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Management alumna shares her journey to being awarded a BEM

The University of Central Lancashire Management graduate, Sarah Gardner, continues to make a positive impact in the community and has been awarded a British Empire Medal.

BA (Hons) Management graduate, Sarah Gardner, has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the New Year’s Honours List 2022 for meritorious service during the COVID pandemic.

The award comes after 20 years of volunteering in the charitable sector, where Sarah’s volunteered for many charities and has even set up her own charities. This is all in addition to her day job as a Project Manager for Counter Terrorism Policing HQ.

Alongside her working life, Sarah started volunteering when she became a Marie Curie work-based representative in her workplace, where she was tasked with raising awareness and fundraising for the charity. Sarah was inspired to help when her uncle was sadly diagnosed with cancer.

This work sparked a desire to help more charities so Sarah spent a month volunteering in Thailand, became the trustee of a food bank, vice-chair of a credit union and the president of a local Rotary club. She also joined the Army Cadet Force as an instructor. Since the Coronavirus pandemic hit, Sarah has set up three new charities: Serving Our Superheroes, Wellbeing For All and CHEF (Community Health Education and Food Project).

Serving Our Superheroes was set up in response to the pandemic and has supported over 132,000 people with items worth over £2 million (as of 27 December 2021). The charity provides everyday essentials such as toiletries and has recently supported Afghani refugees with washbags filled with toiletries, as well as family gift bags with toys and books to help with their English.

Wellbeing For All is a mental health charity which was set up to help improve mental health and well-being for everyone. The charity offers guidance to employers in the workplace, as well as advice to individuals. Sarah’s final charitable venture, CHEF, is a non-profit organisation which has been set up with the objective of ending food poverty in the Hillington area.

CHEF runs classes for the local community and initially started with a group of asylum seekers, helping them to integrate into the community. The classes offer opportunities for people to learn about new foods and how to use them in their diet.

Sarah Gardner, BA (Hons) Management graduate
Sarah Gardner, BA (Hons) Management graduate

Sarah has had a remarkable journey since graduating from UCLan, after which she secured a place on a graduate programme in retail management. From there, she went into marketing and worked her way up to become a Marketing Manager. This was followed by a career change into investigation and enforcement, where Sarah worked in public safety in the public sector. Sarah also worked as a Project and Transformation Manager for a local authority in London.

After a stint of working in the public sector, Sarah moved into the private sector where she worked for a start-up as an IT Project Manager. In her role, Sarah implemented a new IT system alongside designing new processes and cost saving measures. During her time at the start-up, Sarah ended up managing all the strategic programmes across the company as well as managing social values, marketing and mental health and wellbeing.

Sarah then moved onto managing a national project for the College of Policing and then to project management for Counter Terrorism Policing HQ.

Currently, Sarah is a Project Manager where she works on large national change programmes. Talking about her varied career to date, Sarah said: “I like working somewhere where I make a difference and improve the lives of others. This is what I like about being part of public safety.”

"What will stay with me is the friendships I made. Despite the distance, I still keep in contact with my friend who was my best friend at the time."

Sarah Gardner, BA (Hons) Management graduate

When asked about what advice she would give to those wanting to do something similar, Sarah said: "Take all of the opportunities you are offered. Undertake some voluntary work. It’s great to help others and learn new skills at the same time, which can also enhance your CV. it also gives you a different perspective on life and opens your mind. It’s also important to love what you do.”

As well as being awarded the BEM, Sarah won the Hounslow and West London Chamber of Commerce Business Awards for Best Charity 2019/2020 and the Best Entrepreneurial award 2020/2021. Sarah has also received various international awards including several Stevie Awards and Golden Bridge Awards. In 2020, Sarah was shortlisted for the Chartered Management Institute’s Chartered Manager of the Year Award.

In addition to all of this, Sarah has received the Great British Care Award (London region) and The Orbit - Thriving Communities/Better Days Award, as well as a British Citizen Medal.

Reflecting on her lasting memories at UCLan, Sarah said: “What will stay with me is the friendships I made. Despite the distance, I still keep in contact with my friend who was my best friend at the time. Whenever I travel up north we try and meet up. Additionally, academically a lot of the lessons and tools I learnt I still refer to and apply to my current job roles.

She continued: “There was a lot of experience in our various lectures and many lessons that are relevant to many aspects of life, from financial management to time management skills. The lessons started there and I have developed and added to them over my career.”