Black History Month alumni panel left to right: Modupe Salu, Ricardo P Lloyd, Karla Inniss, Gavin James

Black History Month: Alumni share career advice with students on return to BNU

As part of Buckinghamshire New University’s Black History Month 2021, students were invited to attend a special event where they could ask four returning BNU alumni about their careers.

Performing arts graduates, Modupe Salu and Ricardo P Lloyd, business management graduate, Karla Inniss, and sports management and business graduate, Gavin James, all graduated from BNU after 2014 and gave unique insights into their career journeys after experiences in industries including theatre, finance, HR, sports management and public community health.

On defining success

Ricardo: “Success is a journey, not a destination. You should know what success is for you. You build up so much resilience through different experiences and staying committed to where you want to go.”

Modupe: “It’s a journey and self-belief is the foundation. My identity isn’t my work, you have to protect yourself. As long as I’m doing my best, that’s all that matters. A lot of people around me are rethinking their jobs so I’ve had to stop and think what’s important to me. If it doesn’t work, I’ll pick myself up again.”

On transitioning careers

Gavin: “When opportunity knocks, answer it. If I don’t take the risk, I might not get the reward.”

Karla: “If you can find someone with passion about something, you’ll be surprised how much they want to listen and help. It’s thinking about what you’re going to be enjoying.”

Modupe: “Find a mentor and be intentional about what you do.”

Ricardo: “Try to get work experience and join a mentoring scheme.”

On setting yourself apart

Modupe: “Make sure every conversation you have is engaging. Be intentional, it pushes you to the next step.”

Gavin: “The jobs I’ve had came my way through the power of networking. Make every contact you have with somebody count.”

Ricardo: “Don’t be afraid to be yourself, doors open up. Don’t judge anyone because that person may be able to help you. People buy into people.”

On industry cultures

Gavin: “Culture doesn’t bother me if what I say makes sense to them. Being different isn’t a problem to me: change the narrative and turn it into a positive.”

Ricardo: “There’s under-representation [of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic] in acting due to under-representation at the top level. It’s not easy with a standard degree, so when one door shuts and another opens, you have to go through it. If I’m typecast into roles, I innovate.”

Modupe: “My industry is toxic, but I don’t feel it because of who I am surrounded by – it isn’t going to stop me.”

On cultural appropriation

Cultural appropriation is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.”

Karla: “Cultural appropriation has not been talked about enough. It’s about getting all the gains of a culture without experiencing the worst outcomes and disadvantage someone from that culture has experienced.”

Modupe: “You have to look at what the person’s intention to use another person’s culture is. Do you have a genuine interest? If yes, then you need to do the extra work and research. When artists perform, audiences aren’t stupid, they know what’s going on so be conscious about what you’re doing and don’t be naïve. Be comfortable when in conversation about it and have an open mind.”


Modupe Salu is an actor who trained at Identity School of Acting, was a member of the National Youth Theatre and at The Actors Class. Her one-woman show ‘I Can’t Breathe’ was selected for the National Student Drama Festival where she won two awards – Spotlight Most Promising Actress and the Buzz Goodbody Student Director.

Ricardo P Lloyd is a British actor who is quickly becoming one of the most versatile, well-respected exciting talents of his generation. In 2020, he was listed on The Voice Newspaper 2020's Top Twenty list. He has worked on numerous projects with some esteemed companies, including, but not limited to, Shakespeare Globe.

Gavin James is currently a Sports Development Manager for Active In The Community and was previously at Custody Intervention Coach for DIVERT, on behalf of Wycombe Wanderers Sport and Education Trust. Gavin’s career to date has seen him work in a variety of roles and settings, always driven by the need to help and educate young people.

Karla Inniss (Chair) is Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Business Partner at BNU. She is responsible for driving change and helping the institution to deliver on its commitments to be a more inclusive University.