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Alumni news

Leeds has 270,000 alumni around the world.

This is what some of you are up to.

  • Ray of hope

    Ray Pope, Creative Acquisition Manager at Universal Music

    Ray of hope

    Ray Pope (Popular and World Musics 2007) is Head of Creative Talent Acquisition at Universal Music UK and its subsidiaries. 

    As a member of the Creative Differences project for the creative industries, Ray explored the experiences of people with specific facets of neurodiversity such as autistic spectrum disorder, dyslexia and Tourette syndrome. They produced a guide that gives first-person insight into ways to increase recruitment and career development for people who think differently. Ray sits on the UK Music Diversity Taskforce, which works with the music business, government and other stakeholders to boost inclusion and diversity across the industry. She is a classically trained musician and lover of soul music, R&B and gospel.

    Find out more here.

  • Action man

    Matt Prior advises tech startups and leads expeditions.

    Action man

    He’s flown British fighter jets, looked for dinosaurs using Nasa technology, ascended various peaks across five continents and earned a world record by circumnavigating the globe in a London taxi. This year, Matt Prior (Aviation Technology with Pilot Studies 2006) is enjoying being a new father, advising tech startups, flying commercially and running expedition companies AdventureX and 101 Meridian. Matt lives in Hong Kong and is a former Director of the Hong Kong chapter of the Explorers Club.

    See Matt’s instagram here.

  • Best central banker

    Caroline Abel won a 2020 African Banker Award.

    Best central banker

    Caroline Abel (Economic Studies 1999) won an ‘Oscar of the African banking community’ for her work as Governor of the Central Bank of Seychelles. The African Banker Awards named her central bank governor of the year. Since 2012 Caroline has guided the Seychellois economy, which has tourism as 30 per cent of its gross domestic product. The committee praised Caroline for developing transparency and guidance to markets, supporting digitisation and collaborating across ministries to provide stability for her country’s economy. 

  • All dressed up, nowhere to go

    Olivia von Halle, the woman behind the fashion brand

    All dressed up, nowhere to go

    To those in the know, Olivia von Halle’s (Textile and Fashion Management 2007) take on luxury loungewear has made her the doyenne of decadent dressing. Her directional approach to down-dressing translates into luxurious silks, rich screen-printing and glamour. Olivia puts sustainable development at the heart of her business strategy and aims to positively impact both people and planet. Her brand is sold in such stores as Harrods, Browns Fashion and net-a-porter.com. Bella Hadid, Selena Gomez, Rihanna and Oprah Winfrey are among Olivia von Halle clientele. “I was a nightmare student and changed degrees every year until a kind Spanish professor pointed me towards the fashion department,” said Olivia. “I have a lot to thank him for!”

    Find out more here.

  • Rock of ages

    Junlong Shang researches fractures in rocks.

    Rock of ages

    The International Society for Rock Mechanics gave Dr Junlong Shang (PhD Earth and Environment 2016) the prestigious 2020 Rocha Medal for his PhD research, which has implications in the mining and nuclear waste industries. The society rewarded Junlong’s work looking at how, over millions of years, tiny fractures can develop into fully open fractures as rock weathers. He determined the tensile strength of the fractures at stages in the process. Junlong’s study will support geotechnical investigations for slope stability. He is now Lecturer in Engineering Geology and Geotechnics at the University of Glasgow.

  • Eclipsed by the son

    Spider-Man’s parents, Nikki and Dominic Holland, met at Leeds.

    Eclipsed by the son

    Like many couples who met at Leeds, Dominic and Nikki Holland (both Textile Management 1988) married and raised a family. Dominic became an award winning comedian and author while Nikki became a successful photographer. As Dominic describes in his book Eclipsed, their achievements suddenly paled when their eldest son, actor Tom Holland, became Spider-Man. Together the family runs a charity called The Brothers Trust. Dominic’s latest book, Takes on Life, was published in December.

    Find out more here.

  • Chillest graduate

    Sunday night radio DJ Sian Eleri

    Chillest graduate

    Early January brought the voice of Sian Eleri (Broadcast Journalism 2017) across UK airwaves when she took over the Chillest Show on BBC Radio 1. Sian previously presented on BBC Radio Cymru after honing her skills at Leeds Student Radio, where her soothing music selection was similar to what she now plays in her new Sunday night slot.

  • United fan

    Leeds United fan Rich Williams

    United fan

    Virgin radio presenter Rich Williams (Politics 2004) welled up that night in Leeds last July. He’d just watched his team reach the Premier League after waiting 16 long years. Rich, a presenter for Leeds United TV and former pitch announcer for the club, has subsequently spoken about Leeds United in the international press. He has hosted sports matches in stadiums across Europe for tournaments including the Rugby World Cup, the Cricket World Cup and the Champions League.

  • Busy year for insurer

    Top insurer Amanda Blanc has an MBA from Leeds

    Busy year for insurer

    2020 was a busy year for Amanda Blanc (MBA 1999). In July, she became Group CEO at Aviva, the international savings, retirement and insurance company. She also advised on trade negotiations as a member of the UK’s Financial Services Trade Advisory Group and led a government commissioned review into flood insurance in Doncaster following the flooding of November 2019. Through all this work, she’s maintained her ongoing role as Independent Chair of the Welsh Professional Rugby Board.

  • The ultimate influencer

    Angel Gurría, a leader in global economic development

    The ultimate influencer

    For 15 years, he has influenced global politicians and spoken out about the wellbeing of people worldwide. This summer, Angel Gurría (MA Development Economics 1974; Hon LLD 2010) will step down as Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The OECD brings governments together to address the world’s biggest problems and supplies them with economic expertise, data and analysis. While leading the OECD, Angel has supported a growing need for internationally comparable data on tax evasion, climate change and artificial intelligence.

