Alumni Achievement Awards

Our Alumni Achievement Awards are presented to former students who have achieved distinction in their profession. We love to hear about graduates who have provided exemplary service to the University or the wider community, as well as those who have achieved greatness in the arts, charities or business sectors. We also know that not all achievements are made at work. If you know of a Salford graduate who has overcome the odds in their personal life, or has made an humanitarian contribution, please let us know.

Each year we also present Rising Star Awards, to celebrate our upcoming alumni talent – those who have achieved amazing things in the short time since they graduated and whom we believe are on their way to reaching ever greater success.

The awards are open to all alumni from the University of Salford and all of our predecessor institutions. We particularly welcome female applicants and those from an ethnic minority, as in the past they have been under-represented.

The nominations for the Alumni Achievement Awards 2022 have now closed. We will be announcing the winners shortly.


Meet our previous winners


Our alumni community continues to represent the University of Salford in everything they do. Our annual Alumni Achievement Awards recognise a selection of these contributions and successes and are nominated by staff, students and alumni. We are delighted to share the extraordinary achievements of our very worthy award winners from 2021.

Dr. Claire Mercer

A photograph of Dr Claire Mercer - Alumni Achievement Award Winner 2021


Alumna Claire Mercer is Head of Radiography at Salford. In 2016, she was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Early Career Research Scholarship to extend her PHD work on research into practitioner variation in breast compression. The outputs of this work have led the University to produce the first and most detailed studies of positioning and breast compression in Europe.

‘Digital Mammography: A Holistic Approach’ edited by Claire was first published in 2015. It has provided important insights across the impact of variable breast compression on image quality, comfort and experience and has improved clinical practice through the implementation of new standards and education, positively impacting the lives of millions of individuals.

Claire Woodcraft

A photograph of Alumni Award Winner Claire Woodcraft


An internationally recognised leader in social investment, Clare Woodcraft credits her hugely successful career as starting at Salford.

Clare is now Executive Director at the Centre for Strategic Philanthropy at University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School. This prestigious appointment builds on her experience working with leading philanthropic organisations to achieve social impact, most recently as CEO of Emirates Foundation (the national foundation of the UAE). 

Here she worked at the highest level, advising the UAE government. Under her leadership the foundation worked to impact the lives of over 60,000 young people, leading to Clare’s inclusion as one of the top 20 influential British leaders in the UAE and the most influential British woman. 

Clare remains an enthusiastic ambassador for Salford, helping to grow our international reach and reputation and sharing her expertise with staff and mentoring to students. Most recently she has represented the alumni community on the committee to identify a new Chancellor for the University.

César Melo

An Image of Alumni Achievement Award Winner 2021 Cesar Melo


César Melo is an American senior executive who led some of the world’s best-known organisations, including Mondelēz International (owners of brands including Cadbury, Oreo, and Milka), PepsiCo and Colgate Palmolive. His impressive career is filled with the delivery of many “firsts” in business transformation and consumer product innovations.

In 2019, Melo became a full-time investor and board-advisor, including at global creative marketing platform, VidMob, where he is also President, International - demonstrating his ethos of active engagement with the organisations he invests in, together with his financial backing.

Born into modest beginnings in the Dominican Republic, César’s supportive parents encouraged him to work hard and he gained sponsorship to study in America, before coming to Salford under a prestigious Chevening Scholarship. He remains a passionate advocate of CSR and ethical business practices, including through the VidMob pro bono creative scheme, and providing free consultation to various social enterprises.

Ismail Amla

A photograph of Alumni Achievement Award Winner Ismail Amla


Chief Growth Officer at Capita, Ismail Amla is a senior executive with over 20 years international experience in high tech and technology-enabled business services, software, and consulting organisations. 

A transformational leader, Ismail creates value through the institutionalisation of innovation, business, and operational re-design. He authored “From Incremental to Exponential: How Large Companies Can See the Future and Rethink Innovation”, released in September 2020. 

Ismail also has several board memberships including the University of East London, Network Rail and UK Sport. He has recently accepted a voluntary Industry Fellow position with Salford Business School and regularly delivers guest lectures and masterclasses, as well as hosting students at Capita.


