Two academics from University of the West of Scotland (UWS) have received national recognition for their outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Professor Muhammad Zeeshan Shakir and Tom Caira, both lecturers within UWS’s School of Computing Engineering and Physical Sciences, received accolades at the inaugural Scottish Association of Minority Ethnic Educators (SAMEE) Recognition and Appreciation Awards. Their awards acknowledge their dedication to inclusivity and diversity in education, and beyond.

Dr Lucy Meredith, Interim Principal and Vice-Chancellor at UWS, and Chair of the University’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, said:

“I am thrilled to see Professor Muhammad Zeeshan Shakir and Tom Caira recognised for their important contributions to diversity and inclusion, at the first SAMEE Recognition and Appreciation Awards.

“UWS prides itself on being an inclusive University and we are committed to equality and diversity in all that we do. It’s wonderful to see this commitment translate clearly through our work and to receive such brilliant recognition for it.”

Professor Shakir won the STEM Inspiring Diversity and Inclusion award, in recognition of his research and contribution to supporting a diverse and inclusive Scotland, through the development of ‘Stay Safe Scotland’ – a mobile app for black and minority ethnic groups, created during the pandemic.

Funded by the Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisations (CEMVO) Scotland and Scottish government, the app sought to overcome major barriers faced by ethnic minority communities in Scotland by providing social distancing guidelines in a variety of different languages and predicting footfall data at nearly 100 supermarkets throughout Scotland, to help users schedule visits at quieter times, and to avoid queuing and overcrowding.

Muhammad Zeeshan Shakir

Professor Shakir said: “I am truly humbled and delighted to receive this award, in recognition of my research and development of the Stay Safe Scotland app. I am blown away by the support that we have in Scotland for ethnic minority educators – at all levels.

“I also want to pay a special gratitude to all my incredibly talented students and post doctorates for their contributions in this project and beyond. The awards ceremony was wonderful, with many brilliant achievements across the sector celebrated.”

Tom Caira picked up the Breaking Barriers award, which celebrates an individual who has been an inspirational and effective role model to others through driving reform, campaigning and being an agent of change.

Tom Caira

Mr Caira said: “I am deeply honoured to be recognised as an inspirational role model in regard to equality, diversity and inclusion. Each award nominee is deserving of recognition and appreciation, and I would like to congratulate everyone involved.” 

The awards ceremony took place at Glasgow’s Radisson Blu hotel and celebrated and applauded the commitment, efforts, progress, achievements and triumphs of unsung heroes across minority ethnic communities in Scotland.

Khadija Mohammed, Chair of SAMEE, said: “It was a huge honour to hold the SAMEE Appreciation and Recognition Awards and shine a light on the incredible work of colleagues across the sector.

“It was a privilege to recognise the work of Professor Shakir and Mr Caira to reduce inequality – the judging panel were unanimous in their decisions to select deserving winners.”