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Our inspiring winter 2022 honorary graduates


Hon grads

Twice a year, the University of Bradford confers honorary degrees on individuals who have distinguished themselves in some way. These awards shine a light on students who are about to graduate, while serving as a reminder of their future potential.

This year, we are proud to add to our rollcall of honour, the following individuals:

Sofia Buncy MBE

Saira Ali

Professor Sir Anthony Finkelstein CBE

Professor Roger Falconer

Ailie MacAdam

Dame Sharon White

Michael Andrews

Sofia Buncy: Sometimes there is no master plan, you just have to try your best in the moment

Hon Grad Sofia Buncy

Sofia Buncy’s work in supporting Muslim women leaving British prisons has drawn national praise but she admits that on graduating from university, she never intended to end up where she is today.
Her comments come as she accepted an honorary doctorate from the University of Bradford for her dedication to a subject that most people were previously unaware of or would rather not discuss.
Sofia is one of the UK’s leading practitioners and thought leaders on the experiences of Muslim women in the criminal justice system. She was the groundbreaking researcher and co-author of the 2014 report titled Muslim Women in Prison- Second Chance: Fresh Horizons, the first ever report of its nature in the country.
Sofia has since pioneered on a sequence of reports with her team based on the lived experiences of Muslim women in British prisons. The reports and the modelling of good practice won Sofia a coveted Butler Trust award from Patron HRH Princess Anne and in 2017 and an Asian Woman of Achievement Award in 2017 in the social and humanitarian category amongst many other accolades.

Sofia is currently leading her team on their fourth academic research alongside two northern Universities into ‘Muslim women prison leavers and desistance’, which will look at impact on their lives post-prison and routes to recovery.
In 2020, Sofia was confirmed as a Deputy Lieutenant for West Yorkshire and in the 2022 New Year Honours she received her MBE for ‘services to prisoners and the community of Bradford.' 
She said: “I’m glad that my work has resulted in giving understanding and visibility to an issue that many people either did not know about or did not want to confront. It has given impetus to conversations around the issue of Muslim women who come into contact with the criminal justice system (CJS) and it has opened up broader conversion around equality for black, brown ethnic minority groups in CJS.”
She added: “It's an absolute honour to receive this award from a principal institution in Bradford such as the university, because I am very passionate about supporting communities in Bradford. To have had the warm welcome I’ve had, Bradford really invigorated me. Yes, it has areas of deprivation and challenges like any other place, but it also has pockets of hope and inspiration which, if nurtured correctly, can become something so very special.
“Looking back to when I left university, there no was no master plan, no definitive grid I had laid out. I think my message to those graduating this year would be that sometimes you have to try your best in the moments you are in, to make the best choices with the right intentions and ask, ‘why am I doing this?’ If you are passionate about it and want to affect change, these are the things that will inform your decisions.”

Saira Ali: Every mistake holds a valuable lesson, says award-winning landscape architect

Saira Ali is a glass half full person - she believes in a positive outlook, even when the world is against you.

The award-winning landscape architect has been given an honorary doctorate by the University of Bradford in recognition of her work on the environment, climate change and the promotion of greener healthier communities.

Speaking about the award, she said: “If I could give one message to graduates it is that when you go out into the world, you will have both good and bad experiences - but remember that there is always a positive to be drawn from those experiences you think at the time are negative.

“To make mistakes is to be human. But mistakes are just opportunities to build character and resilience. If we didn’t make mistakes, we would never learn anything. If you go through life without making any mistakes, you haven’t lived. So be brave, be bold and don’t be afraid of what the future may bring, you have the power to change it.”

Her approach to life in general - and, indeed, her dedication to her profession - is summed up by an anecdote from her early career in which not even wild horses could keep her from completing her work - literally.

She recalled: “I was surveying in a field and was suddenly chased by a herd of wild horses. I had to jump over a wall to get away and my foot went down a rabbit hole and I twisted my knee. I drove 68 miles back to work and completed my shift, before driving another 30 miles to hospital, by which time my knee was the size of a football. I had surgery 18 months later and was back at work six weeks later.

“My point is, unexpected things happen all the time, it’s how we choose to deal with them that counts. I’ve been very lucky in my life and career to have met some really inspirational people, including some very strong women. People come in and out of your life at different points, it’s important to learn from those encounters.”

Commenting on her honorary degree, she said: “I feel I am accepting this honour on behalf of Bradford Council’s Landscape, Design and Conservation Team, as well as myself. To be recognised by the university for our contribution to our industry and our community is a real honour and I am extremely grateful. It’s a massive privilege to join the ranks of incredible people who have been honoured in this way before me.”

She added: “I’m passionate about the built and natural environment and improving people’s lives, protecting the environment, improving spaces for people and making healthier live-able cities through innovative planning, sustainable design and green infrastructure. Landscape architecture addresses how we use and understand the environment, how we address global challenges to biodiversity and help to deliver climate change mitigation.

“If we encourage people to walk, cycle or use public transport through a network of blue and green infrastructure, we will improve our response to the impacts of climate change, as well as creating a healthier society.

“I love Bradford. It's an amazing city with so much to offer. It is my home. I grew up here and feel part of the community. Bradford is a diverse, young and enterprising district. We have gritty urban landscapes shared with wide open unspoiled rural environments. Almost 140 different languages are spoken in our schools, and with over a quarter of our population being under 18, we have so much variety to inspire us.

"Amazing things are happening in our city, including major regeneration and some great institutions, one of which is a leading university that is held in high regard. Celebrating City of Culture in 2025 will be another opportunity to showcase all the exciting cultural resources our communities have to offer to an even wider audience.”

