All posts by Jasmin

FMS EDI Intern Reflection

As our EDI interns time within the team comes to an end, one of our interns Jasmin has written a blog post to detail her time as the FMS EDI Intern for the last 2 years.

My time in the Faculty of Medical Sciences EDI team has been one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had since starting university in 2019. Going into university I had no strict plan for myself, other than I wanted to get a degree and explore my options in the field of psychology, but ultimately, I hoped to work towards a career in the mental health sector and train to be a clinical psychologist in the future. However, when it came time to apply for placements at the beginning of my second year, I was pushed towards clinical placements like assistant psychologists roles to support my future aspirations. But upon further inspection of the placements advertised, I realised the EDI position, although not in the traditional clinical psychology route, fed into a lot of my passions and interests surrounding neurodiversity, LGBT+ issues, and mental health. 

After applying, I was offered the placement on the FMS EDI team and was elated that I could have a year placement learning things I otherwise wouldn’t without a year of first hand experience. The experience I gained from the role has been invaluable to myself both personally and professionally. Having Louise, Damian, Amy, and now Emma as my supervisors throughout my time in the position has been extremely rewarding and I couldn’t have asked for better support and guidance throughout. 

In my first year of placement, I began working on the Equality Project. At the time it seemed very daunting to be in such a large scale project for Charter Mark applications like Athena Swan and being surrounded by academics, professional staff, and students from different faculties, but as time went on I realised how warm and welcoming everyone was as we were all working towards the same goals in our work-streams. The project helped me by getting insight into data analysis from academics and researchers, as well as building my presentation and communication skills, to writing the full report for the taught programme workstream. My experience on the project has been nothing but rewarding. As well as this, pitching my own ideas for not only aspects of the Equality Project, but also with EDI events, social media posts, newsletters and other communications has been amazing for my personal development in terms of confidence. 

Louise, Abbie, and Jasmin at one of their FMS EDI Pop up days
Picture taken at the EDI spotlight event.

During my placement year I was also invited along to the Advance HE EDI conference in Manchester 2022 to help with the Equality Project Session delivered by Louise, Damian, Amy, and Cristina. This was one of the most rewarding points of my placement, seeing all of the hard work the work-streams had put into the project pay off in a full session, and seeing that many attendees wished to take on a similar project in their own institution. Additionally, the conference allowed me a chance to network with others in the EDI sector and see how my future career aspirations linked to EDI by attending clinical psychologists sessions at the conference. Since then I have had countless more valuable experiences in which I have gained skills I never would have without undertaking the EDI placement. 

I continued my placement alongside my studies part time in my final year with Abbie the new intern, and once again having this experience to develop further skills, but also upkeep the skills I had learned surrounding surveys, data analysis, and report writing helped me in countless ways during my dissertation. As well as this, taking part in planning and attending events like our International Women’s Day event was an amazing way to celebrate the inspiring people at the university and see how much EDI events and initiatives mean to those who are recognised.

The International Women’s Day event
The EDI Team at the International Women’s Day event

Again, I could not be more thankful for the help and support I received from Louise, Damian, Emma, Amy, Abbie, and the wider university EDI team throughout my time here. As a result of the placement and my additional part-time role, I have now secured a full time role to work in a local charity helping people from my community with their mental health using motivational techniques which will be invaluable to my career progression and development. I know that without my EDI experience I would not have been able to achieve this and am extremely grateful for everything I have taken away from my time as part of the team!

International Day of Women And Girls IN science: FMS EDI Interns

This year for International Day of Women and Girls in Science, our two EDI interns Abbie and Jasmin have written a bit about what #IDWGIS means to them!

Abbie Lightfoot

What does being a woman in science mean to you?

Being a STEM student, and working within FMS, means I’ve had the opportunity to meet numerous influential and inspiring female scientists. These women have had a marked impact on my passion for science, as witnessing these female role models excel in their work provides hope for me, and all young women studying science, that one day we too may become successful in our respective fields. Traditionally a male-dominated field, the sciences feel more accessible to women now than they ever have before!

What inspired you to study the sciences?

