Tag Archives: Events

A Reflection on My Journey: Overcoming barriers to personal and professional progression

Last month, the first session of My Journey: Conversations with… took place. This event gave us the privilege of listening to the journeys of Muzz Haniffa, Newcastle Professor of Dermatology and Immunology, & Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, and Dapo Ajayi, Vice President of Manufacturing and Technical Operations at Janssen. These two truly inspiring women guided us through their impressive career journeys and provided valuable discussion on overcoming external and internal barriers to personal and career progression.

You can find the video recording & transcript of the event here if you want to experience it yourself- and we highly suggest you do – but here are some reflections on the conversations had with Muzz and Dapo during the Q&A portion of the session on different barriers we can all face on our own journeys.

External Barrier: “We’re just hiring the best…”

Any member of a marginalised group could likely tell you an experience they’ve encountered with the daunting Leaky Pipeline of STEM. There is a real problem with underrepresentation and a lack of diversity in the community. The problem isn’t necessarily just on an individual level, however: it’s systemic, which makes it much harder to solve.

Muzz pointed out the problem that far too often, the responsibility of highlighting these representation issues falls on the marginalized. She herself didn’t raise the issue until she felt she had the voice and platform to do so – lack of representation is often disheartening, and hard to address. Whether conscious or unconscious, many privileged groups don’t want to change the system because it benefits them. Often, unconsciously, this comes in the form of “we’re just hiring the best candidates” – but the candidate selection field is far too often largely male and white. So how do we combat this?

Muzz and Dapo gave a number of insights. Firstly, diversity has to come from top down to be effective. For real, significant change and stronger representation, systems must be put in place to ensure your selection processes are geared towards diversity. The beginning of this process, says Dapo, is making sure you measure how diverse your workforce is and challenge why your recruitment selections are such a narrow margin. Creating an inclusive environment takes a lot of reflection on how your organisation runs things currently, and has to be based on real belief and commitment, not just lip service.

Secondly, suggested by both Muzz and Dapo: make sure you’re investing in unconscious bias training! Some individuals on a personal level will not feel as though they have an unconscious bias and will pin the problem elsewhere. It’s important to have people acknowledge unconscious bias exists close to home for every one of us, and ensure it is being reflected on when beginning the recruitment and selection process.

External Barrier: Language and Culture

Dapo gave advice on overcoming language and cultural barriers when working globally – something that not all of us will have experienced, but insightful nonetheless! Dapo discussed two main philosophies that helped her while working abroad in unfamiliar environments.

One: Focus on the universals, rather than what separates us. No matter the place, language, or culture, leadership values remain consistently important. You want a leader that inspires you, supports your development, and is interested in helping you succeed. Dapo says she kept this overwhelmingly in mind going into working globally

Two: Make the effort to really understand the culture and its history. This greatly helped Dapo adapt when moving to new countries for work. It is important to invest time in getting to know people and the place you are in to help ease your journey.

Internal Barrier: Impostor Syndrome

Impostor syndrome is another old friend of anyone from any marginalised group. Muzz and Dapo felt it a lot as women in their respective careers; and Dapo recalled when she first became site manager, in large meetings with predominantly men, she was quiet at first. Dapo’s predominant piece of advice is to put yourself forward and give it a go.

Alongside this comes with retraining that doubtful voice in the back of your head and building your self-confidence. Think of what you have achieved! You owe it to yourself and your organisation to feel as though you are able to contribute. Sometimes this takes time, but it is a worthy journey to embark on.

To end this post is a quotation from Dapo towards the end of the event when discussing the feeling of imposter syndrome, that sums up a lot of what My Journey: Conversations with… is about, and is an important mantra for everybody.

“I have a seat at the table. I deserve to be at that table. I have something to say that is relevant and important.”

Thank you so much again to Muzz Haniffa and Dapo Ajayi for taking the time to speak to us. The next My Journey event with new speakers will be taking place in the new year – we hope to see you there!

If you want to experience (or relive) this event for yourself; here’s the link to do so.

Staying Well During Significant Change with Dr. Ben Marram: Webinar Catch Up

In honour of World Mental Health Day 2020, last month, Dr Ben Marram, Highly Specialised Clinical Psychologist at the Newcastle Mitochondrial Service, gave a wonderful talk on maintaining resilience during significant periods of change. This is a brief wrap up of the talk if you missed it; since it contained some very prevalent and poignant advice for the current global situation. At the end is a link to the video recording of the talk so you can experience it yourself – which we highly recommend!

