16 December 2021

UEA Alumni in 2021

UEA Walking Path

A roundup of UEA Alumni activity in the past year.

In the UK, 2021 began in the midst of a lockdown. However, there were also green shoots of hope with the first doses of vaccines. In March, we reflected on a year since Lockdown in the form of a photo essay, Pictures from a Pandemic. The amazing gallery shows how the UEA community responded to COVID-19 and features some beautiful snaps of campus.

Talking of vaccines, it would be remiss of us not to mention that Professor Sarah Gilbert, project leader for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, received a Damehood, was given a standing ovation on Wimbledon Centre Court, and we announced her as one our 2022 Honorary graduates. And we’ve been thrilled to witness success in other areas too. Graduate business FXhome were featured in an Apple Keynote speech, while community activist and Karachi Global Gathering host Sikander Bizenjo was a 2020/21 StudyUK Alumni Award finalist. We look forward to seeing if any of our graduates are recognised in next year’s Award announcements.

It’s also been another strong year in literature. Monique Roffey won the Costa Book of the Year award, Mariama Ives-Moiba was chosen as one of the winners of the BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Competition & Showcase: Children, Family & YA Media, whilst Simone Chalkley was one of this year’s winners of the Snoo Wilson Scriptwriting Prize. The literature festival UEA Live returned in-person this year and featured grads Lemara Lindsay-Price and Jyothi Patel on the #Merky Books panel.

The alumni community continues to thrive, connect, and support UEA students alongside their fellow graduates. We’ve seen alumni across all four faculties offer their time and expertise in our mentoring programme. We’ve had contributions to many Careers events, including Working with Words. You’ve shared your memories and advice on our LinkedIn Group and other social channels. And, thanks to our amazing volunteer hosts, you’ve networked and enjoyed each other’s company at our Global Gathering events – held each year in September and October to celebrate the University’s birthday. Those of you closer to Norwich may have also enjoyed bringing your kids onto campus for our annual Christmas lectures for children, which can be watched back from anywhere in the world on our YouTube channel.

November saw Glasgow host COP 26 – the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties – and signified humanity’s last hope in fighting climate change. We were proud to see UEA well represented by our academics, presenting the latest findings and advocating for climate action. After the event, they shared their experiences of the conference with alumni at our Lasdun Lecture. Ed Goodall, a UEA graduate, was also there, representing Whale and Dolphin Conservation, and he explained to us how ocean action is climate action.

COP or no COP, Climate change and the environment remains an important area of UEA’s work in any year, and in 2021 that was once again reflected in the alumni community. We celebrated the initiative of Mahnoor Qadir who has set up her own Climate Change podcast (with one episode featuring fellow grad Sowmya Shah). We featured Lucy Jeffrey and her business, Barekind, which sells socks that help endangered species. Bibek Raj Shrestha told us about meeting Sir David Attenborough and empowering young people to protect ecosystems in Nepal. And then there was the radio drama Song of the Reed, written by UEA’s Steve Waters, starring two of our grads, and recorded at Strumpshaw Fen in Norfolk. The drama looked at how the arts could inform conservation efforts, and vice-versa. Alumni are also well represented among UEA’s Climate Stars – individuals stepping up to make a difference.

Finally, we were delighted to share other stories this year – of grads finding their feet in the world, starting businesses, and looking back on their time at UEA. Katie Sawyer wrote a four-part diary for us, chronicling her journey from leaving UEA to landing a finance job in London, with plenty of challenges along the way. Luke Browning told us about how time studying Biochemistry at UEA inspired him to set up his own brewery. Lizzy Talbot, intimacy coordinator, shared her experience on working on Netflix’s Bridgerton, while Sarah Longthorne told us why the video game industry should be on the radar of creative writing students. Paul Hayes, now at BBC Radio Norfolk, looked back on the old student TV station Nexus for a radio documentary.

And finally, Ben Cowell OBE, Director General of Historic Houses, looked back on his time studying History in Norwich in the 90s and how his mind has kept returning to UEA throughout his life. Whether you’ve recently graduated and live in Norwich or left many years ago and now live abroad, we hope that UEA continues to be in your thoughts, and still leaves an impression on you. Either way, we’re always here and we hope to hear from you.

Here’s to 2022.