Association of Open University Graduates

AOUG 2012 Award Winners celebrate their success

During 2012, six Faculties of The Open University were able to nominate outstanding research students to receive recognition of their achievements and their hard work. Then on October 5th, the first Friday as is customary, winners, family, friends, AOUG members, as well as University staff and dignitaries gathered in the Christodoulou Building to celebrate the Awards. Each Award is named after someone who has made a significant contribution to The Open University and either they, or their family has given permission themselves for the Award to be named after them.

The AOUG Chairman, Ramsey Hertzog, opened proceedings by welcoming the Award winners as well as the visitors, after which the Publicity Officer, as Master of Ceremonies, explained a little of the work of the AOUG Foundation for Education. She then invited the first of the supervisors, Annika Mombauer, to explain their student`s work. Mary Sparks` work had led to her being selected as the winner of the AOUG Chancellor Asa Briggs award. Asa Briggs, had been Chancellor of The Open University from 1978 until 1994, and was a most respected historian, whose works made a lasting impression on how historians view the 19th Century. He was created a life peer, whilst Chancellor, in 1976.

Mary’s  thesis on ‘Urban Sarajevo under Austro-Hungarian Administration, 1878-1918’ was described her supervisor as “drawing on large amounts of archival research, much of it conducted in Serbo-Croat, Bosnian, and German, - a complex and demanding subject which straddles urban history and architecture” Unfortunately Mary’s partner died last year so her PhD and her AOUG Award were both coloured with sadness.

As Ramsey Hertzog presented her with a certificate and a cheque, her mother and daughter, so proud of her, were visibly moved by the achievements of the middle generation of the family.

It was a shame all our winners could not be with us, but to some extent this was indicative of their energy and success. The winner of the AOUG Vice Chancellor Sir John Daniels Award for Education and Language Studies, George Damaskinidis was presenting a paper at a conference in Japan and so could not be with us, but he had sent us a huge and colourful poster for us to include in the display, which his supervisor, Professor Colin Gardner, said was typical of his character, larger than life.

George had been researching ‘Translation-oriented Image Analysis: A Multimodal Semiotics Approach to Translation Training and Practice’, filling a gap in translation scholarship, between the disciplines of translation and semiotics . By using a range of observational methods and technologies to gather and analyse data, he was building on the work of others but was moving knowledge further forward.

In amongst other points, his original mapping of how visual and verbal components of the source and target texts are related to each other and utilised by translators in their work. His enthusiasm for his subject meant he was shared his work with fellow students, and running an impromptu workshop session on the use of ELAN software for multimodal analysis, as well as giving presentations at conferences in such widely spread places as Manchester and Greece.

Professor Gardner also received the certificate and cheque from the Chairman.

Sir John Daniels, a renowned authority on distance learning, and for whom this Award was named, was Vice Chancellor of The Open University from 1990 until 2001, and was always supportive of AOUG. He has given two of AOUG`s Foundation Lectures to members and guests in past.years.

Baroness Lee of Asheridge is probably better known to most as Jennie Lee, Arts Minister in the Harold Wilson Government of 1964, during the time that The Open University was founded. The Faculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology is now housed in the modern building on the campus named after her, and so it is appropriate that the Award for this Faculty is also named after her.

This year’s winner, Penny Lynch, had chosen for her project "Mathematical modelling of the effects of health interventions on the evolution of life history in disease-causing organisms” , a truly inter-disciplinary topic with possibly huge implications in the field of the development of resistance in parasitic infections. Penny was introduce by her maths supervisor, Professor Uwe Grimm, but she also has a supervisor in the field of experimental biology, Professor Andrew Read, based for some time in Edinburgh, then in Berlin and now at Penn State University – so a lot of travelling has been involved for Penny.

It had been, and still is, hoped that we can name the AOUG Award for Health and Social Care after the late Vic Ficklestein. However at the time of the ceremony, we had not been able to trace members of his family for their permission, so Peter Scourfield received an as yet, un-named Award. Peter was unable to be with us, but his supervisor told us that his work combined high quality research with a commitment to improving people’s lives through the application of research to practice – a topic that I am sure is close to many people’s hearts in these days of cutbacks. She said that “He has written critically about the roles, the tensions, and the partnerships that are central to the lives of practitioners, service providers and adult service users.  His thesis had enabled him to focus in depth on one important area of practice and draw important conclusions as to implications for all of conflict between professionalism and managerialism.” His secondary supervisor, Professor Peace received his Award in his absence.

Sir John Horlock is an authority on turbomachinery and power plants, who founded, and was the first director of, the Whittle Laboratory at Cambridge. He was Vice Chancellor first at Salford University, then subsequently of The Open University, and was so thought a very suitable person to give his name to the AOUG  Award for Science. He would no doubt approve of the career of Liam Steele, who gave up his clerical job in the Civil Service to research his topic, `Understanding the role of Clouds in Martian Atmosphere.

His supervisor, Stephen Lewis, noted how he always overcame difficulties, and commented on his hard work and determination, his mature attitude, his good writing skills – all of which have made it possible for Liam to succeed despite not having a traditional background in science. In his own words, since finishing his PhD, now in a whirl of conferences, “…. my feet have not touched the ground,”

The AOUG Vice Chancellor Professor Gourley Award for the Business School is named after another staunch supporter of AOUG, Brenda Gourley was our last Vice Chancellor of The Open University prior to the current Vice Chancellor Martin Bean, and is particularly interested in the role of higher education in promoting social justice. It was largely due to her efforts that such a large selection of Open University educational resources are freely available on the internet.

Daniel Richards chose his friend Dominic Newbould to receive his Award for him as he could not attend in person. Again. his supervisors noted his diligence and commitment to developing himself as academic researcher during the time he has been writing his thesis on “The Disposition Effect, Dual Process Theory and Emotion Regulation”, examining the psychology behind investors’ decisions on buying and selling stocks and shares. His supervisors expect his work to have a significant impact when it is published.

A Buffet lunch had been prepared and delivered to the ante-room while the ceremony was taking place, and after photographs were taken, all enjoyed lunch and good company. It was especially gratifying to see the Award winners chatting away as though they had known each other for years, and also to see the interest shown in the displays of their work. As one AOUG member commented, “it doesn’t matter if we enjoy ourselves; the important thing is that we the winners have a good time” – but in fact it seemed that a good time was had by all.

Kate Macve

AOUG