The Institute Director's Award

The Institute Director's award recognises a non-academic member of staff, or non-academic team, who has been instrumental in supporting the delivery of successful policy impact or public engagement work. These contributions can often be overlooked but they are vital to creating impactful projects and successful events. 

Watch this video to learn about our shortlisted nominees for the 2023/24 award!




Helen Frost - Faculty Head of Marketing and Communications, Faculty of Arts

Helen was noinated for her work supporting with the “Inside out: portraits of emotional resilience” project, which addresses healthcare inequalities in the city’s SE Asian community. It raises awareness of professional mental health servicesthrough the power of storytelling in art and narration. The project led to both a physical touring exhibition and a freely accessible online gallery. Helen brokered a university partnership with Nottingham Community Voluntary Service and ICCA (Indian Community Centre Association) to enable the project, as well as commisioning artists. The exhibition was first held at the ICCA Oct - Dec 2023 with an approximate footfall of 10,500. Follow-on activities included an event at the Being Human festival 2023, additional support materials for international students, and partnerships with Castle Meadow Campus, NHS NUH, Nottingham City Hospital and follow-on research projects by academics. 


Student Living Team and Political and Public Affairs teams

The Student Living and Political and Public Affairs teams have worked together over the past eighteen months to produce a sector-leading new Student Living Strategy which demonstrates an ongoing commitment to supporting public engagement in Nottingham. The teams worked collaboratively with internal partners as well as both Nottingham Trent University and Nottingham City Council to develop a new approach to engagement in the city.
The response has been globally recognised as strategic approach to housing and pioneering strategy. It is grounded in the idea that students and graduates are an asset to be encouraged rather than a problem to be managed. 



Helena French - Widening Participation and Outreach Officer, Faculty of Science 

Helena was nominated for her longstanding commitment and support for public engagement activities within the Faculty of Science, as well as other faculties. She plays a pivotal role in providing not only support, knowledge and experience, but also in identifying and sharing public engagement opportunities with colleagues and supporting them to develop their proposals. Helena has been instrumental in developing a number of networks, including the Faculty of Science Public Engagement Committee and the Practitioners of Outreach Group, both of which she chairs or co-chairs. She was described as ‘truly instrumental to the public engagement work of the entire faculty’ in her nomination. 






Dr Eleanor Forward, Researcher Training and Development Manager - Researcher Academy

She is nominated for spearheading researcher engagement with the public via Art, using the New Perspectives initiative as a vibrant, inventive and creatively connective mechanism for dialogue. Since launching in 2012, Eleanor has taken the initiative for the last ten years from strength to strength working with the gallery to develop this public engagement event into a successful annual addition to the gallery's exhibition; drawing the links between University, Research and the creative arts closer together in a public forum. Eleanor has expanded NP to attract researchers from across the University with a diverse range of disciplines, featuring talks from History to Health Sciences. More on her work below:



Vicky Brotherton, Head of Policy and Engagement - Rights Lab

She is nominated for leading the Rights Lab's extensive policy engagement, working closely with over 80 academics on eveloping policy relationships, identifying new policy impact pathways, and co-designing new policy-focused research projects. She regularly develops strategy for new impact approaches, identifies and establishes new external partnerships, and ensures that impact is at the forefront of project design rather than an afterthought. Her strategy has been vital to the Lab's professionalisation of impact work. One of her many innovations has been to produce short policy-focused briefings on new research articles, where she publishes a briefing in partnership with the research author and the n then embeds the findings through targeted outreach to particular and relevant policy stakeholders, with follow-ups at key intervals to establish usage and further engagement interest. Another recent innovation has been her work, alongside Lord Vernon Coaker, to establish and expand the Midlands ARC (Anti-Slavery Research Collaboration), as a regional network of the Midlands’ 19 universities focused on policy-engaged joint research. More on her work:

Anna Walas, Faculty Knowledge Exchange and Impact Officer - Faculty of Arts

She is nominated for her instrumental work on the the Faculty of Art’s flagship civic engagement initiative, the Nottingham: City of Caves project, and the accompanying Nottingham edition of the Being Human Festival (the most successful to date) as the Community Archaeology Liaison Officer (CLO). Walas’s work has been particularly important because Nottingham is at a pivotal moment for opportunities for KE, with the city-centre undergoing Europe’s largest regeneration project. Nottingham caves, a neglected heritage asset, are a strategic opportunity for the university. Her skillset was key to the successful delivery of the project’s community initiatives.




