Renowned speakers to join Class of 2020 in Virtual Celebrations

Top row L – R: The Right Honourable the Baroness Hale of Richmond, Vanessa Kisuule, Sir Paul Nurse. Bottom row L -R: Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Jenny Griffiths MBE, Dame Julia Slingo.

From final-year medics graduating early to work on the NHS frontline, to groups organising foodbank donations, throughout this year Bristol students have been stepping up to assist those impacted by the pandemic. Many of our final-year students have been taking part in such activities, all whilst working hard to complete their degrees.

For these students, their time at the University is almost at an end. So, to mark their incredible achievements and commemorate their final year, the University is hosting a series of virtual celebrations for the class of 2020. The events will be hosted online and will see Bristol students from all over the world signing in from home to watch with their friends and family.

In each event, the students will be joined by a renowned speaker with his or her own special link to the University. These star speakers, many of them alumni of the University themselves, will be on hand to share inspirational words of wisdom and congratulate the class of 2020.

The first event, which took place this morning, saw Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma address students from the Faculty of Health Sciences. A prominent anti-apartheid activist, Dr Dlamini-Zuma finished her medical degree in Bristol after being exiled from South Africa in 1976. She currently serves as the South African Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and is coordinating South Africa’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Then, on Monday 20 July, final-year Social Science and Law students will be addressed with a message from the Right Honourable the Baroness Hale of Richmond. Lady Hale was the first woman to ever serve as the President of the UK Supreme Court and was Chancellor of the University of Bristol from 2004-2016. During her time as Chancellor, Lady Hale presided over 67 degree ceremonies and once famously reassembled key ceremonial figures in order to hold an impromptu graduation for a student who had arrived late and missed the official event.

Bristol’s City Poet for 2018-2020, Vanessa Kisuule, will be speaking to Students in the Faculty of Arts on Friday 24 July. Vanessa graduated from the University with a BA in English in 2013 and has since won over 10 poetry slam titles, performed at an array of renowned poetry events and released two collections of poems. Her work was Highly Commended in The Forward Prize Anthology 2019.

On Tuesday 28 July, Life Sciences students will hear from Sir Paul Nurse, a Nobel Prize-winning geneticist. Sir Paul Nurse has held many revered positions and was the former President of the Royal Society. He is now the Chief Executive and Director of the Francis Crick Institute and Chancellor of the University, so is perfectly positioned to congratulate and celebrate its students.

Engineering students will be joined on Wednesday 29 July by Jenny Griffiths MBE, Founder and CEO of Snap Vision – a visual search engine which revolutionises the way that consumers can search for products. Jenny developed the technology for Snap Vision whilst studying for her MA in Computer Science at the University of Bristol. After graduating and establishing her company she went on to be named in Forbes’ Top 50 Women in Tech in 2019.

In the final virtual celebration, students will be joined by Dame Julia Slingo, former Chief Scientist of the Met Office and Chair of the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute for the Environment. Dame Julia has also served as a high-level scientific advisor to the European Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism and was the first female president of the Royal Meteorological Society. She will be addressing Science students on Thursday 30 July.

Speaking ahead of the virtual celebrations, Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol, said: “2020 is a year we’ll never forget for many reasons. Yet despite all that has happened, it is also a time for us to celebrate the hard work, dedication, and passion of our final-year students.

“We look forward to welcoming them all back in the very near future, so they can experience the extraordinary rite of passage that is the formal graduation ceremony. In the meantime, I am delighted to welcome a host of incredible alumni to celebrate our class of 2020 and their time in Bristol.”

As well as featuring a star speaker, each event will include an address from a member of the University’s senior management team, a final year student and performances by student societies. They will all be hosted by the Deans of the relevant University faculty.

The virtual celebrations will not replace traditional graduation ceremonies, which have been postponed for the time being, but are an additional way to come together and mark the achievements of the class of 2020. If you would like to follow these celebrations on social media, you can do so by searching for the #BristolClassof2020 hashtag.

Click here for more information on the events.

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