University Inclusive Practice award for Abigail Smith

River Cam in autumn

Many congratulations to Abigail Smith, third-year Geography student at Queens', who has won the Inclusive Practice category in the Outstanding Student Contribution to Education Awards, run by the Cambridge Centre for Teaching & Learning.

Additionally, Abi got Firsts in each of her first two years and also won the Venn Prize, the President's Prize for Geography and the Bibby Prize for all-round contribution. She has also found time to row for the College Boat Club.

She received nominations from three different members of staff. Part of their recommendations are below:

"Since arriving at Queens' Abi has stepped right into making the College and the University a better place for current and future students. She currently serves as the Queens' JCR Disability Officer... During College Open Days and Admissions interviews she has made herself front and centre, present in the Porter's Lodge as the first person future students and parents meet. At interview time, she is also the first person to guide students to and from their interviews. She has also served as the subject contact for Geography, to help newly arrived students become comfortable with College.

Abi's exceptional patience, kindness and dedication to improve the learning experience has both fostered and forced very clear changes within the University of Cambridge. Among other things, Abi has:

  • Given many hours of her own time to sit with and educate academic and support staff to develop their understanding of issues related to accessibility and to the development of more inclusive pedagogy, including by creating more inclusive assessment methods;
  • Constructively worked with the University's IT division and the University Library to help user-test systems and platforms for accessibility;
  • Freely assisted the Disability Resource Centre in the development of materials and guidance;
  • Promoted the interests of disabled students directly to University administration. This included taking time to meet with the Vice-Chancellor and Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) to describe why more inclusive policies and provision must be at the heart of the university experience, and for all students.

Abi's efforts have had tangible outcomes. The Department of Geography's online teaching platform was inaccessible, but no longer. iDiscover (the library search system) has 'missing' buttons everywhere but is now being redeveloped. After Abi's meeting with the VC and Senior PVC (Education), the University agreed to purchase universal conversion software (SensusAccess) and to work towards creating a centralised and permanent unit for converting and managing all related accessibility obstacles for current and future students. In doing so, Abi is at the forefront of eliminating untold barriers, permanently.

Abigail Smith