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Leanne Cahill appointed as University of Sunderland's next chancellor

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Published: 3 July 2023

We are thrilled to announce the appointment of Leanne Cahill as the next Chancellor of the University of Sunderland. Leanne Cahill, CEO of Bravissimo and a proud Sunderland graduate, will take over from Emeli Sandé MBE and become the next Chancellor of the University of Sunderland. The official ceremony will take place during the university's winter graduation ceremonies on 29 November 2023.  

Leanne Chancellor

Leanne Cahill: from graduate to business leader 

Born and raised in Sunderland, Leanne Cahill's journey began as a Marks & Spencer management trainee. With a passion for finance, she specialised in the field and went on to hold key positions at esteemed organisations like Legal & General, Walgreens Boots Alliance, and Travelex. In October 2017, Leanne joined Bravissimo as the finance director and quickly progressed to becoming the managing director in September 2018. Her exceptional leadership qualities led to her appointment as the CEO of Bravissimo in December 2020. 

As a graduate of the university, she serves as an inspiring role model for students, showcasing the opportunities and possibilities that Sunderland offers. Leanne's outstanding career success combined with her unwavering dedication to fostering social mobility and empowering individuals to embrace their potential, can make her a valuable asset for our university in furthering our mission. Prior to her appointment as Chancellor, she will receive an honorary degree from the university in recognition of her exceptional achievements.  

Speaking about her appointment as Chancellor, Leanne said:  

“I am very proud to be born and raised in Sunderland and to be a graduate of the University of Sunderland. I studied at Sunderland for a degree to unlock a career in business. On graduation, I took away that degree and so much more - I also built the skills, experience and confidence to give me a life-changing start.  

The prospect of being Chancellor here at Sunderland and playing a part in the growth of a new generation of students is so exciting to me. With my background and now as an employer and a CEO, I hope that I can bring something relevant back to the University and do the role justice. It is an absolute honour to be asked, and I can’t wait to get started.”


Emeli Sandé's impact and honorary degree 

Emeli Sandé MBE, the talented singer-songwriter, has captivated audiences worldwide with her soulful music and undeniable talent. Beyond her musical prowess, Emeli has also leveraged her social media presence to connect with her fans, fostering a strong and dedicated community.  

Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the university extended his warm thanks to Emeli Sandé for her four years of service as Chancellor. He acknowledged that Emeli's music and social media presence allowed the university to extend its outreach to new audiences. In recognition of her significant contribution, Emeli will be awarded an honorary degree upon stepping down from her position in November 2023. Sir David Bell also emphasised that Emeli's tenure as Chancellor has made a profound and enduring impact on both the university and its students. 

Speaking about her time at the University of Sunderland, Emeli Sandé said:  

"Throughout my time as Chancellor, I saw first-hand how the University of Sunderland fulfilled its life-changing purpose. The fact that the University combined academic excellence with a commitment to open its doors to those from a wide variety of backgrounds had a compelling appeal to me. 

I am so proud therefore of the time I have spent as Sunderland’s Chancellor and the things we have achieved together. As a result, I will always have a special place in my heart for the University of Sunderland and its students." 

Anticipation and excitement from the university community 

Farooq Hakim, Chair of the University's Board of Governors, commends Leanne Cahill for her immense professional standing and her dedication to equality, diversity, and inclusion. He believes she will be an outstanding role model for students, graduates, and staff alike, inspiring them to reach their full potential. Chelsea Mogwo, President (Education) for 2022-2023 at Sunderland Students' Union, expresses her excitement about Leanne Cahill's appointment, highlighting her journey from student to successful businessperson. She eagerly anticipates collaborating with the new Chancellor to further enhance the student experience at Sunderland. 

The University of Sunderland congratulates Leanne Cahill on her appointment as the next Chancellor. Her exceptional career trajectory, commitment to social mobility, and dedication to inspiring others position her as a transformative figure within the university community. As she takes on her new role, Leanne Cahill will play a vital part in shaping the future of the University of Sunderland and empowering students to achieve their full potential. The university looks forward to the positive impact she will have in fostering accessibility and inclusivity. 

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