China's Research and Knowledge Exchange Admin team (NUBS) 

The NUBS China’s Research and Knowledge Exchange (RKE) admin team is a professional administration supporting team that helps the academic staff to build an enriching vibrant academic community through co-creation, co-production and co-development with stakeholders, and ensure the creation and exchange of knowledge that has a recognized impact within and beyond academic disciplines and deliver significate benefits to research partners, business clients and wider society. The team is nominated for its commitment to enhancing the contribution that UNNC makes to the local and global communities. The team has developed and established 4 provincial and municipal research platforms since 2016,  and supported the development of 37 training programmes with 1,699 participants from design, delivery, programme review, to continuous quality improvement. (Appendix 3) It organized various RKE activities per year to enhance the communication and cooperation among UNNC, high education institutes, industries and government. The team supports individual engagement through trainings and events; industries and government through coordinating research engagement; and linking stakeholders through facilitating knowledge exchange platforms.

Special recognitions: Dr Samantha Tang and Denise McLean

Dr Samantha Tang

Dr Samantha Tang is a Public Awareness Scientist at the Faculty of Science. She is nominated for various public engagement activities, challenges and outreach, towards promoting science through sparking creativity, innovation and aspiration in future generations. She is lead coordinator for the First Lego League Midlands Tournament, which brings together youth from the region to the University to compete in real world challenges and simulations (supported by Lego) based on Engineering and Science disciplines. She is also he co-chair of the Midlands Innovation TALENT Outreach and Public Engagement Knowledge Café, which brings technical colleagues together across the 8 midlands universities to share experiences, explore opportunities and promote cross-sector collaboration around public engagement and outreach. For many years, she has led the School of Chemistry's participation in Nottingham's Science in the Park at Wollaton Hall in Nottingham. Please follow this link to more of Sam's work.

Denise McLean

Denise McLean is a Senior Research Technician at the School of Life Sciences and the Nanoscale and Microscale Research Centre. She is nominated for her vadvocacy and policy activity around technical careers and her outreach efforts with Black communities. She is chair of the Changemaker Programme, which is a national initiative supported by the EPSRC-funded STEMM-Change Inclusion Matters project, and  funds placements for technical staff from minority groups to other research institutions. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, she  uses her links to community leaders to engage with the local Black community in support of a study of vaccine hesitancy, “Factors affecting vaccine uptake in the Black Community of Nottingham”, Similarly, she engages actively with the local Black community via a WhatsApp BME Health group, which includes health professionals, health advocates like Denise and the BME community and focuses on health issues that are prevalent or carry stigma amongst the BME community.  She is part of a Public Involvement Panel (PIP) informing the research of the “Coronavirus Discourses: linguistic evidence for effective public health messaging” project which aims to design public health messages with maximum health benefit. 




Deanne Hewson (Faculty of Engineering), for their dedication and commitment to increasing participation in policy and engagement work across the Faculty.


  • NUBS China Executive Education Team, for their work to provide a bridge between academic insight and business practice



Lou Rudkin (Institute of Mental Health), for their work with Nottingham Forest Community Trust encouraging football fans to talk more openly about their mental health. 


  • Joseph Best (School of Computer Sciences), for their work with Inspire Foundation Nottingham to bring STEM activities to 11-14 year olds

  • Denise McLean (School of Life Sciences), for their public engagement and policy impact activities with young people, women and the BAME and Caribbean Communities