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      MAKING A DIFFERENCE

      Work/life experiences of Brookes’ academics

  • LUCY'S STORY

    The realisation that you could say what you wanted to say and put in in print and someone would publish it is great. So, I suppose I realised I had things I wanted to say.

    Lucy Vickers is a Professor of Law, the Assistant Director of the Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice and a Research Lead at the School of Law.

    She joined Oxford Brookes in 1991 as a lecturer in Law and has subsequently completed her PhD here and held numerous roles across teaching, research and management.
  • From a young age, Lucy knew that she wanted to study law but was unsure whether she wanted to practise as a lawyer. After completing her law degree at Cambridge, she followed the route of many of her peers and qualified as a solicitor. However, when she qualified, and a job teaching law came up at what was then Oxford Polytechnic, this seemed better suited to her interests, and so she applied and was successful.
    Despite not having set out to become an academic, Lucy soon had an inclination towards research and so decided to undertake a PhD. This came from her desire to communicate her opinions on what she was teaching:

    Often you have an opinion on something and you rant over the newspaper or you discuss the implications of a recent case that’s just been decided… and normally you have to have the conversation and then you move on. But the realisation that you could say what you wanted to say and put in in print and someone would publish it is great. So I suppose I realise I had things I wanted to say.

    The PhD itself was a huge achievement for Lucy - in no small part because she was pregnant towards the end.

    Finishing the PhD felt absolutely fantastic, because I didn’t think I’d finish it at one point: I had a baby towards the end of it and I remember when I told my supervisor I was pregnant saying ‘I will finish, I promise I’ll finish’ and I did. So that felt really great.

    Lucy has pushed herself to take opportunities as they present themselves, cleverly employing strategies to make her brave enough to take these steps. She says:

    I remember thinking I can do this, it will be interesting and if I can’t do it, I’ll have to admit that and go back to my old job!

    which worked as a safety net to encourage her to push herself. She applied the same approach to promotion:

    Each time I’ve gone for any promotion I’ve thought ‘if this is a disaster I’ll turn it back down.

    Needless to say, Lucy has excelled in each new role and her willingness to take on new challenges has led to her surpassing even her own expectations of what her career would look like.
    Lucy describes her career in academia as “More fulfilling that I thought a job could be”. In particular, she appreciates the fact that you can be yourself.

    What I find about this job is it’s a bit all-encompassing but I just feel like I’m me and I’m doing things that I’m interested in and that I like.

    Reflecting on her achievements after the PhD, Lucy recalls that

    Finishing the first book felt like an almost overwhelming moment. Pressing print to take a hard copy down to the publisher just felt extraordinary.

    She is also proud of her professorship:

    Being made Professor felt great. I got the letter saying I’ve been made professor the week that my fourth baby was born. So I was at home and I got this letter and he’d been born about three days before and I felt really, really chuffed at that one. That felt absolutely amazing.

    Looking back on all these achievements, she is slightly surprised by quite how well she has done, as she has just followed what motivates her rather than setting out with specific ambitions. However, this fits with her understanding of success, which is about enjoying what you do.

    Everyone’s going to have bits of the jobs they don’t like but keeping the balance right so predominantly the days are full of things you want to do.

    Lucy places a lot of value on balancing her successful career with her family, and hence she values the flexibility of academia. Despite her heavy teaching and research schedule, she enjoys the sense of control that academia affords - despite the fact that there are lots of deadlines, pressures and commitments.

    If I want to go to assembly and see my son at the back I can go. And I don’t have to arrange time off for that. I can just go and I think that’s really great.

    Lucy realises that she has been extremely fortunate when it comes to balancing her home life and work life. She lives very close to the University and her husband works part time, which helps not only time-wise but also frees up some mental space as she doesn’t have to carry all the responsibility of remembering and arranging the children’s commitments.

    Go for it because it’s a really great job…I’ve said yes to opportunities that came my way. Looking back those were really good moves to make.