Graduates throwing their scrolls [Photo: UofG]

We’re celebrating our amazing alumni

You are all our world changers. Each year, more than 8,000 of you graduate from UofG and go on to blaze trails and make a difference all across the globe. With your time at UofG helping you to succeed, we know you’re doing incredible things and changing lives every day.

Since 2001, we’ve been recognising alumni achievements with our prestigious Young Alumnus of the Year Award, which changed its name in 2017 to the World Changing Alumni Award. Twenty years on, we’re looking back and celebrating all our past winners and their accomplishments.

Inspiring Glaswegian Selina Hales

In 2015, Selina (MA 2005) created the charity Refuweegee, which brings welcome packs of essential items to people who have arrived in Scotland after being forcibly displaced from their homes. Selina says that being our current holder of the award means “that I get an opportunity to raise awareness of something that more people need to know about, and hopefully force the change that is so necessary”. 

Innovator Eunice Ntobedzi

Eunice (MSc 2016) is director of the company EmPowered FinTech in her home country of Botswana, which aims to bring inexpensive solar power to more than 660 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. She is also working to close the gender gap in her field. Eunice won our award in 2019 and said she was “speechless” at receiving the accolade.

Human rights campaigner Amal Azzudin

Since the age of 15, Amal (BA 2011, MSc 2014) has been a passionate human rights activist, taking a stand with her schoolmates when their asylum-seeker friend and her family were detained by immigration authorities. After escaping war-torn Somalia as a child, Amal went on to obtain two degrees at the University, and now works for the Scottish Mental Health Foundation. She said that being named our World Changing Alumnus of 2018 “means the world to me”. 

Business partners Susanne Mitschke and Patrick Renner

"I've visited a lot of places in the world and the people in Glasgow are the friendliest and most special I've encountered. – Susanne Mitschke

Susanne and Patrick (both MSc 2015) jointly won their award in 2017 as the founders of MindMate, an app designed to optimise brain health in older people and help curtail the effects of cognitive decline. The pair have now formed Citruslabs, which aims to streamline patient recruitment and retention in clinical trials. “We’ve made a full pivot from an Alzheimer’s app to Citruslabs,” says Susanne, “a fully integrated clinical trial software that is streamlining the patient recruitment process – a $9 billion industry in the United States alone.” And their plans for this year? “2021 is all about growing the business,” says Patrick. "We want to establish Citruslabs in the cosmetics and supplement industry.” Susanne and Patrick have made the Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs list twice.

Social entrepreneur Matt Fountain

"My years at Glasgow were an incredibly rewarding time for me, among the best of my life. – Matt Fountain

His path to becoming founder of the innovative Freedom Bakery came to Matt (MA 2011) by way of an art history degree. The bakery prepares inmates of local prisons for the world of work by training them in the timeless art of breadmaking. “When I won the award in 2016 the bakery was only a year old. The business has grown over 12 times since then. We’ve had 36 prisoners work with us now, and we only know of two who have reoffended. A quarter of our staff are also from criminal backgrounds.” Matt’s business is going from strength to strength. “2021 will be particularly exciting for us. We’re moving to new premises three times the size of what we have at the moment and the idea is to slowly grow the business. It should take about three years, and then we’ll start looking at rolling it out across the country.”

Political prodigy Mhairi Black

Mhairi (MA 2015) became the youngest MP in almost two centuries when she won her seat of Paisley & Renfrewshire South at the general election in 2015. She campaigned while simultaneously working towards her First Class Honours degree in Politics & Public Policy and was elected MP with a final exam still to sit. Mhairi won our award later that same year – an achievement she described as “humbling”.

Foreign correspondent Martin Patience

"I loved the late nights working at the Glasgow University Guardian, and wandering along Kelvin Way – Glasgow is the most beautiful university campus I've seen. – Martin Patience

The BBC’s Middle East correspondent, Martin (MA 2002) is currently based in Beirut. He received his award in 2014 to recognise his achievements in journalism and broadcasting, which includes reporting from some of the world’s most conflict-ridden regions. Since then, he has moved countries twice. “I was in China when I won the award,” he says, “then I lived with my family in Lagos from 2015 to 2017. Then I moved to Beirut, where I’ve been for the last three years, covering the Middle East.” Top of his list for 2021 is to try and get back to Iran. “I was there about a year and a half ago,” he says, “and it was stunning – an extraordinary country. I’d also love to get to Syria.” Look out for our in-depth interview with Martin in our next issue of Avenue.

Conservationist Karina Atkinson

"We have hosted over 1,000 interns, teaching them biological techniques and trying to lead them towards conservation biology. – Karina Atkinson

Karina (BSc 2007) was our 2013 winner for her conservation work in Paraguay helping to preserve fragile habitats. Para La Tierra, the organisation she founded in the country in 2010, has gone from strength to strength, helping to support biodiversity, education and community engagement, with over 6,000 children taking part in environmental activities each week. Her scientists have discovered 50 new species in the country and the organisation has hosted over 400 volunteers on their projects to date. “I’ve got big plans for 2021,” she says. “One of my long-term dreams is to own land in Paraguay and declare a protected area that would be a model reserve.”