Saira is Team Leader of Bradford Council’s Landscape Design & Conservation Team. She studied landscape architecture at Leeds Metropolitan University and has worked for leading landscape design practices Barton Willmore (now Stantec), Chris Blandford Associates and David Huskisson Associates. 

She is also winner of Susdrain’s SuDS Champion 2021 ‘Rising Star’, a national award voted by her peers and the public, awarded to the individual who has the ability to inspire, inform and influence the delivery of exceptional Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS). 

Saira’s team are also double winners of both the ‘Green Europe: Green and Resilient Communities in Rural and Urban Settings’ award – voted for by the public – and the Overall public vote award of all the categories at the European Commission’s Regiostars Awards 2021 and winners of the ‘Future Place Programme 2018’ (an initiative in partnership with Royal Institute of British Architects, Local Government Association with Local Partnerships, Homes England, Historic England, and the Royal Town Planning Institute). 

Anthony Finkelstein: Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, says leading computer scientist

Professor Sir Anthony Finkelstein CBE has forged a successful career in both science and academia.

A former chief scientific adviser to the Government, he is currently President of City, University of London and Professor of Software Engineering.

But he credits his alma mater - he attended the University of Bradford from 1977-81 - as the springboard to his success.

“Growing up in London, I was part of a very tight-knit Jewish community, I’d lived there all my life, so the idea of starting a degree in Bradford was both exciting and unsettling.

“As a youngster, I was always a little eccentric, I was interested in how things worked. My father was an engineer. I loved problem solving, I loved design, and I was fascinated by technology. I had a wonderful time at Bradford - it gave me the tools to take my passions and turn them into a career.”

Professor Finkelstein is a  Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. He is also a Member of Academia Europaea, a Fellow of City & Guilds of London Institute and a Distinguished Fellow of RUSI (the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies). He was granted the title of Knight Bachelor in the New Year's Honours 2022 for public service. 

He was previously appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to computer science and engineering. Until taking up the role of President he was Chief Scientific Adviser for National Security to HM Government, a senior strategic and operational role that involves leadership of science, research and innovation across the UK's national security community.

Whilst undertaking this role he retained a position at University College London (UCL) and as a Fellow of The Alan Turing Institute, the UK national institute for AI and data science, of which he was a founding trustee. Prior to this he was Dean of UCL Faculty of Engineering Sciences and before that Head of UCL Department of Computer Science. He held a Chair in Software Systems Engineering at UCL, having started his career at Imperial College, Department of Computing. He has also established three successful ‘spin-out’ companies.

He was presented with an honorary doctorate by the University of Bradford on December 8.

Asked what advice he would give to graduates, he said: “Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. It might feel uncomfortable but it is also an opportunity for personal growth. Universities enable you to do this in a relatively protected environment. I would always encourage students to go to places they have never been, do things they have never done, to talk to people beyond their social circle… in short, to put themselves out there.

“I also think there’s a lot to be said for volunteering. These are golden opportunities to gain experience, to learn new skills, and meet new people, to set yourself apart from the crowd. Public service is a fantastic experience, it gives you lifelong skills and it benefits society.”

Roger Falconer: I received tremendous support and encouragement at Bradford

Hon Grad Professor Roger Falconer

Roger Falconer, Emeritus Professor of Water and Environmental Engineering at Cardiff University, was awarded a Doctor of Engineering. 

He is concerned with solving the world’s water problems, including flooding and water quality in developing countries, and has delivered nearly 600 talks in 30 countries over the span of his career. 

Professor Falconer, 70, joined the University of Bradford as Professor of Water Engineering in 1986, and was promoted to Head of the Department of Civil Engineering in 1993. 

During his 11 years at the University, the department achieved the top ranking in the Research Assessment Exercises in 1992 and 1996. 

Professor Falconer, a grandad of five, said: “What I valued about working at Bradford was the tremendous support and encouragement I was given to work with industry, which was very forward thinking back then. 

“Being involved with industry also improved my teaching enormously because I could talk about current projects and the real-life impact of them.”

During his time here, Professor Falconer became involved in community engagement by giving talks to local secondary schools to encourage pupils into engineering. Having moved back to Ilkley, West Yorks., he is again working with the University to tackle local environmental issues. 

He said: “It means a great deal to me to receive this award from the University of Bradford, where I spent so many happy years.”

Ailie MacAdam: You can't be what you can't see

Hon Grad Ailie Macadam

Bradford alumna Ailie MacAdam received an Honorary Doctor of Engineering.  

 She gained a BEng Chemical Engineering at the university in 1985 and has since enjoyed a successful career at Bechtel, a global engineering, procurement, construction and project management company. She has worked her way up through the ranks to become President of the Mining and Metals Global Business Unit and was this year, elected to the Bechtel Group Inc Board of Directors. 

Despite being involved in some of the biggest infrastructure projects of recent years, including Crossrail and High Speed 1, and being named as one of the Top 50 Influential Women in Engineering in 2016, Ailie didn’t believe she deserved the university honour.  

She said: “My husband, Ade, has a PhD from Bradford and I saw how hard he worked for it. I felt a bit of a fraud for being given an honorary doctorate without doing all that work. 

“Then a friend insisted that the contribution I’ve made over 35 years in industry is just as meaningful.

“I am passionate about diversity and inclusion, and a firm believer in using my position to provide women visibility of what a great career engineering can be. You can’t be what you can’t see - and my hope is that receiving this honorary doctorate will help there too.”

Ailie, 60, splits her time between several project/customer locations including Australia, Chile, Peru, Saudi Arabia, North America and the UK. Next year, she will be spending a week sailing in Greece with some of the lifelong friends she made at Bradford.  

She said: “One of the great things about Bradford was that we were encouraged to learn a foreign language. I took German and then spent my first industrial placement in Germany. I was grateful for that experience, which I think in a large part, prepared me for the global role I have today.”