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Student and Alumni Achievement Awards

Photo of the 2018/2019 award winners

The Open University Business School (OUBS) celebrates the exceptional achievements of its high calibre students and alumni annually. The awards are held to commend some of the highest achieving students from the past academic year, and alumni members who have made an outstanding contribution to an organisation or society.

The 2018/19 Student and Alumni Awards

The 2018/2019 Awards took place in July during a special ceremony held at The Open University campus in Milton Keynes. They were presented by Professor Devendra Kodwani, Executive Dean.

It’s a real privilege to meet so many of our talented Business students and to celebrate their achievements and successes. These winning students have all distinguished themselves as the highest achievers in their qualification and fields with a real determination to succeed. We are also immensely proud of the achievements of our alumni who have demonstrated significant contributions to society, community or business. In this, the OU’s 50th year, I wish all these deserved winners my warmest congratulations on their achievements and for continued success in the future.

Professor Devendra Kodwani

Student of the Year Awards 2018 winners

Image of Robert Crellin

MBA Student of the Year: Robert Crellin

Rob is Head of Operations for Rokos Capital, one of the world’s fastest-growing and dynamic Alternative Investment Fund Managers. Starting a career during the Global Financial Crisis, an event that will now probably be considered a major historic turning point, was an eye-opener! During this time, Rob became focused on controls around trading and the processes needed to support a successful trading desk. With increasing speciality in this space, and process improvement, Rob became one of Barclays’ youngest titles – a Vice President – in fewer than five years. After having a discussion with his mentor, Rob started an MBA with The Open University which opened his eyes to a variety of roles. Overall, the MBA and management experience has prepared himself for a future move.

Image of Gillian Byrne

MBA Dissertation of the Year: Gillian Byrne

Gillian started working in RTÉ, Ireland’s public service media organisation, more than 25 years ago as a Junior Administrator. She progressed through the administration scales to where she was promoted to her role as Broadcast Business Manager in 2011. Gillian always wanted to do an MBA and felt as if she lacked business knowledge and expertise such as senior management or making difficult decisions that would impact on the business. After completing the MBA, the world has opened up for Gillian as it has equipped her to progress to executive management not only in RTÉ but also externally, as the skills, knowledge and understanding she has gained are easily transferable to other industries.

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MSc Human Resource Management Student of the Year: Joanne Orr

Joanne completed her A-Levels and decided to enrol on the BA (Hons) Business Studies with The Open University. As well as studying, she also worked for a charity based in Northern Ireland. One of her tutors encouraged Joanne to consider continuing with her studies after she completed her undergraduate degree. Once Joanna had graduated, she enrolled on the MSc in Human Resource Management. Since completing her studies, Joanne continues to work for the same charity but also started to work with a HR consultancy business. This has given her the opportunity to further develop and put into practice the skills and knowledge she gained while completing her MSc and to work with various businesses in different sectors.

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MSc Human Resource Management Dissertation of the Year: Darren Gilmore

Darren was awarded his MSc Human Resource Management with distinction from The Open University in 2017; since then, he has gone on to study Organisation Development at Roffey Park. He currently heads up HR strategy at NATS, the UK’s leading provider of air traffic control services. Darren strives to combine the knowledge and experience of his learning and research with his business experiences and goals and uses this to develop the value that people bring to organisations. Originally from Belfast, where he graduated in Modern History and Politics at Queen’s University, Darren moved to Portsmouth in 1998 to join IBM as a graduate. He went on to work in business improvement roles at AT&T before joining his current organisation, NATS, in 2004, where he has worked in roles in resource management and strategic workforce planning prior to his current role. His interests include employee experience, and how to recognise and transform it to support future business needs; and employee voice, the topic of his 2017 MSc dissertation. He also enjoys supporting talent development programmes with coaching and assessment, especially early careers and emerging talent.

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MSc in Finance Student of the Year: Jennifer Rodgers

Jenny is a Fund Manager at M&G Investments, within the Macro and Multi Asset Investment Team. Jenny, who has a BA Honours in Economics from Exeter University, is also a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) charter holder.

