Winners! New College Student Recognition Awards 2019

Students Jo Thor, Rachel Frost, Sofanit Abebe and Jessie Fubara-Manuel have been recognised for their contributions to our School, community or subject area.

Series of head and shoulders shots of Jo, Rachel, Sofanit and Jessie
Jo, Rachel, Sofanit and Jessie

The awards were open to all students in the School of Divinity, undergraduate and postgraduate, with £100 in vouchers available as prizes in each category. Winners were announced at the New College Christmas lunch in the Rainy Hall, 6 December 2019.

Category winners

  • Jo Thor: student who has added most to the New College community
  • Rachel Frost: student who has contributed most to the city of Edinburgh
  • Sofanit Abebe and Jessie Fubara-Manuel, joint winners: for raising the profile of Edinburgh's School of Divinity or the study of Theology and Religious Studies within the UK and internationally.

Head of School, Professor Helen Bond, said:

“The University recognises academic achievements but a student’s wider efforts may go unnoticed. Our new awards celebrate those School of Divinity students, undergraduate and postgraduate, who have made a sustained contribution outside their academic work. Congratulations to Jo, Rachel, Sofanit and Jessie for making such a difference in their diverse areas of interest."

Jo Thor

Jo was nominated by several members of the School, as she has been proactive on many levels.

She’s always been a willing volunteer for open days, helping to show new and prospective students around and to make them feel welcome.

Jo has served as Secretary, Convenor and Treasurer of the New College Postgraduate Committee. As Convenor, she:

  • modernised the constitution, including introducing Equality and Diversity representatives and officers to the Committee 
  • instituted an active and engaged social media presence
  • gave up her office space to turn it into the Postgraduate Common Room
  • was responsible for repainting the kitchen in Ramsay Lane and buying new appliances for it
  • introduced more diverse fare at First Friday events, eg. Polish doughnuts, Syrian sweets, Social Bite cakes, vegan and gluten free options, and non-caffeinated hot drinks.

Jo has also been active promoting the school as an international, interdisciplinary and inclusive research centre. She co-organised the Scottish-Irish PG and Early Career Research in Religion conference in Autumn 2018, and the Code of Conduct that she used there has recently been adopted by TRS-UK.

Rachel Frost

Fourth year undergraduate Rachel was a clear winner as the student who has contributed most to the city of Edinburgh. As founder of SERVE, Rachel has done a great deal to lead and organise student outreach over a number of years. Activities have included:

  • care home visits, where students sing songs with residents from their childhood and spend time chatting to them
  • providing a Soul Food meal in a homely atmosphere once a week for people who don’t have anywhere else to go
  • Holyrood Harvest, a community gardening project in Dumbiedykes which seeks to improve green spaces by including local residents in a weekly activity
  • the kids club, which runs weekly during term time. 

In March 2018 Rachel went to the Scottish Parliament to talk to the First Minister about her projects and her concerns over loneliness and isolation within local  communities.

Sofanit Abebe

Final year PhD student Sofanit has held a residency at Tyndale House in Cambridge, and given invited papers at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, at the Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide, and in Uppsala, and elsewhere.

In addition to her PhD research on 1 Enoch and 1 Peter, she is a contributor to international collaborations on Ethiopic-language biblical texts and Ethiopian Christianity in antiquity.

She is also an elected member of the SBL’s nine-member Student Advisory Board, the only board member from Africa and the only one from any university outside the USA.

Sofanit, who is a Langham Scholar, has recently been appointed as Lecturer in New Testament at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology in Addis Ababa, where she’ll start next academic year. 

Jessie Fubara-Manuel

PhD candidate Jessie has contributed to the city of Edinburgh through her association with the Church of Scotland and South Leith Parish Sunday Morning Breakfast for the homeless, which serves an average of 25 people each week. She helps in the local South Leith Area food bank hub and escorts elderly people out to a high tea event. 

Jessie’s volunteering work also has a strong international side to it. She has served as a:

  • guide to international visitors to the Church of Scotland General Assembly
  • volunteer speaker on the Guild/World Mission Council
  • member of a Teenage Mothers Project that went to Zambia
  • speaker at the 2019 League of European Research Universities (LERU) Summer school held at the University of Edinburgh.

She has drawn attention to the role of Scotland in the missionary enterprise of the 19th century with two interviews given on Mary Slessor’s work in Nigeria to BBC Scotland and Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), UK.

Not least, Jessie is Secretary of the African & Caribbean Christian Fellowship in Edinburgh, a group which helps students and immigrants integrate into life here.


New College Student Recognition Awards

TRS UK Code of conduct for conferences


SBL Student Advisory Board

African & Caribbean Christian Fellowship Edinburgh