Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA) hosted the Activities Awards last Tuesday, celebrating the achievements of students in various university societies and groups in the past year.
Around 300 attendees in formal attire filled the ornate halls of the Assembly Rooms, gathering for an event that included a cocktail reception, presentation, and ceilidh.
The ceremony honoured a diverse cross section of student life, from volunteer groups to societies.
Winning the Star Volunteer awards were Lindsey Anderson from AH Volunteer, Laura Toffolo and Luke Olver from Enactus Edinburgh, Igor Orlov from Edinburgh University Young Scientific Researchers Association and Kirsty Watters from Project Mongolia.
Outstanding members of societies were also lauded. Editor in Chief of The Student Fiona Grew, Kerry Gilsenan, Editor in Chief of Retrospect, Ollie Burke of Edinburgh MathSoc, Hannah Bowry-Williams and Joanna Diggle of
Edinburgh Global Partnerships and Oisín Plumb of Edinburgh University FolkSoc all took home awards for Society Star.
FolkSoc also won an award for Best Group Event, for their Scottish Universities Folk Festival last autumn.
The results for best group were equally varied. The Harry Potter Society, Edinburgh University TV Society, Edinburgh University Amnesty, Dirty Weekenders Conservation Volunteers, Debates Union, and eXchange360 were all honoured, with the Overall Group of the Year award going to the Edinburgh University Young Scientific Researchers Association.
The A Cappella Society won the award for Best New Group, and Edinburgh University Footlights was declared Most Sociable Group.
In comments to The Student after the results, representatives from the winning societies said that a combination of work ethic and finding the right niche was key to their success.
“It’s just been enthusiasm,” Ted Simpson, president of the Edinburgh University Television Society, said.
“When we started in September it was just me and my flatmate and I ripping into it, and then just to have, you know, 50 people sign up and get really really involved, it just shows that obviously there was a gap in the market.”
Mohammad Ubaidullah Hassan Qureshi, president of the Young Scientific Researchers Association, agreed, saying that addressing existing student demand with a novel approach allowed his society to thrive.
Qureshi’s society is aimed at sciences students interested in expanding research beyond their coursework, allowing them to meet and collaborate with other researchers across disciplines.
“What we have seen was that this was a niche that had not been looked at by any of the other societies thus far,” Qureshi said. “The founders came up with the idea that if we had a society that combines all the disciplines and provides an interdisciplinary atmosphere for all the departments, all the students to provide research, that would be amazing, and that’s one of the reasons [we did well]”, he said.
The ceremony also saw the introduction of the first ever Outstanding Achievement Award, given to motor neuron disease activist Gordon Aikman. Aikman, a former EUSA sabbatical officer, was diagnosed with the disease at 29.
Faced with a debilitating and life-threatening condition, for which there is currently no cure, Aikman started an fundraising campaign to improve research. He has currently raised £463,000.
Addressing the awards ceremony through a video message, Aikman used his personal experience as inspiration for current students to battle through adversity. “Take nothing for granted and always fight for others,” he told the audience.
Aikman also credited his current effort to his time at university, telling the crowd: “I couldn’t have done it without my experience at EUSA.”
The ceremony was hailed by the current sabbatical team as a success. EUSA president Jonny Ross-Tatam predicted the event would help motivate students and promote society engagement.
“It’s always great to see students doing such inspiring things, in their groups, their societies and volunteering,” he told The Student. “I think people don’t do their work to get awards, but having something to recognise people at the end of the year is certainly going to make people work even harder to the end”, he told The Student.
Image credit: EUSA