Alumna of the Year 2020

The GDST Alumna of the Year Award is now in its tenth year! We are delighted to introduce our finalists! Voting has now closed and the winner will be announced shortly.

Dr Alice Bunn

Shrewsbury High School

Dr Alice Bunn is the International Director at the UK Space Agency, responsible for increasing the UK’s global influence in science, security and trade through space. Having joined the UK Space Agency in 2011, she led the International Charter for Space and Major Disasters, exploring how satellite images can be used to save lives.

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    Alice was one of the first women to win at Marie Claire’s Women at the Top Awards in 2014. She joked at the time that, ‘in a room full of testosterone, you need a bit of oestrogen’. She is an advocate for getting women into STEM, and is deeply committed to supporting the progression and visibility of women in such a male-dominated field. Alice has championed flexible working over the last 10 years, working part-time in order to spend time with her 4 children whilst also delivering senior leadership roles at national and international levels.

    Alice has been involved in programmes to encourage students to engage with space missions and last year, delivered a TEDx talk on cooperation and leadership in the space industry.

    In addition to her day job, Alice is the first female vice chair of the Council of the European Space Agency, co-chair of the World Economic Forum council on space technologies, member of the board of the US space foundation, and fellow and council member of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Chloe Smith

Howell’s School, Llandaff

Chloe Smith is the co-founder of the Bigmoose coffee shop – a coffee shop which has been expressly set up to mentor, train and employ vulnerable people in the city of Cardiff.


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    The idea for the coffee shop came after Chloe had spent two years supporting the homeless population of Cardiff. Having volunteered at a soup kitchen, persuaded local restaurants to deliver hot meals, asked barbers and hairdressers to give haircuts to rough sleepers, and rallied the South Wales community to collect warm clothes and bedding, Chloe still wanted to do more. And so Bigmoose was born.

    After a Kickstarter fundraising campaign raised £30,000 in a week, Bigmoose opened its doors in March 2018, with all profits going to help homeless and other disadvantaged people get back into work and society.

    Bigmoose became a registered charity last year, with a focus on homelessness, mental health and prevention of suicide, and currently employs 22 people.

Dr Jess Wade BEM

South Hampstead High School

Dr Jess Wade is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Department of Chemistry at Imperial College London, investigating polymer-based organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs). She is also an increasingly high profile champion for women in STEM, and has worked tirelessly to tackle gender bias on Wikipedia.

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    A multiple award winner, she combines academic excellence and rigour with a passion for creating opportunities and respect for women in science. Last year, she was named as one of Nature’s 10 – ten people who mattered in science – and awarded the Institute of Physics Daphne Jackson Medal and Prize. To date, Jess has written more than 900 Wikipedia entries for women and minoritised scientists around the world. This, alongside her work in the field of OLEDs, has bought her major attention and led to mainstream media (broadcast and print) interviews and articles, TEDx talks and podcasts.

    She was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the 2019 Birthday Honours for services to gender diversity in science.

Jo Ashbridge

Newcastle High School for Girls

(Central Newcastle High)

Jo is founder and director of architecture charity, AzuKo. Her passion lies in humanitarian work, disaster relief and sustainable development; using design as a tool to improve lives.

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    Jo has been working in international development for 12+ years, and in 2012 was awarded the RIBA Boyd Auger Scholarship to research earthen architecture in flood-prone regions of Bangladesh, travelling to remote parts of the country and often alone.

    In 2014 Jo established AzuKo, a charity working towards a “world in which every person enjoys the right to dignified living conditions”. Her projects change lives: building homes and improving access to sanitation in Bangladesh and Vietnam, writing global guidelines for shelters post-disaster, and championing community-led approaches to rural redevelopment in China. Jo regularly speaks on architecture and design for international development and advises on education within RIBA. She is leading the way for women in the sector.

Kayisha Payne

Bromley High School

Kayisha Payne is Associate Scientist at AstraZeneca PLC, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. She is passionate about diversity and inclusion and is founder of BBSTEM, an organisation campaigning for balance and representation of Black individuals in STEM.

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    Kayisha aims to encourage, enable and energise individuals in business, industry and education to widen the participation and contribution of Black individuals in STEM. Kayisha was recently invited to the House of Commons to advise on policy changes to make STEM education more accessible to marginalised groups. In 2018 she was named as one of the top 100 most influential Black, Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) leaders in the UK tech sector. The list was released at the House of Commons and featured in The Financial Times.

    She was awarded the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – Rising Star award in The Black British Business Awards 2019, which celebrates exceptional performance and outstanding achievements of black people in business in Great Britain.

Lisa Power MBE

Croydon High School

Lisa Power is a lifelong, highly influential social activist, co-founding the social justice and equality group Stonewall. She has campaigned for LGBT+ equality for over 40 years.


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    She spent 14 years volunteering on Switchboard, the LGBT+ hotline and as Secretary-General of the International Lesbian & Gay Association was the first openly LGBT+ person to speak on gay rights at the United Nations in New York. As Policy Director of Terrence Higgins Trust, the leading HIV and sexual health charity, she oversaw successful campaigns to improve the rights and protections of people with HIV and continues to advise THT in a voluntary capacity. She is currently a Trustee of Queer Britain (the forthcoming LGBT+ museum) and Chair of the global HIV Justice Network.

    She was awarded an MBE in 2011 for services to sexual health and the LGBT community.

Liv Little

Blackheath High School

Liv Little is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of gal-dem, an online and print magazine committed to telling the stories of women and non-binary people of colour.


