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Say My Name

Say My Name

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Our very own Ifrah Salih, Senior Lecture, Academic Development & Diversity (ADD) and Jackie A Brewster, Senior Lecturer, College of Health Wellbeing & Life Sciences (HWBL) presented their own session “Understanding the Importance of Each Other’s Names: practical Exercise” at the University of Warwick: Say My Name Symposium on 18th February 2022. 

It is important to use someone’s full name and not to ask racially minoritised people to shorten their name or provide a nick name. Instead we want people to learn how to pronounce the names of racially minoritised individuals. Ifrah and Jacqui demonstrated the exercise where they share the meaning behind their names, the cultural context and the importance of using our full name. 

The University of Warwick said “thanks yet again for such a fantastic presentation.  Just so you can track impact, I am introducing your activity as a welcome week activity for staff to use at Warwick this coming academic year”.


This induction workshop provides activities for colleagues to learn how to pronounce a students ‘name but also learn more about their cultural heritage and increase belonging for students. Click on the headings to navigate through the materials. 


Importance of Say My Name

Our names are important to us, and our names can tell us a good deal about who we are and our background. Say My Name has been created to support student belonging at our institution. Names have meanings in terms of our personal history, our families, our cultural heritage, and our place in the world. Racially minoritised individuals often adapt or change their name to ‘fit in’ or due to their name being mispronounced. Saying people’s names are often mispronounced, shortened, or avoided when in fact our names are important!

Cultural awareness is important in pronouncing names. By being culturally competent means that we are aware and accepting of cultural differences/different cultural experiences including our own cultural values. It helps us recognise that people have different ways of communicating, behaving, interpreting and problem-solving.

Most people have the tendency to use their own way of life as a standard for judging others; and indicates the belief to individuals that their race, culture, society, etc., are superior to all others or the acceptable standard way of behaving. This is known as ethnocentrism Our brain automatically tells us that we are safe with people who look, think, and act similar to us. The brain uses short-cuts to navigate an incredible amount of information which leads us to make snap decisions about who we prefer and who we avoid. These automatic preferences and prejudices are what we call ‘biases.

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Microaggressions are brief everyday interactions experienced as subtle forms of harassment. They are less obvious everyday forms of racism. These more nuanced forms include behaviours including:

  • Casual remarks 
  • Exclusionary behaviours
  • Questions or comments that reveal assumptions based on stereotypes 
  • Undermining in public 
  • Marginalising or erasing identities 
  • Denial of individual prejudice
  • Questioning lived experience

Microaggressions often leave the victim confused, distressed, and frustrated and the perpetrator is often oblivious to the offense they have caused. 

Acknowledging and avoiding microaggressions

We often have learned bias and changing how we act isn’t always easy. However, there are methods that can be used to change behaviour.

  • Listen to the person on the receiving end of the microaggression and be empathetic to their feelings.
  • Try not to be defensive or dismiss the person’s feelings.
  • Take responsibility for any underlying bias held toward certain groups and take steps to become more educated and understanding.
  • Commit to changing (your and others’) micro-aggressive behaviours. 

Visit the Degree Awarding Gap: Race Equity Activity Library – for further information about microaggressions. 

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Helpful Tips

  • If you are not sure on how to pronounce a name, ask the person! Do not assume you know how to say their name. Keep saying it until you get it right. Listen and write the name phonetically. Invite them to correct you.
  • If the person states it ‘does not matter’ or call me ‘this’ instead. Apologise and explain that you want to learn how to pronounce their name.
  • Ask what their name means- show an interest.
  • Do not shorten someone’s name unless they invite you to do so
  • Do not avoid using their name completely instead of learning how to pronounce their name. This makes them feel invisible.
  • Help others get it right- correct them if they use a nickname for someone without their permission.

Take a look at an exemplar created by Ifrah Salih, Senior Lecturer, Academic Development & Diversity.   

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Say My Name Introduction Presentation

Our Say My Name Presentation introduces cultural competence, unconscious bias and microaggressions. The activity is also incorporated into the PowerPoint. This workshop will take approx. 1 hour including the completion of the activity.

You will need to share the Instructions for pre-sessional activity document with participants before the session. If you do not know the participant- allow 5 minutes for them to use the instructions and consider their answers. They may need to use the Internet for this.

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Podcast – Importance of Saying My Name

This short In Conversation podcast ‘What’s in a name?’  introduces the importance of using names, not avoiding the use of names or asking others to provide a nickname or shorten their name. A discussion held between 2 academics and a student (read our planner). 

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Instructions for pre-sessional activity (Students)

Share this with participants either before the session or during the session and allow 5 minutes for them to use the instructions and consider their answers. They may need to use the Internet for this. 

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Say My Name Activity Instructions (Facilitator)

Facilitator instructions for the main activity

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Exemplar Say My Name Activity (Pre-sessional activity)

Ifrah Salih ( Senior Lecturer in Academic Development and Diversity) has provided a personal example of the pre-sessional activity. 

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Exemplar Say My Name Activity (Recording of activity between Academic and Student)

This is a recording between a student and academic undertaking the activity. 

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Setting Up An Audio Name Badge

Here are the instructions to creating an audio name badge so you can hear how to pronounce banes. You may ask students to do this so you can hear how to pronounce their names or add it to your email signature.

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Academic Advisor Ice Breaker Instruction

If you wish to use this activity in your AA sessions, classrooms, team meetings etc please find further instructions on how to facilitate the session. 

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Resources and Videos

The power in your name – Erikan Obotetukudo

The power of your name – Obi Maduka-Ugwu

Say My Name monologue 2021 recording

What's in a name?
What’s in a name: that moment you learn the meaning of your name


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Last updated: 7th November 2022 NB