Our Rising Star Awards recognise the achievements of alumni who have already accomplished great things within the first ten years of graduating.

Melissa Ahmed

A photograph of Melissa Ahmed


Melissa is Managing Director of engineering consultancy Techwuman Ltd, alongside her mother and fellow Salford alumna, Melani Ahmed. A passionate role model for female engineers and young entrepreneurs, Melissa is committed to demonstrating that these are viable career choices for women and those from ethnic minorities in particular.

At the age of 26, Melissa has already achieved Chartered Engineer status. In addition to running a successful business, she is a SolidWorks professional member, SolidWorks Champion, a STEM ambassador and an active advocate for women in engineering.

Fern Wareham & Rachel Maffei

A photograph of Fern Wareham & Rachel Maffei sitting/kneeling down in a dance studio

BA DANCE, CLASS OF 2016 & 2017

Upon graduation, Rachel and Fern formed Coalesce Dance Theatre, achieving limited company status in 2018 and successfully gaining Arts Council funding to support four projects to date. 

Their mission is to connect people of all backgrounds with dance through exciting and powerful professional dance theatre productions, educational outreach and professional development opportunities. 

They have performed all over the UK and run a series of projects for the dance communities of Greater Manchester and across the North West. Their ethos places people at the heart of their practice, specifically supporting and making space for underrepresented female voices in their work, enabling their stories to be told through exciting and powerful dance theatre.


We are delighted to announce this year’s recipients of our annual Alumni Achievement Awards. As our alumni continue to fly the flag for Salford in your lives and careers, we are proud to take the opportunity to recognise the extraordinary achievements of this selection of graduates. These awards are particularly special as our winners were nominated by staff, students and fellow alumni. 

Daren Whitaker

A photograph of Daren Whitaker win a hi vis jacket and builder's helmet

BSc (Hons) Quantity Surveying, Building
Class of 1995

Daren is one of the most influential people in the North West construction and development industry.

His construction business, Renaker Build Limited, is helping change the face of both Salford and Manchester through the projects they are involved in. Under Daren’s leadership, recent projects have included the construction of the tallest buildings in both Salford and central Manchester. 

Daren is also the principle business sponsor of Z-arts, an arts venue and theatre for children and families in Hulme, Manchester. Renaker, together with The Foyle Foundation, made a generous investment for new seating in Z-arts theatre space. The new seating, which was due to be installed in March 2020, will increase the theatre capacity by 10% and be more accessible for all visitors.

Anthony & Sandra Lewis

A Photograph of Antony & Sandra Lewis posing at a gathering holding Champagne flutes and posing for the camera

BSc (Hons) Social Sciences & BSc (Hons) Science (Joint Honours)
Class of 1983 & 1984

Tony and Sandra Lewis met as students Salford. They went on to marry and in 1988 Sandra gave birth to their son, Conrad. On February 9th 2011, Private Conrad Lewis became the 353rd British soldier to be killed in Afghanistan war at just 22 years old. In 2014, Tony and Sandra decided to honour Conrad through helping others and the 353 Trust was established in his memory.

353 is a charitable trust with the aim of helping members of the military community by delivering long-term support to a variety of charities, soldiers and their families. They also guide and support mourning families who want to raise money for charities in the name of the person they have lost.
The trust’s ultimate mission is to become a recognised force for good worldwide through partnerships with other organisations and to achieve their objective of providing a career and income within 353 for those affected by military conflict. 
The 365 Trust gave more than £536,000 in grants to the end of 2018, supporting the welfare of Parachute Regiment veterans, animal rescue in Afghanistan and many other military related causes. 

Anthony is also Managing Director of Westway Nissan - the largest Nissan dealer group in the UK.

Bernard Wai-Khay Chan

A picture of Alumni Achievement Award winner Bernard Chan

BSc (Hons) Biological Science
Class of 2002

Bernard is an Investment Advisory Director at iFAST Financial Pte Ltd in his home country of Singapore. He is spearheading a revolutionary and socially conscious approach to financial investments, which puts the customer and their unique needs first. It aims to move investors away from sales based and high commission products, to authentic and low-cost advisory instruments that can be leveraged for public good. The trend is already supported by financial experts in the UK and Australia but has been largely overlooked in Singapore until this point. 

