Space scientist and broadcaster Maggie Aderin-Pocock, has spoken about the honour of taking up the role of Chancellor at the University of Leicester – and being a part of a city which is striving to be the “space capital” of the UK.
Dr Aderin-Pocock was officially installed as the new Chancellor, at a graduation ceremony last Wednesday, July 19.
The appointment is the latest chapter in Maggie’s inspiring rise from an unsettled early life, which saw her diagnosed with dyslexia and attend 13 different schools, to a nationally recognised science communicator.
Speaking to the Leicester Times, she said: “Space is booming in the UK and one of the reasons I got into science education is because we don’t have enough people working in the space industry.
“Leicester is striving to be the space city of the UK and to be part of that is a huge honour. It just gives me great joy. Here we have the National Space Centre and now the Space Park too, where people from across the country are coming to Leicester to set up their companies and to interact with each other and make space exploration much more tenable in the future.
“On top of that we’ve got the research happening at the university. Doing the sky at night I’m very much of all the amazing missions that they do here at the University of Leicester.
“So it is like a melting pot of space all happening in Leicester, which I find very exciting.
“I spend a lot of my time going out to schools and speaking to kids who might not necessarily consider careers in STEM, and so I can speak to them and encourage them into a place like Leicester and say that opportunities are waiting for them – they too can be citizens of change.”
Dr Aderin-Pocock is also passionate about encouraging more people into higher education – especially those from diverse backgrounds.
She encourages students to “dream big” and to “reach for their stars.”
Maggie told the audience of fresh graduates gathered in De Montfort Hall: “Your steps across this stage are your first into a new realm of what might be. I urge you to dream big – to desire to aspire. Make this your giant leap.
“Do not accept the world as it is – go out there and change it for the better. Just 100 miles up, we enter space and we see our planet for what it is. What we have done to it and what we need to do. That responsibility rests with you and those that follow you. Our future depends upon it.”
She added: “Fight injustice, inequality and persecution. These are the enemies of progress. Success does not depend upon trampling upon the rights of others but comes from the uplifting of the whole. Make diversity and inclusion your priorities.”
Speaking later in the evening, at a dinner to mark her installation, Maggie emphasised the need for education to be ‘borderless’.
She said: “I am the child of immigrant parents and I am proud that our Vice-Chancellor is also of international origin. In a world that is increasingly polarised, education must remain borderless, it must bring people together and it should create hope for the future.”
Maggie added: “I know the enormous power of education first-hand. Having dyslexia, I was placed in a class for those with additional needs. I also went to 13 different schools because my parents split up when I was young.
“It was because of education and the inspiration from lots of amazing teachers that I was able to get my GCSEs and A-levels and then go on to get my degree and PhD later on.
“I have made it my mission to inspire the next generation of scientists and educators. By becoming Chancellor of the University of Leicester, I can share the power of education and encourage people to come to the University too.”