Category Archives: Social Mobility

Despite talent and determination, many people are don’t experience equal opportunities for success due to their social or economic background. This is an issue that FMS EDI aim to combat.

Personal Histories: Adetunji Otemade

October was Black History Month, a month dedicated to celebrating black people in the UK. Through this Personal Histories blog series we hoped to honour our own staff and students at Newcastle by speaking to them about their interests, likes and dislikes and aspects of their culture, to learn more about their stories and histories.

For our fourth and final blog in the series, we had a very interesting chat with Dental Sciences Teaching Fellow, Adetunji Otemade to find out more about his interests, perspectives and career.

How did you end up in Newcastle?

When I saw the job application I was in the process of relocating to New Zealand actually, to work in New Zealand and well… things changed! I’ve always wanted to go into academia and obviously how I applied was a last minute thing, but I got the interview, got the job and it’s been great since then. I’ve always been around in the North East because I did my bachelor’s degree at Teesside University and went on to do my masters at Teesside as well, so I would consider myself a Northerner.

How did you become involved in your role?

I trained as a Dental Hygienist and Therapist and after my first degree I worked in practice for a while, then worked within communities. I’ve always felt a keen interest and a spark when it comes to research, so I went ahead and did a master’s in Public Health. When I finished my master’s degree I worked down south in London with an NHS Trust where I  was involved with various dental outreach projects which include dental care for the elderly in care homes, dental care for the homeless and primary school visits. After my master’s degree I wanted to do a PhD which was a reason why I was looking to go abroad, but then this job came up and I just feel it’s a perfect fit.

When it comes to pursuing a PhD degree or research in general, in our profession as Dental Hygienists and Therapists, we don’t necessarily have lots of people going ahead and doing PhDs – we do have a couple staff around here that have got their PhD and it’s actually following their footsteps and doing something worthwhile, but at the same time doing something that you enjoy and contributing to the profession as a whole. So yeah, it’s been a long journey; I actually started as a dental nurse back in 2007 which was when I moved up to the UK from Nigeria.

What are your main hobbies and interests outside of your role?

I love photography, and I do a blog – a men’s style, men’s fashion blog, just taking photos and writing about how to dress and stuff. Hopefully it’s still working because I can’t remember the last time I posted, with my workload and trying to balance that. I enjoy photography as well, grabbing my camera, going out and taking shots and pictures. But yeah, my main hobby outside of the University is basically fashion photography and blogging.

I love music as well and I’m trying to combine my love for music with the kind of research that I’m doing in terms of music therapy, or how music affects our brains when it comes to managing anxiety in patients.

What would you regard as your proudest achievement?

On a professional level I would say getting to where I am today; it’s been a long journey considering the background that I came from. I’ve always been in an academic environment as my dad taught at a higher institution before he retired, and my mum as a primary school teacher and eventually as a head teacher before she retired. However, it’s not been an easy journey. I had to leave university during the first year of my animal science degree back then. My reason for leaving was because I was young and dumb; however, the constant university strike that was rampant in the country back then did not really help either. I was lucky to have my aunty who happened to come over to Nigeria from the UK on a visit and thought the environment was not really ideal or working for me and made plans for me to come over, all of which only took about 4 months. So finding myself in this environment from somewhere where you’ve struggled in the past and it’s taken you loads to actually get to know yourself, to get to a place where you have a master’s degree and hopefully start your PhD… It’s a great achievement.

Aside from my work and academics I would say it’s having a family, having my kids.

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced?

It’s a difficult one, you know. In terms of challenges I would say looking back it’s been very difficult to climb the career ladder, so to speak, and I think it depends on the level that you are, for example if you’re starting from scratch.

In terms of my profession, being a dental nurse back in the day used to be mainly dominated by females so I’ve experienced sort of, like, discrimination along the lines. Things are changing now but we still have a long way to go in the UK and the world generally when it comes to making things equal for men, women, people from different races and backgrounds, sexual orientation and everything. Sometimes it’s very difficult to cope with the fact that you’ve lectured, you’ve taught students here, you’ve mixed with lots of people, and on your way home you still get racially abused. In 2019. So yeah, so that’s a very big challenge.

What inspires you?

