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Student Leadership Award winners – GISU 2022-23 are here!

Marta Nowicka
September 21, 2023

Each year, students’ unions taking part in Green Impact Students’ Unions (GISU) have an opportunity to nominate their students and student groups for the Student Leadership Award from SOS-UK.

In 2022-23, we received 13 nominations showcasing some fantastic student action for sustainability. We have again awarded an individual and a group award.

Group Student Leadership Award winners are Shell Out Campaign from Exeter Students' Guild!

The campaign group convened in November 2022 in response to the announcement of a five year extension of the University’s partnership with Shell. Shell Out aims to highlight the climate crisis, greenwashing by Shell, and the impact that students can have on university decision making. Since its formation, Shell Out held three on campus protests in locations highly visible to both students and key University decision makers. As a result of the campaign, the Guild planned a People’s Assembly on Ethical Partnerships, focusing on establishing a student-led view on what an ethical partnership is and how this can be implemented by the University.

The campaign has featured a number of times in Exeter’s Student Newspaper (Exposé, for example here) and has been featured in an article on the Tab Exeter.

The other finalists in this category were:

  • Loughborough Students' Union Action Hall Representatives

The LSU Action Hall Representatives are vital to the work Action does within the local community, leading projects based around gardening, conservation or tea and technology with the elderly. They also run a Food Drive twice a year, collecting thousands of donations for local foodbanks. Addition project proposals from the reps have included tidying up a nature reserve at one of the halls of residences and supporting a local charity with their firework night event. One of the halls has established a new partnership with Morrisons, who they have been continually working with throughout the year, supporting them in raising money and receiving donations for Rainbows and local food banks. Help is also provided at a local allotment who donate some of the crops they grow to one of the community centres in Loughborough.

  • Enactus Bangor from Undeb Bangor

Enactus Bangor is part of Enactus UK, a global non-profit organization creating community projects to enable long-term and positive change. They have collaborated with external partners such as Andy's Man Club and Dementia UK to create sustainable and responsible social action projects that have a lasting impact on communities. They have worked closely with Wrexham University to form projects with their Youth and Community society. The group also runs a mental health education programme, Reach Out, which ensures that students have access to support when they need it the most. Their newest project, Read Cycle, aims to save books from being disposed of and make textbooks more accessible to students, reducing waste and promoting education.

Individual Student Leadership Award winner is Ainhoa Burgos Aguilera from Aberdeen University Students’ Association!

Ainoha was in her 4th year of Biology, and is now in position of the Vice President for Communities at AUSA. Her work for sustainability with the union has been really extensive. Ainhoa started a Fridays for Future group and built connections with other Aberdeen city-based activist groups such as Just Stop Oil, and was able to get an effective group up and running on campus again post-pandemic. She has been instrumental in engaging the student body in the union’s campaigns such as “Shift” and “Borderless”, speaking to students at stalls outside the library and helping organise and run engagement events such as the quiz night. Ainoha has driven forward action for a nature-positive campus, convincing the union and university estates to join the Hedgehog Friendly Campus programme, becoming a Hedgehog Ambassador herself as well. Finally, Ainoha brought sustainability principles into the Photography Society, successfully spreading the message outside of typical green audiences.

The other finalists in this category were:

  • Tushar Shivaji Melge from Liverpool Guild of Students

Tushar had been an overall sustainability champion at the Guild. In their roles of Green Schools Volunteer and Green Fingers Volunteer, they educated young students about the importance of sustainability and how to be environmentally responsible by providing them with the knowledge and skills they need to make sustainable choices. They also taught students about recycling, energy conservation, and sustainable agriculture, and generally inspired them to be responsible citizens. Through their involvement in the Climate Action Network, they promoted fossil-free careers with banners and spread awareness about the petroleum companies and banks which fund them. They also reviewed curriculum materials as a curriculum mapping volunteer, assessing how well they reflect the principles of sustainability via the UN SDGs. Finally, they also volunteered their time a gardening volunteer, advocating for environmentally friendly gardening practices and helping to create green spaces that benefit both students and the university.

  • Penny Tate from Bath Spa SU

Penny was the only committee member of Eco Society this year and has driven a lot of action for fighting the climate crisis at Bath Spa. Her petition against fossil fuel recruiters resulted in the careers team creating a brand new ethical careers policy, developed with input from students. Penny hosted a clothes swap alongside the Feminist Society, participated in litter picks in the local community, co-hosted the SU Sustainability Forum alongside the SU President, and held a quiz during Fairtrade Fortnight to increase student knowledge of the topic. Penny has also collaborated with students across various levels of study to establish a group called Student Signal which brings together professional services within the University and student societies to deliver peer-led workshops on topics ranging from coping with the cost of living, to careers and wellbeing. The group also enables student enterprise by hosting markets for student creators to sell their products.

  • Laura Yapp from Glasgow Caledonian University Students' Association

Laura has lead the Divest GCU campaign, spearheading it from inception to completion and winning complete divestment from fossil fuel companies. Through a Freedom of Information request, Laura found out GCU was investing in fossil fuels through a fund manager. This was allowed through an ethical policy loophole (that GCU would not "directly" invest into oil and gas companies). Laura lead the group in postering on campus about the issue, which made the university directly engage with the campaign on the same day. The loophole of indirect fossil fuel investments was closed, and full divestment achieved. This work has also got the Students' Association to redevelop their existing campaign toolkit to better support students, with Laura’s input.

If your institution is yet to divest, check out SOS-UK's Invest for Change campaign - we can help you get there!

Congratulations to the winners and all other finalists - the SOS-UK team had a really difficult time narrowing down the shortlist and selecting the winners! You should all be really proud of your achievements and the change you've made for sustainability.