An active Singapore Navy Officer, Bernard is also a volunteer finance controller for a group of social enterprises, including IronSupperClub, a restaurant staffed by people with a variety of special needs.  The social group was recognised as the 2019 ‘Best Newcomer Award’ for the 5th Enabling Employers Awards (EEA) by SG Enable.

Elaine Billington MBE

A photograph of Alumni Achievement Award Winner Elaine Billington MBE

BSc Human Relations
Class of 1991

Elaine is a passionate advocate for improving opportunities for young people. She was awarded an MBE for services to apprenticeships and young people in the north west, in the 2020 New Year’s Honours List.

Elaine has worked in Human Resources for more than 25 years. She spent a significant proportion of her career at United Utilities where she eventually became HR Director of Operations. She recently started a new role as HR Director at Highways England. 

For eight years Elaine held the voluntary role of Chair of the North West AAN (Employer Apprentice Ambassador Network), a group whose aim is to encourage employers to engage in apprenticeships, which involved her leading the network as well as spending time in schools, colleges and with local employers explaining the value of apprenticeships. As chairman of the North West Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network she developed the network into one of the largest and most proactive in the country.

She is also a founder member of the Apprentice Diversity Champion Network (ADCN) - chaired by MP Helen Grant, the SDCN is a network used to encourage more people from under-represented groups, including those with disabilities, women and members of the black, Asian and ethnic minority communities, to consider apprenticeships.

Jok Elijah Manyok

A photograph of Elijah Manyok infront of a brick wall

MSc Project Management
Class of 2017

Elijah is a South Sudanese humanitarian and development practitioner. He is the founder and Executive Director of Smile Again Africa Development Organization - SAADO. SAADO is a national non-profit humanitarian and development organization dedicated to working with the youth and their communities to reach their full potential. Founded in 2011, SAADO works across all the states of South Sudan promoting social cohesion and empowering communities to tackle the causes of poverty and injustices. SAADO provide humanitarian assistance to families affected by disaster & conflict while partnering with communities for long – term solutions to alleviate poverty.

He was born and raised as an internally displaced person (IDP) and refugee during Sudan’s longest civil war (1983 – 2005) and was unable to return home to South Sudan until 2008 to start his new life. 

Through his leadership and innovation, SAADO is the leading national humanitarian and development organization in South Sudan, reaching over a million people a year with life-saving emergency response and resilience building for sustainable futures. SAADO won the 2017 South Sudan NGO Forum award for ‘Most Innovative State-Society Building Initiatives’.

Nadia Zafar

A Photograph of Alumni Achievement Award Winner Nadia Zafar

MA Human Rights and Ethics
Class of 2011

Nadia has over nine years’ experience working in the humanitarian aid and development sector across Pakistan. Her focus on advancing human welfare, delivering emergency relief and longer-term societal development programs, makes her a truly inspirational member of our alumni community.

With a passion to fight for the rights of individuals who would otherwise not have a voice, Nadia’s advocacy work has brought her to many organisations during her career. Currently she is Advocacy and Communications Officer at HelpAge International, working on campaigns designed to draw policy makers to the issues facing older people. She works with Universities, civil societies, researchers, media and federal & provincial government departments on legislation for protection of rights of older people. As a result of her advocacy efforts, the views of over 20,000 older people have been heard in government.

Nadia also champions gender specific programs and has visited female refugees to record and share their stories. She has taken regular field visits and contributed to the implementation and monitoring of Refugee Education projects. Through the Direct Aid Program she has facilitated youth work with refugees to increase their knowledge of essential skills, vocational skills, capacity building, awareness sessions and one to one counselling. The sessions focus on human rights, education and promoting advance health education and have benefited more than 1,000 young people. 


Our Rising Star Awards celebrate our upcoming alumni talent – those recent graduates who have already achieved amazing things and whom we believe are on their way to reaching ever greater success.

Maria Eftimova

A photograph of Maria Efimova in a graduation gown outside the Lowry Theatre

BEng (Hons) Civil Engineering 
Class of 2018

In the short time since her graduation, Maria has gone on to achieve great success in her field of civil engineering. In addition to her role as Civil Structural Engineer at Costain, Maria has received many accolades for her work in the sector.

