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January 2010

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University of Essex



Gold standard for SU

The Students’ Union has been awarded the prestigious Investors in People Gold Award, in recognition of its first class people management.
The Gold award represents the achievement of world class best practice and shows the organisation is operating at the very highest levels of people management.

Students' Union staff and guests released gold balloons to celebrate their award
Students’ Union staff and guests released gold balloons to celebrate their Gold award

Less than one in 1,000 organisations recognised by Investors in People have achieved the Gold standard and Essex is believed to be the first Students’ Union in the country to do so.
‘This award is a fantastic achievement for the Students’ Union and is as a direct result of the energy and effort shown every day by our permanent and student staff’, said SU President Ibby Mehmet. ‘Essex is widely recognised as having one of the best Students’ Unions in the UK and this is because we have first class staff  that are always prepared to go the extra mile when it comes to looking out for the needs of our students’.
The Students’ Union employs more than 400 staff, including over 350 student staff, to deliver services and activities designed to provide the best possible student life at Essex. Services include a dedicated student Advice Centre, more than 150 sports clubs and societies, plus shops, bars and venues.
Elaine Johnson, Managing Director of Investors in People, presented the Students’ Union with the award at a celebration event at the Colchester Campus last month.
Picture (SU award.jpg) caption: Students’ Union staff and guests released gold balloons to celebrate their Gold award

Quiet diplomacy aids conflict resolution

Behind the scenes, Essex is at the forefront of a global initiative to prevent and resolve conflicts around the world.
The Initiative on Conflict Prevention through Quiet Diplomacy (ICPQD) has worked recently with Tamil-speaking political leaders from Sri Lanka, the OSCE Mission to Kosovo and the United Nations Centre for Preventative Diplomacy in Central Asia.
Director of the Human Rights Centre, Professor John Packer, who acts as Senior Adviser, brought the Initiative to Essex in 2008. It employs a unique approach by linking the traditionally separate fields of human rights and conflict resolution.
In late November, the Initiative co-convened an historic meeting of the Tamil-speaking political leadership from Sri Lanka in Zurich, Switzerland, hosted by the Swiss Federal Department for Foreign Affairs. This resulted in unprecedented agreement on basic principles and a working paper for dialogue.
Started in 2004 by Professor Packer in collaboration with His Excellency Dr Max van der Stoel, former Foreign Minister of The Netherlands, the Initiative uses the human rights framework for analysis and problem-solving to assist conflict parties and intermediaries in identifying and addressing the underlying causes of tensions that can erupt in violence. The approach seeks to build sustainable peace by addressing grievances often grounded in the denial of fundamental rights or exclusionary politics.
The Initiative’s principal aim is to build capacity at the inter-governmental level to prevent conflict through a quiet diplomatic approach and facilitating dialogue.
In early November the Initiative delivered a programme at the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia (UNRCCA) in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.  During a week-long course, Initiative staff provided diplomats from the foreign ministries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan practical knowledge and skills around human rights and conflict analyses.
The Initiative has also assisted the OSCE Mission to Kosovo over the past year with training for 130 staff and an innovative engagement with local authorities, community representatives and NGOs from the five main regions to help them to bridge differences.
Principally funded by a grant from the Department for International Development with additional funding from OSCE and Cordaid, the Initiative has given work to a number of HRC graduates. For further information, please contact Maria Luisa Aguilar, ICPQD Project Officer, e-mail:

Refurb for bio-imaging unit

The bio-imaging facility in the Department of Biological Sciences, which is pivotal to some of the Department’s most ground-breaking research projects, has undergone a major refurbishment.

The facility, founded in 1999, houses state-of-the-art microscopes and equipment used to study cells and tissues using advanced fluorescence methods, known as bio-imaging technologies.

Professor Nelson Fernández, of the Department, explained the importance of the facility: ‘Bio-imaging techniques are used to examine cells, which are one hundredth of a millimetre in size, as well as sub-cellular structures and molecules. One project at Essex uses imaging techniques to study individual DNA molecules. This is giving exciting insights into how DNA is repaired, which is a vital response to DNA damage caused by molecules in the environment or sunlight, which may otherwise cause damage to tissues or even tumour formation.

‘The other main focus is an understanding of how pathogens such as viruses or bacteria attach to the cell membranes of healthy cells to cause infection and disease, the intracellular changes caused by infection and how the immune system recognises and deals with pathogens. Bio-imaging allows these processes to be examined in exquisite detail.’

The Department has recently appointed a new manager for the facility, Dr Philippe Laissue, which will also continue to be used to aid teaching.

Also in the printed January edition of Wyvern:

  • Olly mania hits campus
  • Snow closes campus for afternoon
  • Annual Review wins publications award


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