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Living Black at University: Meet the Commissioners

The Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University launched in April to effect sector-wide change in improving Black students’ accommodation experience. Representing sector bodies, charities and universities who are already running projects to improve the Black student experience, here are the Commissioners making this work happen.

 

Chair

Professor Iyiola Solanke

Professor of European Union Law & Social Justice and Dean of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at the University of Leeds

Professor Iyiola Solanke, Chair of the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University

How does it feel to be a part of the Commission?

It’s a privilege to chair the Commission. Universities can and must do more to ensure that Black students feel seen, heard and safe, and I am proud to be a part of this work.

What would you like to achieve through the Commission?

I want the Commission to fully embed the report recommendations into the foundations of student accommodation, so that we move closer to ensuring that all Black students benefit from an environment in which they can achieve their potential at university and in society.

 

Commissioners

 

Melissa Browne

Board Lead for Learning & Development at CUBO and Head of Operations at University College London

Melissa Browne, Commissioner on the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University

How does it feel to be a part of the Commission?

I am truly excited and proud to represent the CUBO members on the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University. The student community we house and look after is diverse and it is important that this diversity is reflected in our workforce, our policies and procedures, and that everyone in our community feels seen, safe and heard.

What would you like to achieve through the Commission?

My hope is at the end of this Commission we will be on our way to create a truly inclusive environment where Black students and staff can flourish and achieve their potential whilst studying and working at university. After all, Higher Education institution (HEI) environments should be a place we naturally nurture everyone, and no one should feel unsafe, unheard or excluded.

 

Nicola Frampton

Insight Manager at Student Minds

Nicola Frampton, Commissioner on the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University

How does it feel to be a part of the Commission?

I feel excited and privileged to be a part of this important Commission. I’m really looking forward to learning from the other Commissioners and collectively working towards much-needed change in this sector. I’m hopeful that together, we can begin to create a more positive university environment for Black students.

What would you like to achieve through the Commission?

I’d like to see real, tangible improvements for Black students in Higher Education. In particular, I hope that we can begin to address mental health inequalities and work towards ensuring all Black students have access to effective, appropriate support whilst at university.

 

Annie Jennings

Head of Wellbeing at London South Bank University

Annie Jennings, Commissioner on the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University

How does it feel to be a part of the Commission?

I’m excited to begin. That Black students feel less safe, comfortable and included in their university homes than other students do, is deeply unjust and completely unacceptable. I am looking forward to working with expert colleagues to make a difference to the experiences of Black students in the UK.

What would you like to achieve through the Commission?

I’d like measurable change for the better, for Black students to tell us their lives in accommodation have improved. A move away from Eurocentric understanding of student experience, and steps toward all students being and feeling safe, happy and accepted where they live. We need to do better.

  

Tara Leach

Head of Race Equality Charter at Advance HE

Tara Leach, Commissioner on the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University

How does it feel to be a part of the Commission?

I am delighted to be part of the Commission.  I look forward to the work in seeking solutions to contribute towards a better lived experience for students in HE accommodation and identifying how Advance HE can support this work.

What would you like to achieve through the Commission?

I would like to see the Commission’s work achieve a strategy for action, leading to impactful change for students.

 

 Jordan Meates

Communications & IT Manager at ASRA and Campus Services Manager at Sheffield Hallam University

Jordan Meates, Commissioner on the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University

How does it feel to be a part of the Commission?

I’m incredibly proud and privileged to be a part of the national commission created by Unite Students. I’m looking forward to working with colleagues in the sector at both national and local levels to improve the experience for Black students living in UK student accommodation and genuinely making a difference.

What would you like to achieve through the Commission?

I hope to be able to make a difference to improve the student experience for Black students and consequently all students living in residential accommodation. Success to me would be implementing evidence-based decisions via the recommendations in the Living Black at University report through a dedicated, collective, and continuous multi-agency approach.

 

Sharon O’Donnell

Head of Customer Services & Residences Life at Newcastle University

Sharon O'Donnell, Commissioner on the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University

How does it feel to be a part of the Commission?

Working alongside like-minded colleagues with one goal in mind is exciting, and a great source of support and strength as we move forward to make change happen.  Being part of the Commission demonstrates we are heading in the right direction, and I am thankful to be part of it.

What would you like to achieve through the Commission?

Along with a collective approach to achieving the Living Black at University report recommendations, having a Commission’s voice will reinforce the message that accommodation is not just a bed, but a students’ home.  This will also raise the profile of accommodation providers and the need to deliver a service expected of all students.

 

Rebecca O’Hare

Assistant Director – Residence Life & Accommodation Office at University of Leeds

Rebecca O'Hare, Commissioner on the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University

How does it feel to be a part of the Commission?

