Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Winners 2023

Sana Mittar (Economics)

Sana has demonstrated exceptional dedication to social impact, mental health awareness and furthering Warwick's internationalisation agenda.

Entrepreneurial Flair: Sana founded the Global Volunteers Action Network (GVAN) in 2021, an organisation dedicated to promoting the UN Sustainable Development Goals. With over 20 partner organisations across 15 states in India, GVAN has placed more than 1000 volunteers at different social impact projects. Sana successfully navigated the challenges posed by the Covid-19 crisis and launched a Covid Relief Response campaign.

Sana's work with GVAN has received international recognition, winning her the Diana Award, Talerangs 25 under 25 Young Leaders Award, and the "Making a Difference in the Community" award from the University of Warwick's Student Union. GVAN was also selected as part of the Queen's Commonwealth Trust Network of Social Impact Organisations. Sana's efforts have been acknowledged by BBC Coventry and Warwickshire and other national and international press.

Sana has made significant contributions to the University community. As a passionate advocate for mental health, she served as the Mental Health Representative at Warwick’s Student Union. Sana has also held various leadership roles within campus societies, including Talks Team Head at Warwick India Forum and Vice President at UN Women UK Warwick Society.

As the youngest intern at the Office of the Secretary General of the UN, Sana has shared her experience by speaking at the University's "Meet the Professionals" careers event series, providing advice to students interested in working within the development sector.

Sana has actively contributed to the University's internationalisation agenda by participating in high-profile events and conferences. She gave a TEDx Talk at the University of Warwick on inclusivity in society. She also represented Global Volunteers Action Network as one of the youngest UN Women UK Delegates at the COP26 - UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, discussing the intersectionality of Climate Justice and its impact on women.

In conclusion, Sana’s exceptional achievements, entrepreneurial flair, and significant contributions to the University community make her a deserving candidate for the Outstanding Student Contribution Award. Her commitment to social impact, mental health awareness, and internationalisation will leave a lasting impression on the University, and there is no doubt she will continue to create positive change in the future.

Joel Cooper (Economics)

Joel has made an outstanding contribution to Warwick's LGBTQ+ student community through his dedication to Warwick PLAN. Joining at it's inception as
Corporate Outreach Officer, he made a huge impact, securing funding to launch a comprehensive programme of events.

Then, as Conference Director, his vision created Warwick's first LGBTQ+ Careers Summit taking place in May 2022. Joel secured headline sponsor-partners in Accenture and National Student Pride, and as a result, the outstanding event was instrumental to PLAN winning the Bright Network Diversity and Inclusion Society of the year 2021.

In his final year, when Joel was elected President, he kickstarted his vision to grow a diverse membership by establishing a fee exemption policy, creating free membership for all, and recruited 7 freshers and 2 PG reps to raise PLANs profile with incoming students. He led a powerful campaign of Marketing and social events, achieving 40% growth to over 300 students. This raised PLAN’s profile with graduate employers with strongly aligned values, thus securing record sponsorship for the year ahead.

This year Joel led the 26-member executive to deliver a programme of 40+ innovative, engaging

workshop events that supported students to find work experience and graduate jobs with employers committed to EDI. Again, concluding with a spectacular Careers Summit, themes were Authenticity and Intersectionality in the workplace, and this year incorporated a careers fair. Thanks to Joel, Warwick PLAN also supported the Terrence Higgins Trust with a Drag Race fundraising event. This was a unique fundraising idea, with £1,513.77 raised overall. Joel did a brilliant job gathering support for the event, all the planning, logistics and getting students involved.

Furthermore, throughout this time at Warwick, Joel has forged a strong working relationship with the university, championing the issues that he is passionate about.

Reflecting on his achievement thus far, Joel has worked tirelessly, with passion and dedication, he has made a significant difference in the life of the University’s LGBTQ+ community. It is no surprise that PLAN, over the last year, have won:

- Bright Network Society of the Year 2022

- Bright Network Diversity and Inclusion Society of the Year 2022

- Also, Joel was a Top 10 Finalist for the Target Jobs LGBT+ Undergraduate of the Year 2022.

