Vashti Suwa Gbolagun / WINNER

PhD English

Vashti has been described as a role model, performer, collaborator, volunteer, feminist, environmental researcher, and de-coloniser. Investigating the under-researched issue of environmental damage in the Nigerian Jos Plateau, Vashti used poetry and autobiography to draw on her personal experience of living alongside tin mining and degradation. The work has already featured at international academic conferences, with Dr Ursula Hurley (Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing) describing it as “one of the most extraordinary, game-changing pieces of research that I’ve had the privilege to be involved with”.

Vashti faced a huge challenge to de-colonise the English PhD, producing original creative writing whilst advancing innovative methodologies – all whilst caring for her family during the pandemic. She has grown into an accomplished poet and performer, becoming the most generous and supportive member of our postgraduate community. Most recently, she volunteered to mentor first year students, developing teaching practices that enable those excluded from Western poetic traditions to enter fully into an inclusive learning environment. Vashti has now secured a position as a Research Assistant on a NERC-funded project, where she will research and write about the lives of under-represented environmental scientists. She has achieved incredible academic success so far and is certainly one to watch.

Vashti says “Being shortlisted as a finalist is unbelievable! It is an amazing feeling and a humbling experience and has left me beyond words! I am so thankful for the privilege to even be mentioned and recognised. It has made me believe in myself and in my inherent ability, which I never knew existed until Salford gave me the opportunity to unleash the hidden gems. This nomination will inspire a lot of Vashti’s out there to take the plunge and believe in themselves. The support system around me has been the best anyone can ask for. I have been made to feel at home and encouraged to fly by the people around me, especially in the School’s Doctoral areas.”

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