In May 2019, Maria was selected to present her paper on ‘Soil Arching Theory and its Applications' at the finals of ICE’s (Institution of Civil Engineers) Annual Emerging Engineers North West competition. She won the North West round of Emerging Engineers Awards and her paper went forward to the international judging panel to be considered to compete for the prestigious Institution Medal. 

In February 2020, Maria participated in the ICE competition Pitch 200 for the North West, winning to become the ICE North West Regional Ambassador.

Maria is also a STEM ambassador, volunteering her time to encourage and inspire young people to consider science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects through a range of activities, including presentations, mentoring and careers talks.

As a University Liaison Officer, Maria has an important role in encouraging undergraduate students at Salford to become involved in the local activities of the ICE, as well as ensuring students make the most of their membership.

Emilie Lahouel

a Photograph of Emilie holding a book open in one hand, smiling

BA (Hons) Dance
Class of 2013

Upon graduating in 2013, Emmy founded Meraki Dance Theatre where she is Artistic Director. The company was created to promote cross artform collaboration through intriguing, meaningful and socially engaged performances, workshops and conversations. Regularly hosting Meraki Sessions across Greater Manchester, Emmy has nurtured an arts community that offers members the opportunity to network, socialise, experiment and jam.

Much of Emmy’s commissioned work has attracted support from Arts Council England and in 2019 she was awarded the female bursary at Physical Fest for ‘Kill a Witch or Die Trying’. In 2016 she was selected to take part in the PROJECT X residency at HOMEmcr and she is a co-founder of DRIFT – a collaborative project supported by The Lowry, formed to create a network showcasing artists who create work that combines art with music, technology and performance.

She has worked as an associate Artist for Manchester International Festival, collaborating with Theatre Rites and Z-Arts on a schools’ outreach project to encourage children from disadvantaged backgrounds to explore different themes through movement. As Engagement Manager & Lead Artist for Selina Thompson’s ‘Missy Elliot Project’, Emmy also worked with black teenage girls to encourage the next generation of BAME theatre makers and creators.

Emmy remains a great supporter of the University, visiting often to mentor current students and host workshops, as well as offering paid internships to students and recent graduates.  

Sade Dobbs

University of Salford logo

BA (Hons) Visual Arts
Class of 2018

Using the Salford graduate scholarship and mentoring programme as a springboard, Sade has developed a multimedia art practice exploring a contemporary and autobiographical understanding of gender and identity. 

In 2018 Sade was commissioned by the Tate Collective to produce a piece of work. The film ‘Posturin’ was then promoted on their social media for Black History Month. This was followed by Sade’s inclusion in the BBZBLKBK alternative graduate show at the Copeland Gallery in London the same year. 

Since then Sade has spoken publicly about their practice and also had their first solo show, ‘NOW WHAT’ at DKUK, London. They have also been reported in several publications including,, and as part of the Class of 2018 feature in the Double Negative.

Sade currently has a solo exhibition at the Outpost Gallery in Norwich and is being mentored by Turner prize winning artist Lubaina Himid. They continue to practice alongside a full-time job at the University of Salford and have an upcoming show alongside the well-known British artist Sarah Hardacre at Paper Gallery. 

Dr Mingxu Sun

a photograph of Dr Mingxu Sun

MSc Manufacturing Systems & PhD Management/Computer Sciences
Class of 2010 & 2014

Dr Mingxu Sun completed his postdoctoral studies at Salford before founding a new company, Bei-Ming, based in Jinan. He is focussed on developing functioning electrical stimulation (FES) systems, helping patients to regain movement following a stroke.

Mingxu is also making a positive impact on the care and treatment of people who have lost limbs or have major injuries. In particular, he has established a new unit for gait analysis in a major hospital in Jinan. His work helps people to overcome their injuries and increases their quality of life, as well as allowing them to return to work and provide for their families.

Mingxu is a true advocate of the School of Health & Society and the University. He has worked hard in developing relationships with many in the education and health fields in Jinan and has opened doors for us in the local area in support of student recruitment and partnership opportunities. 

Mingxu continues to share his knowledge and regularly mentors students and has been proactive in identifying potential funding opportunities for student bursaries and scholarships.


