Pioneering staff members from the University of Wolverhampton are celebrating after being recognised in the New Year’s Honours.
Clare Dickens has received an MBE for services to education and improving suicide awareness. Clare led the development of the award-winning Three Minutes to Save a Life programme, which aims to give people the confidence and understanding required to tackle issues surrounding suicide, self-harm, and emotional resilience.
Louise Rhodes has been honoured with an MBE for services to education and the Deaf community. Louise is a British Sign Language Interpreter and has played a key role in making sure deaf students at the University have the same level of education provision as other students. Her work has helped create a foundation of support that will benefit students for decades to come.
Clare, from Wolverhampton, is the University’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Academic Lead. She said: “I was once told that education can be the key to open many doors, it can broaden horizons and offer you a spark from heaven in finding something to be passionate about. Those words have held firm for me, within the embrace of this wonderful University and city.
“I am incredibly humbled to receive this honour, and this is one of the many signposts in my nursing and academic career where I have reflected on who has shaped my life, offering their support and guidance, and who has lifted me as they climb. It is impossible to name them all, but I reflect mainly on my children, my husband and family at this time. None of what I have pursued or achieved, would have happened without them, we are a great team. So this honour is for them too.”
Louise, who is also from Wolverhampton and has supported deaf students at the University for over 27 years, said: “This is such an amazing honour and I’m immensely proud to have been awarded an MBE; it means so much that my work has been recognised in this way. The University of Wolverhampton has been a pioneer in Deaf student support over nearly three decades and I’d like to thank them for their support of the Deaf community both locally and nationally."
Another former staff member from the University, Professor Nazira Karodia, has also received an MBE for her contribution to the chemical sciences. Nazira was the University of Wolverhampton’s Pro Vice Chancellor for Regional Engagement until August this year, when she moved to a new role as Deputy Vice Chancellor and Vice Principal for Learning and Teaching at Edinburgh Napier University.
Nazira said: "I am honoured and delighted that the efforts to build a more inclusive education system is being recognised in this way. Throughout my working life I have been committed to increasing education standards and opportunities for a greater diversity of students with a hope for a more equitable and sustainable future.”
Clare Dickens was a mental health nurse working in the NHS before she entered Higher Education, and began working at the University of Wolverhampton in 2014 as the University’s first strategic lead for mental health and wellbeing.
In this role, Clare’s focus was divided between both responding to people’s needs for mental health and wellbeing support, and on promoting preventative measures. It was the combination of these two focuses that led to Clare and her team to develop the training strategy Three Minutes to Save a Life.
Clare’s pioneering Three Minutes to Save a Life programme, developed in collaboration with 4 Mental Health, aims to give people the courage and understanding required to tackle issues surrounding suicide, self-harm, and emotional resilience. Clare’s aim was to “democratise suicide prevention to make it a community responsibility and principle, whereby as many people know how to keep others and indeed themselves safe, having had a time, space and place to consider a topic which is often difficult to talk about, and to de mystify and challenge unhelpful attributions which can often provide a barrier to help seeking, and indeed those in a position to offer it.” The training is offered to all staff at the University of Wolverhampton.
The scheme has gained national recognition. In 2016 it won an Outstanding Support for Students award from the Times Higher Education Awards, with the programme being described as a “clear winner” in the category. In 2018 it was named as one of UK’s top 100 breakthroughs in the UUK Made at Uni campaign, and in the same year it was presented to a panel of health experts as part of a review into the wellbeing of NHS workers, conducted by Sir Keith Pearson of Health Education England. It has also featured as a case study in national guidance such as the UUK and Papyrus Suicide Safer Universities, and within a topic briefing for the Office for Students.
Clare also chairs Wolverhampton’s Suicide Prevention Stakeholders Forum. Clare has supported the forum to gain charity status this year, and the support of the City’s former Mayor Cllr Claire Darke, who in her term raised over £10,000 for the forum. In her role as Chair, Clare has contributed to fund raising events, organised community learning and teaching conferences, and works closely with Wolverhampton Public Health in supporting the push for a city wide approach to suicide prevention.
Louise Rhodes’ commitment to ensuring a high quality of support is provided for deaf people through her work at the University (including students, alumni, staff and visitors) and her work in the Wolverhampton Deaf community is second to none.
By providing interpreting and note-taking services to students, alongside training internal and external candidates in deaf awareness and note-taking for deaf people; Louise has played a key role in making sure deaf students at the University have the same level of education provision as other students.
Louise has also provided training/teaching at various colleges in the West Midlands, supporting students and setting the bar for how educators support deaf students.
Aside from her in-class support for students and training in the region, Louise is always available to support the Deaf community at the University, be it at graduation ceremonies (assisting Deaf honorary graduates), interpreting at staff, student and alumni events including Black History Month, Pride, Student Union Awards, the annual House of Lords event, Staff Awards, Homecoming and the volunteering awards, to name a few.
Louise has also played a pivotal role in supporting flagship events such as Deaffest, the International Deaf Film & Arts festival that brings hundreds of visitors to the city for this now bi-annual event.
Louise was instrumental in organising the Deaf Learners Open Days at the University. She organises volunteers to support deaf visitors at various other events and undertakes outreach work nationally.
Louise’s support of the Deaf community in Wolverhampton does not stop when her workday ends. She has accompanied students on course trips all over the United Kingdom and abroad and has interpreted at international conferences. As a result of this hard work and dedication Louise has been nominated for various awards including being part of a team shortlisted for a Times Higher Education Award.
During the lockdown Louise has been actively involved in supporting staff and students via Deaf awareness training online, undertaking welfare calls for nominated students and has set-up a weekly BSL lunchtime club for staff to learn and practise British Sign Language in an informal setting which she runs with a colleague.
- Information about mental health and wellbeing support at the University is available: https://www.wlv.ac.uk/current-students/student-support/mental-health-and-wellbeing-advice/
- Information for support for Deaf and hard of hearing students is available: https://www.wlv.ac.uk/current-students/student-support/student-support-and-wellbeing-ssw/advice-for-ddeaf-and-hard-of-hearing-students/