Emma successfully completed the Summer School programme with the Sutton Trust in 2003, and has gone on to dedicate her career to equality, diversity and inclusion. She describes her journey below:

Please tell us your job title/organisation or what studies / activities you’re currently engaged in?

“I am the Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Innovate UK KTN. I lead all of our internal activities to support our organisation to become a more diverse and inclusive place to work, where all colleagues are able to be their whole selves. My team also leads work supporting EDI programmes which support underrepresented innovators and their entrepreneurial journeys.”

What does a typical day look like for you in your current role / in your studies?

“In my current role, I meet with lots of different people across the organisation and externally. I get to take part in really interesting and powerful conversations about the lived experiences of my colleagues and  we work collectively to try to overcome any barriers or challenges they may be facing.

Work might involve reviewing and advising on internal policies, for example on flexible working, or menopause support, working with our employee network staff groups, running learning sessions/webinars on topics relating to equality, diversity and inclusion and meeting with senior leaders to advise on EDI issues or challenges and making recommendations as to how to overcome them.

I also get to go out to external events, including speaking at meetings/conferences about the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion and to showcase the work that we are doing both internally and externally.

Tell us a little bit about your background…

“I am from south-east London and grew up in the Forest Hill, and Lewisham area. I am from and grew up in south-east London in a single parent family, with my Dad, who was a dry cleaner and my younger sister.

I was the first person to go to university in my family, and I was lucky to go to study Chemistry at the University of Nottingham (where I went for my summer school). I enjoyed Chemistry so much that I was offered a funded PhD place at Nottingham also. Whilst I enjoyed my studies, during this time I realised that a career in research or academia wasn’t going to be for me, so I decided to embark on a career where I could try to make a difference for people accessing higher education.

After graduating from Nottingham I went on to a career in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. I wanted to make a difference for the students’ experience of university. My first job was at a charitable organisation, where I worked with universities across the UK to support them in embedding gender and race equality into everything they do.

I have worked in Higher Education as and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion practitioner now for a number of years, working in universities to embed inclusive and equitable practice for staff and students.

Now I am in my current role where I work in a different field, still EDI, but I now get to work with innovators that have received Innovate UK grants, working to support them in their innovation journey, as well as working with the organisation to embed EDI good practice in everything we do.”

How did you hear about the programme?

“I recall that the school encouraged me to apply. I was thinking about going to university but I wasn’t sure it was for me and the school encouraged me to apply for the programme to help me to make that decision.

Can you tell us what you remember about your programme? What stands out?

“I don’t think I really knew what to expect from the summer school. I remember that I was a little anxious to attend. I really vividly remember the halls of residence that we stayed in – it was the first time I had really been away from home without friends for school or family! So at times was a little overwhelming, but everyone was super friendly and I soon settled in!

I remember the buzz and excitement from all the students that were on the summer school and getting to meet people from all over the country!

I really enjoyed getting to experience what it would be like to study at university and getting to meet so many different people!

I made a couple of friends on the programme who also went on to do degrees at Nottingham and who I have stayed in touch with.

Any other reflections or memories you’d like to share?

“Before university I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career. I had active interests in geography, the environment and science. I had no idea what going to university really meant, what I would be involved in, what I would learn or the life experiences that I would have.

Through Sutton Trust programme I attended a residential summer school where I got to have a taster of life as a science student. I stayed in residential halls, got to go to labs and do experiments, and experience what it would be like as a student there.

It opened my eyes to what university life might be like and that it was somewhere for people like me! The programme helped me to realise that university is what I wanted to do next, and that I wanted to do that at Nottingham.

If, like Emma, you’d like to share your story with us – just get in touch with the alumni team via [email protected].