How long have you worked at the University? What does your role involve?
I’ve worked here for 10 years, I cannot quite believe it! It feels like quite a milestone getting to that point. I moved to Bath for this job, I'm from Yorkshire, I'd never lived this far south. It was a complete unknown, a complete gamble 10 years ago. And now I've settled here, made my life here. I feel very lucky.
I'm a senior lecturer in sociology, and in the past I've taught units across all undergraduate years and postgraduate, and supervised PhD students. But my second child was born with a complex medical issue last year, so I've temporarily gone part-time and I’m focused on the research side of the job to keep that momentum going.
I do research on death, I’m part of the Centre for Death and Society. I've done lots of work with funeral directors and people who work in that sector. We've got a project at the moment that’s on direct cremation - the idea that you don't have a funeral service at the time of the cremation. I'm also now interested in, following my experience with my son, the world of dying and death in childhood. It is pretty massive and completely under-researched. It is a very difficult subject to talk about for most people, and the parents and children are a very difficult population to access. I really want to try and explore that area a bit further, in a personal/professional capacity.
Name one thing that makes you feel proud to work at the University of Bath?
There's a couple of things. The first one is a real cliché but it is my colleagues. I feel really fortunate that I'm in SPS. Over the years I have had very positive experiences of colleagues, I've only ever felt encouragement and wanting each other to do well.
I think the other thing is that I’m really lucky to be working at an institution that is in a very beautiful, safe and privileged part of the country.
What piece of advice would you like to give to a student?
I would say, please, if you can, forget about the debt that you’re getting into. I despair what has happened with student fees and how young people are going into adult life with an enormous debt burden around their neck. I despair also that the value of education is being measured by employment opportunities and future salaries. Being a student is, I think, so much bigger than money. It's about finding out who you are and the person you want to be; you’re growing your backbone, and hopefully enjoying the experience of being independent and meeting kindred spirits. Try and really embrace that – you lose it as you get older!
Who was your most influential teacher/educator, and why?
I've got three. One is my PhD supervisor, Jenny Hockey, who is just the most calm, unflappable woman, a brilliant academic and hugely supportive. She's my model of how to treat people at work.
In the last 10 years I’ve worked here I would say former head of department Ian Butler and Joe Devine, who is the current head of department, have been very influential. They’ve both been brilliant at showing how to support people to be the best that they can. I think they are really quite inspirational, although I realise that there is a lot more to being head of department than meets the eye, and their calm exterior may be masking an overwhelming ‘to do’ list.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I flitted between being a vet or a surgeon. Half my family's medical and the idea of being a lofty medic was something I aspired to. That didn't happen because I was rubbish at science. So that was that.
What was your first job?
I worked in a garden centre on a Saturday in the mid-90s, I think on something like £15 a day. I can't believe I was on £15 a day, but at the time that would have bought me a CD, so I was really happy. And then when I went to university, I worked at Homebase in the holidays, which was a brilliant job. I loved it because it was really good teamwork. We just got on and we had a really good laugh. It was lots of young people. I really enjoyed the camaraderie that we had. So low paid jobs, but really good fun.
Where is your favourite holiday destination and why?
It’s more about the mode of transport than destination for me, we have a motorhome and I love being with my family on a caravan site somewhere. I also love canal boating as it forces you to slow down.
My ideal destination though would be America, New York, I especially love Manhattan. It's the buzz of it just makes me feel very alive.
What’s your favourite book or album and why?
Probably Blur’s Parklife. I had a massive crush on Damon Albarn and they were the first band I ever saw in concert. They were my growing up moment.
When are you happiest?
In my garden at home with my children, husband and dogs, with a glass of white wine in my hand and the sun shining down.
If you could meet anyone in the world dead or alive who would it be and why?
I’d love to meet Amy Poehler, from Parks and Recreation, because she's always come across to me as really witty, but very normal. And she's navigating a man's world as a comedic writer and I'd like to get her insight into that. And Michelle Obama, I think she's just amazing in terms of her charisma and integrity.
Which one superpower would you like to possess?
I think it would be to go forwards and back in time, that would be amazing. I'd like to see what it's going to be like in 400 years’ time, because it will be so different. Think of the speed of change now, goodness knows where we'll be then.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I'm a lapsed bell ringer. When I came to Bath I started bell ringing at the Abbey and I really enjoyed it. I would encourage anyone to take it up. I didn't do it for religious reasons, I did it for a sense of community, I wanted to belong to something local. It's actually really good for you, I think, because it makes you concentrate. You have to be so focused when you're doing it, and that is very, very good for your mental health. Maybe I'll take it up again one day, I will most likely need it!