Read about our exceptional Alumni Achievement Award Winners and Rising Stars from 2019.

A group photo of all 2019 Salford Alumni Acheivement Award Winners

Alexandra Hoskyn

Headshot of AAA winner 2019 Alexandra Hoskyn


Alexandra has been awarded in recognition of her social innovation in developing the ‘Chatty Café’ scheme – encouraging cafés to dedicate a table where customers can sit if they are happy to chat to other people. The scheme aims to tackle loneliness by bringing people of all ages together for a chat over a cuppa.

Since launching in 2017 nearly 1,000 cafés have signed up across the UK, including branches of Sainsburys and Costa Coffee, and even reaching as far as Gibraltar, Australia and Florida. Impressively, the  scheme recently won the national Innovating for Ageing award - beating 75 entrants and four finalists to the £7,500 prize.

In support of Alex’s scheme, the University’s catering provider, Salfood has also joined the other Chatty Cafés with their first ‘Chatter and Natter’ table opening in the Allerton café this Autumn.

The achievement she is most proud of:

“At 30 I returned from living in Australia to study a masters in social work– I had dreamed of doing this for years, but it had never seemed the right time. But while studying I found out I was pregnant, putting my social work career on hold – and I had to watch all my friends go and get jobs. Now I am absolutely over the moon to say I have just been offered a permanent social work position. So, my greatest achievement is that considering the chaos of my twenties - worrying I would never have a career – I now have a job I love and am very proud to do.”

Ria Meera Munshi

Alumni Achievement Award Winner 2019 Ria Munshi


Ria’s award recognises her work in breaking down social barriers through dance. Having founded Ri Ri’s Dance Academy shortly after graduating from Salford in 2011, today the Academy works with charities and disadvantaged groups – as well as offering a professional platform to newly emerging artists.

Ria also mentors women who are hoping to pursue a career in the arts, and over 90% of dancers recruited at the Academy are women from diverse backgrounds.

The achievement she is most proud of: “Breaking the Bollywood Guinness World Record for the most people dancing to Bollywood songs simultaneously. I choreographed the routine, taught this live and Ri Ri’s Dance Academy’s dancers also performed on stage with me.”

Craig Easton

Alumni Achievement Award Winner 2019 Craig Easton


Craig was nominated for his work as an internationally renowned and award-winning photographer – and specifically for his work on the ‘SIXTEEN’ project, giving a voice to a group of sixteen-year-old participants through exploring their dreams, ambitions, hopes and fears for their future.

Best known for his dramatic landscape work and his intimate portraits of real lives, Craig’s early career was defined by his work as a photographer for the Independent newspaper in London and he has since gone on to win numerous awards for both his commissioned work and personal projects.

Recent awards include: Winner of FC Barcelona Photo Award 2017; Sony World Photography Awards 2017; Winner of Landscape Portfolio Award at World Travel Photographer of the Year 2016; Winner of Cutty Sark Award for World Travel Photographer of the Year 2012.

Proudest achievement: “Career wise, by far the most gratifying is when I get feedback from people about how my pictures have changed perceptions or have shone a bit of light on something important. The SIXTEEN project is part of that – a nationwide project that listens to young people and examines notions of social mobility and meritocracy.”

Tricia Williams

A photograph of Alumni Achievement Award 2019 Winner Tricia Williams


Tricia has been awarded in recognition of her extraordinary career and dedication to supporting inclusivity and equal opportunities in the workplace – as well as her continued support of Salford, and to current students.

As Chief Operating Officer for Manchester Airport, Tricia is responsible for the operational performance of the airport - the third largest airport in the UK and the global gateway in the North.

She is hugely motivated by people, with gender balance and inclusivity being incredibly important to her, both personally and professionally.  As a major employer, Tricia feels that it is important for the business to use their position and influence to push for equality and diversity, contributing to the  acceleration of gender diversity across all industries and businesses.  

Proudest achievement: “Being named on the Northern Power Women List 2019 as I believe it recognises my career achievements, but also acknowledges that I’m a female leader with three sons and a home life to balance! My three sons and 25-year marriage are hard not to say are my proudest achievements!”

