How long have you worked at the university? What does your current role involve?
I started here as a research assistant in 2001, working on the Pevsner Architectural Guide to Bath, after graduating as a mature student from Bristol University where I studied English.
I'm Associate Dean for Education in the Faculty of Engineering and Design and I'm also the University Athena Swan leader. Up until recently I was Director of Studies and Director of Teaching in Architecture and Civil Engineering for postgraduate taught programmes but I had to relinquish those roles to assume that of Associate Dean So I've had many and varied roles, often at the same time, a variety of tasks is something I quite like. Actually, I think you get to the point where you want to do lots of different things - even if it means you’re incredibly busy!
What would you most like to achieve whilst at the University?
A lot of the work I've been doing lately and in my new role as Associate Dean concentrates on equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I), and I’ve been working with great colleagues to develop and deliver initiatives that will bring about real cultural change at the University. In my role as Athena Swan Leader, we achieved an Athena SWAN Institutional Silver award and we’re beginning to implement our ambitious action plan which is focused on delivering equitable opportunity for everyone and that is a very exciting prospect.
I want to see ED&I embedded in everything that we do, instead of just being an add on. It's usually been an afterthought how actions or initiatives might potentially impact people and teams, despite all the evidence showing that diverse teams which are inclusive and equitable are stronger and more successful. So, I think there are real benefits, both moral and business benefits, for our community and the University in creating a culture of inclusion, where difference is valued and celebrated - it is the smart and the right thing to do and we’re travelling in the right direction now.
What piece of advice would you like to give to a student?
Just do something that you know you're going to enjoy, and that gives you pleasure studying, because when the going gets tough (and it inevitably does) that's the one thing that keeps you going. Make sure that you do things you love, and that's something that applies for me at work too as if I didn't enjoy what I was doing, I wouldn't do it anymore. I would go away and do something else, so I think it's a helpful adage for life.
Who was your most influential teacher or educator and why?
Well, there were two of them. Miss Harle who was my English teacher at secondary school really encouraged me. She used to nominate me for essay prizes in English. I came from a working-class family with six children in Newcastle, in a socio-economically deprived area, so that encouragement from a teacher to do well was invaluable. She probably was the most influential person in my life in that respect because she gave me the confidence to believe in myself.
And then the next one would be a lady called Gillian Bridge. She was an A level tutor down at the City of Bath College. When my children went to school, I thought I'm going to go back to education, because I left school at 15 with no qualifications whatsoever and after I completed A level English and Psychology there, she was the person who encouraged me to apply to university. I couldn't go away to university because I had two children in school, so she encouraged me to apply to Bristol, which at the time was the top university for English in the country receiving 5000 applications for 60 places. And they gave me a place, and I couldn't believe it! Then I had to spend three years as an undergraduate with two children, commuting daily back and forward to Bristol University. But she encouraged me and supported me and inspired a love for learning and being a student because after going to college then Bristol I went on to do a further 2 degrees part time here at Bath, my MPhil and my PhD while I was Director of Studies, completing 3 degrees in 10 years!
So, I basically lived my life in reverse. I was a student when I was mature, not when I was young, but I think that's a good thing. I actually think I probably enjoyed it more because I wanted to be there and I’m proof that it’s never too late to do anything!
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to work with animals. I much preferred, and I sometimes still do prefer, animals to people! Especially dogs. I just wanted to work with animals in some capacity. My weekend job and first job when I left school was working on a farm in Newcastle, and then my second job was greyhound racing. I was a kennel maid which was great as I travelled around the country to different tracks with top class greyhounds. I loved it. And I’m probably the only person in the country who can say they once got run over by a mechanical hare!
What's your favourite holiday destination and why?
Italy would be my favourite holiday destination because it mixes my business, i.e., my research interests, with pleasure. It's all about historic buildings and culture and wonderful landscapes - it combines everything that I love in life.
I like just walking around cities and looking at them. I'm not one for guided tours or anything. I just like to walk around and take in all the culture. Plus, they have good wine and good food, so it is the ideal combination for me.
What's your favourite book?
One of the books that I've read many times is Joseph Heller’s Catch 22. I read it first as it as a teenager, and then I came back to it in later life because it makes me laugh and cry in equal measure. It's a satirical war novel set in World War Two, which examines the absurdity and futility of war and military life.
You see the impact of all of these things from different perspectives because the action is seen through the viewpoints of the various characters on what's going on and what's happening to them.
It's a great, great novel that used to make me sometimes cry with laughter on the bus on the way home from work. Ironically my son is a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy on nuclear submarines and when he describes some of the stuff that he has to do and the people that he works with it reminds me of Catch-22 and shows how true to life the absurdity of it all is.
If you could meet anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
It would be my twin sister who tragically died six years ago. She was my best friend as well as my sister and my greatest supporter. I miss being able to share things with her and I would love to be able to have more conversations with her.