Over the last few years, PLAN has gone from strength to strength and developed into the incredible network it is today. Joel's role in achieving this is undeniable. He has cultivated a community of belonging and a force for change. Seeing Joel achieve his goals, and in turn, empower his team to achieve their own, has been inspirational.

Charis Regalado (Warwick Business School)

Charis is an exceptionally outstanding undergraduate student who has made significant contributions during her time at the University of Warwick Her involvement in various programs and initiatives has demonstrated her exceptional leadership, creativity, and dedication to making a positive impact on society.

At university, Charis has been involved with Warwick Volunteers for 2.5+ years as a project lead and project support officer, creating arts and crafts for refugees, asylum seekers, critically ill children, the elderly, and students. She has worked with several charities, such as St. Francis,

Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, LWS Night Shelter and PostPals. Her project "Crafting Happiness" was awarded the Most Outstanding Project in 2021-2022 for its impact on the University student body and wider charity partnerships.

Her passion for innovation and entrepreneurship is also evident in her work with startups, including Bedroom Essentials in partnership with Warwick Innovation

District, a platform helping to educate people on personal finance, and freelancing as a web developer and designer for EMEA small businesses around the globe, profiting around £300 per month. Furthermore, Charis's involvement in public policy for the Department of Transport with Kantar Public is also a clear indication of her passion for public service to positively impact communities.

Through the Microsoft business program, she has showcased her creativity by pitching her idea to Tesco and government initiatives. Her innovative idea focused on integrating a payment-card solution to address the Household Cost of Living Crisis and innovating retail through generative AI, demonstrating her entrepreneurial spirit. The idea managed to be listed in the semi-finalist top 10. She also participated in Microsoft West Midlands Hackathon to represent Warwick Business School, the only undergraduate in the cohort.

Charis's dedication to her studies, extracurricular activities, and community service is a testament to her exceptional leadership abilities and her commitment to making a positive impact in society.

Thalia Sheriff-Horner (Law)

Thalia has been an active contributor to the university and wider community since starting her degree in 2019.

Thalia completed a fantastic dissertation this year on awarding gaps between standard offer and contextual offer students at Warwick Law School. Through her research, Thalia has shed light on the disparities that exist in the awarding of degrees between students from different backgrounds. One of the most remarkable aspects of her work is the emphasis on empowering student voices. Thalia's research involved conducting interviews with contextual offer students, creating a platform for marginalised and overlooked students to contribute to important discussions about their education. Her dissertation has the potential to create real change within Warwick Law School and beyond. This dissertation is not only a testament to Thalia's academic abilities, but also to her passion for social mobility, and has the potential to make a lasting impact on higher education as a whole.

Thalia also co-authored a paper, with funding from the Social Mobility Research Hub, investigating whether the type of school a student attends impacts their experience at university.

Additionally, she co-founded the 93% Club Warwick, a student-led society designed to empower state-school students and foster a sense of community for students on campus. In creating a space for students to connect and share their experiences, the 93% Club Warwick has created a supportive environment where members can feel understood and valued.

Throughout, the Cost-of-Living Crisis, Thalia also set up a financial support package providing members with £25 gift cards for food shopping to help alleviate financial burdens. She has also made sure that members do not go hungry by providing free breakfast for members every fortnight, creating the opportunity for members to come together and bond over a cup of coffee.

Alongside her role as President of the 93% Club, Thalia established an outreach programme with local schools in the Coventry and Warwickshire area with ThinkHigher. Working with schools, Thalia and other members of the 93% Club Executive Committee produced a video series inspiring state educated students to apply to university by explaining the process and giving an insight into university life in talks at schools. This outreach programme received recognition at the regional and national level, winning an Impact on Community award in 2021, and Thalia was subsequently nominated and shortlisted for the Social Mobility Champion Award in 2022 for her outreach efforts in the local community.