My inspiration to study the sciences came, primarily, from the female science teachers I’ve had the pleasure to be taught by throughout my education. These women instilled a confidence in me, and I’m sure many others, that anyone can achieve in the sciences if they work hard! I recall these teachers juggling caring responsibilities, illness, and bereavements while still managing to provide us with engaging, interesting, and worthwhile science lessons!

I’ve also always been inspired by famous female scientists, particularly those from history who managed succeed in a world in which the odds were against them purely due to their gender. Take, for example, Grace Harwood Stewart, the first woman to attend the Newcastle University Medical School!

What are your aspirations for your future in science?

Although I haven’t completely nailed down my career plans yet, I am certain that I want to remain in science. My BSc is in Pharmacology, and following this I hope to remain at the university to study a MSc, although I’m yet to decide which subject field! I have, additionally, considered a career in teaching. The impressive female teachers of my past have motivated me to use my love of the sciences to inspire future generations. Being able to implore a love of science into young people would be an excellent use of my skills, and something which I know I would find extremely rewarding! Despite all of this, I’m still not sure, so watch this space!

Jasmin Hudson

Image preview

What does being a woman in science mean to you?

Studying a subject which is constantly up for debate by people on whether is fits into the ‘STEM’ criteria almost made me more passionate about my degree and proving women can influence the more ‘typical’ science fields from within psychology! I have been taught by so many inspiring women who have discovered very influential things in their research and as a result has allowed me to feel represented and focus on my own aspirations without doubting myself. I think seeing these women lecture in a professional field which is very male-dominated shows just how capable we all are of achieving what we want to achieve!

What inspired you to study the sciences?

My inspirations to study science came from women throughout history who made a difference. I was always very interested in Psychology but I specifically remember studying Psychology at A-Level and every study we learned about seemed to have been conducted by a man. That was until I learned about the Loftus and Palmer (1974) study! Finding out that a woman was involved in carrying out one of the most influential pieces of research in forensic psychology was such a relief and re-engaged me in something I was so passionate about. This led me to go on to find out about all of the amazing women involved in psychology throughout history like Mary Ainsworth and Mary Whiton Calkins who have almost been erased from textbooks! I think this just goes to show how important role-models can be to young girls and women who want to enter the sciences!

What are your aspirations for your future in science?

Although I am not 100% sure what my goals are yet for my future, I know that I want to remain within the field of Psychology and hope to go on to do my masters degree in clinical psychology in 2024!

But on a broader scale, one of my main goals for the future is to show the influence of other women within psychology to those hoping to enter the field. I think the impact of this has been especially obvious to myself as the average university cohort for psychology is now mostly female, but despite this, there is almost no representation of these women in the wider professional fields! I think everyone should aspire to engage and inspire young women and girls to enter the scientific fields they are passionate about without fear of being underrepresented as we have so much to offer!

Find out more about International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

FMS Presents ‘My JOurney: The lasting impact of frequent misnaming’

The Faculty of Medical Sciences hosted another ‘My Journey’ event on Wednesday 2nd November via Zoom. This semester’s topic was ‘The lasting impact of frequent misnaming’. The talk was held via Zoom with speakers Vi Parker (she/her/hers), the university’s EDI training lead, and Farhana Chowdhury (she/her/hers), a second year PhD student.  

The talk began with both hosts introducing themselves and their background. Vi is Vietnamese-Australian but has lived in the U.K. for 14 years. Farhana has lived in Newcastle her whole life.  

To start, Vi asked everyone in the audience to state their name so we knew how to pronounce it. This was a helpful exercise as she also asked if some individuals had experienced misnaming with a large majority saying they had, and relatively frequently. Farhana then asked everyone to take part in some poll questions about misnaming. These questions revealed that everyone had spelled someone’s name wrong and also said someone’s name wrong in the past. The majority of people said they felt guilty about it. However, when the question ‘did you make excuses for it?’, the responses were very mixed. It was also very mixed when asked if it was a big deal when the misnaming occurred, but majority did say no. Most respondents also said they apologised after the misnaming. This shows that misnaming, whether a mistake or sometimes purposeful, is a frequent issue but Farhana and Vi used this to show how to approach this situation if it happens and the impact it can have when done often.  

