Serena Cole is a first-year medic and BME Officer of the newly elected Trinity College Students’ Union. Today she is co-hosting a social event to discuss diversity at Trinity, with the College’s Admissions Tutor and Fellow for Ethnic Diversity, Dr Glen Rangwala. Here Serena talks about why she stood for election and what she hopes to achieve.
What’s your impression of Trinity so far?
I came to Cambridge having gone to a school in a small, predominantly white village in the East Midlands. So I entered a much bigger and diverse space. I was incredibly nervous even once I knew I was coming here. Originally, I applied to Trinity due to its size, location and prestige and because I knew that it would give me the best opportunity to excel.
I was questioned about my decision by a teacher who was initially unsure because he thought that Trinity was very competitive and I should possibly place my bets elsewhere in Cambridge. I think all schools should look to instill confidence in their students to achieve their goals. I was not disappointed once I got here; the workload is high but manageable and I would encourage students to be as sociable as they can.
Trinity is very big and there are many traditions that you get to be part of. I am still amazed that I am here and can participate in its long history. It suits my personality and I have met some wonderful people.
What motivated you to run for BME Officer of TCSU?
Firstly, I recognised the need to continue the momentum of the previous officer, Wanipa. I had a great start to my Cambridge experience – a lot of that was due to Wanipa’s work and I felt it would be an honour to continue this.
Secondly, as one of the few black people currently at Trinity, I am paving the way forward and want to impact the College so that it is better when I leave than when I arrived. I know how it feels to be a minority and want to use that experience as BME Officer to advocate for the needs of black people and BME people as a whole so that students can get on with studying and enjoying everything Cambridge has to offer.
Finally, I have seen the value first hand when I have expressed my opinions publicly and the inspiration this can give to others who also want to speak up. It is extremely important to have BME voices on TCSU, so that they can really take part in the conversation about how the College is run.
What is your first priority as BME Officer?
My first priority is to increase the amount of information about BME life in Trinity. As a medic I am taught about the importance of informed consent and I think that information is my most powerful tool to help both prospective and current students.
I would like to take part in any initiatives that help to address the still common misconceptions around applying to and being at Trinity – particularly that it is too hard to get into. I am a testament to the fact that it is very much possible. I would also like to celebrate BME culture within Trinity and the alumni that have come before us; this will emphasize to the BME community that they do belong in Cambridge and also help reduce the level of ignorance in this space.
All in all, I hope that BME students will feel welcomed and happy while they are at Cambridge and I will do everything in my power to ensure this is the case.
What do you hope the ethnic diversity event at Trinity will achieve?
In Cambridge especially, students are often overloaded with things that they need to do and places that they need to be. I hope this event will provide a safe place for the discussion of issues around ethnicity and an opportunity for students to truly reflect on their experiences and expectations.
I know that Trinity is not perfect and my voice is one of many. I want to hear from everyone and will value and consider all opinions. I hope that we will hear from the diverse range of voices here and that I will be able to take into account their views as BME Officer.