A day in the life of the Black & Ethnic Minorities Officer

A day in my life at Trinity Hall consists of the usual: reading, prepping my lecture notes and hanging out with friends but there is also a large part of my day that is dedicated to access work, either through mentoring or thinking of initiatives to demolish glass ceilings.

Maro Okiti

Trinity Hall’s inaugural BME Open Day is not only the product of weeks of planning but also years of a young girl overcoming self-doubt and attempting to challenge structural barriers surrounding black and minority ethnic prospective students. Therefore, I think it’s important to start at the beginning.

My earliest encounter with Cambridge University was through glossy application brochures. As my fingers turned their pages, I sighed longingly at how pretty yet unreachable it seemed. However, my access was not only stopped by the lamination of the glossy pages, but also stifled by societal expectations. A teacher had inquired about my university aspirations and I answered “Cambridge” under my breath, hoping it would go unnoticed. She shook her head in disbelief and retorted, “Those types of institutions are not meant for black people.” It also did not help my case that I often came across tabloid headlines highlighting less than satisfactory diversity statistics at Oxbridge. I heeded her words and swore off applying until I attended the University Open Day. I sparked a conversation with one of the lecturers who taught my chosen course. As the conversation was drawing to a close, he concluded with, “I have no doubt that I will see you next year.” This moment was pivotal for me. Someone within the hallowed walls of Cambridge had faith in me. I desired to replicate this impact by launching Trinity Hall’s inaugural Open Day, with the support of the Schools Liaison Officer, to show prospective students that everyone ranging from current students to the admissions team have faith in them but more importantly are willing to support them through the application process.

The BME Open Day consisted of a virtual tour, a student panel, an admissions Q&A, speeches by the presidents of the CUSU BME campaign and African Caribbean Society respectively and subject workshops in these four areas: Arts/ Humanities, Social Sciences and Physical and Biological Sciences. During the event, the enthusiasm of the attendees was made apparent by the speed at which their questions were coming in. I am certain that the Q&A button must have experienced some digital wear and tear due to how frequently it was used. The attendees reacted positively to the subject breakout rooms as they were proactive with engaging with the material presented before them.

Tears welled up in my eyes when I was informed by the Schools Liaison Officer that more than 230 students had registered for the event. Afterwards, I received positive feedback from the students who had attended. They described how they had either not been supported by their schools or their personal discouragement had held them back but whose experience at the event had left a lasting positive impact.

Maro Okiti (2019)
JCR Black & Ethnic Minorities Officer

This article was first published in the autumn 2020 edition of Front Court.

Read more about our inaugural BME Open Day