Association of Open University Graduates

AOUG Rewards Success

The prestigious AOUG Faculty Awards took place on the 4th October 2013 in the Michael Young building, where we were able to make Awards to six Post Graduate Research students who have achieved a previous degree with The Open University, and who are now in their final year of their current research. Many members of the AOUG, students, and their families, joined in the ceremony and we were also pleased to welcome honoured guests from The Open University. This year being the 25th year of our Association, the event was particularly well attended and thoroughly enjoyed.

Each Award, attributed to the name of an individual who has made significant contributions to The Open University, has traditionally been offered within a particular Faculty but it has become evident this year that research students are undertaking more cross curricular studies and being supported by supervisors across the Faculties, and so AOUG needed to respond to this development by widening the options. 

Alison Davies was awarded the AOUG Vic Finkelstein Award for Health and Social Care and was nominated by Dr Martin Robb and Mary Horton Salway. Alison’s postgraduate research makes an original contribution to the understanding of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Order (ADHD) and the study analyses the way in which parents of children with ADHD talk about their experiences and how they interpret their children’s problems. Alison’s approach involves using interviews and focus groups to explore the meaning of ADHD for families, and the implications for mothers and fathers sense of themselves as parents. 

After graduating from The Open University, Alison has trained as a psychodynamic counsellor, and works therapeutically with adults. Alison’s interest developed from practice as a children’s counselor within a primary school and as an adult counsellor with mothers of children who were identified as being at risk. Many of these mothers had children who were diagnosed with ADHD, or who were seeking a diagnosis for their children and she found that there seemed to be an assumed understanding that the child’s behaviour was biologically or medically driven. Congratulations to Alison.

Amanda Potter was awarded the AOUG Chancellor Asa Briggs Award for the Arts and was introduced by Dr Paula James and Dr Gideon Nisbet. Amanda is researching into the viewer reception of classical myth in Xena Warrier Princess and Charmed. The thesis attempts to bring together classics and television studies, using quantitative data research techniques that are used widely in television studies. Focus groups and email interviews are used to understand how television viewers respond to classical material on television.  Amanda states that classics are omitted from most school curricula in the UK and that therefore the majority of the population is first exposed to the classics via popular media.  In obtaining responses directly from the viewers she was creating a picture of how they are engaging with the classics through television.

Amanda has been studying part time for her doctorate whilst working full time in a high-pressure job. Her record of publications and presentations are very impressive and her research has had a great impact across the academic discipline, and sparked debates about classical text and topic in a mass culture environment. Amanda stated that, It was hard work managing a very busy full time job and study but with some juggling you could do both.  Congratulations to Amanda.

Marcus Lohr, who was awarded the AOUG Vice-Chancellor Sir John Horlock Award for Science, is just starting his third year of a full-time PhD in the Department of Physical Sciences at Walton Hall. His subject area is stellar astronomy – the study of stars - and the title of his research is `SuperWASP Variable Stars`. SuperWASP is the acronym for the super wide angle search for planets, and this is a decade long astronomical survey project organised by a consortium of Universities, including the OU. There are two SuperWASP telescopes, one in the Canary Islands and one in South Africa, which between them can observe most of the sky. The telescopes take images of each star many times throughout the night allowing for the measurement of any changes of light they emit over time. Marcus is hunting for rare and informative objects, which can shed light on certain areas of astrophysics.

Marcus was presented by Dr Andrew Norton who stated that he had had high praise for Marcus from the beginning and that Marcus had rapidly got to grips with the background literature and produced an excellent review of the relevant field. Dr Norton said that Marcus was extremely computer literate and able to turn his hand to a variety of programming languages and that he already had two `first-author` papers in print. Congratulations to Marcus.

Anne Pike was awarded the AOUG Vice-Chancellor Sir John Daniel Award for Education and Language Studies. Ann’s thesis is an investigation in to the effects of higher and distance education in a prison context. This was based on her knowledge and enthusiasm for prisoner education, through a variety of roles within the prison education sector. Anne was an Information Technology teacher in a local prison and later became an OU Lecturer, and subsequently an OU Offender Learning Coordinator. The research focuses on the potential elements of transformative learning in prison, and aims to find out if the learning actually makes a difference to the student after release.  Does it lead to personal change?  How is that change perceived?  What role does prison based higher-level distance learning play in resettlement?

Anne was presented by Dr Anne Adams who states that from the outset Anne’s approach to the research has been meticulous, diligent and insightful. Having set up collaborative links with the Prison Education Trust, Anne developed a deep understanding of the real world problems that could be solved by her research.  Despite a multitude of barriers to advancing her research, Anne has developed a model that is not only nationally but also internationally important. Congratulations to Ann.

Paul Herring, nominated by all three of his supervisors, Dr Roger Jones, Dr Karen Kear and Dr Kieron Sheehy, was awarded the AOUG Vice-Chancellor Walter Perry Award for Social Sciences and the title of his thesis is `Design and Evaluation of a CAL system to support communication development in children with Autism.` Dr Roger Jones explained that Paul had taken the well-established Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), a physical card based system as a framework for design and testing of a computer facilitated system with human-computer interfaces that encourage participant interaction. The system includes a virtual tutor and a RFID (Radio frequency identification) tagging system incorporated in to physical symbols (Cards) that the system prompts children to select appropriately to the context of learning. The system has been tested at length in a classroom situation in a special provision school.

Paul started his research with the OU just over five years ago and has worked with dedication on his research project whilst successfully balancing a very demanding post in the Information Technology security industry with his considerable family responsibilities. Congratulations to Paul.  

The nomination from Mr Chris Dobbyn and Dr Neil Smith for Ian Kenny, resulted in him being awarded the AOUG Baroness Lee of Asheridge Award for Maths, Computing and Technology. Ian completed his BSc majoring in Computer Science with The Open University in 1995. This allowed him to study part time and enabled the running of his own business at the same time. In 2004 he was made redundant and then embarked on his PhD, unfortunately due to ill health it has taken 10 years to reach this stage. His research is in Applications of Swarm Computing. The basic premise is to model the collective behaviour of self organised natural phenomena such as swarms, flocks and shoals, in order to solve optimisation problems. This study develops new theoretical ideas and applying them. These practical applications include work with hydrologists at the University of Nottingham on flow rates in the River Severn catchment area, which it is believed may have significant value in flood prediction.  Ian is far from being a typical example of a distance student carrying out research ending in a PhD, He has laboured under very severe handicaps throughout his time at the OU.  His dedication and determination has been exemplary, and he is an inspiration to distance learning graduates everywhere.  Congratulations Ian.

Margaret Stobirski - Chairman