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Research, charity work, and life at Loughborough: How I’m striving for positive change at the University

9 July 2021

6 mins

My name is Ruby Appiah-Campbell. I am married with two children, and I have a number of roles at Loughborough University. I am a full-time Doctoral Researcher in the School of Business and Economics, a University Teacher, a Research Assistant working on a British Academy funded project, and a sub-warden for Cayley Hall.

Before starting my PhD, I was a banker for ten years with Standard Chartered Bank and Stanbic Bank, where I rose through the ranks into a management position. One fateful day in January 2016 after a good day at work, I was driving home in my car alone and thinking how I loved my job and how life was generally perfect. However, I realised that perhaps I could contribute more to other people’s success – especially young people – as I have always been passionate about education. I wanted to support young people to reach a reasonable and sustainable life.

This dream could only be made possible by making certain critical decisions and following them through. I decided to quit a job I genuinely enjoyed to get myself into an environment where I could better understand the ever-changing needs of young people in order to support them to aspire and achieve.

I started the journey by enrolling on a Master of Research programme in 2017, even though I already had a Master’s in Business Administration while working in the banking industry. I moved on to start a full-time PhD in 2018 and took up roles to get me closer to students to understand their lives, wants and needs.

My intentions led me to start teaching and taking up a Sub Warden role in Cayley Hall, where I  provide pastoral care. My passion for supporting young people has increased through my interactions with students, from undergraduates to postgraduate researchers, and from witnessing the wide array of challenges faced by students from diverse backgrounds.

My doctoral studies and my Research Assistant role have impacted my outlook on various issues I encounter while interacting with students and staff of the University.

My PhD research focuses on addressing how two competing forces – the rise in ethnocentric attitudes (eg ethnic group self-centeredness) and the call for prosocial behaviour (eg sacrificing for the benefit of others) can coexist.

I conducted interviews with and collected survey questionnaire data from Loughborough staff and students. The initial results from my data analysis and ongoing experiences threw more light on the current state of the University. I found a lack of institutional engagement with BAME students in particular, resulting in a feeling of not being cared for. Hence, they do not fully benefit from the fantastic Loughborough University experience for which we have such a high reputation.

My recommendation for a positive BAME student experience at Loughborough University is for both the University* and the Students’ Union’s Senior Management team to recognise the need for specialised workshops and training to enable them to view occurrences through the lens of the underrepresented students. This recommendation which stems from my research, is critical to engineer initiatives from the top.

Additionally, the research I’ve been involved with for the past year as a Research Assistant focuses on young people. We have conducted over 20 interviews with students, collected 500 survey responses  from young people, and did some initial analyses showing various insecurity, personality, and trust issues among them. These observations from research and personal interaction with the community have propelled me to support students in general and, more significantly, underrepresented students.

My desire to address these issues led me to launch a charity called Life Beacon. It is the hub for several initiatives driven by knowledge from my research and my Christian faith that benefit both home and international students. The primary objective of Life Beacon isto advance education among the underrepresented student groups by educating and mentoring young people to develop a firm and stable foundation to achieve a sustainable life. The initiative, which started as a passion, has now been registered under charity commission as Life Beacon International to enable students who volunteer in any capacity to be able to reference their activities on their CVs. More details of the work we do can be found here.

One initiative of Life Beacon is called ‘Going to University’. This project aims to reduce the increased mental health challenges among young people and support them to develop a sustainable lifestyle. We intend to provide knowledge and guidance to young people in sixth forms and colleges to quickly identify their strengths, genuine interests and provide an overview of university education through fun activities in a more relaxed environment.

The knowledge acquired through these activities helps pupils ask relevant questions during university open days about courses, modules, and entry requirements. Some of the activities also provide them with an overview of what they should expect at University, such as independent study and attending lectures. Subsequently, this will help them enjoy university education since they will be better prepared for the new way of learning.

Life Beacon has also supported LSU-led events and provided opportunities for students to volunteer in various capacities to learn new skills, which helps them stand out when applying for internships and placements. In addition, we’ve also offered mentoring and coaching schemes for them. We’re currently working on several initiatives for the next academic year and look forward to collaborating with a number of student groups, including the PhD Social and Support Network, the LSU BAME Student Council, as well as Staff Networks and the wider institution.

My desire is to see many young people achieve their lifetime dreams through a sustainable journey with more support from Loughborough University’s Senior Management Team,  as well as other staff and student groups as our Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI) work progresses.

*To find out more about about the University’s ongoing work towards the Race Equality Charter – which includes the Race Equality Guiding Principles developed by the BAME Staff Network  – visit the dedicated webpages here.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Reflections, comments, discussion and opinion on EDI topics from Loughborough University staff and students

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