This year we presented the first Social Inclusion Staff Award at the Warwick Inclusion Conference, to recognise staff contributions to making Warwick a better place to live, study, and work by celebrating diversity, supporting an inclusive culture, and demonstrating leadership in social inclusion.
Kulbir Shergill (Director of Social Inclusion) announced our shortlisted nominations and shared the great work they've been doing on social inclusion at Warwick:
- Beth Russell, nominated for her commitment to making the Resonate Festival inclusive and diverse.
- Claire Edden and Damien Homer, nominated for their work running a three-day residential university taster school (the Easter School) for autistic students in the local area.
- And the Tackling Racial Inequality Programme at Warwick staff development programme, nominated for ensuring racial diversity is recognised, understood, and valued.
In total we received 19 submissions for the award. Thank you to everyone who nominated a colleague, team, or project for the award, we had some really great submissions, and it is clear a lot of good work is being done on social inclusion across the University.
At the close of the Inclusion Conference, our VC, Stuart Croft, announced the winners for the Social Inclusion Staff Award 2022 - Claire Edden and Damien Homer. This award recognises the dual benefits this initiative had on the young people who attended the residential – showing autistic young people that Warwick is a place for them, where they will be welcomed and supported – and on the students and staff who supported it – helping increase understanding of autism and break down stereotypes – as well as the commitment of both Claire and Damien in the time they gave to the residential.
Congratulations, Claire and Damien.
Image: See right, winners Claire and Damien after winning the 2022 Social Inclusion Staff Award at the Warwick Inclusion Conference on Thursday 16 June 2022.
The winners of the 2022 Social Inclusion Staff Award are Claire Edden and Damien Homer.
Claire and Damien were nominated for their work running the University’s first residential university taster school (the Easter School) for autistic students in the local area. Colleagues nominating Claire and Damien said
“The Easter school allowed the autistic young people to experience university life with the security of a team of ambassadors and staff to help them… This directly encourages autistic youngsters to come to university, to feel that it is a place for them and that they will be listened to, understood, and welcomed and that their needs will be supported."
In total, 16 autistic year 12 students from the local area participated in the three-day Easter School. It gave students an introduction to university life as they stayed in university halls, experienced lectures, had talks from Disability Support and Careers, used the sports centre and esports facilities, had a film night, and found lunch in the campus food outlets and organised and cooked their own dinner. It also helped break down some of the stereotypes around autism and what it actually means to be autistic, as the residential used student ambassadors to support the event many of whom did not know any autistic people before the event. So, in addition to supporting the local autistic community the event helped to celebrate diversity and raise awareness amongst students and staff at Warwick.
Speaking about winning the award, Claire and Damien said:
"First of all, we’d like to say thank you very much for the award, we really appreciate it. We feel really privileged to work in this area, we’re part of the Widening Participation team. And we also want to congratulate all those who were also shortlisted because they are really important projects as well. We also wanted to thank a series of colleagues without who we wouldn’t be able to be here today, first of all and most important is our boss, Paul Blagburn, who gave us the money to do the project! We also wanted to thank our colleagues in Disability Services, particularly Kathryn Fisher who was integral to the project. And also really importantly some of the student societies, particularly Autism at Warwick who were integral to the project and really helped us out. And, most importantly, this isn’t an award for Claire and I, we consider it to be an award for the whole Widening Participation team at Warwick because although we’re the faces of it there were lots of people in the background helping out as well. And also just to thank all of our colleagues that support in departments and in Professional Services."
Alongside Claire and Damien we had two nominations in our shortlist for the award:
Beth was nominated for her commitment to making the Resonate Festival inclusive and diverse. Colleagues nominating Beth said
“Throughout the planning and programming stages of the Resonate Festival, Beth was committed to exploring ways that we could programme diverse events, attract new audiences, and ensure accessible and inclusive activities… She looks at events not as ‘who should be included’ but as ‘who are we excluding’ as a result of the preparations in place and tackles each potential exclusion to prevent it becoming an issue for those community groups who would otherwise be isolated.”As a result of her work Beth was made a fellow at the Warwick Institute of Engagement and joined a Learning Circle on developing an inclusive engagement approach, where she has already made contributions as a new member.
In particular, Beth was commended for
- Having many suggestions for speakers and events which went beyond traditional voices, including representation from LGBTQUIA+, disabled, and Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities.
- Working with the wider team and the SU Islamic Society to coordinate a free Iftar meal for those that were ending their fast so that they weren’t isolated from the Resonate Festival events by having to go home to do so.
- Suggesting and organised having BSL interpreters for events.
- Going in person to check the accessibility-friendly routes hosts would take to ensure that they were easy to follow and wouldn’t result in any problems.
Speaking about being shortlisted, Beth said:
"I’m honoured to have been shortlisted for the Social Inclusion Staff Award amongst so many inspiring colleagues. Co-creation with local communities was at the heart of the Resonate Festival, as was creating a festival that not only welcomed but was built for visitors who wouldn’t usually visit Warwick’s campus. I’m thrilled to have worked with the Institute of Engagement on this project, they encouraged my and others' ideas to embed inclusivity at the core of the three-day campus festival and I’m so proud of what we achieved. There is still more we can do to make future events more inclusive and I’m excited to continue embedding inclusivity in all that I do.”
Tackling Racial Inequality at Warwick staff development programme
The Tackling Racial Inequality at Warwick (TRIW) programme was nominated for making Warwick a more inclusive place for all members of our community by ensuring racial diversity is recognised, understood, and valued. Colleagues nominating the programme said:
“By better preparing staff to engage with Warwick’s diverse student body, both inside and outside the classroom, the programme ensures staff appreciate and value Warwick’s racial diversity and provides them with the tools to recognise and tackle racial inequalities… By equipping staff with knowledge, understanding and tools, the TRIW team is positively impacting the experiences of students of colour at Warwick.”
Initially piloted with 53 staff in 2020/21, the programme has attracted its target of 125 participants in 2021/22 from across the institution. The programme collected feedback before and after attendance, and results show impact in three key areas:
- Learning – The TRIW programme is developing understanding about the social construction of race, the reasons for the awarding gap, the daily experiences of racism for staff and students of colour in HE and at Warwick, and our institutional deficits.
- Self-reflection – The facilitated discussions and exercises participants are presented with instigate a process of self-reflection concerning their own practice, context, and social positions. Whilst often uncomfortable and challenging, the TRIW team offers a supported structure, which is helping staff to uncover their own biases and complicity in the perpetuation of racism and racial inequalities at Warwick.
- Empowerment – Engaging with TRIW is providing participants with not only an understanding of the issues, but also the confidence and commitment to act in their own spheres of work, with their departments and their own students. In doing so, a sense of empowerment is reinforced by an appreciation that we all have a responsibility to improve our community through anti-racism. As a result, the TRIW team is at the forefront of establishing a university-based anti-racist community of practice at Warwick.