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University of Oxford staff and students are celebrating after receiving prizes at this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Diversity Awards.

The Awards ceremony took place on Thursday 26 May 2022 at Keble College, recognising the outstanding achievements of those who empower and inspire others in promoting diversity. 

A total of 91 nominations were made for the Awards showcasing a range of initiatives promoting diversity. Five overall winners were announced: two individuals and three project teams. Three individuals were also Highly Commended. 

A further 13 entries were shortlisted (9 individuals and 3 projects) and recognised for their dedication and hard work across all strands of diversity.  

The event, though, was a celebration of everyone who was nominated and who works to promote equality, diversity and inclusion. The Awards provide a platform to celebrate the strength of commitment to equality and diversity at Oxford and to recognise individuals and groups who have inspired others, demonstrated leadership and made a difference to equality and diversity in the University’s working, learning and social environment. 

Professor Louise RichardsonVice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson said: “The University is deeply committed to promoting equality and diversity in the workplace and to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all members of our community. Exceptional work is being undertaken at all levels of the University in this area and countless colleagues devote time and energy to initiatives which promote equality and diversity – often on top of their usual responsibilities. The awards recognise and celebrate these pioneering initiatives and the people behind them.” 

Martin Williams, PVC Education, said: “The Vice Chancellor’s Diversity Awards offered an opportunity to showcase exceptional contributions to diversity and inclusion from across the University. As Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), I was particularly delighted to see so many outstanding student nominees. Their varied and innovative approaches were truly inspiring and provided another reminder that the excellence of Oxford students is not only demonstrated by their academic achievements.” 

Lauren Rudd, winner of the Student Champion award, said: “The Vice-Chancellors Diversity Awards was a fantastic event and great opportunity to celebrate the many achievements being honoured. Hearing about all of the amazing people that are working on ED&I initiatives across the university was incredibly inspiring, and I am very grateful for the recognition I received." 

Jane Garnett, winner of the Staff Champion award, said: “This is an award received on behalf of so many others with whom I have been privileged to work. Everything I have done has been in creative collaboration with others.” 

Alex Ramadan, lead of the Challenges and Changes in Physics project, said: “When trying to improve equality, diversity and inclusion in academia, and particularly in the physical sciences, it can often feel quite tiring and challenging. The timescales on which changes can be made are so slow, and it can feel like you’re not achieving enough or that the changes you make are incremental. I was delighted that we received a VC’s Diversity Award for our project. It feels like validation for all the hard work we’ve put into the project since starting it over two years ago. We are preparing to expand the project beyond Oxford and having this award will give us credibility outside of the University and will no doubt help us on our mission to improve the wider physics community.” 

Alex Betts, lead of The Refugee-Led Research Hub, said: “This award is recognition for the entire Refugee-Led Research Hub team who have been working to expand opportunities for researchers and students from displacement backgrounds. We hope that this can catalyse and strengthen the University’s commitment to offer access opportunities and scholarships for refugees from around the world”.   

Student Champion: Lauren Rudd

 

Lauren Rudd
Lauren Rudd

 

Lauren Rudd, DPhil student, Zoology and Green Templeton College 
Lauren has spearheaded equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives as the Vice President for Equality and Diversity at Green Templeton College (GTC), an active member of the Zoology Race Equality Task Force, an MPLS EDI Fellow and co-founder of the BIPOC STEM Network. At GTC, Lauren campaigned for positions for Black and LGBTQ+ student representatives and engaged with the college’s senior leadership. She co-created the Zoology Department’s reverse tutorials scheme, to promote awareness of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) issues among academic staff. With the BIPOC STEM network, she promotes and supports the work of People of Colour within the University and beyond through an outreach programme and a wide range of events. 

Highly Commended 

 

Mary Adeyemo (left) and Rebecca Colquhoun
Mary Adeyemo (left) and Rebecca Colquhoun

 

Mary Adeyemo, DPhil student, Law and Wolfson College 
Mary is a graduate moot mentor for the Sutton Trust’s Pathways to Law Programme, which provides mentoring to support Year 12 and 13 students from low-income backgrounds to join the legal profession, and has directly and indirectly mentored nearly 60 students. She is a volunteer tutor at Tutor The Nation, a charity connecting university students with pupils in the State sector for free online tutoring. Mary founded CareerCarriez to promote education amongst low-income families from Ikorodu, Nigeria. She organises monthly webinars on how to access scholarships and global opportunities; she has reached over 500 students and at least five have progressed to higher education. 