Vi explained how individuals who experience misnaming frequently often become desensitised to it and dismiss it, despite the feelings that come with it (feeling not seen, invisible, unvalued etc.). However, she also emphasised the fact that individuals often stand up to misnaming to begin with, but tend to lose hope when they are met with dismissive responses. Some individuals from certain cultures may be named as part of tradition and/or their name means specific things. A member of the audience also shared the fact that she believes that individuals who have names given to them which means something in their culture e.g. nationality, royalty status, circumstances of birth, etc. often feel a strong association with their identity and being misnamed takes this away. This also removes the individual from being able to connect with others from the same culture or nationality, as the wrong pronunciation changes the meaning entirely and you are then unable to identify others from the same or similar backgrounds.  

The hosts also spoke about their own experiences of misnaming, with Farhana stating that she experienced instances of it throughout her school life and also into university. She said at school, a teacher found her name too difficult to pronounce and so changed her name without permission and called her this throughout her time at school, and at 12 years old, she felt unable to stand up for herself and correct a teacher. This kind of incident went as far as making her want to change her own name to ‘Hannah’ to accommodate for others’ unwillingness to learn. However, Farhana stated that despite this, she still did not know how common it was to be misnamed. At university, she was signed up by another individual to an event under the name of ‘Miss Newcastle University’ and had also been called ‘Fiona’ many times. After many instances of misnaming Farhana decided to raise this issue with her supervisor despite hesitation, and the issue was taken seriously and this lead her to write a blog post about the impact of misnaming. 

Similarly to Farhana’s experiences, Vi had also experienced many instances of misnaming since coming over from Vietnam to Australia as a refugee, and still experiences it now while living in the U.K. When she moved to Australia she changed her name to Vi, despite it originally being a hyphenated name, as people found it too hard to pronounce. She also shared that her family all did the same thing and anglicised their names to ‘accommodate’ for others. However, despite changing her name, she still experiences mispronunciation and misnaming such as; ‘Viv’, ‘Vivienne’, ‘Violet’, and even ‘Number 6’. Vi said that the system which is in place which allows this needs to change as it is far too common of a problem. She shared that studies have shown that among international students, over half anglicise their name, with one audience member sharing that they have done this since primary school and now their educational documents differ from the name on their birth certificate. Vi also explained that misnaming also effects self esteem and confidence, and as a result individuals who experience misnaming are less likely to assert themselves or leads to feelings of impostor syndrome.  

“The system which is in place which allows this needs to change as it is far too common of a problem”

As the talk came to a close, Vi discussed how the burden of misnaming is often put upon the individual being misnamed themselves. People tend to apologise and stress if they accidentally misname someone, but this then falls on the misnamed individual to comfort the other person and reassure them it is okay. There also comes extra effort and learning which falls upon the individual who is misnamed, with one audience member sharing that they had to learn the phonetic alphabet just to be able to spell their name over the phone, which Vi related to and shared that a dinner reservation was once made under the name ‘Victoria Ice-cream’ as she did not know the phonetic alphabet to spell her name ‘Vi’. 

In order to help and be an ally to those who may experience misnaming, Farhana shared some tips on ways in which you can lessen the burden for those who experience it: 

  1. Step in: if you see a colleague or friend being misnamed and they are unable to or hesitant to stand up for themselves, help them out! 
  1.  Share your own pronunciation: by sharing your own name pronunciation you create an open space for others to do the same with theirs. Farhana shared a resource where you can add an audio file to your email signature with how to say your name. There is also the ‘my name is…’ campaign where you phonetically spell your name in your email signature.  
  1. Education: by attending talks like this or reading, or listening to podcasts about instances like misnaming, you can educate yourself and take the burden off others to explain why misnaming is a big issue we need to address and how to tackle the problem.  
  1. No excuses: don’t make excuses when you do mispronounce or misname someone, simply just apologise and learn for next time! 