Life. Knowledge. And self. I just see life as a journey, and I feel we need to appreciate knowledge and cherish it. Once you’re knowledgeable – well, you can’t know everything – but once you’re more knowledgeable it makes you much more informed and when you know your rights and you know what’s right for you then that can be moved through life, knowing that you know. And in terms of life, as we all live on this planet, we are all human beings regardless of where you’re from, your sexual orientation, religion and everything and as long as other people are happy then you can be happy. So that’s what inspires me, and seeing everyone achieving their full potential is something that I cherish a lot. I think that that’s what brought me to this role because you want to inspire knowledge and inspire the next generation of young kids who will go ahead and do greater things.

Can you give me a selection of your favourite things from your culture, favourite music, films, food, literature etc?

Food! Being a Nigerian man, we don’t joke with our food. So local food, I know lots of people talk about jollof rice and stuff like that, but personally for me, a food called iyan which is yam flour meal, pounded yam, or you have eba (made from cassava). I think they now call those types of food swallow – that was something I heard recently – I went to Nigeria last year but it’s been a while and things have changed since moving over here, emergence of these new things. So swallow is any food that is made like maize meal, cassava meal, those types of foods and you eat them with spicy sauce, vegetables and stuff with meat, fish; that’s a big thing. So food is very important and special. Then it’s just the culture, the music and swag; I don’t know if people are aware of it but African music is poppin’ right now. The likes of Burna Boy, Davido, Wizkid, Runtown, just to mention a few, are popular at the moment. So yeah, definitely the food and the music.

What do you think about when you hear “Black History Month”?

Obviously because my early education is not from the UK I don’t really know much about Black History Month, whereas if you ask my son or my children they will know as they’ve been taught. But having lived in the UK for quite a while now I understand that from a Western perspective Black History Month is basically to celebrate the achievements of black people in the UK, to look back and see how far they’ve come, the struggles and how far they still need to go as a community.

In terms of the context of Black History Month here it’s all about the achievements of black people through the Windrush and I think that’s the lens that we normally use. But as Africans, or western Africans we have a different history even compared to the Caribbean and everything. For example, as far as I’m aware in my family we’ve had great great grandparents or family members who migrated to the UK around the 1920s and there is little that we know about it – what I’m trying to say is that there’s lots of different ‘black’ history and I don’t know… To try and pull everything together and celebrate a month, I don’t think that works. But having said that, if that’s something we need to do for the purpose of equality which includes every race, then we just have to do it and keep working with it.

As a Nigerian I would say I don’t see myself as black and I have never seen myself as a black man until arriving in the UK. I am a human being who is fortunate to be born in the part of the world I was born. I just feel I’m now in an environment where we have these labels and systems. However, this is where we are now and in order to make a change and spread the message that we are all human then I need to make my voice heard. We have blacks, Caucasians – we’re all human beings. I think I’m at that stage where I’m still trying to understand why we have to have this month – what about people of Chinese origin, Asian origin – are we going to have history for everyone? But this is what we’ve got now so we’ve got to work with it.

Thank you so much to Adetunji for doing this interview with us – we are so grateful, and really enjoyed hearing his perspectives. And the music recommendations have not gone unappreciated!

That’s one of the best parts about celebrating one another and sharing our stories or ideas with others – you never know what you might learn, or the impact that a fresh perspective could have. We hope that you’ve enjoyed our Personal Histories blog series, and we would encourage you to get involved

If you would like to speak to us about yourself, a topic you’re interested in or maybe even an event you’re involved with, we would be more than happy to share it on our blog. The more interactive the better, so don’t hesitate to contact us.

Personal Histories: Nicole Akuffo

This October is Black History Month, a month dedicated to celebrating black people in the UK. Although we should honour them throughout the year, it provides a special focus on their lives and experiences. 

We’re honouring our own staff and students at Newcastle by speaking to them about their interests, likes and dislikes and aspects of their culture, to learn more about their stories and histories. For our third blog in the series, we spoke with Nicole Akuffo, a stage 3 Dentistry student, to find out about her experiences and interests, both in and out of university.

How did you end up in Newcastle?

I was researching into studying Dentistry because that’s what I wanted to study first, and Newcastle  was one of the universities that allowed a transfer scheme from Oral Hygiene into Dentistry – I wanted to be in that specific part of Dentistry, but I also wanted to have the option to transfer if I then wanted to just do Dentistry. Newcastle was probably one of the only universities that I believe, at least back then, allowed for that so I definitely wanted to come to Newcastle. 