Jim Sumner

A photograph of Alumni Achievement Award Winner 2019 Jim Sumner


Jim’s award recognises his extraordinary achievements in the field of transport, and his outstanding contribution to the development of innovative and environmentally friendly solutions.

After graduating from Salford in 1989 with a first-class degree in electrical & electronic engineering, Jim went on to transform Leyland Trucks as the youngest Managing Director in the organisation’s history - saving 1000’s of jobs at the challenged British manufacturer and turning the business into the long-term success story it remains today. His work was recognised in 2009 when he won the Queen’s Award for export in 2009.

In the same year, Jim also personally launched the government’s Green Bus initiative on the steps of Downing Street  – later winning a prestigious innovation award for the UK’s first operational battery-powered electric bus which has subsequently transformed the industry.

Throughout his career, Jim has also remained hugely passionate about people, tirelessly working for the benefit of his employees and creating and protecting well over 10,000 jobs in the process.

Proudest achievement: “I would probably say advising the government during the 2008 financial crisis as the lead representative of the commercial vehicle industry - at the time I was Managing Director of Leyland Trucks.”

Temitope Ogunsemo

A photo of Alumni Achievement Award Winner 2019 Temitope Ogunsemo


Temitope has been nominated for his entrepreneurial spirit, courage and innovation in developing a business which truly focuses on the future – as well as his work to mentor the next generation of young entrepreneurs.

Having graduated from Salford with a master’s in information systems, Temitope is now Managing Director of Krystal Digital Network Solutions Limited in Nigeria, a fast-growing ed-tech company specialising in the development, research, deployment and creation of bespoke and service-oriented software applications.

He was listed by Forbes in April 2018 as one of the 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa and recognised by the Confederation of African Youth as one of the 100 Most Influential Young People in West Africa.

Proudest achievement: “My greatest achievement so far centres on the ability to change the narrative by solving basic IT skills deficiency and leading the revolution in Nigeria’s education sector. I am happy to be a beacon of change in the education sector in Nigeria.”

Rising Star Awards 2019

Celebrating our upcoming alumni talent – those who have achieved amazing things since graduating and whom we believe are on their way to reaching ever greater success.

Ben Andrews

Photograph of Alumni Ahievement Award Rising Star 2019 Ben Andrews


Ben founded Empower You, a business devoted to creating spaces and communities in which disabled people can be physically active.

Proudest achievement: “There’s been a few. Winning Salford’s Citizen of the Year for doing something I love was a real highlight. Also gaining funding to develop Empower You and the business being nationally recognised and shortlisted for multiple innovation and health awards.”

Greg Walker

A photograph of Alumni Achievement Award Rising Star 2019 Greg Walker


Greg Walker is Founder and Director of Pilot Light TV Festival, a Manchester based television and film extravaganza. Now in its fourth year, the festival is dedicated to producing an inclusive, communal experience where fans and industry can come together to celebrate the past, present and future of television.

Greg has achieved fantastic things since graduating, working with Christopher Eccleston, Matt Berry, Sue Johnston OBE – and creating partnerships with HBO, CBBC, ITV, Channel 4, UKTV and HOME.

Lanfia Cisse

Photograph of Alumni Achievement Award Rising Star 2019 Lanfia Cisse


Lanfia is CEO of Etacell, a Liberian telecommunication and wireless broadband company. After graduating from Salford, he started the company in 2014 with just £30.

Lanifa’s advice to future graduates: “You have just started an endless journey of career development and professional maturity. It is endless because to be on top of your game, you have to continue to learn and build on your skills. This is the only way you continue to stand out.”

Tom Taylor

Alumni Achievement Award Rising Star Tom Taylor sitting opposite an Elephant in Thailand


Tom is a Project Director at Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand. The core of his day-to-day work is overseeing the rescue, rehabilitation and release of wild animals that have been rescued. His work on illegal wildlife trade investigations, particularly the trade in tigers, sees him working on undercover operations alongside Thai authorities to catch illegal wildlife traders.

Tom said: “My advice for recent graduates would be, if you want it work at it you will succeed. I graduated at the age of 29 so a little older than the average student on my course. Build your network of fellow wildlife conservationists, volunteer in the field that inspires you the most and never give up on the dream. I loved my time at Salford University, and owe a lot of my success to the guidance of my teachers.”