Outstanding contributions to promote equality and inclusion

Championing diversity at Leeds has been recognised in a prestigious awards scheme.

Nearly 2,200 nominations were received for this year’s Leeds Partnership Awards

Leeds Partnership Awards 2021. May 2021

The latest in our feature series – profiling winners in all 14 categories of this year’s Leeds Partnership Awards – highlights the outstanding accomplishments of recipients of the Equality and Inclusion accolade.

The coveted awards celebrate those people who truly put into practice the Leeds Partnership – an agreement setting out our shared commitment to work together to support all aspects of our University community.

And with nearly 2,200 nominations, there has been plenty to celebrate.

This Equality and Inclusion Award celebrates the people who strive to create a fair and equal environment in which everyone can achieve their potential.

Joint winners of the student accolade were Alexander Akinbile and the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures equality students, while the Social Mobility Society (SoMoSoc) committee won the group award.

Positive impact

The Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (AHC) nominated five students who’ve made outstanding contributions in the area of equality and diversity through initiatives that are driven by a commitment to inclusive practices in teaching, in co-curricular opportunities and University policy.

Tess Hornsby-Smith is the AHC Faculty Student Education Enhancement Officer and a University Student Education Fellow.

She said: “In a year when many students across the faculty have been actively working to address barriers that students from minoritised backgrounds face, the work of Ruby Fatimilehin, Chris Minas, Livi Roberts, Carmen Okome and Zipporah Blake-Gravesande is especially impressive.

“Ruby, Chris and Livi are all active members of the faculty’s Student Advisory Board (SAB), formed to amplify the voices of students from specific communities and/or equality groups, to enhance AHC understanding of barriers to student success and to make a positive impact on the decision-making process in student education developments.

“Outside of the SAB, Ruby excelled in supporting and creating co-curricular opportunities for Black, Asian and LGBTQ+ students.

“Chris is the Trans Welfare Officer for the LGBTQ+ Society, and has worked tirelessly for the support and inclusion of trans and non-binary students and staff.

“Livi is the founder and President of the Neurodivergent Society, and has been actively changing perceptions among all levels of staff at the University.

“Carmen and Zipporah, students in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies (FAHACS), have created a project called ‘Buyers’ Remorse’ – an online space that houses resources and events aimed at the decolonisation of the Fine Art curriculum as a response to their experiences of being Black students at Leeds. They’ve involved artists and activists from across the UK, as well as staff and students in the school.” 

Ruby, a third year English Literature student, said: “Winning the Partnership Award for Equality and Inclusion has been a fantastic experience!

“It has been lovely to celebrate all the excellent work that has been undertaken by fellow students and the positive impact this has had on the wider student community.”

Livi, a third year School of Languages, Cultures and Societies student, added: “I’m really honoured to achieve this award, especially amongst so many incredible individuals.

“For me, this is motivation to keep pushing and fighting in the name of equality and inclusion, especially for neurodiverse voices.”

Carmen, a third year BA Fine Art student, said: “I’m very grateful for the Partnership Award.

“I’m also very glad to share this award with the community of young Leeds/Leeds alumni activists, who continue to work towards social justice. I hope the University continues to support these activists in making meaningful changes for our community.”

Leeds Partnership Awards profiles. August 2021

Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures students Carmen Okome, Livi Roberts, Ruby Fatimilehin and Zipporah Blake-Gravesande, who together with Chris Minas (not pictured) were joint winners of the student category of the Equality and Inclusion Award

Inspiring Black students

Alexander Akinbile has looked to uplift the Black community on and off campus during his time at Leeds.

Alexander became the only person of Black origin to hold a senior position at the Leeds University Union Trading and Investment Society.

At Deutsche Bank, Alexander was one of only a few Black interns in his cohort and the only one to convert this into a full-time role.

Outside of this, he was elected Sports Co-Ordinator for the African Caribbean Society. He also founded a social enterprise called DiverCity Leeds, the aim of which was to bridge the gap between diverse students at Leeds and graduation roles after university. He secured 60 sign-ups, spoke to more than a hundred students and liaised with companies such as Bloomberg and Eversheds Sutherland to provide opportunities for members. Students went on to secure roles at the likes of Barclays, JP Morgan and KPMG.

Alexander said: “I originally applied with no expectation of winning and I could not be more grateful to have been recognised for all the work I’ve achieved whilst at the University.

“I hope this award can be of inspiration to all of those in the Black community at Leeds and that we can continue to push the narrative of what it looks like to be a successful Black student. I would also like to thank everyone who has been a part of my journey and congratulate those who share this award and have also been nominated.”

Leeds Partnership Awards profiles. August 2021

Alexander Akinbile, who was joint winner of the student category of the Equality and Inclusion Award

Advocating for the student voice

In a joint statement about winning the group award, the Social Mobility Society (SoMoSoc) committee said: “Everyone at SoMoSoc is super happy to have been recognised with this award.

“During the past year, we’ve worked hard alongside our studies to try and advocate for the student voice; this was something we felt was lacking for certain student groups, particularly within policy.

“We’re really pleased with how much we’ve managed to achieve and are looking forward to continuing this in the coming year, including appointing a new committee to join the team.

“Inclusivity really is at the heart of everything we try to do, and with covid-19 presenting such a challenging year for all societies and students alike, it means that much more.”

Leeds Partnership Awards profiles. August 2021

The Social Mobility Society (SoMoSoc) committee, which won the group category of the Equality and Inclusion Award

Further information

More in-depth profiles of each of the winners will appear on the For Staff website during the coming weeks. These will also be promoted via the weekly All Staff enewsletters and the Staff Twitter account.

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