Celebrate Our Staff – December 2023

Join us as we celebrate our colleagues’ achievements across the University from the past few weeks.

The seven individuals and groups of Celebrate Our Staff for December 2023: Yoselin Benitez-Alfonso, Long Service Awards, Kimberly Campanello, Madeleine Pownall, Tony Crowley, Gehan Selim, iSPARK team

Featured this month:

Poet marks 100 years since pivotal moments in Irish history 

Kimberly Campanello at Dublin Castle, and a photoshoot of Dimitra Xidous, Annemarie Ní Churreáin and Kimberly Campanello.

Left: Dimitra Xidous with Kimberly at Dublin Castle. Right: Dimitra Xidous, Annemarie Ní Churreáin and Kimberly Campanello.

Professor Kimberly Campanello has attended a celebratory reception in Dublin as part of her involvement in the Decade of Centenaries programme.

Kimberly, poet and professor in the School of English, attended the event at Dublin Castle at the invitation of Ireland’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar.

As part of the Decade of Centenaries (2012-2023) – which marks 100 years since several important events in Ireland’s history including the First World War, Easter Rising, War of Independence and Civil War – Kimberly won the inaugural Markievicz Award for Literature with two collaborators, Annemarie Ní Churreáin and Dimitra Xidous.

The three poets created (S)worn State(s), which considers the role of women in Ireland in the decade of the centenaries and beyond. The collection will appear in a letterpress edition with Dublin’s The Salvage Press in 2024. An extract with an introductory essay has already been published in The London Magazine’s sold-out August/September 2023 issue.

About the event, Kimberly said: “In light of recent events in Dublin, it was powerful to come together with institutions, local authorities and artists to celebrate this considered approach to commemorating the centenaries of events including the First World War, the Easter Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War.

“In Dublin Castle, the layered presence of statues, heraldry and artwork depicting recent figures and events alongside those from deeper in Ireland's past demonstrates the importance of the work we have done to poetically intervene in received narratives, particularly as related to women.”

In addition, Kimberly also writes creatively about chronic illness and disability and has been awarded a Developing Your Creative Practice Award by Arts Council England to continue in this vein. She has also discussed her writing on this topic on a podcast for the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and for Trinity College Dublin's Seminar Series in the Medical and Health Humanities.

From ‘ace’ to ‘Z-Cars’: reflections on Liverpool English named a book of the year

Professor Tony Crowley

Professor Tony Crowley’s book ‘Liverpool: a memoir of words’ has been chosen as a Times Literary Supplement book of the year for 2023.

In the book, Tony, from the School of English, combines the study of language in Liverpool with social history, the history of the English language and a personal memoir.

It also completes a trilogy that he has been working on for the past decade, which includes ‘Scouse: a social and cultural history’ in 2013 and ‘The Liverpool English Dictionary’ in 2017. 

Exploring the intricate links between language, memory, class and place, the book departs from the strictly academic nature of the previous two by weaving in Tony’s experience of growing up in Liverpool.

It was this personal connection which motivated him to write in the first place, to help him explore Liverpool English, language in contemporary Britain, and the ways in which they are studied.

Tony said: “Liverpool English is one of the most recognisable forms of the language, yet its history is often misunderstood and misrepresented. And so, ‘Liverpool: a memoir of words’ was intended to be an insider’s account of the deep relationship between a form of language, a specific place, and a social identity. 

“The aim was to show that the language of Liverpool is a complex, fascinating, and living vernacular form – clearly worthy of respect – but also to demonstrate the creative, humorous and frequently irreverent aspect of Liverpool’s language and culture.”

As for his favourite Liverpool English words, ‘footy’ comes near the top of the list. The term was invented in the city in the early 20th Century.

‘Liverpool: a memoir of words’ is available from Liverpool University Press.

Making an impact safeguarding cultural heritage

Professor Gehan Selim

Professor Gehan Selim has won the 2023 Routledge Area Studies Impact Award.

Gehan, Hoffman Wood Chair in Architecture in the School of Civil Engineering, won the award for her significant contribution to safeguarding cultural heritage in conflict regions of the Global South through digital technologies.

Working with partners in the UK, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon, Gehan’s work addressed a global challenge in a manner the judges praised as “original and innovative.”

The project looked at the impact of conflict on people’s heritage and focused on the role of young people in thinking about the future and rebuilding a collective identity. In addition, the toolkits and guidelines it developed have influenced policy at an international level.

Gehan said: “I am truly humbled to receive this award, as it is a most welcome recognition of our research efforts making a significant contribution to safeguarding cultural heritage in conflict regions of the Global South.

“I am grateful and wish to thank and acknowledge the dedication and full support of all my collaborating partners, without whom this work could not have been delivered without the strong partnerships we built over the years.”

The annual Routledge Area Studies Awards in Impact and Interdisciplinarity celebrate research that significantly contributes to understanding of different areas of the world and the lives lived by the people there. They also highlight original published research that showcases the unique strengths of Area Studies, its applicability in real-world contexts and its position linking multiple disciplines.

