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We are delighted to announce our 2021 winners for the MPLS Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Awards. Every other year, alternating with the University-wide Diversity Awards, we recognise staff and students in MPLS who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to advance ED&I within our communities. This is an important way to showcase the incredible work that our colleagues and students undertake, alongside their research or day jobs, which may otherwise go unnoticed. Thank you to all who submitted fantastic nominations – it was a tough decision among a stellar pool. Great work is happening around MPLS, and we appreciate everyone trying to make the Division as inclusive as possible.

MPLS Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Awards 2021

While we know we still have a long way to go and much to improve on, part of our work within the division, the University and wider society, is to provide an environment where everyone is valued for who they are and recognised for their contributions. Meaningful change can take time and take the efforts of many, so we are taking this opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the existing steps taken towards positive change. 

Congratulations to the following groups and individuals – and thank you for everything you are doing to advance equality, diversity and inclusion in MPLS and at the University of Oxford.

For a successful activity or initiative aimed at increasing equality, diversity and inclusion in a department, group, or subject area.

Victor Ajuwon, Atreyi Chakrabarty, Sara Middleton, and Lauren Rudd received three separate nominations in this category, showing just how successful they have been in creating this Network. Graduate students from Zoology and Pharmacology, Victor, Atreyi, Sara and Lauren founded the BIPOC STEM Network in 2020/21. This Network is an inclusive group of research, academic and administrative staff and postgraduates within the University’s STEM departments who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC), or Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME). The Network aims to promote and support the work of People of Colour within the University and beyond, to create a more diverse and inclusive environment within academia. The Network aims to highlight contributions of People of Colour in STEM, support navigating STEM as a Person of Colour, promote effective allyship and work with the University to implement policy aimed at improving diversity and inclusivity that draws on the experiences and insights of People of Colour.

BIPOC STEM Network convenors

A quote from one of the nominations reads: “The work achieved by the BIPOC STEM network is truly outstanding, but more than that they are role models. This grassroots initiative is not only helping increase equality, diversity and inclusion amongst current students and staff, but it is inspiring the next generation of BIPOC students to study STEM subjects, consider a future in research, and apply to institutions like Oxford. All this has been achieved by four extremely talented and dedicated graduate students at a time when the university needs it most. I cannot recommend highly enough the BIPOC STEM Network for the category of ‘Best Initiative’.”

A huge thank you to Victor, Atreyi, Sara and Lauren for everything you are doing. We look forward to seeing all the incredible things you are still planning!

To recognise effective collaboration between team members howsoever comprised (teams may be within a department or across departments) working together on an equality, diversity and inclusion related activity or initiative.

Maria Christodoulou, Beverley Lane, Lucy Taylor and Jo Knights are a combination of professional services staff and researchers, from Statistics, Zoology and the MPLS Divisional Office. This team came together to organise a week-long programme of activity to help raise awareness around mental health, showcase resources available within the University, and to encourage staff and students to spend time focusing on their own wellbeing. What started as an action from the MPLS ED&I Action Plan, quickly expanded to include the whole University, with 31 unique events being held across the week. Activities ranged from talks, panels, and workshops, to fun activities involving exercise, art, and cooking. With over 660 unique attendees, and over 1200 sign-ups across the week, it was a great success and has prompted central University teams to consider plans for 2022. The campaign was the third most engaged item in the University Bulletin ever!

The Mental Health Awareness Week Organisers

An award made to an academic member of staff who has shown outstanding dedication, sustained commitment, and effective leadership in advancing equality, diversity and inclusion.

Helen Byrne

Helen has contributed hugely to ED&I in the Mathematical Institute and at Divisional and University levels. At the departmental level, for 20 months from January 2019, Helen was Associate Head for Planning and Equality and Diversity, in which role she was also chair of the EDI Committee.  As well as championing an increase in the EDI budget to support the Mirzakhani and Mathematrix student groups as well as childcare expenses for researchers to enable them to attend workshops and conferences, a major success during this period was her leadership of the Working Group in charge of the submission which led to their successful Athena Swan Silver Award renewal in 2021.

At the Divisional level, Helen was the MPLS Director of Equality and Diversity from 2016 to 2020, with a particular focus during that period on measures to support women researchers and improve the division's gender balance.

Finally, at the University level, as part of EPSRC's Inclusion Matters initiative, she was the lead Oxford investigator on a project with Oxford Brookes University to research women in spinout companies, looking at barriers, enablers, and support mechanisms in universities.

We are so delighted to award Helen in this category – thank you for everything you have done and continue to do!

An award made to an administrative or professional services member of staff who has shown outstanding dedication, sustained commitment, and effective leadership in advancing equality, diversity and inclusion.

Beverley LaneBeverley has been an ED&I champion for years! She has been involved in Athena SWAN in Statistics since they first joined the charter mark, supporting the academic leads and helping to drive much of that work. After the Black Lives Mater protests last year, she participated in the Strike for Black Lives initiative, which was a one day #ShutdownSTEMstrike. She took that day to educate herself on race equality issues and consider how the department could advance their work in this area. Since then, the department has consulted with staff and students and have created a Race Equality Action Plan that they are working hard on. Beverley is such an approachable and friendly person who is super organised, excellent at running events, and works well with people in her department, in the division and in the University to help advance ED&I. 

An award made to a researcher who has shown outstanding dedication, sustained commitment, and effective leadership in advancing equality, diversity and inclusion. To confirm, this category includes students.