We would like to thank those who attended the ‘My Journey’ talk, and for those interested in attending future events which we hold once a semester, keep an eye on our twitter @FMSDiversityNCL ! We would also like to thank our speakers Vi Parker and Farhana Chowdhury for their voluntary talk on misnaming, it was extremely insightful and it sparked great discussion among the audience! 

Faculty of Medical Sciences EDI Intern Reflection

I started my placement in the EDI team in September 2021 as part of a placement year between stage 2 and 3 of my Psychology BSc degree. Since starting my role as FMS EDI Intern, I have undertaken various roles and in the process gained a lot of confidence. I have ran the EDI Twitter account, helped organise events and ‘My Journey’ talks, written reports, analysed data, and created promotional materials for the Equality Project.

My colleagues have been extremely supportive and helped me feel confident working alone on my own tasks and guiding my own internship, but also working as part of a team in the Equality Project. During my time working on the project I volunteered in workstream 1 (qualitative analysis), workstream 3 (taught programmes), and workstream 5 (PGR and ECR). In both workstream 1 and 3 I helped create and disseminate surveys to students and staff and helped create a report of the findings from the workstream 3 survey. Having to present and analyse data on my own as part of a wider team helped me organise my time better and trust my own instincts when it came to figuring out how to approach tasks. I now feel a lot more prepared for my final year and analysing data for my dissertation once I return to studying. I know that the skills I have gained working within the FMS EDI Team will be able to be applied in the rest of my academic career and also in future employment.

In March 2022 I also attended the Advance HE conference in Manchester with Louise Wright, Damian Parry, and Cristina Newell to present a workshop on the Equality Project and show other institutions how they may be able to do something similar. The conference was extremely eye opening to see all the great work that institutions around the country had been doing in a similar team/role to myself. It was also very rewarding to see the work we had put so much time and effort into over the prior months on the Equality Project be met with such a great response from attendees at the session and conference!

I was also nominated for the placement student of the year award by my supervisor Louise, this was an extremely rewarding nomination as it solidified that I had fulfilled my role within my placement well. However, I couldn’t have done any of it without the help of Louise Wright, Damian Parry, Amy Reeve, and the wider EDI and Equality Project team, who have all guided me throughout my internship and supported me with whatever tasks I took on, so thank you!!

FMS Presents: ‘My Journey’- A Disability Panel Discussion

To mark the beginning of Disability History Month 2021, FMS held another ‘My Journey’ event. This session consisted of 4 speakers in a panel discussion; Wendy Leanne Craig, an information security officer who has worked within the university since 1997, Charlotte Brown, a Biosciences PGR student, Emma Slack, a PHSI Research Associate, and Robert Shiel, who had worked for the university since 1980 and was also a student prior to this. The discussion was about everyone’s lived experience with a hidden or visible disability and talking about any barriers they may have faced and overcome to get to where they are now. We ended the panel discussion with a short Q&A session.

‘Coming out’ with a disability

Wendy Leanne Craig began the talk introducing herself, she is an information security officer within Newcastle University, working within the university since 1997. Wendy shared that she has a rare genetic disease known as Wilson’s, which predominantly affects her liver among other things. Her diagnosis also led to other effects such as ‘dizziness, tremors, dystonia, and a shaky voice’. Since Wendy began working at Newcastle, she has noticed lots of positive changes in the space of disability and accessibility.

Wendy began by saying she has an ‘open policy’ around her disability and will openly talk about it within the workplace to colleagues and friends. However, when Wendy first began her job at the university in 1997, she said you could not immediately see that she had a disability, it was hidden. This resulted in what Wendy describes as her having to ‘come out’ to her colleagues and friends that she has Wilson’s so that any issues she faced were not overlooked.

Since her disability became more visible, she has needed more support from university services, and has found the university has helped her a lot by supporting her with access to specialist resources and equipment she might need. Wendy said that she uses a software on her computer called ‘Dragon’. This aids her by recognising her voice so she can speak, and her words type out for her, and she can command her computer to do things using just her voice allowing Wendy to access and complete the same work as her colleagues.