Despite continually engaging in extra-curricular activities, Thalia continues to maintain an impressive academic record, and her efforts will certainly leave a lasting impact on Warwick's campus and the wider community.

Raina Bardhan (School of creative arts, performance, Film and television studies)

Raina has been an active part of the community, both inside and out of the university and despite battling chronic illness during her time at university and facing numerous setbacks as a result, she has always tried her best to give back to those around her. In her first year, she raised over £1000 for the Great Ormond Street Hospital through a charity hitchhike with friends. She also volunteered with the Activiteas scheme at a local old age home in Leamington Spa. Having been selected as Oxfam’s Global Ambassador for Education, she was delivering impassioned speeches in the Houses of Parliament on the importance of education for all aged merely 15, and her passion for the cause has grown from there.

At university, she has spent two summers in India, teaching underprivileged children in the slums of Delhi and Dharamshala, as well as helping rebuild their schools and refurbish their classrooms.

Every Christmas, Raina organises gift hampers and care packages for the homeless in Leamington Spa that she funds from her own pocket. Alongside her charity work she has been actively involved in student life at Warwick, and taken leadership roles in numerous societies, including Marketing Manager at Warwick Racing, Head of Operations at Warwick India Forum, Head of Events at Warwick Indian Society, Fresher’s Representative at Warwick Engineering Society, she has also been an active member of Warwick Photo Society and Warwick Film Production Society. Alongside this, she has been involved in several sports, including Warwick Canoe Polo, Warwick Motorsport, Warwick Badminton and the Warwick Women’s Cricket Club.

Exceptionally, she was elected to Chairperson of the SSLC as a first-year student. She was also featured in Barclays’ Future100 list of 100 Most Influential ‘Women to Watch’ in the UK, a platform for “the high-achieving, aspirational women at university set to break the glass-ceiling.” A proud advocate for inclusivity and woman empowerment both online and offline, she has been working on setting up her own charity to address gender inequality in accessing education.

Whilst at university, she interned with the illustrious Dharma Productions as an assistant director. She also taught herself photography and design, and eventually started her own business, a thriving content studio that has helped small businesses and homegrown labels build their brand.

Alongside balancing her final-year workload and her debut short film project as a director, she is working on growing her business, and has already begun landing leading international brands as clients.

Oliver Payton (Global Sustainable Development)

Oliver, known by friends as Ollie, Ollie is a final year Economics and GSD student, with a real passion for the planet. Climate activism, within and beyond academic studies, is a passion that he has exercised throughout his time at university.

In his first year, he joined Climate Reality Warwick, as marketing officer to then become president in his final year. In this time, he connected with Climate Reality US, UK and Europe, establishing the society an intercontinental reputation. He has organised multiple events with both the US and European teams, such as co-organising a COP27 Forum with the European team in London. As an event, it began with an intergenerational climate discussion, and then a panel discussing various climate topics, which he also panelled on, alongside famous climate activists, articulately presenting to an international audience both in the room and online. In the fallout of this event, he was welcomed to lead a project with U3A to produce a published "Intergenerational Dialogue Model", which has been launched to hundreds of organisations and used by groups of all ages nationwide. He has facilitated outreach with U3A groups across the country, and with other University sustainability teams and societies. He has also panelled on a sustainable development talk and has interviewed Zarah Sultana on similar topics.

Possibly his biggest tangible impact was through the Climate Reality Sustainable Sports Competition, encouraging sports teams at Warwick to get involved with sustainability on and off the pitch. He created and ran the competition for two years, ranking up hundreds of individual and group changes to diets and transport, securing over £1000 of charity funds to support the competition. He has created a new legacy at Warwick, and single-handedly empowered a sustainability based behavioural reform across the University.

