What is your current role?
Senior Lecturer in Science
Can you describe your career journey?
Somewhat unconventional and very lucky. I have a good first degree in physics, but my lack of self-confidence meant that I didn’t do a higher degree. I became an academic librarian and in the process developed skills in educational research, realised that I like teaching university students and missed physics. After a career break when my children were small I became a part-time teacher of physics at a further education college…and then applied for my first OU tutoring job.
So that was that? Well, no! I realised almost straight away that I wanted to spend the rest of my career working for the Open University. By the time a suitable staff tutor job was advertised, I knew how good a fit I’d be for the role, and how much I wanted the job. But the first thing on the person specification was ‘higher degree in physics’ which I did not have. I am eternally grateful to the selection committee for seeing my potential and giving me the chance.
What challenges have you faced?
My major challenges have been (a) Lack of self-confidence and (b) Lack of a PhD
The OU’s current advertising campaign says “The most important thing you learn at the Open University is what you are capable of”. That’s so true, and not just for our students. I still lack self-confidence a lot of the time, but the OU have given me very many opportunities to demonstrate, to myself and others, what I am capable of. As for the lack of a PhD, I took a decision around 10 years ago to aim for a PhD by published work, and I completed this about a year ago. My graduation ceremony earlier this year was one of the proudest moments of my life, and I’d thoroughly recommend PhD by published work as a route to a higher degree for staff members who are publishing in any case.
Who has inspired you in your career?
Dr Shelagh Ross
The staff tutor when I was first appointed, who was a role model and has encouraged me every step of the way. [and lots of other staff]
Who reminds me of the importance of sticking to my principles. We claim to use an evidence-based approach to our teaching, but I don’t think we always do. If Galileo could stand firm to his evidence that the Sun is the centre of the solar system, I can stand up to people who want to make changes because they think it is a “good idea” even when the evidence doesn’t support this.
Peter Horrocks talked recently about remembering a ‘phantom student’ in all that we do. The problem with that is that there is no such thing as a typical OU student, but remembering a range of individuals who I’ve had dealings with over the years keeps me close to the OU’s mission.
What's the best thing about working at the OU?
Seeing our students succeed.
What advice would you give to other women?
You can do it!
What do you think this network should aim to achieve in the next 12 months?
Giving women support when they need it, and improving the working environment for all staff: men and women.