And the winner is...
Posted on 23 Feb 2015
On Monday 23 February 2015, we welcomed 200 guests to the Terrace Pavilion in the House of Commons for our annual Student Volunteering Week Parliamentary Celebration. The highlight of the event was announcing the winner of this year's Student Volunteer of the Year Award.
Conor McGlacken, a student at the University of Bristol, was selected as this year's winner. The judges said that Conor stood out as a clear leader. "We were impressed by Conor’s commitment to go above and beyond to effect change and innovate within a national charity. From improving and expanding EWB-UK projects, supporting his fellow volunteers, and representing the student body at the highest level as a Trustee, Conor has not only demonstrated his passion for social and environmental issues, but also for providing meaningful volunteering opportunities to his peers and inspiring them to get involved. We can't wait to see what he does next."
Conor is the President of Engineers Without Borders Bristol, a student society that is part of the international charity Engineers Without Borders, working towards a world where everyone has access to the technology they need for a life free from poverty. He started in the EWB Outreach program, delivering workshops on engineering in development to school children. In his second year, he led volunteers to reach over 300 Bristol school pupils. As President, he leads a committee of nineteen students and oversees 150 weekly volunteers who take part in various projects. Through events like a weekend trip to the Eden Project and solar panel building workshops, Conor has engaged engineering students to be proactive, socially responsible global thinkers. Conor has overseen the growth of the society projects program, with Bristol this year undertaking six technical projects on developing country challenges, with the first international implementations planned for this summer. He also represents the student body nationally as a trustee of EWB-UK, and has asked difficult questions of EWB-UK, always seeking effectiveness and challenging assumptions.
His prize is £1000 to donate to a charity or project of his choice and he has chosen to donate it to Engineers Without Borders UK.
Click here to read Conor's story in his own words.
The award was presented by Julian Huppert MP, Sara Fernandez, Executive Director of Student Hubs, and Toni Pearce, NUS President. Toni highlighted what a difficult decision it had been for the judges, with triple the number of nominations compared to last year, submitted by friends, relatives, mentors and volunteer managers at over thirty different colleges, universities and charities.
This year's panel of judges selected an outstanding shortlist of five volunteers who demonstrated passion, motivation and commitment to volunteering, the ability to inspire their fellow students, and who had made a tangible impact on a project or cause. The five finalists were all in attendance at the Parliamentary Celebration. You can read about each one in more detail by clicking on their names: Simon Stringer from the University of Plymouth, Conor McGlacken from the University of Bristol, Gary Rutherford from Ulster University, Harriette Pearson from Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, and Henry Owen from the University of Oxford.
The event was, of course, just one of hundreds of events happening across the UK as part of Student Volunteering Week. The value and variety of student social action was highlighted by the event's host Julian Huppert MP who told attendees that over one hundred college and university volunteering centres had registered to host SVW this year, more than ever before.
Also present were several representatives from Barclays, who have sponsored Student Volunteering Week for the last three years. Sharon Gillam, Head of Early Careers and Careers at Barclays, shared an employer's perspective on the benefits of volunteering and why Barclays is proud to support Student Volunteering Week as well as other social action campaigns such as the #iwill campaign.
Raechel Mattey, Vice President Union Development at NUS, spoke about the importance of the student vote in this year's General Election and about how Student Volunteering Week is a fantastic opportunity to tackle negative perceptions of students celebrate student volunteering. "To celebrate its powerful history of community service – giving back in skills, time and energy – and to recognise its important role in catalysing social action – the space to understand that broken policy causes broken society, and can be changed through active citizenship."
Raechel was followed by Gill Glipson, Deputy Chief Executive at the Association of Colleges, who shared the findings of recent research into levels of social action at FE colleges. NUS and AoC found that 57% of students volunteer at FE colleges, and 77% of volunteers would do more if they had the opportunities.
Sara Fernandez, Executive Director at Student Hubs, said that Student Volunteering Week is the highlight in the Student Hubs calendar. She explained that levels of student social action have remained steady over the last hundred years, demonstrating the potential for young people to channel their time, energy and passion into the most pressing - and complex - social and environmental issues of the day. She also highlighted the need for a sustainable national infrastructure to support volunteering, a key recommendation in a policy report published in November 2014.
Georgina Brewis, John Adams Fellow at the UCL Institute of Education, shared highlights from her research for her recent book, A Social History of Student Volunteering: Britain and Beyond, 1880-1980. Looking back, she said that students have always had "special responsibilities to the communities in which they live and study, and that this can be demonstrated through expressions of active citizenship… a clear demonstration of the social value higher education has over and above its value to individual students or the economy."
Click here to see our Storify where we've collected all the Tweets during the event from attendees and speakers.