Jason Arday was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and global development delay in his early years. He was unable to speak until he was 11 years old and could not read or write until he was 18. Now at the age of 37, he has been appointed to a professorship at the University of Cambridge, BBC reported. Mr Arday has been appointed as a Professor of the Sociology of Education.
Eight years ago, Mr Arday was told that he would likely need to stay in an assisted living facility. The man refused to make that a reality. He used to write his lifelong goals on his mother’s bedroom wall. He wrote that he wants to “work at Oxford or Cambridge.”
Mr Arday was born and raised in Clapham, southwest London. “As optimistic as I am, there’s just no way I could have thought that would have happened. If I was a betting person, the odds on it were so long. It’s just mad,” he told The Times of UK. He admitted that he had “no idea” what he was doing when he first began writing academic papers.
He told BBC that formative moments included watching Nelson Mandela’s release from prison on television and South Africa’s symbolic triumph in the 1995 Rugby World Cup. He was deeply moved by the suffering of others.
“I remember thinking if I don’t make it as a football player or a professional snooker player, then I want to save the world,” he told the media outlet.
He revealed that he never had a mentor teach him to write for academia. March 6 will mark his first day.
There are only five other black professors at Cambridge University.
“Everything I submitted got violently rejected. The peer review process was so cruel, it was almost funny, but I treated it as a learning experience and, perversely, began to enjoy it,” he explained to The Times.
He earned two master’s qualifications after he faced multiple rejections. He received a degree in physical education and education studies from the University of Surrey. He earned his PhD from Liverpool John Moores University in 2016.
“A lot of academics say they stumbled into this line of work, but from that moment, I was determined and focused – I knew that this would be my goal,” Arday, who hails from South London, told The Times. “On reflection, this is what I meant to do.”
He published his first scholarly paper in 2018, and become the youngest professor in the entire UK after he secured a job at the University of Glasgow’s School of Education.
“My work focuses primarily on how we can open doors to more people from disadvantaged backgrounds and truly democratize higher education,” Mr Arday told The Times.
Professor Bhaskar Vira, pro-vice chancellor of education at the university called Mr Arday an “exceptional scholar.”
In a statement, Vira said, “He will contribute significantly to Cambridge’s research in this area and to addressing the under-representation of people from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, especially those from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities.”
“His experiences highlight the barriers faced by many under-represented groups across higher education and especially at leading universities,” he continued. “Cambridge has a responsibility to do everything it can to address this by creating academic spaces where everyone feels they belong.”
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