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The Big Festival Weekend

The inaugural Big Festival Weekend was held in June and attracted more than 5,000 people onto campus. One of the largest-ever events to be held at the University, it boasted a packed programme of activities for children and adults, and incorporated the Plymouth Respect Festival.

It kicked off on the Saturday morning with a parade by local schoolchildren from the city centre with costumes and creations on a marine and maritime theme. 

Many of the events had a particular family focus, including a ‘curious campus tour’, craft activities, including a fish-decorating competition, jewellery design and Father’s Day card making. There were animals and insects from Dartmoor Zoo, the Tamar Valley Donkey Park and Jack’s Zoo, live music, and a range of stands and stalls.

Michelin-starred chef Peter Gorton provided a cookery demonstration as part of a showcase on world foods, and Benjamin Mee, Honorary Doctor at the University, and owner of Dartmoor Zoo, hosted a question and answer session following a screening of We Bought a Zoo, the Hollywood adaptation of his book. 

As well as the family events, the Big Festival Weekend included showcases of prominent partnerships and worldclass research, and there was an opportunity to visit laboratories, the Immersive Vision Theatre and the Marine Building to get a flavour of the University’s work. The Big Festival Weekend also incorporated the HOT ’15 exhibition.

Christian Burden, Head of the Development Office, said: 

“We had fantastic representation from all sections of the community, and anecdotally, the feedback we have had has been extremely positive. Certainly the vibe and atmosphere on campus was wonderful, and much of that is down to our people – our staff, students and alumni – who devoted their time over a weekend to really showcase the University.”

Question Time

The University hosted BBC’s Question Time programme in June, for a second time in four years. On this occasion The House was the venue, and it provided a great opportunity for students from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and the Faculty of Business to meet the crew and presenter Jonathan Dimbleby, to gain a behind-the-scenes perspective. 

They also met members of the panel, including Development Secretary Justine Greening MP; Labour leadership contender and Shadow International Development Secretary Mary Creagh MP; and Liberal Democrat leadership contender Norman Lamb MP.

Air-raid shelter visit

Around 90 local schoolchildren stepped back in time when they donned period costume and visited the World War II air-raid shelter beneath the Scott Building. 

The University’s Estates and Facilities Management team arranged for the party from St Stephen’s School in Saltash to have safe access to the site, for which the University acts as guardian.

A farewell to Ann and Faye

There was a special farewell this term for two of the most popular members of the Faculty of Health and Human Sciences – Dr Ann Humphreys and Faye Doris. Around 90 people attended the symposium ‘Transforming Nursing and Midwifery: From Preference to Prominence’, held to celebrate the influence and impact of their 20-year careers at the University.

Ann, Head of the School of Nursing and Midwifery, and Faye, Academic Lead for Midwifery, both joined the University in 1996, and they took to the stage to give farewell lectures that looked forward as much as reflected on the past.

Professor Patricia Livsey, Executive Dean of the faculty, chaired and opened the symposium, and there was a debate in which Tracey Proctor-Childs and Professor Jos Latour challenged the audience on future trends in healthcare and the impact on the University’s nursing and midwifery education.

There were sessions with Heather Parker, Chair of the Regional Heads of the Midwifery group; Professor Ruth Endacott, who spoke about the University’s new Clinical Schools; and Carmel Lloyd, Head of Education and Learning at the Royal College of Midwives. Members of Faye’s family also spoke via Skype from New York, and both Interim Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Coslett, and Chairman of the Board of Governors, James Brent, attended to pay tribute to their work.

“It’s impossible to overstate the impact and influence that Ann and Faye have had upon thousands of students and staff within the University and out in practice,” says Patricia. “The symposium provided us with an opportunity to recognise their great work in nursing and midwifery, and to thank them both for the incredible contribution they've made.”

Pedal power

It’s been a tour de force for a number of staff and students over the summer after successfully undertaking some impressive cycling challenges. Among them was Dan Hillier, Employment Relations Specialist, who cycled from John O’Groats to Land’s End to raise money for a cancer charity – and to undertake one last challenge before he turns 50!

