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Image of A head and shoulders photo of Sonita Alleyne with a garden background
Sonita Alleyne. Credit: Damian Paul Daniel

Sonita Alleyne OBE elected as new Master

Sonita Alleyne OBE FRA FRSA has been elected as the next Master of Jesus College. She will take up the role from 1 October 2019, coinciding with the College’s 40th anniversary of co-education.

The 42nd Master and first woman to lead Jesus College since its foundation in 1496, Sonita succeeds Professor Ian White FREng, who was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bath earlier this year.

A businesswoman and entrepreneur, Sonita brings a wealth of governance experience to her new role. Appointed by the Mayor of London to the Board of the London Legacy Development Corporation in 2012, she is part of the drive to promote and deliver regeneration in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and surrounding areas.

In her five-year tenure as a BBC Trustee, Sonita championed diversity and inclusivity to represent all communities of the UK; and as part of the national media skills body Skillset, she helped to shape and implement widening access and participation work around the radio broadcasting industry.

“It is an honour to be elected to lead Jesus College and I’m looking forward to becoming part of such an energetic and innovative community. Having met many Fellows, students and staff in recent weeks, I was struck by the positive and forward-looking ethos shared across the College." Sonita Alleyne OBE

Brought up in East London, Sonita studied for her undergraduate degree in philosophy at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. A career in radio followed, including founding production company Somethin' Else which she led as Chief Executive from 1991 until 2009.

Winner of the Carlton Multicultural Achievement Award for TV and Radio in 2002, Sonita is a Fellow of both The Royal Society of the Arts and the Radio Academy. She was awarded an OBE for services to broadcasting in 2004.

On the announcement of her election, Sonita Alleyne said: “It is an honour to be elected to lead Jesus College and I’m looking forward to becoming part of such an energetic and innovative community. Having met many Fellows, students and staff in recent weeks, I was struck by the positive and forward-looking ethos shared across the College.

“In addition to the outstanding education, the cross-disciplinary work and evident passion for arts, culture and sport I have seen at Jesus is impressive. Supporting the work of the College to widen access and participation to all that it offers promises to be incredibly rewarding. I left Cambridge thirty years ago, but it never left me. I am delighted to be returning.”

Professor Mary Laven who led the College’s search committee, said: “We are thrilled by the election of Sonita Alleyne, who will be an inspirational Master. She brings to the College a wealth of experience and an enduring commitment to helping young people fulfil their potential.”

Professor James Clackson, Jesus College Vice Master, said: “Sonita Alleyne has innovative leadership skills and a wide-ranging expertise across education, culture, media and business. She is an outstanding choice to steer Jesus College through the challenges of the coming decade.”

More about Sonita Alleyne OBE

Sonita is the director and founder of the Yes Programme, an online careers information scheme which gives school pupils an insight into how classroom skills translate to real world careers.

Her current non-executive posts include chair of the British Board of Film Classification, director of the Cultural Capital Fund, governor of the Museum of London and member of the Skills for Londoners Business Partnership Members Group - advising the Mayor of London on improving skills provision to meet the capital’s needs.

Previous board roles include the National Employment Panel, BBC Trust, London Skills and Employment Board, chair of the Radio Sector Skills Council, non-executive director of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and member of the Court of Governors at the University of the Arts London.

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