School of Law postgraduate researcher and Associate Professor present their papers at equity conference

Maral Nosratzadeh, Postgraduate Researcher, and Rachael O’Connor, Associate Professor in Legal Education and University Academic Lead for Personal Tutoring presented research at a conference in York.

The annual ‘Equity in Education & Society’ was organised by the Institute for Educational and Social Equity and was held at York St John University on 31 January 2024. The conference was an opportunity for academics and practitioners to come together to discuss on anti-racism and other inclusion, diversity and equity issues particularly in education and civil society.

Maral presented a paper titled, ‘Disability and Inclusivity in Higher Education and Peer Support.’ Her presentation raised awareness about the work the School of Law does around equality and inclusion, particularly with disabled students like herself who have a strong sense of belonging within the School of Law community. She says,

School of Law has always been a place where I have felt equal, encouraged, and well-supported, my differences as an individual have been recognised as my strength by all the staff at the school. Therefore, I wanted to share my positive experience with the hope of seeing more inclusivity in other institutions in higher education where individuals can reach their full potential on an equal basis with others, regardless of their disability.

Maral is also an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Ambassador of the School of Law and a member of the Disabled Students Peer Network, the Centre for Disability Studies, the Centre for Law and Social Justice and the Centre for Innovation and Research in Legal Education. She is highly passionate about disabled people’s rights, inclusivity in higher education and access to peer support for disabled students at the university level. Dr Nick Cartwright, Associate Professor and Director for Student Success and the School Academic Lead for Inclusive Pedagogy (SALIP), says about her work,

Maral was one of our first EDI Ambassadors and now supports recruiting and training new ambassadors.  She not only demonstrates a selfless commitment to promoting equality for all, but also has an impressive knowledge of the research and literature of EDI.  I have enjoyed working with Maral and she has made a huge contribution to promoting a culture of inclusion within the School and Faculty.  It is exciting that she is now sharing her enthusiasm and expertise beyond Leeds.

Associate Professor Rachael O’Connor also presented a paper titled, ‘The role of reverse mentoring in EDI and wellness conversations.’ Her paper explored the different ways in which she has used reverse mentoring within higher education and the legal profession to highlight and explore the lived experiences of students and junior lawyers who feel under-represented either within their university or within the law. Reflecting on her experience, she says,

It was great to be able to share this work at a conference that really felt diverse in terms of the other presenters/attendees and the topics being explored. It was also a really nice opportunity to reflect holistically on the reverse mentoring work I’ve been doing over the last four years and to see how this work has developed over time. There was lots of interest in the concept from attendees so I look forward to seeing where this work can go in the future. I also loved the opportunity to present at the same event as Maral who I have worked with on reverse mentoring and makes a huge contribution to inclusion and wellbeing work in our School.

Rachael’s work in the space of reverse mentoring, inclusion and academic personal tutoring supports a number of the University of Leeds’ strategic goals relating to diversity and student experience and draws parallels with legal education and the legal profession.

Currently, Rachael is conducting a fellowship project with the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence which explores the intersection of reverse mentoring and academic personal tutoring. The project was co-designed with a research team of students from across campus who self-identify as under-represented at university. 

Rachael is also a trustee of legal mental health and wellbeing charity LawCare and is currently running a collaborative reverse mentoring scheme with them, bringing together junior and aspiring lawyers with senior leaders in the legal profession. She has won a number of prizes and awards internally and externally for her reverse mentoring work.

At the School of Law, she is also a member of the Centre for Innovation and Research in Legal Education and has previously been the Director of Student Support and School Academic Personal Tutoring Lead.