Asthma charity boss first black woman elected rector of ancient university

Martina Chukwuma-Ezike is the first person of colour to hold the more than 500-year-old role.

Asthma charity boss Martina Chukwuma-Ezike is first person of colour elected rector of Aberdeen University STV News

The first black woman to be elected as rector of the University of Aberdeen hopes it is a watershed moment for diversity.

Martina Chukwuma-Ezike is the first person of colour to hold the more than 500-year-old role.

She is the founder of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, Scotland’s only asthma charity, and follows in the footsteps of other Aberdeen University rectors including Winston Churchill and Green politician Maggie Chapman.

Ms Chukwuma-Ezike told STV News: “I’m so excited, very humbled at the same time. It’s a very proud moment.

“It’s very humbling and it just shows how open the University of Aberdeen is and it shows that the university does not restrict opportunities to anyone, it is inclusive and open to everyone no matter where you come from.”

Ms Chukwuma-Ezike took on the role following a ceremony at the university’s Kings College Chapel on Friday and will hold the post for three years. 

During that time, she hopes to address issues such as mental health, student safety and climate action. 

“The students have called specifically for actions in areas of mental health, which is not surprising given the difficult last two years we’ve had,” she said.

“They’ve also asked for equality, diversity and inclusion. They’ve asked for student safety and welfare, employability skills and climate action. I’ll be working along with staff and students and everyone involved to ensure that these areas of need are looked into and addressed.”

Ms Chukwuma-Ezike first arrived at the university aged 27 as an international student and said the warm welcome she received helped her to settle in. 

“From the very first day I arrived at the university, as soon as I got out of the taxi one of the security came up to me and brought my bags and that to me was very welcoming and it didn’t stop there,” she said. 

“Our admin officer was very kind and even offered to provide support beyond the university, such as helping me find the local shops.”

Ms Chukwuma-Ezike is now keen to give back to the university and help other people the way she was supported over a decade ago. 

“I think it’s a privilege that I’m given the opportunity to pay back and support other students like myself.”

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