Honorary Fellows celebrate with students at Cardiff University graduations

Big names from the media, arts, politics and academia are to be made Honorary Fellows at Cardiff University’s graduations ceremonies, which take place this week. (July 17-21)

Many of those collecting the awards, which are given to people achieving excellence in their fields, are former students.

Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University Professor Colin Riordan said: "I congratulate our Honorary Fellows of 2023, all of whom are high achievers distinguished in their fields. Many of our fellows will have started their careers by choosing to study at Cardiff University. I have no doubt their success stories will be inspirational to this year’s cohort of graduates as they start to carve out their own paths, whatever they choose to do next."

This year’s Honorary Fellows are:

Comedian and broadcaster Elis James is a former undergraduate and postgraduate student of Cardiff University. An avid sports fan, Elis co-hosts Fantasy Football League on Sky with Matt Lucas, The Socially Distant Sports Bar with Mike Bubbins and Steff Garrero, the Feast of Football for BBC Radio Wales and Football Weekly for The Guardian.

In 2018, Elis published Holy Vible which he co-authored with John Robins. Since then, they have hosted the Friday afternoon show on BBC 5 Live together. He is a regular columnist for The Guardian where he writes about Welsh football.

Beverley Humphreys’s career spans the Welsh National Opera, concert appearances and one-woman shows, crossing the boundaries from opera and musical theatre to jazz and comedy. The Cardiff University alumna has toured with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and frequently leads Sunday Worship and Prayer for the Day on BBC Radio 4.

A racial justice advocate, she is Chair of Pontypridd Homelessness Project and mental health charity Growing Space. She serves on the Mencap Cymru advisory board, curates the Let Paul Robeson Sing exhibition, works with the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and is the trusted adult for seven refugees.

Rhodri’s career began at the Western Mail newspaper after studying for a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism at Cardiff University. In 1993, he joined the BBC as a trainee and spent the next eight years reporting and producing in England. Now the BBC Director of Nations, Rhodri leads the broadcaster’s work serving nations and local audiences across Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Professor Karen Holford is Vice-Chancellor at Cranfield University. A CBE, her engineering career spans industry and academia beginning at Rolls-Royce as an undergraduate before gaining her degree and PhD at Cardiff University. At Rolls-Royce she contributed to technical projects including the development of Adour and Pegasus engines.

Senior engineer positions at AB Electronic Products Ltd. culminated in Professor Holford leading the design and development of new products for BMW and Jaguar Land Rover. She returned to Cardiff University in 1990, serving as Deputy Vice-Chancellor from 2017.

One of only seven Black female King’s Counsel in the UK, Nneka Akudolu was sworn in as a Silk in 2022 and specialises in criminal law. Having left school without A-levels, Nneka completed an Access course before choosing Cardiff University for her degree.

Halfway through her degree, she gave birth to her daughter and continued with her studies. Following her training, Nneka secured pupillage at 5 King’s Bench Walk and has been a practicing criminal barrister ever since.

Professor Peter Katjavivi is a Namibian politician currently serving as a Member of Parliament and Speaker of the National Assembly of Namibia. He played a prominent role in the liberation of Namibia, building international support through diplomatic activity.

He was the founding Vice-Chancellor of the University of Namibia, a position he held until 2003. He is also the founding and serving Chancellor of the Namibia University of Science and Technology.

Professor Stuart Palmer is a physicist whose research has involved the use of lasers, ultrasound and magnetism to address challenges in industry and medicine. He was Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Warwick for over ten years. In 2014, Professor Palmer joined the Council of Cardiff University and became Chair in 2016 before handing over to Pat Younge in 2022. He now chairs the Council of Brunel University in London.

Nina Zhang is the Executive Vice President, Managing Director and Head of Citi China Commercial Bank. Based in Shanghai, she is responsible for all of Citi Commercial Bank businesses and operations in China. Prior to this, Nina was Head of Risk for Citi China Commercial Bank, where she oversaw risk management of commercial bank portfolios in China. Before joining Citi, Nina held various management roles in credit, loan and client relationship at Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China Everbright Bank. She holds a PhD in Banking and Finance and a Master’s degree in International Economics, Banking and Finance which she gained from Cardiff Business School.

We’ll be capturing the #CardiffGrad atmosphere across campus and the city and sharing behind-the-scenes posts and student takeovers. Add #CardiffGrad to your posts and we’ll share our favourites. Find us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.