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‘Humbling and Inspiring’ – Queen's Student of the Year 2020

For the first time in its 22-year history, the 2019-20 AIB NI Queen’s Student of the Year Award is to be presented to a group of over 700 students from a range of faculties, schools and departments across the University.

Lanyon Building at Queen's University Belfast

The Award goes to frontline final year and graduating students in the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences (MHLS) and in the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work (SSESW), in the Faculty of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences.

The students in these cohorts are acknowledged for selflessly stepping forward to aid the fight against COVID-19 in the community in various locations throughout Northern Ireland.

The annual Graduate and Student of the Year Awards, now in their 22nd year, are presented by the Queen’s Graduates’ Association (QGA) with generous support from AIB NI (formerly First Trust Bank) and are usually one of the highlights of Graduation Week in early July.

The Student of the Year Award recognises exceptional individuals for excellence, achievement or service either to the University or to the wider community.

Making this year’s announcement, QGA President Victoria Denoon said: “The award of the AIB Queen’s Student of the Year accolade to those final year students who joined the workforce early is reflective of the debt of gratitude we owe them during these unprecedented times.

“Their commitment to ensuring the health and wellbeing of their community, whilst putting themselves at increased risk, should be recognised.

“I welcome them to the alumni community, and I hope to have the chance to congratulate them in person at a future QGA event.”

At a special, virtual ‘Celebration and Dedication Ceremony’ at the end of April in which he congratulated medical and nursing graduands, the University’s President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Greer said: “In these unprecedented times, your achievements are even more remarkable given the exceptional circumstances you have faced.   

Referring to the challenges of COVID-19 Professor Greer added: “As a University, we’ve had to be extremely flexible and agile as we deal with the many issues arising from the challenging circumstances and no-one has been more flexible and agile than those who have completed their studies early, to join the NHS workforce.

“Your selflessness and willingness in joining the frontline has been both humbling and inspiring.”

Speaking about this year’s announcement Charlotte Maguire, University Road Branch Manager at AIB NI, said: “We are delighted once again to join with the University and the Queen’s Graduates’ Association in the presentation of this distinguished award.   

“We have been proudly supporting the Graduate and Student of the Year Awards since their inception back in 1999. Our endorsement recognises and celebrates the achievements of all those Queen's students who make such a huge contribution to life not just at the University, but throughout Northern Ireland and further afield.

“And none more so than this year’s recipients, who have stepped up to the plate early to be part of a heroic frontline effort to tackle COVID-19, offering their services to protect the most vulnerable in our society.

“This inspirational gesture by frontline students is something that they, their parents, families and friends – and indeed the entire community – can take great pride in and for which they will always be remembered.”

One of the nominations for this year’s frontline students reads:

Final year nursing and medical students have been asked to enter the world of work months earlier than originally planned to assist the healthcare system deal with the pressure that will invariably be placed on it. Not only are those students who have volunteered to graduate earlier and start work answering their professional call but their humanitarian effort is a selfless act placing themselves at risk.

I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this accolade.

A second nomination reads:

These students are making the decision to go into work within hospitals and communities to help provide safe and effective care to patients and to help healthcare staff during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This has been a worrying time for everyone involved but these students are putting their worries to one side to go out and help. Many are leaving their families, so they don’t risk contaminating them. I am so proud of these groups of students.

In addition to those from the MHLS Faculty, 103 final year Social Work students from the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work opted to fast-track their studies to support the delivery of social work and health and social care services. 

In joining the workforce early, they too played a vital role alongside their colleagues in medicine, nursing and health supporting, caring for and protecting those in most need during the most challenging period of the pandemic.

The Graduate of the Year will be announced later in the year.

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