Image of Jennifer Rodgers

MSc in Finance Dissertation of the Year: Thomas Holzer

Thomas started his professional life as a commercial pilot working for a regional air carrier. Years later, he graduated from the Austrian Wine Academy by completing the ‘Diploma in Wines and Spirits’ awarded by the London-based Wines and Spirits Education Trust (WSET). After some years working for a wine trading firm, he founded his own company specialising in rare and exclusive wines. Propelled by curiosity, Thomas began studying at the OU. During his dissertation, Thomas looked for empirical evidence of financial market irregularities using quantitative methods. From this, he developed an algorithm for an automated trading strategy; using historical market data, he simulated and optimised future profits potentially generated by the strategy.

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BA (Hons) in Business Management Student of the Year: Adam Morris-Cope

Adam joined the Royal Marines in 2012, spending time at Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines at HMNB Clyde in Scotland and working as part of an armed escort ensuring the security of the UK’s Nuclear Defence Capability during its transportation for service or repair to South East England. After this, Adam undertook technical training as a Royal Marines Telecommunications Technician enabling him to support the Corps through the maintenance and repair of its radio and radar equipment. It was this training that helped to reignite his passion for education and learning and allowed him to make the decision in 2015 to embark on an Open University degree, and subsequently seek a career change into accounting and finance. Adam spent his final three years in the Royal Marines studying a degree in Business Management. He completed this at full-time pace alongside his military career, before graduating in 2018 with First-Class Honours as well as now achieving this award.

Image of Stuart Sheldon

BA (Hons) in Leadership & Management Student of the Year: Stuart Sheldon

Stuart wanted to do a degree to prove people wrong having grown up on a council estate in South London and being told from an early age that he would never amount to anything. Having started work at 18, Stuart promised his parents, who divorced when he was seven and who had wanted him to go to university, that he would do so one day. As Stuart’s career developed over the years, he applied for an internal promotion to a Head of Operations role. He was not shortlisted because he did not hold the necessary qualifications so taking the plunge, Stuart signed up for his first OU module in 2013, aged 32.

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Professional Certificate in Accounting Student of the Year: Donna Young

Donna, after studying for a first degree in Fine Art, spent several years working in retail, business and management. With this experience, which provided good transferable skills, she was able to secure a position in an arts organisation and do some part-time postgraduate study. Donna’s career progressed through visitor services, venue and operational management responsibilities, and she found herself taking on increased financial responsibility. She realised that many arts professionals were not good with numbers, and, as she is, felt she really should have some sort of financial qualification. After looking into this, Donna enrolled with The Open University as doing the qualification here allowed her to keep her job. Since completing the Professional Certificate in Accounting, she has been able to take on a role at a small youth arts charity where she leads on finance, governance and administration.

Gerard Perryman

Professional Certificate in Management Student of the Year: Gerard Perryman

Gerard is a Technical Director who has worked in IT for 20 years, providing tech support for all kinds of customers including banks, mobile phone operators, insurance companies and retail. He enjoys fixing problems and helping people and presides over all the technical and operational aspects of Resolve. Gerard keeps an eye on service level agreements, customer happiness and project progress to ensure the company maintains a fantastic service record. Historically, his favourite piece of technology was his Compaq IPAQ hand-held computer. Before everyone else had smartphones and Sat Navs, Ged had mobile email, and, with the addition of a GPS sleeve, he finally stopped having to buy A- Z maps of every town he visited. It might be a bit old fashioned now but he felt ahead of the pack at the time!