Studying with a disability

Charlotte Brown is a current PhD student at Newcastle University. She studied her bachelor’s in human biology at Sheffield Hallam University prior to completing an MSc in computational systems and biology at Newcastle University.

Charlotte has been deaf from a young age and said that during her time studying, she has had to make sure her experience is not affected by this and she has not let her disability hold her back. Charlotte said her university experience has been helped greatly by the support from the university disability services and from staff in catering to her needs. This has allowed her to continue with her studies and succeed at every level to get to where she is now.

‘…I wasn’t doing enough or letting myself down’

Emma Slack is a research associate in the Population Health Sciences Institute at Newcastle University. Emma has a hidden, fluctuating disability that causes her to feel fatigued very often. She opened up about her struggles during school and at university trying to keep up with her peers but always finding it hard, but still pushed herself as she had nobody else to compare herself to.

After starting her PhD and a new job to support her financially, she had to go part-time with her academic studies. Pushing herself to work more hours than she was able to had taken a toll on her studies and health. After going part-time, she said she felt she ‘wasn’t doing enough or letting myself down’, despite this decision being in her best interests. She said this feeling came from external voices telling her things like ‘you’re just too scared to get a job’.

Emma stated that if she had more representation growing up of people in similar situations or facing similar obstacles, she would never have pushed herself or felt she was ‘behind’ her peers. She has now accepted that her journey in academia may take longer and she may face more obstacles, but that does not make it any less valuable as she has put in the same amount of work as those around her.

Emma also put together a small list of things people can do to help make her, and maybe others, journeys ‘less of a bumpy ride’:

  • Don’t make assumptions like:
    • If someone works part time it must be a good thing
    • If someone looks well, they are well
    • If someone needs to take a break or a rest, they are being lazy, and don’t laugh at them either 
    • You know how to cure someone’s disability or long-term condition
  • Respect boundaries
  • Ask what accessibility needs people have ahead of time for meetings or events etc.
    • Schedule in breaks if over an hour as common practice
  • Use inclusive language, not just in relation to disability
  • Be kind

Making positive changes to University accessibility

Robert Shiel is a Disability Liaison Officer within the university. He has worked for Newcastle University since 1980 and studied here prior to his employment. He then went to Aberdeen to get his PhD. It was when he was driving in a car in Zimbabwe, a tyre burst causing the car to roll. He suffered many injuries as a result of the accident including a broken back, punctured lung, concussion, among other injuries.

After the accident, he was flown back to Britain on what he described as an uncomfortable journey. His boss at the time told him that he had 6 months paid sick leave before he had to return to work. At this point Robert did not know what the extent of his injuries were. He found himself in the position of having to use a wheelchair as his accident had led to him being unable to use his legs.

Upon his return to work, his colleagues were very supportive, and he spent time trying to get facilities adapted for himself. He retired as an academic in 2012 and was hired as a consultant to help with access for disabled staff and students across Newcastle University’s campus. He said that the university facilities improved more and more as he was in his role and after receiving a good budget from a previous Vice Chancellor who wanted to make the campus as accessible as possible to everyone. However, Robert was not met with this kind of assistance to begin with, he said that when he first got into his role of consultant, he was met with negativity from those around him. But since his job, he has helped bring about a lot of changes to the campus and make sure all faculties, departments, rooms etc. are accessible for all staff and students.

My personal reflection of the talk

I found the talk extremely enlightening and it brought to light a lot of issues I had only ever heard in passing. Being able to hear each of the speakers experiences first-hand and learning about how different each of their stories were brought up a lot of questions for myself. I wondered why we aren’t doing more on a larger scale to help represent those with both hidden and visible disabilities, especially within education, to combat issues like imposter syndrome as not everyone within the disabled community will experience the same struggles. This is why making sure everyone’s accessibility requirements are met, whether they have a visible or hidden disability, is vital in making sure everyone feels heard and can achieve their best without facing further, unnecessary obstacles.

Thank you so much again to all of the speakers for taking the time to participate in this discussion. The next My Journey event with new speakers will be taking place in the new year – we hope to see you there! Keep up to date with events over on our Twitter page @FMSDiversityNCL!