I feel privileged to have the opportunity to join a group of likeminded, informed and experienced individuals from a variety of backgrounds in UK Higher Education. I am excited to see what we can achieve and how together, we can work to raise standards and improve how we support Black students living in student accommodation.

What would you like to achieve through the Commission?

I am keen to focus on how we improve the training provided to staff working in student accommodation. By providing the comprehensive guidance on how this can be embedded into long term employee professional development plans, we can improve cultural understanding within the sector and seek to provide a more consistent approach to the training required to work more effectively in student accommodation.

 

Andy Owusu

Office for Students Mental Health Project Officer for Black Students at London South Bank University

Andy Owusu, Commissioner on the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University

How does it feel to be a part of the Commission?

It is an honour to be part of this Commission. The aims of this Commission are dear to my heart as a recent student myself who lived in halls, I share the experience of the students in this report and understand the importance of addressing these challenges through meaningful action.

What would you like to achieve through the Commission?

I want this Commission to change the quality of the student journey for Black students. To reach a point where we no longer use the White student experience as a standard to measure and compare the quality of Black student life. I hope to facilitate a change where Black students’ experience in halls is positive enough to become its own standard of measure.

 

Victoria Tolmie-Loverseed

Assistant Chief Executive – Standards at Unipol

Victoria Tolmie-Loverseed, Commissioner on the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University

How does it feel to be a part of the Commission?

I’m delighted to be on the Commission, but also feel a responsibility to deliver some practical changes, so a mix of emotions.

What would you like to achieve through the Commission?

The report was a wake-up call to the sector, but I think there is appetite and potential for change to happen. So in particular I’m interested in how staff development, tenancy support and management can be improved to make accommodation a more welcoming and supportive environment for Black students.

 

Associate to the Commission

Jo Nuckley

Head of Outreach and Insight at Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA)

Jo Nuckley, Associate to the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University

How does it feel to be a part of the Commission?

The Commission is shining a light on a critical issue of fairness.  Feeling safe and being welcomed as part of a student community is vital to wellbeing, and I’m very proud to be making a contribution to this work on behalf of the OIA.

What would you like to achieve through the Commission?

I hope that the work of the Commission will increase student confidence in raising concerns and complaints. I’d like Higher Education providers to understand how to listen to students and treat them fairly, so that when students share what they have experienced there is real learning and change.

 

Convenors

Sam Kingsley

Group Belonging, Equity and Engagement Manager at Unite Students

Sam Kingsley, Convenor of the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University

How does it feel to be a part of the Commission?

It is inspiring to be part of a movement for change, and exciting to be in such a rich environment for knowledge-sharing and collaboration. Black students have often been underserved and through the work of the Commission, we hope to right some of those wrongs.

 What would you like to achieve through the Commission?

Equity, a stronger sense of belonging for Black students and better support for students who experience racism within student accommodation and the wider Higher Education experience.

 

Jenny Shaw

Higher Education External Engagement Director at Unite Students

Jenny Shaw, Convenor of the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University

How does it feel to be a part of the Commission?

It’s wonderful to work with sector leaders to address such an important issue. I’ve seen many well-meaning initiatives fail to make any real change, so I am determined that we will take forward the recommendations of the research at a national level. We owe it to Black students to succeed.

 What would you like to achieve through the Commission?

Real change! To improve the experience of Black students in student accommodation across the UK and beyond.

 

Communications Partner

Jen Steadman

Higher Education Communications Executive at Unite Students

Jen Steadman, Communications Partner to the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University

How does it feel to be a part of the Commission?

I’m really proud to be a part of the Commission and contribute towards its work in improving Black students’ experience in student accommodation. University was a struggle for me, so being able to play even a small role in improving a student’s experience is something I’m really passionate about. 

What would you like to achieve through the Commission?

Mental health provision in Higher Education has come a long way in the last decade, but the Living Black at University report findings on mental health were stark – so I’m particularly invested in the Commission effecting positive change in this area.

 

Co-ordinator

Amelia Pulvertaft

Belonging, Equity and Engagement Coordinator at Unite Students

Amelia Pulvertaft, Co-ordinator of the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University

How does it feel to be a part of the Commission?

This is my first commission, and it is such a privilege to share a space with so many brilliant minds, who are authentically striving to make a difference in the sector. After the first meeting I felt so energised, and so proud of Unite Students for taking the lead.

 What would you like to achieve through the Commission?

I have a personal interest in how policy can be implemented and communicated, how this can impact lived experience, and how people can be held accountable for their treatment of others; not only are we in a position to develop policy in Unite Students, but also national policies.

 

Learn more about the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University, why it was set up, and what we’re doing at the Commission’s website. A summary of the themes from our first meeting can be found here.

You can also read Professor Solanke’s blog about the Commission for HEPI here.

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