Rebecca Colquhoun, DPhil student, Earth Sciences and University College 

Rebecca leads initiatives that tackle racism, homophobia and ableism at department, college and divisional level and beyond Oxford. Within the Department of Earth Sciences, Rebecca has invited LGBTQ+ speakers to the department careers fair, co-founded the department’s LGBTQ+ affinity group, and co-founded Oxford Unlearning Racism in Geoscience, which produced anti-racism policies and resources. At University College, they advocate for disabled students, running social events and promoting available support. They have shared their own experiences of being neurodiverse to encourage disabled students to apply to university. They are the institutional liaison for the International Society of Non-binary Scientists and co-organised the American Geophysical Union annual LGBTQ+ meet-up. 

Also shortlisted

 

(from left) Devika Devika, Geoffrey Mboya and Georgina Dettmer
(from left) Devika Devika, Geoffrey Mboya and Georgina Dettmer

 

Devika Devika, Vice President Graduates, Oxford SU 

Devika has been a true champion of equality and diversity throughout her time at the University, bringing issues to the forefront, and constantly supporting others to learn and grow. Her influence has been felt at St Antony’s, ensuring support for the BAME community; at the Bodleian, contributing to diversity and race inclusion workshops, seminars and strategy; as a researcher and guide for Uncomfortable Oxford, helping people to see the hidden and problematic histories of colonialism at Oxford; and within Oxford SU, representing students on over 33 committees and contributing to the Race Equality Task Force. 

Geoffrey Mboya, DPhil student, Mathematical Institute and St Peter’s College 

Geoffrey has been active in the Mathematical Institute since 2019, first joining the Departmental Committee as postgraduate representative, then serving on the Equality and Diversity Committee. He was elected as one of the ten inaugural MPLS EDI Fellows, contributing to the Race Equality working group. Geoffrey is the founder of the Mfano Africa-Oxford Mathematics Virtual Mentorship Programme, a mathematical science mentorship scheme for Black research students from Africa. Mfano Africa has enabled eleven students to gain research experience and build their networks, and Geoffrey has co-supervised three Masters theses. Earlier this year, Geoffrey was shortlisted for the WorldSkills UK EDI Rare Rising Star Award. 

Georgina Dettmer, Undergraduate, English Language and Literature, Trinity College 

Georgina outlined diversity and inclusion as a central goal for her year as President of the Oxford University Dramatic Society and raised the benchmark for diversity, equality and access within Oxford’s student theatre community. She also founded the Quick Company, a student theatre company devoted to working with first-time actors, many of whom have experienced structural barriers to acting. It has become a staple part of Oxford drama, bridging a gap in a university society often associated with elitism. Georgina collaborated and supported the production 'Intimacies' from 2021-22, showcasing all-Black acting talent in a prominent Oxford space. Many of the cast have gone on to head up their own projects. 

 

Krisha Hirani (left) and Yusuf Ben-Tarifite
Krisha Hirani (left) and Yusuf Ben-Tarifite

 

Krisha Hirani, Undergraduate, English Language and Literature, Brasenose College 

Krisha is proactive in making Oxford a more inclusive space, frequently engaging with outreach and access, including as UNIQ Ambassador, Asian Heritage Ambassador and Outreach Ambassador. As a columnist for Cherwell, she discusses the beauty of shared language between Hindi and Urdu and the significance of food in culture. Krisha founded the Oxford University Asia Society to embrace Oxford’s Asian diaspora and to promote Oxford as a safe and inclusive space, welcoming non-Asian students and those who want to educate themselves. Krisha also celebrates her culture with those close to her, often cooking dishes that remind her of home and feeding over ten people. 

Yusuf Ben-Tarifite, Medical Student, Green Templeton College 

As a Crankstart Scholar, Yusuf is passionate about equality of opportunity. An Outreach Ambassador, he has attended student conferences and Virtual Open Days and filmed an Open Day Video, with over 8,000 views. Yusuf founded a social enterprise, The Aspiring Medics, to help disadvantaged students to get into medicine and leads a team of over 40 medical students from across the UK. Its website, providing advice on the application process, had over 100,000 users in the last 12 months. As first Secretary and now President of Oxford University’s Powerlifting Club, Yusuf has sought to make powerlifting more accessible, including through ensuring equal gender representation at future Powerlifting Varsities. 

Staff Champion: Professor Jane Garnett

 

Jane Garnett
Jane Garnett

 

Professor Jane Garnett, History Faculty and Wadham College 

Jane has promoted EDI for many years and successfully operates at all levels, from the interpersonal to the institutional. Among her many achievements she has created a robust EDI strategy for the Humanities Division, led the development of UK BME PGT Studentships and established the Divisional Culture Change Fund. Jane has been a driving force behind the interdisciplinary MSt in Women’s Studies (now 'Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies') since its foundation and engages junior scholars in teaching and governance. At Wadham College, Jane has spearheaded numerous initiatives, supporting students individually and collectively, advocating for better support of care-experienced and estranged students and for a graduate disability scholarship. 

