Kingston alumni and friends in the Bright Ideas grand finale.

Photo Sri Lanka reunionOur Kingston is Global reunion in Sri Lanka, where over 150 alumni and friends met. Over 150 alumni and friends joined the Kingston is Global reunion in Sri Lanka, celebrating our partnerships with the Asian Aviation Centre, ESOFT, and Sri Lankan Airlines. We hosted an Upgrade Masterclass on ‘How to start and run a business' in central London with a lively panel of Kingston alumni entrepreneurs Paul Das, Janet Milner-Walker and Valérie Aelbrecht. Kingston alumni also joined our Crafternoon at the Stanley Picker Gallery on Knights Park campus.

March began with news that Kingston University had been shortlisted in two categories in the Guardian University Awards, which recognise achievements, innovation, great student experience and the social impact of universities. We hosted our Upgrade Masterclass on ‘How to reduce stress and anxiety' at Penrhyn Road campus.

However, as the month progressed the impact of Covid-19 began to affect Kingston students and campus life, leading to the launch of our emergency Hardship Fund Appeal.

In April and May, the focus was on Kingston alumni, staff and students adapting to Covid-19 on the frontline such as nursing alumna Neomi Bennett, pharmacy alumna Anna Vakili and fashion alumna Megan Greenfield, who returned from an internship at Chanel to help support the NHS.

Kingston and St George's staff played key roles in the national response, such as Dr Jackie McRae, leading the rehabilitation of patients recovering from coronavirus at London's Nightingale Hospital, and Dr Stephen McKeever, Johannes Mellinghoff and Siby Sikhamoni, delivering vital intensive care training to frontline NHS workers.

The Kingston community also found innovative ways to support work on the frontline. At the start of the crisis Kingston University donated PPE usually used in laboratories and workshops to local NHS services. Next, technicians at Knights Park and Roehampton Vale modified workshops to enable the production of 300 face shields a week, to be donated to local services. In addition to nursing students on placement on the frontline, other nursing students like Emily Brooks set up Crisis Kitchen, a scheme providing free meals for vulnerable people in the local area.

Beyond Barriers celebrated the culmination of another successful cycle in May for our student mentoring programme, which received record-breaking participation of 173 Kingston alumni volunteers.

In June, our emergency Student Hardship Appeal to support Kingston students affected by Covid-19 raised £140,000 thanks to the incredible support of Kingston alumni, staff, current students, friends and partners.

July marked the achievements of our Class of 2020 as they graduated into the Kingston University Alumni family, despite the extra challenges of Covid-19. Graduation ceremonies had to be postponed, but Kingston University's students and staff found ways to celebrate the spirit of graduation.

Virtual events were a feature of the summer. This year's Big Read – Airhead by Emily Maitlis – launched alongside a virtual Big Read Book Club to bring together Kingston students, alumni and staff and explore different themes in the book. MBA alumnus and CEO of Telstra, Andy Penn, joined Kingston Business School's virtual Professional Lecture Series to discuss the world of work during Covid-19 and debunk business myths.

There was good campus development news as the Town House building and Kingston School of Art campus regeneration were shortlisted in the RIBA London Regional Awards, and a multi-million pound refurbishment of our halls of residence at Seething Wells and Kingston Hill got underway.

In August, psychology alumna Nelly Attar and founder of Move Studio, Saudi Arabia's first dance studio, was shortlisted for the Entrepreneurial Award at the Study UK Alumni Awards 2020, which recognises alumni who make a positive contribution in their community, profession and country.

We welcomed Kingston students to our Covid-19 safe campus in September, and kicked off with good news that Kingston University is one of the top 40 institutions in the country and best for design in the Guardian University Guide 2021.

Photo Oyinkan BraithwaiteOyinkan Braithwaite won Crime and Thriller Book of the Year at the British Book Awards 2020

Kingston alumni celebrated prestigious industry accolades. Creative writing alumna Oyinkan Braithwaite scooped Crime and Thriller Book of the Year at the British Book Awards 2020 for her debut novel My Sister, the Serial Killer, and music alumnus Thomas E Brown, composer of The Nightcrawlers, which won Outstanding Short Documentary at the News and Documentary Emmys 2020.

We also hosted our first-ever virtual Upgrade Masterclass on ‘Squiggly Careers' with social work alumna Shanti Applegate, science alumnus Randle Cowcher, art and design alumna Lily Vetch sharing their experiences of following a non-linear career path.

In October, the Kingston community marked Black History Month with a series of blogs, videos and events, which included a guest lecture from law alumnus and eminent barrister Leslie Thomas QC on racism in the justice system.

Kingston University alumni recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours included design alumnus and world-renowned furniture designer Jasper Morrison, and hazards and disaster management alumna Lizzy Stileman who received an MBE for her work during the Covid-19 crisis.

In this month, Kingston University received a transformative gift of £1,030,600 from The Mohn Westlake Foundation to expand projects that support disadvantaged students at Kingston. The Mohn Westlake Foundation is law alumna Marit Mohn's family foundation and funds a range of activities enhancing young people's educational opportunities.

This November we hosted our first-ever virtual Kingston is Global event packed with 29 bite-size talks, workshops and reunions. Over 500 Kingston alumni, staff and students from over 50 countries registered for Kingston is Global 2020 to get together and learn new skills, network and celebrate being part of the Kingston community.

Photo John Lewis Christmas AdvertGraduates worked on the the John Lewis and Waitrose Christmas campaignOur Kingston School of Art graduates were in the headlines, with sustainable design alumna, Cibele Machado Fontoura, shortlisted for a prestigious Green Gown Award for a project showing how children can influence sustainable living.

And our iIllustration animation graduates Leksey Lee, Bella McEvoy, Amelia Fowler and Marta Pinto were recruited to create a new advert for the John Lewis and Waitrose Christmas campaign.

December marked the end of Kingston University's first virtual Inspire the Future campaign, with students having nearly 1,000 conversations with alumni across the globe. Our students loved hearing about what alumni are up to now, and thanks to the continued generosity of the Kingston alumni community the campaign raised almost £90,000 to help support our student programmes. Thank you.

Category: Alumni

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