What are your main hobbies and interests outside of your course?

I like singing, and I like dancing as well. I’ve actually recently joined Pole Dancing Society! I watched the movie, Hustlers (a film about pole dancers during the Wall Street economic collapse) and I was like you know what, I want to do that! So I’ve joined that society, it’s so good – it’s great for your core and everything so I’m really enjoying that. I’ve also joined the African and Caribbean society as well so sometimes we have game nights or talent shows, or even sports things – I don’t play any sports but I go to watch and it’s so fun. 

Photo of Nicole.
What would you regard as your proudest achievement?

Before now, I would probably say… I got a Blue Peter badge when I was in Year 6 that so was my big achievement, I was telling everyone about it. I wrote a poem; back in the day I went through phases where I wanted to be everything. I started off thinking that I wanted to be a writer and then I wanted to be a poet, so I wrote a poem and handed it into my school teacher. She asked if I watched Blue Peter and said I should go online and submit it to them. They ended up reading it out on the show and then sent me the badge afterwards! It was honestly like my five minutes of fame, it was the best thing ever.

Now, I would say probably getting into Dentistry, getting in and studying the course that I’m on now would be my proudest achievement thus far.

What would you say is the biggest challenge you have faced?

I would say sometimes… because obviously I’ve come to a predominantly white area, I’ve never really experienced racism outwardly, but I’ve definitely had experiences with people that are very ignorant, purely because they’re not educated on certain ways or behaviours that trigger people of colour. So being in situations like that – being on my course, there’s three black people and some people just don’t quite understand the weight that that carries sometimes, and the mannerisms in which they can speak or say certain things can be very triggering. But you don’t want to then be, like, screaming at people and making people feel uncomfortable – even though you feel uncomfortable by what they’ve done – purely because you understand that they don’t understand what they’re saying and why it hurts you. So that I would say is the biggest challenge that I am now facing, with that feeling of wanting to educate them, but I’m also not a teacher to be educating someone on these things. So I don’t know – it’s a sticky one. I’m still trying to figure it out. 

What inspires you?

I’d say my parents, both my mum and my dad. They were born in Ghana in Africa, and then they came over to the UK; my dad and my mum have made a life for themselves and I feel like everything I do I owe to them. My dad’s a doctor now, and he obviously was pushing for us to become the best that we could be, so I would say they are definitely my inspiration. Just seeing how they’ve… I wouldn’t say they’ve come from nothing but I know my mum and dad very much struggled growing up – so seeing that if they’re able to do what they’ve done, I feel like I am also able to do whatever I want to do. 

Can you give me a selection of your favourite things from your culture?

In terms of media.. right now I would say Beyoncé, I actually have a top on right now that says Beyoncé on the back!  She recently made an album, because she’s linked to the Lion King movie that she was in, she’s made a kind of African, afrobeat album collaborating with different types of African artists and has amalgamated it into this beautiful artwork. There’s a song called Brown Skinned Girls and I just think what she’s doing now is so empowering, for people to love and be happy in their own skin, you know? 

In terms of food and culture and everything, I would say my favourite thing about being African is the parties, the food, the social aspects. It’s just crazy – when I go back to London, to an auntie’s party or something and seeing the vibrant colours, the robes and clothes that we wear. There’s something called Kente cloth which is a type of cloth made in Ghana and knitted in a specific way. I love seeing how people have different outfits made from that and stuff – we try to modernize it as well. I made a crop top and flared trousers from Kente cloth because I wanted to put more of a Western twist on it as well, linking it. People love the African Kente cloth, and I think people need to feel more confident in wearing it.

Nicole and her family wearing Kente cloth.
What do you think about when you hear Black History Month?

I feel like my idea of Black History Month has changed now – back in the day I would always think of the history – growing up, in school for Black History Month we had to draw portraits literally every year. One year I drew Nelson Mandela, the next year I was drawing Rosa Parks and it was all about learning the history behind all of that. Now, I would say that it’s more of a celebration of where we are now. Like how in the university now, there’s the campaign called Black Is Gold, and I think it’s amazing. Sara and my other friend Rabs have done really, really well in trying to glorify everything and not make everything so, sort of, doom and gloom. They’re trying to put a new spin on it with the fashion show, the closing party that’s happening… There was also this thing I was involved in called BlackChat, where it was kind of putting a funny spin on certain things that we face every day and have to put up with and just vocalizing that. People were coming up to me on my course being like, “Oh my god, I saw that talk thing that you did, I didn’t know that you felt like that!” And I’m like, yeah, I don’t really make it open to everyone – but it’s so cool that these videos came out for people to see it and understand a bit more.  