Staying Well During Significant Change – Recap

The talk took place largely because in 2020, World Mental Health day coincided with the eighth month of lockdown regulations across the country. Times like these where the world seems upside down are challenging for the mental health of individuals and teams alike. Dr Ben Marram was kind enough to give us his insight into psychological fortitude during unprecedented, and often scary, change. Here are the five takeaways from his talk:

1. What is resilience?

Dr Marram discussed resilience and whether it can be truly defined. The most important take on resilience, however, was that during difficult times, your mental health does not suffer simply because you are not resilient enough. Resilience is ever-changing and highly malleable, and it is normal for its capacity to feel run down during a global pandemic! So don’t put yourself down for feeling low or off balance – resilience falters naturally from time to time.

2. Impact of COVID: Uncertainty Distress

This pandemic causes huge amounts of uncertainty distress: the negative emotions experienced in response to as-yet unknown aspects of a given situation. COVID-19 breeds this; bringing not just a threat to our health, but ever-changing rules and lack of clarity. In response to this, Ben suggests you try and reduce the number of lifestyle changes happening at one time, if you can, so you aren’t undergoing any massive shifts. Take it one step at a time, and do your best to find time to do things that bring you calm.

3. Psychological Safety in Teams

Dr Marram gave examples of how to encourage psychological safety in our professional and personal lives. For example, admitting to colleagues if you’re feeling nervous, afraid, or struggling to adapt because of COVID: your team can become a stronger & safer psychological space for all as a result. Communication is key to getting through periods of psychological and societal turbulence!

4. Tips for Psychological Flexibility

Finally, the importance of psychological flexibility was discussed: a matter of contacting the present moment; as well as keeping in touch with things and values important to you during periods of stress. He recommends any form of mindfulness (scripted or practical), grounding yourself through your five senses, and really doing your best to reinforce psychological safety.

So there you have it: a run-down of advice on emotional resilience during uncertain and stressful times. We do really recommend you watch the whole thing – Dr Marram’s insight is poignant, and extremely helpful to all of us as we head into a global lockdown. Check it out in the video below. And once again, thank you to Ben for taking the time to talk to & encourage us through this period of uncertainty!

To watch or download the video recording of the event, click here!


It’s back – FMS is holding its second Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Week, and we hope to see you there!

After last year’s success including the celebration of our Athena SWAN Silver Award, we are holding the Faculty’s second EDI Week for staff and students! We have a range of events lined up and listed below so that you can hear about the progress and ongoing work around EDI, and learn more about current issues that might be relevant to you.

Don’t miss out – take a look at what we’ve got lined up and book yourself in! We hope to see you at one of our events!


Monday 24th February:

  • The EDI Strategy & Our Day-to-day Roles – 10-11.30am, FMS Boardroom
    To launch the week we’ll be hearing from a number of panellists within the Faculty and beyond, talking about how they would like to interpret and translate our EDI strategy in their day-to-day roles. Read more and register.
  • Multicultural Event – 12:30-2pm, David Shaw Foyer
    Organised by the Dental School, this event aims to celebrate our staff/student community by sharing presentations about the various cultures, faiths, traditions and foods within FMS. All are welcome to attend!

Tuesday 25th February:

  • Imposter Syndrome with Rachel Tobbell – 12-2pm, Leech L2.4
    This interactive workshop will explore the experiences of ‘Imposter Syndrome’: how it affects us, how societal pressures can exacerbate the problem, how such internal doubts impact on our lives and what we can do to manage those feelings. Read more and register.

Wednesday 26th February:

  • LGBT Lives – 12-2pm, Ridley Building 2, Room 1.58
    As part of celebrations for LGBTQ+ History month as well as EDI Week, come along and listen to a panel discussion with members of the Rainbow LGBTQ+ staff network as they delve into the day-to-day experiences of working and being LGBTQ+ at Newcastle and in HE. Read more and register.

Thursday 27th February:

  • Breakfast with Athene Donald – 9.30-10.30am, FMS Boardroom
    Join the Master of Churchill College at the University of Cambridge, Athene Donald for this session, aimed primarily at ECRs and Fellows, in which you can discuss reconciling the risks of a contract-based research career with a long term vision of making a difference in academia. Breakfast included! Read more and register here.
  • Plenary with Athene Donald: The Art of Survival – 12.30-2.00pm, David Shaw Lecture Theatre
    As a longstanding champion of women in academia, Athene Donald will talk about her experiences and strategies developed during her career to help her succeed, and the value of passing on such knowledge to help others survive within institutions. Read more and register here.

Friday 28th February:

  • Personal Resilience: A taster session, with Lisa Rippingale – 12-2pm, Leech L2.4
    This workshop aims to provide participants with a range of tools and techniques to develop their personal resilience. Read more and register here.

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!