Additionally, he was an active executive member of Warwick’s Vegan Society. He worked hard to rejuvenate a pandemic-stricken society, engaging with the community of vegans and non-vegans alike through his meritorious social skills. With Climate Reality, he spearheaded a meatless campaign for the Students Union. His efforts have changed the face of inclusive options at the University, supporting long lasting changes. As marketing officer, he engaged with organisations such as Veganuary, Forward Food and Meatless Monday, increasing exposure and reiterating the lengths he would go to for the benefits of others.

Ollie is one of the most respectable, humble individuals who does extraordinary things for those around him.

Yinka Aresa (English and Comparative Studies)

Yinka is due to graduate this year with an English and History BA. How he has managed to do the incredible work he has done for this degree alongside the simply extraordinary amount of work he has done for the department, we just don't know! Yinka arrived at Warwick having already set up a debating society focused on questions of race and civil rights, but with a difference: the group was fully committed to reciprocal debate based on different sides carefully and respectfully listening to each other.

He is truly passionate about equity in the world, but especially in education, as is apparent from his successful time as a WIHEA Fellow, during which he explored blended learning as means to creating common experience across schools from primary all the way to degree level. From his first year, he was part of our Decolonising the Curriculum group, and after that set up several events on decolonising both with undergraduates and with schools.

As President of Transformations, the department's project in which undergraduates teach creative writing in local Coventry schools to explore literature and literary culture, Yinka was always encouraging and thoughtful: during the prize giving this year, when local schools visit campus to present their work, Yinka was a consummate ambassador. He has helped tirelessly with recruitment events, open days, promoting the English and History degree (and therefore both departments), worked on advertising the importance of URSS, and at the same time, producing incredible scholarly work alongside other pursuits in photography and film. In a time where questions of race are often difficult to negotiate and discuss, Yinka has made it possible for all voices, students, and staff of all backgrounds, to come to the table and talk about these issues together.

His commitment to making the world a better place is apparent in everything he does.

Bethan Smith (Philosophy, Politics and Economics)

Bethan is deeply passionate about her work on disability activism. Having been diagnosed with autism at age 13, she has worked exceptionally hard alongside her studies to educate others on autism and other disabilities, and to advocate for equal treatment. The impact of her efforts has been felt both within the Warwick community and far beyond.

During her time studying abroad in Canada, Bethan won an award from the Alpha Phi International Fraternity and Sorority for her work in the role of Director of Health, Wellness and Accountability. She produced the group’s first Disability Policy and arranged three talks covering her experience with disability, allyship, and educational content.

At Warwick, Bethan has been involved in various Society roles with a focus on disability advocation. While Secretary for the PPE Society during the Covid pandemic, Bethan arranged a Mental Health and Disability workshop for students. This included a talk with an MP who spoke on his struggle with mental health and included an educational section on navigating the pandemic with a disability.

During her role as Disability Ally for the Warwick Lacrosse Club, Bethan worked with the Students Union to share her experiences as a disabled student taking part in Warwick Sport, so that present and future disabled students can feel more supported to take part.

In her Final Year, Bethan gave a TedXWarwick talk titled 'You Don't Seem Disabled?' focussing on her own experiences with a hidden disability, misconceptions surrounding autism and how to be a better ally.

Bethan has been growing her online and social media presence in order to reach as many people as possible and has set up a new TikTok account where she shares educational videos and aims to humanise the disability experience.

Bethan has written her Research in Applied Economics project on the gender disability pay gap, examining how current policy is not sufficient to correct existing inequality. Bethan presented her project at the recent British Conference of Undergraduate Research.

Finally, Bethan has also been an exceptional Student Ambassador for the PPE course. Her work has inspired both prospective students and her fellow students in their study of PPE. Assisting at Open Days, Bethan has promoted the programme to both international.

Kieran Barry (Philosophy, Politics and Economics)

Kieran has worked tirelessly to become a true champion of social mobility and an inspiration to those who have had to overcome barriers to achieve their dreams. In his role of Students Union Widening Participation Officer Kieran has:

- Advocated for a guarantor scheme for students who do not have access to guarantors for off-campus housing.