Thank you so much to Nicole for taking the time to speak to us, we hope you enjoyed reading all she had to say, and getting to see those gorgeous outfits! Make sure to check out our previous blogs with Sara and Anne if you haven’t already.

Black History Month is soon coming to an end, but we would still love to speak with anyone who would be interested in talking to us about themselves as part of this series. If you would like to take part or even write your own blog post, please contact Claire Bailie!

NUMed10: A Milestone of Excellence  

“We truly have a community that is both diverse and inclusive at NUMed, and we are incredibly humbled that so many have come to be with us to celebrate our 10th anniversary. We anticipate what the future holds as we continue to develop our role in medical education in Malaysia and across the world,”

– Prof. Chris Baldwin, the Provost & Chief Executive Officer of NUMed

On 21st September 2019, Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia (NUMed) turned 10. Since welcoming its first cohort of students in September 2009, this first international branch campus of Newcastle University has been delivering exceptional medical education in Malaysia, extending the legacy to the Southeast Asian region. NUMed’s global community of students, faculty, staff and alumni convened to celebrate this momentous milestone, which was marked by a medley of local cultural performances and moving speeches by international and local leaders in education. Prof. Baldwin imparted his thoughts on what he observed were the makings of NUMed’s success: the excellence of all its staff, both academic and professional; the cooperation between NUMed, Newcastle University, UK, and NUMed’s partners in Malaysia; and the openness and collegiality of the NUMed community, whether international or local.

The Founding Provost and Chief Executive Officer of NUMed, Professor Reginald Jordan, spoke fondly of his experience: “Having seen the NUMed project through the early development stages, our move to the region marked the culmination of much hard work. It was a most exciting, if somewhat daunting, prospect, with the challenge being to translate the planning blueprint into reality and to fully realise the NUMed vision.”

Fast forward ten years, and the FMS EDI Team and the School of Medical Education Academic EDI Lead have been proud to support colleagues at NUMed to form their own EDI committee comprising 11 members of staff, a mixture of PS and academic staff plus two students. The team at Malaysia took the initiative to hold discussions with their counterparts in Reading and Southampton prior to setting up the EDI committee. These two campuses, along with Nottingham and Herriot-Watt, do not have local EDI committees, as a result NUMed has been a trailblazer, as the first campus in the region to look at EDI from a local perspective.

The over-riding principles for EDI work at NUMed are not around replicating what is currently in place in Newcastle but ensuring that the work is relevant for Malaysia. In deciding on the priorities for EDI at NUMed, members of the EDI committee attended an event in February 2019 held at the British Malaysian Chamber of Commerce where the keynote speech around EDI was delivered by the Deputy Minister for Women, Family and Community. In this speech the four key EDI areas for the Malaysian government were highlighted i.e. gender, race, disability and language and it is these areas that the EDI committee have taken as the cornerstone of their current work.

We are proud of the role that NUMed plays in the success of the Faculty and the University. As Prof. Richard Davies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Global, of Newcastle University noted, “The real strength of NUMed lies in the talented and passionate people of the university with shared affinity, ambition, and dedication. With that, there is no doubt that the best is yet to come.”

 

 

AUA conference 2019: Higher Education – Fit for the future?

Every year, the AUA (Association of University Administrators) hosts their Annual Conference and Exhibition, which gives those working in higher education the opportunity to attend sessions delivered by specialists and leading practitioners, share ideas and best practise, and learn about the latest sector developments. Their AGM is also hosted at the Conference.

This year’s AUA Conference and Exhibition was held on the 15th and 16th April at the University of Manchester and the theme was Higher Education – Fit for the Future? It focused on some of the challenges and inequalities in higher education and what changes must be made to prepare for the future.

Malasree Home, FMS’ Athena SWAN Support Officer, has written about her experiences at this year’s Conference:

I have to secretly confess that, on that Monday morning, I was really excited for the ASA Annual Conference, and that it was the fantastic conference freebie – the AUA water bottle – that did it for me. The remainder of the two days could only get better!

