A University of Leicester geographer’s efforts to bring the subjects of race and diversity into geography education have been recognised by a prestigious professional body.
Dr Margaret Byron from the University of Leicester Department of Geography is this year’s recipient of the Taylor & Francis Award from the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), awarded for excellence in the promotion and practice of diversity in the teaching of Human Geography.
These are part of a series of awards that recognise extraordinary achievement in geographical research, fieldwork and teaching, photography and public engagement.
The Royal Geographical Society’s prestigious medals and awards are presented annually to individuals who have made outstanding achievements.
Dr Margaret Byron has lectured in Human Geography since 1992, and at the University of Leicester since 2009. Dr Byron currently chairs the RGS /IBG Race, Culture and Equality (RACE) Working Group, which encourages and undertakes geographical research, activism and curriculum development on race, racism and racial oppression.
Dr Byron said: “I am delighted to receive this award but I would stress that I receive it, not for myself, but on behalf of all those in Human Geography in Britain who have and continue to work very hard to achieve a discipline that is genuinely inclusive and particularly all those who supported the move to establish the RACE working group.
I have been acutely aware of and concerned about the underrepresentation of several elements of British society in the discipline in the ranks of students and staff. This extends through certain classes in society to minority ethnic groups – Dr Margaret Byron, Geography lecturer
“I have been acutely aware of and concerned about the underrepresentation of several elements of British society in the discipline in the ranks of students and staff. This extends through certain classes in society to minority ethnic groups. I always felt that I could do little things like encouraging students to stay on the degree when they felt too much like outsiders but that we needed a much bigger push from the discipline itself to change things. Much has happened to make the discipline of geography a more inclusive space but race and ethnicity remained relatively undiscussed.
“I think that it makes things easier when struggles are recognised. I know that our department is committed to widening participation and hopefully this will encourage colleagues to think even more comprehensively about the experience of students and staff who enter the discipline and to enable them to feel part of the narrative that we, as a department, construct.”
Professor Paul Boyle, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, said: “I am delighted that the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers has conferred the Taylor & Francis Award for excellence in in the promotion and practice of diversity in the teaching of human geography to Margaret. I wish to congratulate her personally for all of her hard work, dedication, and commitment in addressing diversity in her teaching role.”
Margaret is a wonderful teacher, mentor and supporter of student learning. She has a special gift when it comes to teaching the next generation of human geographers and I am delighted that this has been recognised by the RGS-IBG with this award – Professor Kevin Tansey, Head of the Department of Geography
Professor Kevin Tansey, Head of the Department of Geography, said: “This is wonderful news for Margaret, the Department and the University. Margaret is a wonderful teacher, mentor and supporter of student learning. She has a special gift when it comes to teaching the next generation of human geographers and I am delighted that this has been recognised by the RGS-IBG with this award.”
This year, the Society’s medals and awards recognise 21 different people for their outstanding contributions to geography.
Recipients this year include Bob Geldof KBE and Professor Michael Storper, who have been awarded the Society’s two Royal Medals. Dr Wendy Darke, Head of the BBC Natural History Unit, is also awarded the Cherry Kearton Medal and Award for cinematography of the natural world.
The awards will be presented on Monday 6 June 2016 as part of the Society’s Annual General Meeting in London.