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Student honoured with national award for contribution to the university community 

Opeyemi Da-Silva with her certificate. 

An outstanding student at the University of Chester has received a national award for her contributions to the student community. 

Opeyemi Da-Silva has received the Student Partnership Impact award from SEDA, in collaboration with Jisc, in recognition of students who have had impact at their universities relating to Educational Development. 

Opeyemi, 24 from Lagos in Nigeria, who studied for an MSc Psychology (conversion) has been recognised for her work with the University’s School of Psychology to develop resources for international students to aid settling into UK university life socially and academically. 

She was nominated for the award by Dr Helen Galbraith, Senior Pro Vice-Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer at the University of Chester, for her role as a Student Race Advocate. 

Established by the University in 2020, Student Race Advocates are paid roles where students serve as intermediaries promoting the views, wishes, choices and, ultimately, representing the voice of Black, Asian and other Ethnic Minority students in the University’s decision making and activities. 

The Student Partnership Impact Award from SEDA (Staff and Educational Development Association) and Jisc (Joint Information Systems Committee) looks for evidence of Student-staff partnership activities where working together with mutual respect and value and where enhancements are made through listening, discussing and collaborating to enhance higher education for all stakeholders are evident.

The culmination of Opeyemi’s efforts was the creation of a comprehensive support handbook tailored to the unique needs of Black, Asian and other Ethnic Minority students and particularly, international students who were getting accustomed to a new environment. This handbook encompassed a wide range of essential topics, including guidance on adapting to a new environment, navigating the UK academic system, and understanding cultural differences. Additionally, it provided crucial information on accessing mental health, financial, and social support resources. To address the practical aspects of student life, Ope included guidance on making new friends and securing accommodation in the UK. 

In collaboration with the departmental technician and the Head of the Department, Opeyemi further enhanced the accessibility of vital resources by producing an instructional video on utilising Moodle, the University’s virtual learning environment. This video aimed to introduce new students to the platform and ensure that they had the necessary skills to navigate the university’s digital platforms effectively. 

Opeyemi said:

“During my tenure as a Student Race Advocate for the School of Psychology at the University, I recognised the importance of addressing the unique challenges faced by Black, Asian and other Ethnic Minority students. To proactively engage with this issue, I initiated a comprehensive outreach initiative aimed at improving their university experience. 

“Firstly, I established meaningful connections with Black, Asian and other Ethnic Minority students by actively listening to their concerns. Through open and empathetic dialogue, I gained valuable insights into the specific issues they were facing. Taking a structured approach to addressing these concerns, I conducted a series of semi-structured interviews with BAME students. These interviews served as the foundation for my subsequent research efforts, during which I delved into potential solutions to the problems raised during these conversations.” 

Dr Yingyi Liu, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, said:

“Opeyemi was excellent at her job and during her tenure, she displayed compassion, strength, focus and a determination to do the right things. I worked closely with her, supervising all her work and interviews with other students. We worked through different drafts of the support handbook and videos she produced. This was so because she was particular about putting the best out for the university. She is truly one of a kind and we were lucky to have her.” 

Dr Helen Galbraith added:

“Our Student Race Advocates are working so hard to further improve the student experience at the University of Chester. We are so proud of Opeyemi and the legacy she is leaving for future students.” 

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