University of Leicester graduate-turned-diplomat returns to receive honorary award

A diplomat who used her degree as a springboard to a successful career has returned to the University of Leicester to receive an Honorary Doctorate.

Karen-Mae Hill OBE was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws during a graduation ceremony held at De Montfort Hall, in Leicester, today (Thursday 18 January).

A barrister by profession, Karen-Mae Hill worked for over 15 years in the banking and financial services sector before taking up her appointment as High Commissioner of Antigua and Barbuda in 2017. She also serves as that country’s non-resident ambassador to Ireland, Germany, Estonia and Lithuania.

In 2001, Karen-Mae won a scholarship to study for an LLB in French Law and Language at the University of Leicester. After graduation, she became the first Antiguan to win a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, where she read Development Studies.

Karen-Mae said: “Leicester is home to a large and dynamic Antiguan and Barbudan diaspora who contribute to the rich cultural, social and economic tapestry of the county. My time at the University was among my happiest days with lifelong friendships and academic rigour which have helped to shape my life. I am honoured to be recognised by the University of Leicester.”

Alongside her diplomatic work, Karen-Mae plays a key role on the international steering committee for the development of the Centre for Oceanography and the Blue Economy at the University of the West Indies Five Islands campus on Antigua and Barbuda. An accomplished pianist, she is the founder and chair of the Antigua and Barbuda Youth Symphony Orchestra. Karen-Mae has also developed a successful exchange programme for young cricketers between clubs in the UK and Antigua and Barbuda.

Karen-Mae is a fellow of Goodenough College and a non-executive director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. She was awarded Diplomat of the Year for North America and the Caribbean in the 2023 Diplomatic Awards. She is also currently president of the Bureau International Des Expositions (BIE) Administration and Budget Committee.

Karen-Mae serves as a director of the Heritage Trust (Antigua and Barbuda) which is focused on the restoration of the historic Government House in Antigua. She was instrumental in securing a multi-million pound grant to build the Harrison Centre Institute for Continuing Studies in Antigua. She is also a disability rights advocate and worked with the Commonwealth Secretariat to host two IamAble conferences in Antigua and Barbuda. The conferences focused on access to employment, education, healthcare and political participation for persons with disabilities in the Caribbean.

Karen-Mae’s areas of professional interest are financial services regulation, the blue economy, trade, and advocacy around the recognition of the inherent vulnerabilities of small states, and she is a widely sought-after speaker in these areas. She has adopted the empowerment of youth, persons with disabilities, and music as a force for social mobility and harmony as her areas of social focus.

Karen-Mae was awarded the OBE in the 2023 New Year’s Honours List for services to youth and the arts.

President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, Professor Nishan Canagarajah, said: “I am delighted that we have honoured one of our own graduates, Dr Karen-Mae Hill, as an exemplar for our community.

“Through her achievements, Dr Hill practically demonstrates what it is to be a Citizen of Change. Her accomplishments provide a measure of the impact that an individual can have upon society and serve as an inspiration for us all.”