- Led the cost-of-living work alongside the full-time officers at the Students Union, creating the Union’s strategy and organising the cost of living survey before delivering this to committees within the university and Senate. University council has also recently endorsed Kieran’s recommendations.

- Kieran has also worked with Report and Support and Warwick values to incorporate class into trainings and to ensure socio-economic status is considered within both systems, and finally in this role, he has created a foodbank on campus, setting this up and organising volunteers throughout term 2.

Moving onto Kieran’s second role outside of his studies.

As the President of the 93% Club, Kieran:

- supported in organising the creation of a social mobility research magazine.

- Organised a networking event to connect members of the society with sponsors, collaborating with Warwick PLAN.

- Set up fortnightly free breakfasts for members of the society.

- Delivered outreach presentations in local schools and leading 93% Club workshops to support schools nationally.

Kieran's dedication to promoting social mobility and access is also evident through his contribution to the Social Mobility Hub. Last year he investigated how the type of school attended by a student impact how they navigate university life and recommended policies to ensure our university can help support these students. This year he has set out to conduct research on how employers can change their application processes to support applicants from socially mobile backgrounds through listening to student voices and insights from social mobility charities.

Kieran is a true role model and a prime example of how to be an effective leader and advocate for social justice. His dedication, empathy, and hard work have made a significant impact on our university.

Tasha Mhakayakora (Sociology)

Tasha has been nominated for this award due to her remarkable leadership, relentless advocacy, and transformative impact as a food poverty activist in her voluntary role, Tasha serves as a co-founding Youth Board chair and now trustee of Bite Back 2030, a non-profit organisation dedicated to combating childhood obesity and ensuring affordable and accessible healthy food for all young people.

Tasha has demonstrated exceptional activism, here are a few notable accomplishments that showcase her outstanding contributions:

Youth-led Movement: Tasha has played a pivotal role in establishing Bite Back 2030 as a powerful youth-led movement, where the voices of young people are amplified and youth-led solutions to address childhood obesity are prioritised. She has contributed to expanding the organisation from its National Youth Board to establishing Regional Youth Boards in major cities. Under her leadership, young people across the UK have been empowered to actively engage in shaping policies, challenging the food industry, and advocating for a fairer, more equitable, and healthier food system.

Policy Advocacy: Tasha has spearheaded campaigns calling on the former Prime Minister, to introduce new measures and improve the health and wellbeing of young people. The measure suggestions included a 9pm Watershed ban on junk food advertising on television, online restrictions on unhealthy food promotion in stores, and extended Free School Meals edibility to 800,000 children living in poverty. Her open letter urging the Government to secure a healthy future for the next generation was published in the Guardian, the corresponding campaign video was viewed more than fifty thousand times, shared with 10 Downing Street, and she was dubbed a mini-Marcus Rashford by the Mirror.

Partnership and Collaboration: Tasha’s dedication to food justice has led to her being invited as a keynote speaker to prestigious events such as the United Nations, World Obesity Federation, and European Public Health Alliance, where she has influenced global discussion on childhood obesity, healthier food systems, and youth empowerment. She has further engaged with prominent corporate stakeholders, advocating for responsible and sustainable practices within the food industry.

Leadership and Inspiration: Tasha's activism has garnered her recognition as one of the top ten Young Activists of the Year Award 2022 in the TARGET Jobs Undergraduate of the Year Awards, in partnership with Clifford Chance and One Young World. Additionally, she has been honoured as the Number 1 Future Leader 2021-2022 by Powerful Media Publication.

In conclusion, Tasha's dedication, leadership, and impactful contributions to the field of food activism make her an ideal candidate for this award. Her work embodies the values of sustainability and social justice, and her ability to mobilise communities and create positive change is truly remarkable.

2022 Winner awarded, July 2023
Ince Hide-Wright (Psychology), please refer to Winners 2022 (
To be awarded -
Khondker Shabaab (Engineering)
Ares Osborn (Physics)