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Queen honours members of the University community

13 Jun 2015

A University of Manchester science communicator, a leading economist, a philanthropist and a champion of the arts are among those named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list today (Saturday).

Dr Maria Balshaw, Director of the University of Manchester’s Whitworth gallery and Manchester City Gallery, has been awarded a CBE for services to the arts. The honour comes just weeks after the Whitworth team announced record-breaking visitor figures to the redeveloped gallery.

An academic by training, Maria has worked as a director within the cultural sector for the past 13 years. Alongside her role as director of the two major Manchester institutions, she is also Director of Culture for Manchester City Council and, in April 2014, was appointed a board member of Arts Council England.

Maria is responsible for the artistic and strategic vision for each gallery and has been the driving force behind the £15 million redevelopment project of the Whitworth. Supported by a major Heritage Lottery Fund grant, The University of Manchester and other funders, the redevelopment reconnected the gallery to its park and doubled public space, creating state-of-the-art new facilities.

Maria said: “I am delighted to have been awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. It is really gratifying that my work at the Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery has been recognised in this way, as an affirmation of the importance of arts and culture for people in Manchester today.”

Dr Rory Brooks has been awarded a CBE for ‘charitable services through the Rory and Elizabeth Brooks Foundation and to the Brooks World Poverty Institute at The University of Manchester’.

Rory and his wife Elizabeth have been loyal supporters of the University for more than 20 years. In 2005, they became the principal benefactors of the Brooks World Poverty Institute, which brings together one of the world’s largest collections of multidisciplinary poverty researchers. The Institute aims to create and share knowledge that will inform and influence policy makers, organisations and corporations so they can make positive changes for people living in poverty.

Rory is Chairman of the University of Manchester’s Global Leadership Board, assembling key donors and philanthropic volunteer leaders to advise and help the University to develop its international links with leading alumni and donors.

Rory has played a pivotal role as an ambassador for not just the University, but for the cause of philanthropy in higher education more broadly. He sits on the Board of the Centre for Social Justice and is the chair of its Development Board. He was also a member of the 2012 Government Task Force on Philanthropy in Higher Education, the ‘Pearce Report’.

He said: “I am both humbled and delighted by this recognition. Elizabeth and I have been fortunate to be able to support, in a small way, the important work on poverty research at the Brooks World Poverty Institute and are proud to be associated with The University of Manchester."

Also honoured with a CBE is Rachel Griffith, Professor of Economics at the University and Deputy Research Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

Rachel is currently serving as President of the European Economic Association and is Managing Editor of the Economic Journal – the first woman to hold either of these positions. A Fellow of the British Academy, last year she was honoured with the Birgit Grodal award for the leading European-based female economist.

Rachel's research considers the ways that public policy affect firms and people. Her work has considered what drives the process of innovation and what determines differences in productivity levels between firms. She is interested in understanding dietary choices and the ways that public policy affects the choices that individuals make over the foods they purchase and their activity levels, and the choices that the food industry makes over what foods they offer. Her work combines economic theory, econometric methods and applies them to detailed micro data to address these questions. She believes passionately in the importance of open and informed public debate.

Rachel did not come to academia though the traditional route. She grew up in the US and quit school at the age of 16. She spent a number of years working as a waitress and came to Europe to travel. She returned to education and completed her Bachelor's degree at the age of 22 and then spent a number of years working for a small charity. She came to work at the IFS in 1993 and studied part-time for a PhD.

She said: "I am delighted that the work that my colleagues and I do at the IFS has been recognised in this way. I believe passionately in the value and contribution that applied economics has to make to our understanding of how public policy affects all of us in our daily life. The work I do is focused on bringing high quality research into the public arena so that people can engage in informed debate."

Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow Dr Erinma Ochu FRSA has been awarded an MBE for ‘services to public engagement in science, engineering and technology’. Erinma is currently exploring innovative ways in which the public can participate and collaborate in biomedical research, including an exploration of the cultural value of citizen science, interactive storytelling and games.

Trained originally as a neuroscientist here at the University, and with an interest and passion for storytelling and art, her diverse career includes working in the film, TV and cultural sector. Erinma has led, coordinated and advised on several social change and citizen science initiatives, including CatalystTuring's Sunflowers and Hookedonmusic at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) and Manchester Beacon for public engagement, a partnership between The University of Manchester, MMU, Salford University and MOSI.

Erinma is an RSA fellow and digital champion for the northwest, encouraging and helping fellows to connect online. She currently serves as Deputy Chair on the BBSRC Bioscience for Society panel, as a member of the External Advisory Board of MOSI and Trustee of Manchester Histories Festival.

Erinma’s work has also had an impact on the skilling and confidence-building of refugees, asylum seekers and homeless people here in the northwest, screening films, teaching scriptwriting and making short films to encourage them to share their stories. She also commissioned two community leadership programmes to build capacity in the third sector.

Erinma said: "It's fantastic that public engagement with science is recognised today. Thanks to everyone in Manchester and beyond who got involved and made a difference. Hopefully, this can inspire more people to embrace the big societal challenges we face together."

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, University President and Vice Chancellor, said: “I wish to congratulate all of our recipients of Queen’s Birthday Honours awards. These national honours are rightful recognition of their immense contribution, not just to the University, but to society more widely, through the sharing of their knowledge and passion for their respective fields or through unstinting philanthropic giving.”