Alumni of the Year Achievement Awards 2019

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Alumni of the Year Achievement Award Winner: Gerard McGurk

Gerard is a career Foreign Office diplomat with 30 years’ foreign policy and leadership experience. Based at the British Embassy in Madrid, he provides strategic direction for the delivery of high-quality consular services and real-time crisis responses across 37 diplomatic posts located in 17 countries from Portugal to Turkey. He was responsible for design and delivery of the overseas response to the Monarch Airlines collapse in 2017, returning 89,000 passengers from 34 locations. Alongside his regional Balkans specialisation, Gerard has acquired extensive experience in multilateral negotiations, policy design and delivery and crisis preparedness. Gerard graduated from The Open University with an MBA in 2012 and is a member of The Open University Business School’s Alumni Council. He is a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), an Ashridge Business School accredited Foreign Office Coach and an Institute of Leadership & Management/British School of Coaching certified career coach. He will be joining the Madrid-based GBSB Global Business School as an ad-hoc ‘Business Professor’ in September 2019.

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Alumni of the Year Achievement Award Highly Commended: Marianne Fennema

Marianne is a skilled international lawyer (qualified Solicitor) and MBA with significant experience in commercial and (non-) governmental settings. She has provided strategic and technical leadership to international organisations, institutions, NGOs, and Boards of Directors in the public and private sector on the implementation of rule of law, public sector reform, and donor-funded projects. Marianne started her career in private practice as a corporate/commercial lawyer. Through her engagement with media companies operating in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, she moved into her current area of expertise. Marianne has demonstrated her leadership skills by serving as a chairperson to several national utilities in Kosovo, as well as the Board of ILG, the international school in Pristina. From 2012-18, she was Chairperson of The Open University Business School Alumni Council. She is currently Chairperson of the Operational Board of the Foundation Care for Kosovo Kids and acts as a legal advisor to SNV Netherlands Development Organisation.

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Alumni of the Year Achievement Award Highly Commended: Gwyneth Letherbarrow

Gwyneth is a Personal Branding Strategist and Professional Development Coach, Author and Speaker. Born in England, she spent more than 20 years working for international organisations throughout Europe and the Balkans, being a part of, building and managing multicultural teams. After gaining her MBA with The Open University as a mature student and then qualifying as a coach, she established her own consultancy business based on her experience of complex workplace challenges and her understanding of the dynamics created by culturally diverse teams. Gwyneth now provides specialist consultancy services, online training, and workshops all over the world to help people working in an international environment rediscover their contribution and purpose, transform the way that they market and promote themselves to be able to develop professionally, as well as to build strong and successful working relationships.

Image of Dr Clyde Hutchinson

Alumni of the Year Achievement Award Highly Commended: Carlo Stasi

Carlo has a 20-year track record in the entire value chain of medium-sized to large projects that extend corporate brand and organisational vision. For IVECO (Fiat Group), Carlo founded a company ‘think-thank’ which led to restating corporate vision and cultural paradigm. The resulting communication strategy targeted 34 country markets through 240 yearly campaigns on a rolling deadline basis and 15 country-specific communication packages, which contributed to the corporate effort of increasing European market share by 11% and profitability by 80% in three years. In the public sector, he managed several web-based communication projects on behalf of the European Commission and reframed the objectives of the team in charge of document management and information exchange at Eurostat which resulted in a 20% performance improvement within six months. With the European Investment Bank since mid-2017, Carlo has initiated several projects for cross-department efficiency gains based on paperless record management processes.
Carlo, who is Italian and lives in Luxembourg, is a former American Football player in the Italian league, who also plays tennis and dances ballroom at competitor level with the Luxembourg Dance Sport Federation.

Image of Tillmann Henssler

2019 AACSB Influential Leader Award: Tillmann Henssler

Tillmann was one of only 33 business school graduates honoured by AACSB International (AACSB), the world’s largest business education alliance, as the 2019 Class of Influential Leaders. The annual challenge recognises notable alumni from AACSB-accredited schools whose inspiring work serves as a model for the next generation of business leaders. He is committed to raising awareness and helping to reduce unconscious bias towards people with disabilities. A sourcing manager for world-leading biopharmaceutical company Pfizer, Tillmann has held the honorary office of disability counsel for the past 16 years, successfully promoting change in the workplace to benefit people with disabilities. He has also received recognition from both Pfizer, with the Global Disability Leader Award in recognition of his engagement with the disability community; and The Open University’s student and alumni community in 2018 for his exceptional contribution and commitment to inclusivity within his organisation and society.