Director Nadira Mirza discusses vision for Leeds Trinity's new Race institute

Subhasini Naicker Wednesday 17th April 2024 06:42 EDT

Leeds Trinity University will launch its first Race Institute during its annual Race, Equity, and Social Justice conference on 22 May. This initiative reflects the university's commitment to anti-racism and aims to lead nationwide efforts by uniting organisations across sectors. Stemming from its race-equity work, which earned it the Race Equality Charter Bronze award in 2020, the Race Institute will drive sustained transformational change.

In an interview with Asian Voice, Professor Nadira Mirza, Director of the Race Institute, spoke about the motivations, vision, and aspirations behind establishing the institute.

Can you tell us more about the motivation behind establishing the Race Institute at Leeds Trinity University?

We, as higher education institutions, prioritise diversity in all aspects: from our staff appointments to the enrolment of students, whether they come from local, regional, or international backgrounds. In 2017, we launched the Race, Equity, and Social Justice conference series, aimed at bringing together staff, students, external communities, and stakeholders to address the critical importance of race in our institution. We understand that not everyone starts from the same point, so it's imperative to create an inclusive environment that acknowledges and addresses differences in background and experiences, particularly concerning race.

The conferences serve as a platform for open discussion, debate, and learning about our diverse backgrounds and shared humanity. They highlight the disparities faced by individuals from non-white ethnicities, examining how these challenges manifest differently across various sectors, such as health, education, and business.

What specific initiatives or programs will the Race Institute undertake to advance its mission?

Conferences, seminars, and colloquium series hold a special place in fostering discussions and knowledge exchange. We organise four core conferences annually, each focusing on race equity and related issues. Alongside our flagship event, we host two smaller conferences, one centred on Black Lives Matter and the other addressing Islamophobia. 

From these conferences, we derive themes for colloquium series, facilitating deeper discussions beyond the main events. For instance, following our upcoming conference on 22 May, which spotlights the intersection of education and health leveraging digital resources, we will organise three local seminar series. These series will delve into health and education, featuring esteemed keynote speakers renowned in their respective fields. By convening experts from diverse backgrounds, we aim to foster collaborative efforts and devise sustainable strategies for operational improvement.

How do you envision the Race Institute, contributing to the broader discourse?

Our goal is to create a safe and open space where people feel comfortable discussing critical issues and developing strategies for solutions. This encompasses a wide range of concerns, from fostering diversity in the workforce to anticipating future challenges in various fields. I believe that amidst the global unrest, understanding and bridging the North-South divide is crucial. We must recognise the diversity within countries and continents to foster dialogue and cooperation for a better world.

Moreover, we are addressing pressing issues like climate change, recognising its disproportionate impact on regions like the global south. By facilitating discussions that intertwine race and climate change, we seek to unite diverse stakeholders in finding sustainable solutions. This collaborative approach, bringing together unconventional groups, is key to driving lasting change and creating a more equitable and resilient world.

What measures will the Race Institute implement, to ensure its efforts are inclusive and accessible to individuals from diverse backgrounds?

Our institution's name inherently embodies qualities of diversity and inclusivity. However, through experience, we've observed that discussions around gender or disability issues often flow more smoothly compared to conversations about race. There seems to be a hesitancy and discomfort when addressing race-related topics. This reluctance underscores the critical need for us to focus on race equity and to have a significant impact in this area.

To achieve our goal, we prioritise openness and diverse voices within our institute. Colonialism and its enduring impact have shaped our institutions, and we recognise the need to decolonise our practices, especially within higher education.

Our curriculum involves diversifying the authors recommended to students and ensuring a diverse staff teaches a diverse student body. Embracing this diversity enriches the learning experience and fosters a deeper understanding of different perspectives and values. Ultimately, our efforts centre on promoting race equity for an inclusive environment.

What are your aspirations for the future of the Race Institute?

Through our research and knowledge exchange efforts, we aim to gather essential information crucial for building a better society. This entails deepening our understanding of various issues and utilising that knowledge to develop programs where individuals can engage and learn. Fundamental to our mission is providing a space for dialogue and discussion on topics of significant difference.

For our institution, the goal is clear: Leeds Trinity strives to be a leader in this field, engaging in innovative collaborations and projects that drive meaningful change. Personally, I am driven by the desire to make a global impact. I aspire to leverage research and development policies to ensure fairness and equity for all. By combining institutional leadership with personal aspirations, we endeavour to contribute to a more just and inclusive society. 

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