RARE  RISINGSTARS - The UK’s Top 10 Black Students
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No. 6


Hope Oloye

PhD Ecological Study of Brain and Behaviour
University College London
Education and Social Activism

James Frater

Hope grew up in Newham, East London, with her parents and younger brother. Her mother worked as a nurse before moving into NHS management, and her father ran a nursery. She recalls many financial troubles growing up, and a desire to leave behind the deprivation of her area (though not for lack of love for her community), but outside this, her childhood was stable and she excelled at school. She also led a rich extracurricular life, participating in every team sport her school offered, as well as music and competitive swimming.

Aged 13, Hope attended a Neuroscience lecture at University College London, sparking her interest in the topic of child educational development. After that, Hope immersed herself in further research, and determined to become a neuroscientist. Initially, her teachers encouraged her to change her mind – perhaps a youth councillor or teacher was more realistic – but Hope would not be shaken and went on to secure two A*s and an A at A Level, enabling her to take up her Neuroscience place at the University of Oxford.

There she founded Thinking Black, an educational organisation that has since been featured in the Guardian and on LBC Radio. Beginning with an essay competition, Thinking Black engages students from Year 8 to 12 in various expressive mediums, including creative writing, public speaking, critical thinking and formal essay writing. The programme was conceived as a means of providing academic enrichment and further study outside of the formal school curriculum to Black students from under-resourced schools. Hope observed that many Black students from these schools possessed the necessary grades and intellectual curiosity to study at top universities, but they often lacked the same access to extracurricular opportunities as their privately educated counterparts, making it harder to demonstrate their passion for the subject at application. As 2017 JCR President of her college, Hope approached the access fellow of Pembroke to highlight the lack of Black students and pitch her ideas, managing to secure £100,000 in funding towards the Thinking Black project.

The programme also provides skills sessions and mentorship alongside interdisciplinary courses run by paid Oxford students, which explore the interactions between race and subjects such as feminism and healthcare disparities. Programmes have so far supported over 200 students from across the country and now include Essay Writing, Art History, Creative Writing, Public Speaking and Brain Sciences. Over the past year, 65 students were selected to engage with Thinking Black’s online events, spanning workshops, lecture series and one-on-one essay guidance.

After her undergraduate degree, Hope was selected from over 300 applicants for a fully funded and paid Junior Research Fellowship at NYU’s Social Neuroscience Lab. Under renowned Professor David Amodio, she explored the impact of economic scarcity on the neural encoding of Black faces and the resultant impact on discrimination and prejudice for a year.

Alongside running Thinking Black, Hope is currently studying for a PhD at UCL as part of the fully funded Ecological Brain Doctoral Programme, specialising in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience. Here, she explores the impact of sounds and the environment on learning, memory and cognition.

Hope is a committee member of the Oxford Black Alumni Network and works with the University’s ACS to help support current Black students at Oxford. She is also part of a consultative group at Pembroke College, Oxford, helping to inform equality and inclusion policy, which involves providing research for racial equity reports and conducting discussion groups with past and present students. Hope was recently awarded a place as part of the alumni portrait award series and is the youngest person to have their portrait hung in the college’s Main Hall.

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