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Volunteer Stories: Natalie Clue

This National Volunteers Week, we're celebrating the many alumni volunteers who make a huge contribution to the UCL, including Natalie Clue, Chair of the UCL BME Alumni Network.

Natalie Clue

3 June 2019

While attending Jonathan Dimbleby’s ‘Any UCL Questions?’ event in 2014, considering the challenges UCL faces over the next 20 years, Natalie Clue (BSc Human Genetics, 2002) had an idea for how she could contribute to the UCL community and improve its outreach.

She explains: “I felt that it would be beneficial to connect with more graduates of a black and minority ethnic heritage, to see where everyone is now and how we could assist each other. I also wanted to give more of a voice to minority communities. The academic space is still unfortunately perceived as being quite a ‘white’ place at certain levels.”

Natalie wrote down a plan and approached the UCL Alumni department. 

Coincidentally, Hajera Begum, a Biochemical Engineering graduate who was then the BME Students Officer for the Students’ Union, had been having the same thoughts. So they teamed up, and with the university’s support they created the UCL Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Alumni Network.

Unique issues

The BME Alumni Network now has over 300 members including, but not limited to, people of African, Asian, Arab and Caribbean heritage. The team run around three events each year with the aim of furthering connections and discussing societal and workplace issues unique to those from a BME background.

Recent group events have welcomed guest speakers such as M&C Saatchi’s Head of Diversity Serena Abbasi and representatives of Jaguar Land Rover and The Equality Trust. And Natalie is particularly proud of an event the group co-hosted at Facebook’s London HQ. She says: “We worked hard to put that together and had a very diverse panel of speakers, all from Facebook. They highlighted how the BME community can get involved in the technology space, be it through jobs or leveraging the platform to create community. It was a fantastic opportunity for us.”

Symbiotic relationship

UCL takes pride in being an inclusive, progressive institution. But there is always room for improvement, and of course issues of racial prejudice persist in society as a whole, so the BME Alumni Network has an important voice. 

“It’s about being able to speak truth to power, whenever we get the opportunity,” says Natalie. “The network wouldn’t have been as successful as it is without the backing of the UCL Alumni department, but at the same time we feel that we have been able to bring issues to the department - and have conversations with the Provost - which have then been passed on to various other areas in the university - it’s been very much a symbiotic relationship.

“I believe and hope that’s how many of the issues around diversity and inclusion can start to start to be remedied.”

Adding value through volunteering

Natalie, who earns her living as a freelance social media and content manager, believes that the things you do outside of your day job can be just as valuable as the work you do. 

“It’s too easy in a big city like London to just get up, go to work and go home,” she says. “But volunteering provides a great opportunity to build a community and forge valuable relationships with people you may not ordinarily meet in your day to day life. It helps improve your outlook on life, helps you to understand other people. I think it makes you a more well-rounded person.”

As well as chairing the BME Alumni Network, Natalie volunteers as a mentor for UCL alumni and students and regularly speaks at careers evenings. She says: “Throughout my life whether it’s been in gospel choirs at my church, or assisting with events, I’ve always felt that volunteering has given just as much, if not more, to me as I have invested in helping others.”  

And staying connected to UCL is something she’s always been keen to maintain. “UCL has such an importance in London, and has a big impact on the city,” she says. “That’s why it was important to me to stay part of the alumni, stay up to date and stay connected.” 

In August 2017, Natalie received a Gold Volunteering Award to recognise her long-standing service to UCL, having volunteered over 300 hours to date. And in May this year, the BME Alumni Network was shortlisted for the annual UCL Volunteering Award.

To find out more about volunteer opportunities and to join the UCL alumni online community, visit uclalumnicommunity.org