  • Identity drama

    Poet and playwright Zodwa Nyoni

    Identity drama

    Growing up between Leeds and Zimbabwe, playwright and poet Zodwa Nyoni (MA Writing for Performance and Publication 2013) felt like an outsider in both cultures. 

    Now, Zodwa explores themes of identity, home and migration in her writing. Critics praised Zodwa’s monologue Nine Lives, recently performed at London’s Bridge Theatre, for bringing compassion and humour to a story about a man trying to build a new life in Leeds after escaping homophobia in Zimbabwe.

    Zodwa came to Leeds as a child when her father, Dr Abraham Nyoni (Textiles Science and Engineering 1995; PhD Design 2004), studied at the University. She has been Writer in Residence at the Leeds Playhouse and has written plays for the Young Vic, BBC Radio 3 and Hull City of Culture. She also dedicates time to helping new writers find their voice in the arts.

    Zodwa is currently commissioned by the Royal Exchange Theatre and Kiln Theatre and is developing films with BBC Films and the BFI.

    Find out more here.

  • Raising awareness

    Jonta Saragih at the UN headquarters after a dialogue with UN LGBTIQ core group country members

    Raising awareness

    Jonta Saragih (MA Global Development and Gender 2017) is gradually changing the narrative of LGBTIQ people in Indonesia. As Program Manager for Rights, Inclusion and Diversity at a human rights organisation, Jonta raises awareness of LGBTIQ issues with religious leaders and politicians. He has opened discussion about diversity with more than 500 religious leaders and 1,000 theological students. Jonta has been interviewed by a range of media outlets and has sensitised many Indonesian journalists to challenges faced by people in this community. His work also involves creating safe spaces for dialogue on gender and sexuality and strengthening the resilience of LGBTIQ people in Indonesia.

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Fighting the pandemic

A small sample of Leeds alumni who have been helping others during the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • The junior doctor

    Kim Daybell swapped the Paralympics for medicine.

    The junior doctor

    For many athletes, the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics meant putting their dreams of sporting success on hold. But for Dr Kim Daybell (Medicine 2018) it meant a return to helping those who needed him most. Kim, a junior doctor in North London, has treated Covid-19 patients through the pandemic. Kim, a two-time Paralympian, is a member of Team GB’s Paralympic table tennis squad.

  • The hospital leader

    Hospital CEO Dame Jackie Daniel

    The hospital leader

    As Chief Executive of Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Dame Jackie Daniel (MA Healthcare 1995) has led more than 14,000 staff and managed strategy during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Trust treated the UK’s first patients and has been at the forefront of the response to the crisis. 

  • The PPE supplier

    Ravi Toor helped to supply face shields.

    The PPE supplier

    Amid the global surge in demand for personal protective equipment, Ravi Toor (Environment & Business 2017) helped to supply frontline workers with protective face shields. His company, Filamentive, founded by Ravi while studying at Leeds, supplied essential filament to shield makers at cost. Thousands of face shields have been produced and donated to hospitals, GPs, pharmacies, paramedics and social care practices.

  • The fundraiser

    Run for Heroes founder Olivia Strong

    The fundraiser

    Since starting her Run for Heroes fundraising campaign in March 2020, Olivia Strong MBE (Politics and Sociology 2015) has helped to raise more than £7 million for NHS Charities Together, which supports the wellbeing of NHS staff fighting Covid-19. Olivia’s idea – run five kilometres, donate £5 and nominate five others to do the same – inspired over 1.5 million participants.

  • The paramedic

    Emily Morris on paramedic duty

    The paramedic

    In Greater Manchester, paramedic Emily Morris (Psychology 2015) has been treating patients during the crisis. “It has been an extremely challenging time to be part of a frontline service,” she said. “I love my job, and no matter what I face each day I feel proud to be able to help people in their hour of need.”

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  • Dr Mark Wigglesworth (PhD Biochemistry & Microbiology 2001) is Site Director at the Alderley Park Lighthouse Lab in Cheshire, which has processed more than 1 million Covid-19 test samples.

  • With the charity Sewa International in Houston, Texas, Dr Madan Luthra (PhD Biochemistry 1972) has been connecting plasma donors to Covid-19 patients, delivering groceries and medical supplies, aiding stranded international students, supporting grieving families and helping to arrange tests.

  • By charting and publishing the UK growth rate of Covid-19, daily social media posts by Peng Wu (Law 2020) went viral as he helped thousands understand the spread of the disease.

  • Dr Clive Dix (Pharmacology 1976, PhD 1982) was Deputy Chair and is now Interim Chair of the UK government’s Vaccine Taskforce, set up to drive forward the development and production of a Covid-19 vaccine as quickly as possible.

  • In Oregon, US, Amir Kanji (Economics and Accounting 1965) is CEO at Biomed Diagnostic where they have been producing the Virus Transport Mechanism – a device for transporting test specimens for analysis.

  • Chandra Datta (MSc Biosciences 2010), a quality assurance manager at the University of Oxford Jenner Institute, played a key role in manufacturing a vaccine.

  • Okediachi Idaboh (MA Public Health 2014) is an assistant infection prevention and control lead at the Federal Medical Centre Asaba, a treatment centre for Covid-19 in Delta State, Nigeria.

  • BBC Medical Editor Fergus Walsh (English 1983) has kept television viewers up to date about the pandemic.

  • Patrick Grant (Materials 1994) switched production at his Cookson and Clegg clothing factory to make scrubs for NHS staff.

  • Through the charity HandsOn Hong Kong, Tommy McColl (Civil Engineering 1995) makes home deliveries to isolated older people in Chai Wan.

  • Vicky Salomon (Arts Management 2006) has brought 73,000 parents together through the pandemic with her activity sharing platform Housebound with Kids.