Making the University a sector leader

Photo of Dr Nadia von Benzon smiling to the camera in the centre of an image of the main square of Lancaster University

A new Senate member has ambitions to make Lancaster University a model of sustainable practice for the university sector, and a welcoming place for all.

Dr Nadia von Benzon decided to stand for the Senate - the body that oversees teaching, research and education at Lancaster University - for both personal and professional reasons.

As a social geographer with a particular interest in how access to nature can improve the wellbeing of children, families and disabled young people, sustainability is central to Nadia’s professional practice.

“I think the Vice Chancellor has really taken on the sustainability agenda and is genuinely interested. I’m hoping I’ll be part of that conversation, about how we bring the research expertise we have in the Lancaster Environment Centre and elsewhere in the university into the way our buildings operate, the way our policies are structured, how we support staff to travel and behave sustainably, and how we organise events.

“We need to be making it not just about individual choice but looking at how the University can move towards operating as an organisation in a more sustainable way,” said Nadia, who has been elected to the Senate as a representative of the Faculty of Science and Technology.

Most members of the Senate are appointed because of the senior role they hold at the University. Nadia believes there is real value in also having people like her - an early career researcher and working mother - to bring a different perspective.

“Lancaster University, alongside every other university, has a real challenge about how to increase diversity amongst staff and students, not only in terms of increasing numbers but in making the university a more comfortable place for women with children, carers and people from racial minorities.

“We need to change the recognition system so that people who have minority identity characteristics aren’t left behind. It the University develops ways of valuing diversity amongst staff, it flows through to ways of recognising diversity amongst students and into how we teach and assess them.”

Nadia sees the Senate as being like a board of governors, that can help shape the values of the University. “I’d like it to become a model for other universities both for its sustainable practices and for its approach to minority staff and students.”

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