Alex RamadanAlexandra has received a number of nominations for her commitment to improving ED&I in the Physics department and the wider university community. One of Alexandra’s nominations reads: “Alex has gone above and beyond what is required of her in her role as a postdoctoral research assistant to work towards a fair and welcoming academic environment. In her lab group, year after year, she takes it upon herself to mentor and train younger students to support them in their research when mentorship from academics is missing. Outside of her research, Alex organizes and participates in outreach activities more than anyone else I know. She mentors students from under-represented backgrounds, hosts students for research placements, and regularly talks to classrooms full of students about what it is like to be a scientist. However, the strongest reason why I think she deserves this award is related to the initiative she took after the Black Lives Matter protests last summer. When others only shared superficial sympathies and platitudes that resulted in no clear and immediate action, Alex independently set up a hugely popular lecture series called ‘Challenges and Changes’ in Physics. She created a platform to host incredible speakers to talk about sexism, racism, and homophobia in academic environments. Beyond the lecture series, she organized reading groups and panel discussions to engage as many people in the Department as possible. Alex is an incredible role model for women in Science and in my opinion the best representative for what I consider an ‘Outstanding ED&I Champion’.”

Thank you, Alexandra, for everything you are doing.

An award made to a researcher who has shown outstanding dedication, sustained commitment, and effective leadership in advancing equality, diversity and inclusion. To confirm, this category includes students.

Tanesha recently completed her graduate studies in the department of Zoology. Tanesha’s nomination reads: “During her PhD Tanesha spoke up very clearly calling out a rather out-of-date culture E, D and I culture in her research group. She did this politely, but effectively, and on multiple occasions she spoke up, bravely, and honestly, about some of the challenges that black, female, graduate students at Oxford encounter. I nominate Tanesha for three reasons: 1) bravery of speaking out about her experiences in public fora -- she made a lot of faculty realize how real the issues of race were, even in a department that thought we were doing well. 2) a keenness to engage to help improve things. Tanesha didn't just complain, but she suggested solutions that were sensible. 3) the production of a fantastic report with clear recommendations that the department is implementing. Tanesha has done more than anyone else to help Biology academics appreciate what needed changing, and ways in which these changes could be implemented.  I cannot imagine a more deserving case for this award than Tanesha.”

Thank you, Tanesha, for everything you are doing!

An award made to a researcher who has shown outstanding dedication, sustained commitment, and effective leadership in advancing equality, diversity and inclusion. To confirm, this category includes students.

Lucy TaylorLucy Taylor is the MPLS inaugural ED&I Fellow for the Zoology department. Lucy’s nomination reads: “Lucy is a tireless advocate for mental health and equality for early career researchers, and her involvement and activities have made a real difference to all our lives. She is open, honest, resourceful, and extremely dedicated to ED&I. Although I am not in her department, she has been a constant source of inspiration to me and shows me how to be a better advocate for my fellow ECRs both within Statistics and MPLS. I would not be able to do justice to the range of Lucy’s activities that focus on our collective wellbeing - listing them alone would use up the word limit of the nomination - but I will highlight some particularly impactful actions. Within her department, Lucy has single-handedly run the Mentoring and Support scheme for graduate students, including support for the very trying time under lockdown. She organised online socials to combat isolation, including one during the Christmas break. She trained as a mental health first aider. She has written multiple Nature Career columns and is active on social media about what it really means to go through the ECR journey. As an ECR representative, one of her first actions was to push for a no detriment policy for postdocs.”

Thank you, Lucy, for your continued dedication to ED&I. 

Alongside the awards, we want to also recognise and commend the following teams and individuals for their ongoing contributions to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. 

Best Initiative

EquiStats, in the Department of Statistics, was set up earlier this year by graduate students to start a conversation on matters of diversity and inclusion and how they impact staff and graduate students within the Department. The initial aims of this initiative are:

(1) connecting and supporting underrepresented and minority groups and allies in the department, and

(2) raising awareness on relevant issues and discussing them in a welcoming environment.

Since their setup they have created virtual discussion boards, had talks on race, hiring processes, mental health, and LGBTQI+ rights around the world, and arranged upcoming events for bias in machine learning or making the internet a fairer place for everyone. 

Best Initiative

Challenges & Changes, an initiative set up by Dr Alexandra Ramadan and Dr Kathryn Boast in the Department of Physics, is a series of talks about social issues that affect the careers of researchers, which provide a place to discuss actions to take as a community to create a supportive, diverse and inclusive environment. The ethos of the series is that by having an equitable, diverse and inclusive physics community we can ensure the research we are doing includes and benefits all. Speakers were selected on the basis that they had worked to improve diversity in physics. Seminars were open to the public and were very well attended. 

Best Team Effort

LGBTQ+STEMinar 2021 Conference Organising Committee, which includes: Clara Barker, Izzi Mear, Kathryn Boast, Robin De Meyere, Marianne Aspbury, Alexandra Ramadan, Andrew Segerdahl. The LGBTQ+STEMinar is a conference for anyone under the STEM and LGBTQ+ umbrellas giving LGBT researchers of all career stages a chance to present their work to a multi-disciplinary audience where they know they will be accepted for who they are, and celebrated for their science. In January 2021, Oxford hosted the event with over 500 people registered and 110 unique attendees over the day. 

Best Team Effort

We would also like to celebrate Libby McGowan, Josie Peters and Julie Meikle in the Department of Engineering Science for their work on developing and organising the Ambassador programme. The recruited Ambassadors are being used in a variety of ways to demonstrate diversity within the undergraduate population in Engineering and to encourage applications from a more diverse student body.