Award-winning book fulfils psychologist’s years-long ambition

Dr Madeleine Pownall

Dr Madeleine Pownall has won the British Psychological Society Book Award for her book ‘A Feminist Companion to Social Psychology’.

Madeleine, from the School of Psychology, authored the book with Professor Wendy Stainton-Rogers from the Open University.

The prestigious award recognises high standards of work in the field of psychology and covers a variety of forms of academic and popular works.

Writing the book was the culmination of an aspiration Madeleine had had since studying psychology as an undergraduate. Having learnt about feminist psychology only on the periphery of her degree, she had long hoped to connect it to core social psychology.

A feminist approach to social psychology looks at power dynamics – who has power and who is being heard, as well as those who aren’t. It is attentive to gendered issues but also, in Madeleine’s view, embraces subjectivity and researcher-bias present in the field.

Madeleine said: “It’s such a joy to win this award. I wrote the book over lockdown with weekly long Zoom calls with my co-author, Professor Wendy Stainton-Rogers. It was a real labour of love and effort and I’m so pleased that it seems to have struck a chord with readers too.

“I remember learning about feminist scholarship ‘on the side’ as a student and wishing that there was a way of connecting this to the core social psychology content I was learning. This book makes that happen.”

In addition to the book, much of Madeleine’s work and research incorporates feminist approaches and she also teaches Feminist Social Psychology on the BSc Psychology course.

Helping to alleviate global hunger

Dr Andy Challinor

Professor Andy Challinor

Work done by Leeds researchers on reducing hunger has been highlighted as part of a major global food security summit.

Professor Andy Challinor, from the School of Earth and Environment, and the team behind the iSPARK initiative, have received international attention for their work using satellite analysis to tackle the effects of climate change.

The team will now use the new and novel techniques they have developed to help farmers in Kenya respond to global warming and environmental degradation.

Currently, more than 45 million children under five suffer from acute malnutrition and climate change is likely to make the issues worse.

iSPARK is one of several new projects which form part of the government’s investment in UK science, technology and innovation to tackle global hunger. At the Global Food Security Summit in November, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that by harnessing “the full power of science and technology,” food supplies will be able to become more resilient.

Andy said: “We are coupling agricultural databases with Leeds’ expertise in Earth observation, monitoring what is happening on Earth from space.   

“We hope to develop new and novel techniques that will enable us to see how effective these different interventions at the farm scale may have been.”  

With the new monitoring techniques, the team are aiming to develop new metrics with which to judge how sustainable new agricultural interventions are and how resilient they are to changing environmental conditions, as well as making sure they do not exacerbate existing inequalities.

Read more about the iSPARK project and how it is aiming to tackle hunger in Kenya.

Biology trailblazer wins leadership award

Professor Yoselin Benitez-Alfonso on stage collecting her award

Professor Yoselin Benitez-Alfonso has been named as the winner of the Education and Academic Leader award at the Forward Ladies Award Summit.

Yoselin, from the School of Biology, collected the prize at the summit’s award ceremony, which honours the impact of female leadership, innovation and entrepreneurism in business and education.

Yoselin said: “I’m so proud to be recognised in this way. I’m incredibly passionate about education because it has an immense power to unlock opportunity, whatever your background. 

“I consider myself very lucky to support the next generation of scientists and leaders to reach their full potential. I’d like to thank all my mentors and colleagues throughout my career that have helped me in my own journey.”

Along with being a trailblazer in plant research, where she leads a lab looking at how plants communicate with each other, Yoselin also works to build an inclusive and supportive culture at the University.

Previously, she has supported the University’s participation in the Race Equality Charter (REC) and co-founded the Black in Plant Science network.

In November, she was announced as the second black female from Leeds to be promoted to the position of professor, after joining the ground-breaking 100 Black Women Professors NOW!

Honouring decades of dedication at the University

Recipients of the Long Service Awards posing for a joint photograph with Professor Hai-Sui Yu in University House

The service and dedication of colleagues who’ve worked at the University for 25 or 40 years was celebrated on 11 December with the Long Service Awards.

The awards recognise the achievement of technical and non-academic staff members up to grade 6 who have worked at the University for 25 or 40 years.

This year marked the 50th set of Long Service Awards. The 49th time the awards took place was in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Award recipients from 2021, 2022 and 2023 were invited to attend a celebratory festive lunch in University House on 11 December and received their awards during a graduation ceremony in the Great Hall later that afternoon.

Professor Hai-Sui Yu, Interim Vice-Chancellor and President, attended the celebratory lunch and presided over the awards.

He said: “The Long Service Awards are a wonderful opportunity for us to come together as a community and thank colleagues for their remarkable dedication, loyalty and hard work. 

“I am very proud to work alongside them and sincerely congratulate them on their invaluable contribution to the University of Leeds.”

See the full list of recipients, along with a selection of photos from the day.

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