Odessa S. Hamilton

Behavioural Scientist elected as Alumni Governor

Odessa S. Hamilton (BSc Business Psychology, 2019), the incoming Birkbeck Alumni Governor, understands what it means to achieve against the odds. Since making a remarkable recovery from a trauma that left her comatose, she has gone on to receive multiple degrees, conduct doctoral research, and hold academic posts at UCL and LSE — to count just a few of her most recent achievements.

Although there were many strong candidates that applied for the post, the alumni community shared its voice in voting to elect Odessa to the Birkbeck Board of Governors. While her experiences are unique in many ways, she also epitomises the Birkbeck experience. Like many of our alumni, she has overcome challenges during her studies and has since gone on to achieve remarkable things.

After waking from a coma, Odessa made a bold decision that demonstrates her resilience and drive. She decided to take on a degree at Birkbeck as part of her recovery process, to challenge herself as she re-learned key skills.

“Birkbeck enabled me to do what would not have been possible elsewhere,” Odessa explains. “I had to re-learn how to walk, talk, read, and write. Birkbeck became instrumental in my journey to recovery. Evening study meant that I could frequent the hospital by day for countless treatments, tests and therapies. But it wasn’t all about scheduling. Birkbeck facilitated access to, from, between and within buildings, and as I progressed and transitioned out of a wheelchair, they adapted to my changing needs. The flexibility and support given by lecturers and staff alike was invaluable.

“It was also a vulnerable period. Because of my initially limited vocabulary, I found it difficult to engage fully during the early stages of the course. But the student body made a huge difference. My peers were in equal parts, inclusive, inspiring, and empowering. They provided indispensable opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, support, and comradeship, which contributed to the rich and dynamic academic environment that is Birkbeck.”

After graduating with a first-class honours degree in Business Psychology, Odessa completed a combined Masters in Psychological Sciences at UCL with distinction. She was thrice accredited by the British Psychological Society, became a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health, and earned a full scholarship from the ESRC and BBSRC for her doctoral research in Biobehavioural Epidemiology and Precision Medicine. She has received several awards for her work, with scientific and editorial papers also featured in leading publications. Now, as a Behavioural Scientist, she is focused on inclusion for major global corporations.

“My most recent successes would not have been possible without Birkbeck. I therefore felt it was inevitable that I would return to give back in some way.”

Having worked across the private sector, academia and government, Odessa has a diverse skillset and experience that will strengthen the College as we approach our 200th Anniversary: “As an accomplished Black, female and disabled professional, I will bring a wealth of experience, character and unique insight to the governing body.”

Odessa concludes: “My most recent successes would not have been possible without Birkbeck. I therefore felt it was inevitable that I would return to give back in some way. Having experienced the benefits of Birkbeck firsthand, I am truly passionate about advancing the College’s long-term mission to make education accessible for all. I am honoured for the opportunity to contribute to shaping Birkbeck’s future.”