Dan took 11 days to cycle the route, averaging 90 miles per day, and had to pedal through the pain barrier after developing knee problems within the first hour. But the support of family and friends, who joined him at various stages along the route (including one who cycled all the way from Cumbria to Bodmin), helped him to complete the journey.

“I met some incredible people along the way,” Dan said. “I came across Dave near Tain in the Highlands, walking from John O’Groats to Land’s End in aid of Cancer Research, Christine from Lockerbie who cooked me an impromptu meal at her B&B and her husband Ian who offered to drive me to Carlisle to ‘get ahead of the weather’, but we agreed it would be cheating!”

Marie Curie funding success for robotics

The Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems has secured around £1.5 million worth of new funding from the competitive European Marie Sklodowska Curie programme.

The funding for the Innovative Training Networks will bring seven new PhD fellows to Plymouth, to be complemented by additional locally funded students, across three projects. One project, APRIL, will create the first-ever industrial PhD network in personal robotics, establishing a partnership with European leaders Aldebaran Robotics and Sony Japan. The second, SECURE, will investigate safe human–robot interaction and includes colleagues in the School of Psychology. And the third, DCOMM, will study how people communicate with robots using gestures.

The bid was led by Angelo Cangelosi, Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Cognition. He said:

“This new funding will guarantee continuous external income for the CRNS for the coming five years, further strengthening the sustainability of the robotics research priority at the University. And it makes Plymouth a de facto EU Doctoral Training Centre in Robotics, and strengthens our interdisciplinary collaboration between the School of Computing, Electronics and Mathematics and the School of Psychology.”

Awards galore

A number of staff have been honoured for their work this term. Among them was Professor Camille Parmesan, Chair in Public Understanding of Marine Science and Human Health, who was awarded the 2015 Marsh Award for Climate Change Research by the British Ecological Society. The award recognised the work that Camille has done in areas such as species migration and ecological changes due to the changing climate.

Professor Iain Stewart, meanwhile, has received the President’s Medal from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. Joining previous recipients including Lord Coe, Richard Branson, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Iain was recognised for his services to communicating science and to public relations in his field.

The third award was presented to Rosie Brennan, Director of the Law Clinic and Lecturer in the Law School (pictured). Rosie was given the Sam Kallon Award for her commitment to refugee work, in particular her involvement with Plymouth Refugee Week. 

As part of her work with the Law Clinic, Rosie set up the Family Reunion for Refugees Unit in partnership with the British Red Cross, in September 2014. The unit provides advice and representation to refugees applying to reunite with their families from whom they have been forced to separate – among them many clients from countries such as Syria, Sudan and Eritrea.

Rosie said: “It was a very great honour to receive the award, presented as it was by Isatta Kallon, wife to the late Sam Kallon who founded Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support. But it was important to me that I dedicated it to the people who have helped me in my work, especially our Plymouth students who assist me in the clinic and who all say how much they learn from being involved. I am delighted that students are also able to volunteer with the British Red Cross Humanitarian team. We are setting up a new initiative with the BRC from September in which students will deliver international humanitarian law workshops to school pupils.”

South African government visit

Senior figures from the South African government visited the University as part of efforts to transform the country’s blue economy. Obed Mlaba, South African High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, led a visit exploring how the South West could potentially work with the country in areas such as aquaculture, shipping, offshore resources and marine renewable energy.

Mr Mlaba was joined by officials from the South African Department of Agriculture and Department of Transport, as well as by leaders from the fields of maritime and media, academia and commerce. They met academics from the Faculty of Business at Mast House, home to the University’s Graduate School of Management and the Futures Entrepreneurship Centre, and spoke to experts within the Marine Innovation Centre (MARIC).

Professor Nikolaos Tzokas, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business, said:

“The South West has a rich tradition of maritime discovery, and this visit provided us with an opportunity to explore potential collaborations and establish new relationships. It gave us the chance to showcase our capability in delivering a wide range of education and research activities that could be useful in South Africa in the coming years.
"It also demonstrated our desire to develop more mutually beneficial partnerships, both in maritime and across higher education, and our work to engage with the local business sector now and in the future.”