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    She started gal-dem in 2015 during her final year at University of Bristol, as a direct response to feelings of isolation that she experienced during her time there, and built it up while completing her finals and juggling various jobs. After graduating, she moved production to Bethnal Green in London, and continued to manage the publication alongside her burgeoning TV career. But the day came when she would have to choose between it being a passion project and a business in its own right.

    Last year, gal-dem 2.0 was launched after external funding was secured, which allowed the business to operate as a professional media organisation. Its values, however, remain true to its roots, and Liv and her team continue to champion marginalised voices to a growing audience around the world.

Louisa Blake

Birkenhead High School Academy

Louisa Blake is founder of Looby Lou’s Lovely Lunches, a social initiative that began when she realised many students in primary schools across Wirral, were going hungry during the school holidays. Louisa noticed the behaviour of some pupils changed before holidays, facing the uncertainty of not having a regular meal each day.

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    Having had difficult times in her early childhood Louisa understood the importance of help. Louisa was already a volunteer for Wirral’s Homeless CIC and supports the children in her class to cook and make packed lunches twice a month too. This gave her the inspiration she needed to set up Looby Lou’s Lovely Lunches. She started by delivering a packed lunch to up to 150 children across Wirral who would ordinarily receive free school meals each day of the school holidays. Since then the scheme has widened, and now, for 6 weeks in the summer, 2 weeks at Christmas and 2 weeks at Easter she and her team of volunteers make over 250  lunches a day, 5 days of the week.

    Louisa does not receive any formal funding – she relies on the kindness of friends, family and volunteers and puts all 250 lunches a day together herself from her home. At Christmas Louisa also delivered Christmas eve and New Year’s Eve gift bags, as well as over 1,400 lunches. She delivered bags to 3 homeless shelters and collected and delivered a buffet on Christmas day for Wirral’s homeless…. all in addition to her more-than-full-time job as an Assistant Head at a local Primary School. Her work has meant a great deal in the Wirral, with some areas recording the highest rates of social deprivation in the country.

Parisa Wright

Bromley High School

Parisa is the founder of Greener & Cleaner Bromley (& Beyond) (GCBB), a dynamic local community group working to significantly improve the environmental impact and biodiversity of the borough.


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    With over 5,000 members, GCBB provides social platforms and digital resources for the community on sustainable living and organises a range of events including the borough’s first set of environmentally focused hustings, Schools Eco Ideas Swap events and free workshops on topics such as ‘make do and mend’ crafting, combatting eco-anxiety and reducing food waste. They have also helped a local primary and pre-school raise over £50,000 for vital air cleaning equipment and green screening on a particularly congested roadside. These projects, resources and events have been enjoyed by thousands – they have built community spirit; combatted loneliness and growing eco anxiety; and shared vital and empowering information about impactful green changes.

    In addition, Parisa and GCBB are helping establish a cross-borough Bromley Environment Alliance of community groups to collaborate with residents, the local council and other community stakeholders, in order to help the whole borough meet the urgent carbon neutral target of 2029 and improve biodiversity.

    Last November Parisa was awarded the Bromley Local Hero Award for her work in building community engagement and reducing environmental impact, with GCBB also recognised as one of Bromley’s best social enterprises at the Bromley Business Awards. This is all on top of her day job as an in-house solicitor at ITV Studios and her, arguably more challenging, role as a mother of a two and four year old.

Rachel Wang

Wimbledon High School

Rachel Wang founded production company and social enterprise Chocolate Films in 2001, with no professional experience in media. Today the company has bases in London, Glasgow and Berlin and a client base that includes Netflix, Facebook, Big Issue and The Royal Society. Already this year, Chocolate Films have had a special screening at Tate, and have taken over the screen in Piccadilly Circus.

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    Rachel is passionate about reaching out to diverse community groups. She is the director of 1000 Londoners, a huge project documenting all aspects of contemporary life in London.

    Her documentaries about brave women in the city, led to an all-female film-making project to empower girls to make their own documentaries. Each year Chocolate Films provides film-making workshops to 3000 people from deprived backgrounds.

    Rachel’s awards include Women in Social Enterprise Award at the Social Enterprise Awards, Entrepreneur of the Year at the Black British Business Awards and Representation of  Women in the Media Award at The Women’s Sport Trust awards. She holds honorary doctorates from The University of Law and Middlesex University and sits on numerous boards, including the National Portrait Gallery and the Creative Industries Federation. She is the chair of the educational charity Art History Link-Up.

Previous winners include:

2019 – Olivia Colman CBE, Norwich High School, Oscar and BAFTA-winning actor

2018 – Dr Nirupa Murugaesu, Notting Hill & Ealing High School, Clinical Lead for Molecular Oncology at Genomics England

2017 – Dame Cressida Dick DBE, Oxford High School, the Met’s first female Commissioner

Recognising achievements

The Alumna of the Year award was launched in 2011 to recognise the many varied achievements of our alumnae. All staff, students and alumnae are encouraged to submit nominations for the award.

The winner – who will be announced at the GDST’s “Evening of Thanks” 2020 – will be interviewed for the alumnae magazine, GDST Girl for Life, and is awarded £500 to donate to a charity of their choice.



Candidates will be recognised based on the below criteria:

  • Championing a charitable cause
  • Achieving outstanding academic or professional success
  • Driving environmental or social change
  • Being a pioneer or achieving success in a challenging field


Terms and conditions:

The nominated alumna must be over the age of 18
The award is only open to living alumnae
The nominator must have the consent of the alumna being nominated and permission to provide their email address to the GDST
The nominee must agree that if they are successful in being shortlisted they consent to publicity relating to the award
The nominee must have attended a GDST school

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