Provost's Awards for Public Engagement

An urban food festival, a film competition about health, an exhibition about disposal of museums' collections and work engaging with the Deaf community about research into deafness are among the activities carried out by UCL staff and students recognised in the second annual Provost's Awards for Public Engagement in 2010.

Four prizes, awarded by UCL Provost Malcolm Grant in January 2011, showcased UCL's ever-broadening approach to working with citizens outside the institution.

In addition to the individual prizes, UCL's Department of Scandinavian Studies received a prize as the department that showed the greatest change in culture, with respect to public engagement, in the preceeding year. The department brought public engagement to the heart of its mission, building on its long tradition of engaging with communities.

Marina Chang, a PhD student in UCL's Development Planning Unit, won the award in the student category, largely for the Food Junctions project. Food Junctions brought over 150 UCL students and staff from 27 departments together to deliver a staggering 60 events to a local audience in the King’s Cross area.

Activities ranged from skip gardening to discussing the consumption of pets.

Marina’s award recognised her leadership of Food Junctions, her management of the many partnerships that continue to bear fruit, and the way she built upon the project to create further opportunities for interaction between UCL staff and students and local people outside the university. Marina led a hard-working and enthusiastic team with drive and commitment to deliver an impressive range of activities.

Winner in the support staff category was Subhadra Das, UCL's cultural property adviser. Subhadra worked to develop UCL’s policy regarding cultural property, but went far beyond the requirements of her role, working with colleagues in UCL’s Museums and Collections to create Disposal?

Disposal? was an exhibition here at UCL that handed to visitors the same dilemmas that face museums – when, why and how should objects be disposed of? Not just an exhibition, Disposal? enabled individuals outside the institution to influence a sensitive area of the university’s core work. Not only the driving force in creating Disposal?, Subhadra also spent weeks in the exhibition, listening to visitors and ensuring that by participating, their opinions will influence the way museums approach disposal at UCL and beyond.

It was for this, as well as other public work to bring the issues of cultural property to light (including performing a stand-up set on cultural property to an audience of hundreds at Bright Club: Hidden Treasures), that Subhadra was awarded her prize.

Robert Adam, a researcher in UCL's Deafness, Cognition and Learning Research Centre, won the prize for research staff.  Robert has long had a concern that researchers studying deaf people have not shared their research with the Deaf community. Building on continued campaigning and advocacy work both in London and overseas, Robert applied for a Beacon Bursary from UCL two years ago to explore ways to open up research at DCAL to the communities it works so closely with.

This prize was awarded in recognition of the way Robert has developed his public engagement work, building on early successes to roll out a national programme of engagement between deaf communities and researchers. The example he has set among colleagues at UCL is an inspiring one, enabling the Deaf community to have an impact on research while involving many others within DCAL and beyond.

The 2010/2011 winner in the academic staff category, Kath Woolf, is a lecturer in UCL's Division of Medical Education. Together with colleagues Luci Etheridge and Jayne Kavanagh, Kath led an exciting project, Reel Health Stories, which asked local people to share their experiences of healthcare through a short film entered into a competition. As well as a starry line-up of judges, the films are also being used in the education of medical students.

This prize recognised the innovative approach Kath took to engage with the public around her work, giving people in Archway and beyond an opportunity to influence medical education. Through Reel Health Stories, Kath and her team have contributed towards a change in perceptions of the university and healthcare education through listening rather than simply talking to groups outside the university, creating an ongoing two-way relationship.

The Public Engagement Awards are organised by the UCL Public Engagement Unit, one of the six UK Beacons for Public Engagement. The Beacons act to encourage public work among universities and create a culture in which universities share their research, teaching and learning with a wider public audience. The Beacons for Public Engagement are funded by the UK Funding Councils, Research Councils UK, and the Wellcome Trust.

Page last modified on 25 apr 13 17:54