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"I moved from Zimbabwe to the UK with my family in 2001. I had some IT qualifications but they weren't UK recognised, so finding a job was difficult. I'd never heard of the OU and it wasn't until I started working here that I realised what a fantastic place it is! From humble beginnings my career development has been fantastic, and because I took the opportunity to study at the OU my career has gone from strength to strength.
One of the proudest days of my life was graduating with an MSc in Computing for Commerce and Industry in 2007. I love working at the OU; I'm involved in all kinds of things - I regularly attend workshops to help managers understand diversity issues; I'm part of the BME email network; I mentor high school students from the local community and am even in the OU squash team! I just want to help other people receive the same opportunities I have had."
Denzil DeSouza, Manager, Service Delivery Team
"I'm an associate lecturer for two courses teaching creative writing to students in the East Midlands and in the North for the Faculty of Arts. Iíve taught and supported students at the Open University for three years and most of my teaching takes place online.
I don't tend to announce the fact that Iím a lesbian to all my students at the start of the course, but usually Ďoutí myself at Day Schools when talks can become more personal. When my students think I have a husband because Iím married I correct this assumption and say that my partner is a woman. My experience has been that some students were surprised but never in a negative way. Some students ask questions which I happily answer. I've never hid my sexuality from other University staff and Iíve never had an inappropriate reaction from anyone at work.
Because of my own openness, Iím in a great position to support students who Ďoutí or 'half-out' themselves to me in their emails or creative writing. Quite a few students bring up their sexuality in one way or another, which Iím not sure they would if I was closed or assumed all my students are heterosexual. By responding positively and not making it a big deal, students can concentrate on their studies rather than worrying what people think of their sexuality."
Jesta Phoenix, Associate Lecturer, Faculty of Arts
"I work as an Evaluation Officer for the OU. Iím based in the North West Region, and I work across the country, evaluating projects that widen access to University and encourage people from Ďnon-traditionalí backgrounds to study at HE level. When I was young I worked as a frontline housing worker and I only went to University in my late twenties, after completing a course with the OU! Since then Iíve done an MA and finished a PhD and that led me into research. Iíve worked as an academic in a campus based University, but my job with the OU lets me use my skills to really influence practice and do research that is useful to people across the University.
Iíve always been out as a lesbian at work, and I think the OU is one of the most Ďlesbian friendlyí places Iíve ever worked. Maybe it's because I work in the North West region, where the office is a bit smaller and more informal. I donít think Iíve ever had a weird reaction when I talk about my partner, and people I work with ask about her as well! It sounds crazy to have to say that, but Iíve worked in plenty of places where your relationship is just ignored, so it's nice to have it treated as a normal thing. Thereís also an LGBT group; they have an e-mail list and advertise on the notice boards. It was a great feeling to see that when I first started and made me feel a lot safer being out at work."
Meg Allen, Evaluation Officer (Widening Participation)