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School of Social Sciences distinguished visiting fellow awarded OBE

14 February 2024

A woman and a man smiling for a photograph

A Distinguished Visiting Fellow from Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences has been awarded an OBE for her work in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities in Wales.

Anti-racism campaigner Usha Ladwa-Thomas was given the award in the King’s New Year list 2024 which recognises the achievements and service of extraordinary people across the UK.

Her award for advisory work for the Welsh Government includes climate change, setting up Academi Wales and developing leadership with non-government organisations via Caplor Horizons, Children Watch and Tamil Nadu in India.

In July 2023, Usha won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ethnic Minority Welsh Women Achievement Association.

On receiving her OBE, Usha said:

I was very conflicted about accepting an award that is linked to the history of the British Empire, but for various reasons, including having this conversation and to use it as a platform to do more work on social justice, I accepted it. It actually belongs to my teams I have worked with.

“In essence it has value to me in that I can have more conversations on all aspects of social justice, especially the work of anti-racism we do in Wales.

“I feel honoured and humbled to be recognised by my peers, including ethnic minority colleagues, and the Welsh Government who nominated me.”

Cardiff Business School’s Professor Emmanuel Ogbonna added:

This award is a fitting recognition for a lifetime of commitment to promoting equality, equity and social justice. I am glad that Usha is continuing her work in this area as she still has so much to give.
Professor Emmanuel Ogbonna Professor of Management and Organization

Usha and her team were also recognised by the UK Civil Service, and awarded the Civil Service Award, 2023. Usha led the work of influencing Welsh Government’s Diversity and Equality in Public Appointments Strategy and orchestrating the Anti-racist Wales Action Plan in 2022.

Commenting on the Plan, she said, “The Plan was unique in that no other nation has such a Plan and one that is co-produced and has peoples lived experiences at the heart of it.

“It has had senior leadership support from First Minister and Cabinet, and we are getting interest from many other countries asking us what we did and how we did it. It is also a testament to the joint working of the colleagues in Cardiff University’s Wales Centre for Public Policy, Welsh Government officials, public services and community mentors and leaders who have worked hard to co-create something unique. The Plan could make a really and measurable difference to the lives of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people in Wales.”

Usha is currently an Innovator in Residence at the university’s Social Science Research Park (SPARK) sitting on its strategic advisory board, and uses the facility to undertake further work on the Anti-racist Wales Action Plan.

Usha reflected, “I hope to continue on my journey to make change where I can, to make measurable difference to people who do not have a voice, including ethnic minority people, disabled people, and socio-economically disadvantaged people among others, in Wales and internationally.

“I am committed to being reflective so spend more time now on understanding how we can create culture change in big organisations.

“My need to ‘join the dots’, to be a ‘boundary spanner’, to co-produce, and how policy may help has driven me, but my foundations are in the face-to-face work with communities , many, many years ago. There is nothing like listening to people’s lived experiences to drive change.

“Cardiff University gave me my foundations in learning how to think, so it’s great to return to reflect on what I learnt after graduating in Zoology in 1978 at the university!”

Professor Chris Taylor, SPARK Academic Director, added, “I’m absolutely delighted for Usha in receiving this recognition for all her work in Wales over the years, and most recently for the Anti-racist Wales Action Plan."

We are incredibly lucky to have Usha working with us and supporting our work, both in terms of her expertise in leadership and in helping ensure we can become an anti-racist organisation.
Professor Chris Taylor Academic Director, SPARK

You can find out more about Usha’s work around the Anti-racist Wales Action Plan and diversity and inclusion.

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