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      Work/life experiences of Brookes’ academics


    I do feel very proud that my husband and I have managed to do things we like, that we’ve managed to do something that is beyond our selfish needs. That we manage to pass on to our children that it’s not just about us. Similarly I try and instil these ideas to my students.

    Orit is an interior architect and a Lecturer in Architecture at Oxford Brookes.
  • Orit joined Brookes as a relatively mature undergraduate student, having spent a few years doing obligatory military service in Israel, followed by travelling and studying - Orit had already completed a degree in Economics and Management. Her background at school had been maths and physics and it wasn’t until she moved to the UK that she decided to change to art and design. This was as the result of careful reflection and social mindedness:

    Like everything in life I kept questioning and decided that if I want to make an impact, I need to choose a path which connects to people’s life directly. Economics just wasn’t that.

    Upon graduation, after spending a few years in practice, she felt that she wanted to keep her options open and so embarked on a master’s degree in Interior Design at the University of Westminster in London. She then made contact with the Interior Architecture course leader at Brookes and expressed her interest in getting involved in teaching on the programme. At first she took on a voluntary support role in the department and in the following year was offered a place as an Associate Lecturer in the Architecture School. She enjoyed teaching and realised she would like to pursue an academic career. In order to be better qualified, she embarked on doctoral degree last year which she manages on a part-time basis alongside teaching and family life:

    I insisted that I could do it... It is challenging.

    Orit was made a permanent member of staff this September, a step which provided her with a sense of accomplishment as well as opening wider options in teaching and research.
    Orit loves the constant learning afforded by academia:

    The fact that you keep on learning in a way that expands your horizons and constantly challenges the way you look at the world, is wonderful in its own right. You get to learn theories that impact on the way you perceive life - I keep feeling like a little child getting into a sweet shop.

    She also finds teaching immensely rewarding:

    When you see that something clicks. Or when you can persuade someone to go and explore more or to care a bit more about the social side; to be more of an open-minded person - you know you did some good.

    A few weeks before graduating from her undergraduate degree at Brookes, Orit had her first child. The couple then had another girl less than two years down the line. More recently, the family expanded again: almost three years ago, whilst Orit was teaching at Brookes, they adopted another two children.

    So we had four children… and a dog and five hens and a cat.

    Orit took adoption leave and her husband also took some time off and together they juggled the increased workload and sensitive situations between work and at home.

    She admits that having four young children is “very intense”. However, the flexibility of academia is a help. She has also made use of childcare – carefully introducing new people into the family fold. Both she and her husband are careful to strike a balance between work and home that allows each in turn to flourish:

    We both enjoy our jobs. It might sound like a cliché but its finding the right balance between nesting your children and feeding your soul.

    Home is clearly extremely important to Orit, whose family values include extending the fortune that she has had to those who are less lucky in life. The couple’s decision to adopt was influenced by the way they were brought up: She says:

    We’ve always wanted to adopt, my mum used to look after kids from unprivileged backgrounds and I witnessed the difference it made to their lives.

    For Orit, success is about living in an ethical way:

    I don’t think I fit any ‘normal’ profile of a success story but I do feel very proud that we’ve managed to do things we like, that we’ve managed to do something that is beyond our selfish needs. That we manage to pass on to children that it’s not just about us. Similarly, I try and instil these ideas to my students.

    Her research is also attached to social values and an ethical desire to help others - she is particularly interested in projects that are linked to community. Orit has carried these values into the workplace - resigning from a practice during the economic crisis in order that fellow colleagues wouldn’t have to be made redundant. Looking forward, on an academic horizon she wants to publish and finish her PhD, and on a personal level, despite all the pressures she wants to be able to appreciate and enjoy the world around her.

    Make sure you keep asking questions.