The speeches from opening night, featuring President Maggie Snowling, photographer Robert Taylor, Dr Mishka Sinha and SJC alumnus Musa Okwonga

Maggie Snowling 1.jpgEducation, excellence and equality – these three words capture what St  John’s strives to promote both within College and beyond its walls. Diversity is a critical component of this ambition – and it brings quality. It means enabling individuals to be themselves, to be authentic and to offer different perspectives in debate, discussion and decisionmaking. It allows us to learn about different backgrounds, cultures and traditions, and this is enriching. 

During 2020/21, I felt deeply privileged to chair our College’s Working Group on Race and Equality and to learn more of the lived experiences of our BAME community. I applaud those who served during the most difficult academic year any of us have ever experienced, and I thank too our alumni, who gave of their time to support the group and to advise. We have reaped great benefit from their involvement. I also thank the Fellows who have served as Fellow for Ethnic Minorities since the creation of the officership in 2017, Professors Maini, Patel and Pandit. I am proud that Governing Body accepted fully the recommendations of the review, including an anti-racism statement and an action plan to which we are now committed. 

This exhibition is just one output from the Working Group. I thank the sitters for agreeing to take part, and for the reflective and insightful biographical statements that have been included in this booklet. A further important initiative flowing from our deliberations has been that, as a community, we have embarked on a series of discussions allowing us to reflect on our values, our collegiality and our efforts to reach wider society. I look forward to working in solidarity and partnership with everyone in College, in the sure knowledge that we will continue to educate, study, work and thrive here – and that we will continue to learn and better ourselves in the process. 

Professor Maggie Snowling CBE FBA FMedSci


January 2022

Robert Taylor

Robert Taylor.jpgRobert has specialised in portraiture for over thirty years, and has work in numerous permanent collections, including the National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Society, and several leading British universities. 

Over the last fifteen years Robert has produced many commissioned collections of portraits of women of distinction. Initially he focused on high-flyers in science, engineering and technology, working with women operating at the highest levels, often in environments where women are under-represented and their contributions not always properly appreciated. For the last eight years, he has been commissioned to photograph alumnae and female academics at various Oxford University colleges.

'This collection of portraits in celebration of diversity at St John’s – including staff, students and academics – opens up an important and timely new area of endeavour for me at Oxford University. While working with St John’s folk I have heard so many fascinating and often moving stories about inspirations, rewarding connections, breakthroughs and proud achievements. The sessions involved travels from North Yorkshire to North London, as well as at College, in a variety of environments and atmospheres. I continue to be inspired by my late working-class Jamaican mother’s capacity for creativity, courage and generosity in carving out her own career in tough circumstances. She would have been fascinated to hear about the various characters – men and women – I have had the great pleasure of working with as part of St John’s celebration of diversity and inclusion at the College.'