Highly Commended 

Colin Larkworthy, Clinical Trials Support Officer, Jenner Institute 

On top of his day job, Colin has worked to raise awareness of neurodiversity and help others to achieve their full potential, sharing his own perspective of living with autism. He has actively participated in public engagement programmes, developing activities for the Natural History Museum’s autism-friendly opening. He has also organised a speaker event, including representatives from Act for Autism and Experimental Psychology, on the difficulties experienced by people with neurodiversity when dealing with information imparted by neurotypical people. He is planning further presentations on sensory sensitivities, education, mental and physical health and autism in older age groups. 

Also shortlisted

 

Leanne O'Donnell, Lucy Taylor and Mindy Chen-Wishart
Leanne O'Donnell, Lucy Taylor and Mindy Chen-Wishart

 

Alexandra Ramadan, Postdoctoral Researcher, Physics 

Alex works towards an inclusive academic environment and mentors younger students within her research group. She participates in a range of outreach activities, mentoring students from under-represented backgrounds, hosting students for research placements and giving regular talks in schools. She initiated the lecture series ‘Challenges and Changes in Physics’, aimed at raising awareness and driving actions to enact real change the department, and organises reading groups and panel discussions to engage as many people as possible. Alex was a postdoc representative on the University’s Race Equality Task Force, providing a strong and challenging voice, and is an MPLS EDI Fellow, contributing to wider divisional policies and actions. 

Leanne O'Donnell, Administrator, Astrophysics 
Leanne has been the driving force behind ensuring that the department’s public engagement events really are inclusive and open to all. As a key member of the Stargazing Oxford planning team, she identified that young people with additional support needs (ASN) were interested in engaging with science but found events inaccessible. In response, she spearheaded the development of a dedicated Stargazing event for children with ASN and their families. She has built the department’s relationship with KEEN Oxford, an organisation promoting disability rights and inclusion, and members regularly attend events. 

Lucy Taylor, Junior Research Fellow, Zoology and Christ Church 

Lucy’s commitment to improving mental health for staff and students has had a lasting impact on the University community. She has served as an MPLS EDI Fellow and as a researcher representative, sitting on numerous committees and working groups to actively improve support for early career researchers and students. Lucy was the driving force behind the MPLS Mental Health Awareness Week in 2021, which engaged over 660 different individuals from across the University, and is trained as a Mental Health First Aider. During the pandemic, she sent weekly mentoring emails to graduate students in her department and organised online socials for those struggling with isolation. 

Mindy Chen-Wishart, Dean, Law Faculty 

Mindy launched the #RaceMeToo campaign on Twitter in July 2021 and has since generated over 1,600 tweets on the issue of racism in the academy. In the aftermath of Black Lives Matter, the campaign touched a nerve and gave voice to a long-ignored issue. The campaign has spilled over from Twitter into multiple other fora, gaining attention in the media, attracting numerous invitations to speak at events and inspiring other law schools in the UK and beyond to take action. Mindy has made herself available to answer questions, deal with backlash, offer sympathy and solidarity, hear voices of shared experiences and offers leadership on the issue of racism. 

Projects 

Winner: Inclusive Culture 

Unlearning Racism in Geoscience, submitted by Rebecca Colquhoun, Earth Sciences 

Gave members of the Earth Sciences department an opportunity to educate themselves on what it means to be anti-racist and identified actions the department could take. 

Winner: Diversifying Participation 

The Refugee-Led Research Hub, submitted by Alexander Betts, Department of International Development 

Has created opportunities for refugee researchers to access training, mentorship and funding in order to build research careers in Social Sciences and Humanities. 

Winner: Promoting Awareness 

Challenges and Changes in Physics, submitted by Alexandra Ramadan, Physics 

Has raised awareness of the lack of diversity in Physics and promoted the changes that department members can make to build a community that is more diverse, equitable and inclusive. 

Also shortlisted 

Beyond the Binary, submitted by Jozie Kettle, Pitt Rivers Museum 

Worked with community partners to co-curate what has been a hugely successful exhibition and bring LGBT+ voices into the Pitt Rivers Museum’s public programme. 

Changing the Narrative, submitted by Helen Worrell, Bodleian Libraries 

Has championed inclusive collection development in the Bodleian Libraries and expanded the range of EDI resources available to readers. 

Mfano Africa-Oxford Mathematics Virtual Mentorship Programme, submitted by Geoffrey Mboya, Mathematical Institute 

Has provided opportunities for mathematics students from Sub-Saharan Africa to work on a research project with Oxford-based mentors and receive support to develop postgraduate research applications.