Magnusson award allows students to change the world

Former Mastermind quiz show host and Glasgow Caledonian University chancellor, Magnus Magnusson. Picture: PA
Former Mastermind quiz show host and Glasgow Caledonian University chancellor, Magnus Magnusson. Picture: PA
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UNIQUE fund is a tribute to former chancellor, says Jillian Watt

Last summer, Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) student Roisin Donnelly had a life-changing experience. She was volunteering in Zambia, a country where an estimated 64 per cent of the population lives on less than £1 per day.

Based in the city of Livingstone, Roisin worked tirelessly to provide healthcare in clinics and community centres. She also visited people’s homes, where she witnessed unimaginable health and living conditions first hand and was overwhelmed by the poverty and lack of resources.

The summer in Zambia had a huge impact on Roisin’s life and she has since re-evaluated her career path. Her ultimate dream is to now work as a nutritionist in a developing country.

This experience wouldn’t have been possible for Roisin were it not for GCU’s Magnus Magnusson Fund, created in honour of our late Chancellor, television presenter, journalist, writer and historian, Magnus Magnusson KBE.

Through this fund we are able to offer our students financial awards, created to support and cultivate the ambitions and dreams of the talented young people of GCU who wish to share their talents in some way with others.

Support from individuals and companies who share the university’s continuing pledge to promote the Common Good has enabled us to make 53 awards of up to £5,000 each since the fund began in 2008. GCU’s development office, responsible for philanthropic donations to the university, has secured nearly £300,000 to make these awards possible.

We, as a university, are so proud of the achievements that have been made possible over the years through this incredible initiative. We will continue to grow the fund, enabling more talented students the opportunity to realise their dreams.

This year, eight students were presented with awards, selected by a panel of judges on the basis of the talent, enthusiasm and altruism demonstrated in their proposals, all of which are assets GCU is keen to encourage and support.

The projects will enable the recipients to develop personally or professionally, giving something back to communities around the world.

An example of the good work that will be undertaken this year is that of Andrew Wilson, a BSc (Hons) environmental management student.

While researching the use of solar power satellites as an energy source, he applied for a related internship at the United Nations in Geneva. His application was successful and he was awarded a six-month internship with their United Nations Environment Programme.

Then there is Fatma Said Ibrahim, a MSc social business and microfinance student.

She will travel to Egypt this summer to support the work of the Girls’ Revolution movement, organising sessions for women to share their problems. This experience will allow Fatma to gather research and identify the type of support required, so that she can build a social business to meet their needs and help change their lives.

Gregor Hirst, who is about to embark on an ambitious two-part project in South America, will spend the first part of the project in Ecuador working on the reforestation and protection of the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest. Then he will travel to Costa Rica to work on sea turtle conservation, the monitoring of native animals and introducing the concept of environmental conservation to local school children.

With her Magnusson Award, Rhiannon Walsh has the opportunity to make a film about volunteering at a wildlife orphanage in Zimbabwe. The project will allow her to share an insight into the world of the hundreds of volunteers who visit Zimbabwe to take part in projects such as the African Conservation Exchange.

GCU’s remembrance of its former Chancellor extends beyond the awards, however. The Magnus Magnusson Fellowship is a growing group of international figures, such as Dr Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, former president of Iceland, and Professor William Storrar, director of the Centre for Theological Enquiry at Princeton University. They come together to discuss issues of major concern to society and to deliver a Magnus Magnusson Lecture.

Dr Sally Magnusson, daughter of the late Chancellor, is honorary president of the Magnusson Fellowship. The inaugural Magnusson Lecture was held in December 2008 and was delivered by Nobel Peace Prize winner, Professor Muhammad Yunus, who is GCU’s current Chancellor.

• Jillian Watt is director of development and alumni relations, Glasgow Caledonian University