Associate Dean Community Engaged Learning appointed

A new appointment has been made to drive impactful community engagement across teaching and learning.

Professor Sonia Kumar, who is the new Associate Dean Community Engaged Learning at Leeds

Associate Dean Community Engaged Learning appointed. September 2022

Professor Sonia Kumar will focus her efforts within the Faculty of Medicine and Health and will also join the team led by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Student Education to develop new university-wide possibilities for community engaged education.

Professor Kumar said: “I’m delighted to be joining the University of Leeds at a time when the new Curriculum Redefined programme is focusing on students having a meaningful experience during their time at Leeds. This role is a clear message of the civic values, vision and commitment of the University Strategy in our drive to make a difference to local and global society.

“I’m keen in this exciting new role to work with colleagues to develop real-world, cross-faculty interdisciplinary projects that consider education and community engagement together; not as separate entities. I remain committed to sharing the value brought by this joined-up thinking with University colleagues and students, as well as the civic community across the city of Leeds and beyond.”

Professor Kumar joins Leeds having trained in Medicine at King’s College London, later gaining a Masters from King’s and a Fellowship with the Royal College of General Practitioners. She has experience working as a GP and medical educationalist for more than two decades. For nearly 10 years, Professor Kumar worked as the Director of Undergraduate Primary Care Education in the Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, spearheading the creation of MEdIC (Medical Education Innovation and Research Centre), which is focussed on societal impact. She has worked with numerous national and international collaborators, published extensively in the field of education and presented to audiences across the UK and globally.

Professor Kumar has a particular interest in socially accountable medical education, students as service learner partners and diversity and inclusion, as well as using the potential of medical education to drive positive and sustainable societal change.

Unique curriculum with community at its heart

Professor Kumar’s background and professional focus have been strongly aligned to innovative teaching and research practices, which are grounded in social accountability and will chime with the community engaged learning focus being developed at Leeds.

Community engaged learning provides a structured approach to learning and teaching that connects meaningful community experiences to enhance academics’ personal growth, and civic identity. This approach enriches learning by connecting knowledge, research and analytical tools gained in the classroom with pressing issues affecting communities. Whether classroom-based or co-curricular, these experiences foster personal, professional and civic development, and allow students to work with others to enhance the wellbeing within communities.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Student Education, Professor Jeff Grabill, said: “Sonia’s appointment is crucial to our work to design an education experience that will help students develop the knowledge and skills they need to succeed and make a positive impact in their communities and as global citizens. We are serious about shaping a better future for humanity, and Sonia brings experience and expertise that will be pivotal to our endeavours.”

Focus on health inequalities

Professor Kumar’s work to connect educational endeavour with local community priorities, focusing on the link between health and social disparity and addressing health inequalities, is closely aligned to the new vision for the Faculty of Medicine and Health under the leadership of Executive Dean, Professor Mark Kearney.

Professor Kearney said: “My overarching vision is that everything we do is structured around a collaborative ‘whole faculty’ approach. Our ethos is focused on creating a learning environment for students to be multi-professionally trained and ready to address health inequalities, and for this to be underpinned by our brilliant research in areas of massive importance to people all over the world.

“Sonia’s experience as a GP and medical educator will certainly support the delivery of our vision, and further enhance our work to reach communities, both locally and globally, and drive improvements in health inequalities.”

Prior to joining Imperial, Professor Kumar worked at the London Deanery for nearly 10 years, as the King’s Programme Director and then Quality and Innovation Director. She was listed as one of Pulse magazine’s GP rising stars and was awarded the Imperial President’s Medal for outstanding contribution to teaching in 2017, with her team winning 18 further internal and external awards in education during the past five years. 

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