The Imperial College Union Student Academic Choice Awards (SACAs) award ceremony took place on Monday evening at the Union Concert Hall. Eight awards were featured that evening, with six shortlisted members of staff per award.
The SACAs, now in their third year, were set up to recognise staff for their contributions to education and the student experience at the College. The evening was presented by Pascal Loose, Deputy President (Education), who said: “The aim of the SACAs is for the students to say thank you to the academics and the staff, thank you for being such a great teacher, thank you for giving so much support and for inspiring those they teach every day.”
808 nominations were received from 568 students when nominations opened in November on the Union’s website, making that the highest number to date. The nominee shortlist was curated by a judging panel of various student representatives, before deciding on an eventual winner.
The award for Best Teaching for Undergraduates went to Dr Steven Cook from the Department of Life Sciences. He told Felix that he was “so grateful to all those students who nominated me for this award, and to all those colleagues and friends without whose support I couldn’t teach at all. I’m also very grateful that I was allowed off the stage before Ben the cameraman could capture my Paltrow-esque blubbing for posterity. Thank you!”
Best Teaching for Postgraduates was awarded to Dr Mick Jones from the Department of Medicine, who is also one of four College Tutors. “The award was a bit of a shock, but a very nice one. The Mol Med MSc is a fairly small course compared to some other Masters programmes in College and I really do feel honoured by the students’ support. I see every year how hard the students work on the course, their enthusiasm, their determination to succeed, and that makes me do the best I can for them. Also, there’s the fact that I haven’t really stopped being a ‘student’ myself!”
The award for Best Innovation went to Dr Elizabeth Hauke from the Centre of Co-curricular Studies, who teaches both Science Communication and Horizons courses. She said that she “was very moved to receive my nomination, and grateful to the students that took the time to nominate me. This award is very special as it recognises a course that was designed to be delivered in partnership with students, thus allowing them to make decisions about their learning. It has been amazing working on this course with the students this year, and I have learned a massive amount from them. Massive thanks to the Union for all their hard work organising and coordinating these awards – and for their extremely professional presentation of the awards at the ceremony.
Claudia Schulz from the Department of Computing took home the award for Best Graduate Teaching Assistant. “The only thing I could initially say when being presented with the award was ‘wow, I really didn’t expect this.’ It was an absolutely overwhelming moment and I am most grateful to the students who nominated me. I love teaching and genuinely care about my students; seeing that the thought and effort put into my teaching is appreciated by students is invaluable. All nominees for Best GTA were passionate about their teaching, and their students highly appreciated this - so really all of them are winners too!”
Best Tutoring went to Martin Holloway from the Department of Bioengineering, who was also a shortlisted nominee in the first SACAs (2013) for Best Support Staff. He described it as a particular honor to receive this award, “as it is based on student nominations. I find it genuinely rewarding to help students overcome anything that gets in the way of their studies, and my door is always open in the hope that a student will help me avoid having to do spreadsheets.” Aside from tutoring, students in the department who nominated him were also full of praise for his “quirky sense of humour that he brings to lectures, or his significant talent in the department as a drummer and goalkeeper.”
The award for Best Feedback was presented to Dr Paul Mitcheson from EEE, who was unable to attend the ceremony; Professor Peter Cheung, the Head of Department, collected it on his behalf. Students lauded his mentality on strict feedback cycles and the importance of continual feedback, praising his contributions as third year course organizer. Speaking to Felix, Dr Mitcheson said: “We restructured the third year of EEE to accommodate industrial placements and to introduce more practical engineering via all-coursework lab-based courses to further enable students to develop a passion for applying theory to real engineering problems. This method of teaching relies on high quality and timely feedback - and it is rewarding to see the students highlighting the work of myself and colleagues in achieving this goal.”
Anup Jethwa from the Department of Medicine, based at Northwick Park Hospital, received the Best Support Staff award. She describes herself as being “thrilled that I have been recognised by the students for this award”, and praised the event as being well organised.
Best Supervision was awarded to Dr John Pinney from Life Sciences, who told Felix how the long journey of a PhD can be tough going at times. “Winning Best Supervisor at the SACAs meant a great deal to me, as I do my best to encourage a positive working environment within the research group. I think it is important to be there to challenge when needed and to give individual support throughout the PhD programme, bearing in mind that every student will have different needs and expectations.”
Closing the event with a speech, Professor James Stirling, Provost of Imperial College London said: “This evening we have seen some wonderful examples of great practice. Our task now will be, with your help, to spread this great practice right across the College so that together we can create a community of people with the passion, ability and commitment to secure our position as one of the world’s great universities.”
“The SACAs are not only an important event in Imperial College Union’s annual calendar; they are an important event in the College’s calendar too... I would like to personally congratulate all the nominees for tonight’s awards and particularly, of course, the winners.”