Olympian rower Katherine Grainger MBE CBE

Katherine (MPhil 2001) received our award in 2012, the same year she won gold at the London Olympics to cap her world-class achievements in rowing. She said at the time, “I kind of thought I’d won everything I could win, so to be awarded this on top makes the year even more special.” In June 2020, Katherine became the new Chancellor of the University.

Read Katherine's "Me" Avenue interview:  "Taking part in the Olympics is the pinnacle; the ultimate. You feel you're a tiny part of this unbelievable event going on around you."

Singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé MBE

For multimillion-selling R&B artist Emeli (BSc 2009), winning Young Alumnus of the Year in 2011 was followed by a clutch of four Brit awards and three MOBO awards. She has sold six million albums and performed at the Olympics and the White House. Emeli studied neuroscience at UofG, but chose to concentrate on pursuing a career in music. “I will never forget the time I spent at the University of Glasgow.” 

Read Emeli's "Me" Avenue interview:  "It was a really tough decision to give up medicine and become a singer. It was only because music had such a strong pull on me."

Pioneering cancer scientist Patrick Gunning 

Patrick (BSc 2001, PhD 2005) received his award in 2010 for his work creating more effective and less toxic treatments for cancer. He now works at the University of Toronto pioneering research to target cancer cells more precisely and founded the $22-milion oncology-focused startup Janpix in 2017.

International rugby ace Euan Murray

Vet Med graduate Euan (BVMS 2003) became a professional rugby union player and played in the Scottish national team until retiring from international rugby in 2015 when he was Scotland’s most-capped prop. He was named our Young Alumnus of the Year in 2009 and has most recently been playing rugby for French side Pau.

Record-breaking cyclist Mark Beaumont

Mark (MA 2006) has inspired the world with his exceptional cycling achievements, which included a record-breaking 18,000-mile journey around the world, as well as his fundraising efforts on the journey. Mark has since broken his own circumnavigation record and achieved the fastest solo ride of the length of Africa. On winning the award in 2008, he says he was “surprised and delighted.’’ 

Read Mark's "Me" Avenue interview:  "I was suffering from getting up at half past three, but being rewarded with these incredible moments like being full flight on the bike with a giraffe cantering alongside."

Eminent theatre director John Tiffany 

"The most incredible four years at the best university in the world. – John Tiffany

Our joint 2008 winner John (MA 1994) is known for his exceptional achievements in Scottish and international theatre and his wide repertoire of remarkable productions. He’s the award-winning director of Broadway and West End plays such as 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' and 'The Bacchae', and he presented the University’s inaugural Cameron Lecture, which celebrates Scotland’s great theatre traditions, in 2019. 

Award-winning law researcher Vanessa Munro

Now Professor of Law at the University of Warwick, Vanessa (LLB 1997, PhD 2001) won our award in 2007 for her outstanding academic achievements, contribution to public policy and her research in feminist legal theory. She was the recipient of a prestigious Philip Leverhulme Prize in 2010 and was one of the School of Law's 100 Voices for 100 Years to celebrate the School's centenary. 

Vet and businessman Richard Dixon 

Richard (BVMS 1993, PhD 2001) founded an out-of-hours emergency vet service, Vets Now, which grew to employ over 1,000 vets, nurses and support staff on 60+ sites and is the UK’s leading provider of pet emergency care, treating more out-of-hours emergency cases than any other veterinary group. Richard won our award in 2006.

Crime writer Christopher Brookmyre

Master of tartan noir Chris (MA 1989) won our award in 2005 for his success in literature and journalism. Chris has produced over 20 novels, some award-winning and some written together with his wife, using the collective pseudonym Ambrose Parry. The University has represented a looming presence in Chris’s life, with thinly disguised references to its setting and many of the experiences, incidents and characters he encountered as a student commonplace. We interviewed Chris for our Books of My Life feature in the Summer 2019 issue of Avenue.

Space scientist Colin McInnes 

Colin (BSc 1988, PhD 1992) is James Watt Chair, Professor of Engineering Science at UofG and part of the Space Glasgow research network. Our 2004 winner, he is a world-renowned researcher on solar-sailed spacecraft, a consultant to NASA and current chair of the UK Space Agency’s Space Technology Advisory Committee.

Intrepid yachtswoman Emma Richards

Emma (BSc 1996) won our award in 2003 for her “bravery and devotion” in the world of competitive yacht racing. She was the youngest person and the first woman to complete the round-the-world yacht race Around Alone, one of the most arduous tests of mental and physical stamina of any endurance sport. Emma began sailing aged 11 and continued her passion while studying at UofG.

Global executive Lorraine Clinton

Now CEO of Clinton Consultants, Lorraine (MA 1986) received our second 2001 award for her remarkable dedication and subsequent success in a career with both national and global responsibilities. She was named in the 2017 Northern Power Women list, the 2016 “100 Women to Watch” report and is a passionate advocate of gender diversity in the boardroom.

Top racehorse trainer Mark Johnston

Mark (BVMS 1983) won our inaugural award in 2001 for his contribution to the world of horseracing, both as a trainer and a vet. He has trained more than 100 British winners for 27 consecutive seasons, and in August 2018, Mark became the most successful racehorse trainer in British racing history when he saddled his 4,194th winner.

This article was first published January 2021.

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