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UNSW Alumni Awards 2020

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Facing Equality showcase to celebrate alumni diversity in O-Week


Future students attending O-Week next week will get the chance to learn about UNSW’s inclusive campuses through photo portraits that showcase the diversity of graduates.

“By celebrating our diverse alumni, we can send an important message to students about the many paths open to them in the future, and shift biases that might otherwise hold them back in walking those paths,” says Professor Rosalind Dixon, joint academic lead for UNSW’S Grand Challenge on Inequality.

UNSW has long been committed to embracing diversity and inclusion on campus, and testament to this is our thriving alumni community. The Facing Equality project was designed to challenge notions of equality by combining photographic portraits with personal reflections from a diverse range of alumni and members of the UNSW community.

Facing Equality


From Feb 11-15, the portraits will be on display to visitors in the Main Library foyer where volunteers will be on standby for those wanting tours of the display. There will also be portraits displayed in the Pavilions, for viewing following the official postgraduate welcome to O-Week.

Participating alumni represent diversity across gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability and personal background. In addition to sharing their image, alumni have detailed why diversity is important from their own unique perspective.

Professor Dixon says the series not only aims to provide positive examples for our students of the possibilities open to them regardless of background and future goals, but that simply displaying these images is a significant tool in the fight against implicit forms of bias, which today are a major obstacle to achieving equality in Australia.

Benjamin Lange“Many forms of bias today are implicit or unconscious rather than conscious, which can make it harder to overcome or tackle,” says Professor Dixon. “The good news is that exposure to images of successful individuals from diverse backgrounds has shown to help shift expressions of implicit bias. Facing Equality does this by putting a distinct and visible face on equality.”

Benjamin Lange (BE ’05) is one alumnus featured in the series. Benjamin is an Indigenous Australian and Electrical Engineer serving on the Board of Engineering Aid Australia. His portrait discusses the importance of education in achieving reconciliation, by providing more opportunities for Indigenous communities, but also in educating non-Indigenous Australians in the culture and values of its First Nations people.

 “I strongly believe and support ‘education’ holding an important base for extending individuals and bridging these gaps in society,” says Benjamin. “It’s truly brilliant the university has done this as it is physically a perfect place to showcase such role models being a mixing pot of diverse backgrounds, cultures and personalities in the community.”

Another participant is alumna Dr Jeanette McConnell (PhD ’15 Chemistry). As Director of Fizzics Education USA, Jeanette is a scientist, educator and queer woman whose portrait tells of the importance of diversity in science.

jeanette mcconnell“I felt honoured to have been selected as a participant and welcomed the opportunity to share my story. For me, visibility is so important and unfortunately it is often overlooked,” she says. “I remember the first time I ever met a Queer science professor - seeing myself reflected in this position of leadership was incredible and showed me that there was a place for someone like me to succeed in science.

“Everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in the stories presented in society, but this isn't the reality… initiatives like Facing Equality seek to restore the balance and to provide a visible example of the great diversity that exists,” Jeanette adds.