An inspirational BAME woman leader has been selected for a unique UK mentoring programme to help change the lives of other women.

Colina Wright is not only the CEO of the University of Sunderland’s Students’ Union, she is an activist, campaigner, and an advocate for change.

Now, she has been selected as one of only a handful of UK women to be accepted for the 2021/22 Jane Slowey Memorial Membership.

The Membership was created to provide expert support, guidance, advice and mentoring for women who are in their first two years as a CEO for a charity or social enterprise.

It is an honour for Colina who, in her role with Sunderland SU, hopes to provide both students and staff at the SU with unique opportunities to challenge themselves and take control of their own future.

Colina, from Nottingham, came to her role in Sunderland having had extensive experience with student unions for more than 20 years.

The mum-of-two first became involved with the SU when she was an undergraduate at Sheffield Hallam University.

Colina said: “I was the first person on my mum’s side of the family to go to university and, to be honest, I didn’t really want to go.

“At time, in the late 90s, I didn’t really have any comprehension of the BAME retainment gap. I just saw that students like me were massively underrepresented.”

It was at Sheffield that Colina first became involved with the SU, providing her with the opportunity to see another side to University life. It also offered her the opportunity to work on projects to raise aspirations among women in the local community.

It was a formative period and Colina would go on forge a career based on empowering others to become the best versions of themselves.

She said: “I’m passionate about empowering young people to believe in themselves and taking advantage of opportunities to enable us to grow and develop.

“I struggled to recognise myself within the University context; receiving my Bachelor’s degree is my most proud achievement and opened up so many more opportunities including my career within Unions and successfully completing my MBA.

“I am married with two young children and fundamentally believe in challenging my own and societal barriers to encourage my children to only be limited by their imaginations.”

So what are Colina’s hopes for her time at Sunderland?

“Well, I’d very much like to see more students getting involved with the SU,” she says, “challenging themselves and growing during their three years here.

“I would like us to communicate with the students throughout their time, making them aware that we are here for them.

“I want to open up networking and mentoring opportunities to employees and give them the mental space to figure out who they are.”

And her ambitions now she is a part of the Jane Slowey Memorial Membership.

Colina adds: “I welcome the chance to be honest and open about challenges I experience in a safe and supportive environment and to not only share with these women but also grow alongside them.

“I hope that the relationships I forge as part of this group continue long after the programme is complete.

“It’s too easy to pull ourselves and one another down by comparing ourselves to our perception of success, possibly perceived in others, without acknowledging their realities.

“There is something extremely powerful in women supporting one another.”