Nearly 1000 members of the Brunel alumni community helped pick the trio of winners for this year’s Alumni of the Year Awards, with Thomas Fudge, Dr Esra AlDhaen and Dr Pauldy Otermans fending off a challenging field of 18 finalists to claim their prize.
The Brunel Alumni of the Year Awards is an annual celebration of the university’s global community, and seeks to recognise not only an alumni’s outstanding professional achievement, but also their ongoing contribution to Brunel through volunteering and advocacy.
Thomas Fudge, UK Alumni of the Year
Entrepreneur Thomas Fudge was recognised as Brunel University London’s UK Alumni of the Year 2021 for his work developing innovative sanitation systems for some of the world’s most underserved and remote communities.
“It is fantastic to have just been nominated by my fellow colleagues and previous Brunel alumni Faryal and Harvey,” said Thomas Fudge, who graduated from MSc Sustainability, Entrepreneurship & Design in 2016.
“To read their nominations was recognition enough. To win was such a surprise. Everyone nominated has achieved so much in creating a better future, so it is fantastic to have been recognised by fellow alumni.”
After graduating, Thomas enrolled on a PhD in Mechanical Engineering research with Brunel, working on a project to transform human waste into energy – a perfect solution for energy scarce countries like Kenya. In 2017, during his PhD studies, Thomas founded WASE, an environmental engineering company developing decentralised sanitation solutions that allow waste to be changed into biogas, fertilisers, and usable water.
Thomas has since created a team of 15 passionate people at WASE, comprised 40% of Brunel graduates. The company’s portfolio includes pilots in the UK and Kenya, where they are validating their technology in various set-ups and on different waste streams, demonstrating the implementation of ecological and social sustainability principles learned at Brunel.
Dr Esra AlDhaen, International Alumni of the Year
Meanwhile, International Alumni of the Year Dr Esra AlDhaen graduated with a PhD in Management Studies in 2017 and now works as an Assistant Professor at Ahlia University in her home country of Bahrain.
Esra is a graduate of the PhD without Residence programme, a scheme that allows doctoral researchers from Bahrain the opportunity to study and research in their home country whilst supported from the UK by Brunel. She is passionate about giving back to the community and formed an alumni club for her fellow PhD without Residence graduates in 2017.
As an academic, Esra has been awarded the Principle Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy, as well as receiving two research awards in 2020 from Emerald Publishing and ICAI. She has been active in giving back through seminars and organising conferences, and is a coordinator with the United Nations to support commitment to sustainable goals.
"I am very pleased to win this award, it will definitely motivate me to extend the alumni club initiative and expand its remits,” said Esra. “Being in Bahrain, I am targeting to maintain the relationship with all alumni across the GCC region and establish a hub of research and intellectual contribution that will create an impact on the society at large."
Dr Pauldy Otermans, Recent Alumni of the Year
Former Union of Brunel Students President Dr Pauldy Otermans claimed the final award of the year, receiving the Recent Alumni of the Year award for her work as founder of the Otermans Institute, an organisation whose work is dedicated to upskilling underserved and unserved learners across refugee camps in Iraq, working with governments in Afghanistan and India, and with foundations from Palestine and Lebanon
Her work with Otermans Institute supported 30,000 learners during the COVID-19 pandemic, and was recognised by the UK Prime Minister in January 2021 with a Points of Light Award. Championing the Brunel spirit, Pauldy has provided work placements and volunteering opportunities with Otermans Institute for Brunel students and is an active mentor as part of the Brunel Mentoring Scheme.
“I am truly humbled by the win and would like to thank the members of the alumni community who had nominated me,” said Pauldy, who graduated with a PhD in Psychology from Brunel in 2018 and now lectures in the department.
“It is things like winning this recognition that fuels me to continue serving the wider global community through my work. Also, this recognition has led to many members of the alumni community contacting me and perhaps these new connections will help me increase the reach of my work to upskill a generation of learners globally.”
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