Leicester’s Centenary Scholars celebrate role in University’s first Century

Centenary Scholars celebrated their key role in the University of Leicester’s 100th birthday celebrations at a special event on Wednesday.

Students funded by numerous scholarships – including some of the 300 Centenary Scholars, and 100 Citizens of Change Scholars, plus award holders from a number of globally recognised programmes – marked the occasion alongside University President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Nishan Canagarajah, donors and other guests.

The celebration took place in the Fielding Johnson Building, which was the first dedicated building for students at Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland University College in 1921. This year marks a Century since the University’s foundation.

Half of the 100 Citizens of Change Scholarship holders are international students. Speaking at the event, Professor Canagarajah – himself a former overseas scholarship student – said:

“Today is highly symbolic. It was 100 years ago that the first students started here at Leicester, and this event represents a coming together of those who are committed to the future of education as a potent symbol of hope for the future; just as our founders were a Century ago.

“The scholars gathered here today are from across the world and from many different disciplines. You are on a journey of discovery – about yourself as well as the world around you.

“Your achievements to date are exceptional and you will go on to make great impact within the University and beyond. I would also like to thank all the donors and funders whose generosity made this event possible.”

The University proudly hosts a number of prestigious Chevening Scholars – ‘Cheveners’ – funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and partner organisations, and a prominent Fulbright Scholarship, on exchange from the USA.

Windia Jaunai is a St Lucia teacher who also runs two businesses: one which helps farmers to sell their products and a smoothie business to help to reduce youth unemployment. She saw a gap in the market to tackle youth unemployment and seasonal fruit wastage, and is now completing an International Marketing MSc to help expand her businesses and further assist young people in St Lucia.

She said: “I want to see change in my community and country of St Lucia. The Chevening Scholarship will allow me to apply a new approach to export marketing and introduce new strategies – such as those focused on digital and sustainable development – to help St Lucia become a more developing country and to help combat climate change. 

“Leicester is friendly and makes you feel warm – a home from home.”

100 Citizens of Change Scholarships, worth up to £7,500, were awarded to students who submitted videos answering the question ‘what do you want to change?’. Submissions were judged for their impact, realism and creativity, with students pledging to make changes in areas as diverse as hate crime and sustainability as the University embarks on its second Century.

Medicine student Marlene Kidd hopes to use her skills to help others in need. She added:

“My experience witnessing and responding to distressing and emergency situations made me realise the impact that Bystander effect can have. Giving people the skills and confidence and empowering them to intervene, is one way I believe this can be tackled. Incorporating my biology knowledge with an active, clinical role is one of the reasons why I chose medicine at Leicester.”

Adam Morgan studies Natural Sciences and, similarly, aims to use his platform to improve life for others by serving as a role model for those with disabilities. He said: “I want to change perceptions of how people view those with disabilities – both visible and invisible – and I have already become a course and department rep to help to change this.

“Illness affected my first degree and I have been given a second chance. I am throwing myself into my course, meeting new people and studying a subject I am passionate about.

“The support from my department and Student Support Services has been amazing. The scholarship has helped with my student fees and I hope to go on to a PhD.”

In addition to the programmes represented at Wednesday’s event, Sanctuary Scholarships are offered through Leicester’s role as a University of Sanctuary, for which the University was recognised in 2017 for its ongoing support to refugees and asylum seekers.

The event also recognised the generous support of the wider University community, both through funding and peer mentoring, networking and other opportunities.

Colin Ettinger is a Leicester LLB Law alumnus and partner at Irwin Mitchell. He added: “I was delighted to be able to support the University’s commitment to providing opportunities for talented students from a diverse range of backgrounds. I regard the scholarships as extremely valuable to the students in order to assist in achieving this commitment.

“The University is encouraging their students to help make a positive change in our society both during their time as students and when they leave as graduates; an aim which is highly laudable.”

Explore the University of Leicester’s Centenary celebrations, and discover more about our story so far at le.ac.uk/centenary.