National Diversity Awards (celebrating Unity in Society)
Dr Matt Mears (Positive Role Model Award – LGBT)
Matt is a University Teacher in Physics at The University of Sheffield, with a broad teaching remit that spans across different departments and faculties.
In 2013 Matt took over as chair of the University of Sheffield LGBT+ Staff Network and has worked hard to transform the Network from a small group of staff who met semi-regularly for a coffee to a more established part of the equality and diversity structure within the University (but the regular coffee meet-ups still happen!).
The Staff Network runs two informal socials every month as a safe space for any LGBT+ member of staff to network, ask advice, or just get to know people from around the University. In addition to these regular socials we have organised talks from external speakers such as Peter Tatchell, Professor Chris Ashford and Dr Jamie F Lawson.
Since stepping up as chair of the Network Matt has introduced a number of schemes and practices within the University. Firstly he worked towards LGBT+ representation at Faculty level, and now sits on the Faculty Equality and Diversity Board as an LGBT+ representative. This model has been agreed and will be established in all other faculties and services throughout the institution.
As a role model Matt has worked to develop the Open@TUoS scheme that encourages all members of staff to make a visible statement of support and show that they are a safe space with whom to talk about anything relating to LGBT+ issues. The Open@TUoS scheme has been unanimously supported at the University Equality and Diversity Board and is rolling out in conjunction with Sheffield Pride Week.
Sheffield Pride Week is an idea that Matt has championed which brings two large city events, Pinknic and Pride, and links them together with a common theme. He has arranged a number of events and speakers during the week between these two events with a view to making the whole week a citywide celebration of LGBT+ diversity.
At present Matt is working with other staff networks, and is leading the way in developing a training day for all University managers that provides an informative and open session to learn about and discuss all protected characteristics and how these can be supported and accommodated within our University.
Finally on a more personal level Matt is a personal tutor within his department but finds himself with many more tutees, some of which are outside of his department (with some from completely different faculties). His openness about his sexuality and disability, coupled with a welcoming personality, means that students regularly hear about and take up his “open door” offer for any student to drop in if they have any concerns or problems they need to discuss but are unsure where to turn.