As with most AUA conferences, there was something for everyone. The plenaries and keynote sessions were really interesting, focussing on the challenges ahead for the HE sector and the implications that this may have for management and governance in HE institutions. Here’s a quick run through some of the bits that I really enjoyed, and the things that made me think.

I thoroughly enjoyed the keynoted delivered by Jess Moody from Advance HE. Jess talked about the balance between ‘Excellence’ and ‘Equity’, and the challenges across the sector, especially regarding student attainment, and the fact that, while HE institutions work towards gender equity, there are often discrepancies with regards to other protected characteristics. Jess focused on the need to integrate EDI and Widening Participation more, but also raised a point that I found fascinating – can ‘data’ allow us to intervene, and what are the ethics surrounding that?

While I was disappointed that one of the sessions that I had signed up for was cancelled at short notice (‘Looking Behind the Label – Mental Health in the Workplace’), it was great to think outside the box in two sessions focusing on a positive workplace culture. One discussed the GROW model of coaching, while the other (fantastically titled ‘Yoga and the Hokey-Pokey’), focused on how teams can think creatively to enable solutions.

Though a bit bleary eyed after the AUA Gala dinner (though I have to confess that I called in a relatively early night) I also found the session on ‘Leading Change from the Bottom Up’ fascinating – the session presenters took us a through a successful restructure of a department to streamline processes. Change, in itself is a very pertinent topic in Higher Education, with almost every organisation going through some form of change at any moment in time, on a variety of scales. Yet, while relevant, it is also an uncomfortable topic, and the presenters showed consummate skill in not just describing the intricacies of their scenario, but also fielding the questions from the audience.

Indeed, it is the sheer variety of topics that makes this conference so interesting. As a participant, you can dip your toes into areas of HE that might not be your role, yet still come back with insights that can then be pertinent to how you do your day job! It also gives you an idea of the breadth of change and challenges in the sector. Even as I write this blog, I realise that a lot has changed since the event itself, especially with the Augar Review of post-18 education having been launched on the 30th May.

However, it will be remiss of me not to mention the icing on the cake – the AUA Conga. I was too chicken to join in, but it was great to watch. If you don’t believe me, check out the video on the AUA twitter! Enough said.

If you like the sound of these sessions and feel like getting involved, next year’s conference will be hosted at the University of Nottingham on the 6th and 7th April 2020. See you there!

Annual event?

Empty conference

With the new academic year just about upon us, the Guardian has published two articles online this week about the accessibility of academic conferences. The first focuses on disability and how too many conferences, perhaps without intention, exclude a large disabled contingent simply by the nature of their design. The article claims that accessible routes on transport, access to rooms and lecture halls, and often long and intensive days all act as significant barriers for anyone with a disability. Importantly, the article also address the more ‘hidden’ disabilities, such as the social difficulties someone with autism might face at a large conference dinner, or the stresses associated with needing to follow a strict diet without reassurance this will be provided.The fact is that worries about these potential obstacles to a smooth conference are preventing certain academics from attending them. Which means we are missing out on their expertise, ideas and knowledge when relatively simple measures could be put into place to make their experience better. It might not be intentional. But it’s still discrimination.

Another barrier to access at conferences highlighted in a different article is a financial one. In recent years, the nature of conferences has changed considerably, moving from small University-based gatherings to delegations in their thousands at expensive hotels, complete with a programme of social events. Costs have soared. Which means that many early career researchers with miniscule budgets for academic travel are being excluded by default. This means that the delegations tend to be comprised of the Big Grant Guys: The professors and senior academics who attend every year to network with the same people and present work from the same labs. Which is all well and good, if it was interspersed with some new faces to learn from them who would bring their own fresh ideas. But if they can’t afford to go, does anything really move forwards?

Our EDI team in the Faculty of Medical Sciences has been working on an events Code of Practice (CoP) to address exactly these issues. We want to make sure that nobody  is excluded from attending an event, regardless of their background or disability. Where possible, all of our events and workshops are free to attend and we work closely with units across the faculty to find ways to better support early career researchers to attend external conferences. Our new CoP encourages event organisers to think carefully about sectors they are recruiting from to ensure as diverse a mix of speakers and delegates as possible. It also prompts organisers to consider aspects such as accessibility for disabilities, and providing a sensitive and comfortable environment for all.

We would encourage more conference organisers to consider the wider spectrum of potential delegates in future, to provide accessible and affordable access to what are incredibly useful forums for change and ideas…