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      Work/life experiences of Brookes’ academics


    One of the things I like about Brookes is I feel aligned with their values.

    Sara is the Oxford Brookes Business School Head of International Partnerships.

  • Upon graduating with a degree in English and Cultural History, Sara moved to Greece where she taught English (ELT). Whilst abroad, she completed a master’s degree, another teaching qualification and a PhD. Before doing these qualifications, she started working for City College (the University of Sheffield’s International Faculty, located in Greece). She worked there for 15 years as Director of the Department of English Studies. She moved back to the UK in 2012, when she started working for Oxford Brookes.

    Sara has always pushed herself to take on new challenges, both academically and career-wise. Doing a PhD whilst working full time was an important move:

    I’m really glad that I did my PhD…I think having the PhD, having pushed myself to study at that level is really important because it’s a rite of passage intellectually…The push that it gives your brain, you wouldn’t get that in any other way.

    She has also “been bold” in her career; proposing early on that City College (University of Sheffield in Greece) set up a Language Department and assuming responsibility for this. Her move to Brookes also came as the result of her having the confidence that her skills were transferable. On her current role with Oxford Brookes Business School Sara says:

    When I saw this job advertised, it wasn’t 100% my sphere…I am not from a business background… It meant going outside what might have been my obvious career trajectory but I stepped outside that.

    Thus, Sara is constantly seeking and making the most of opportunities that come her way.

    My natural tendency is to keep running forwards but there are times I’ve had to pull myself back.

    In keeping with this momentum, she says:

    Success for me personally is coming away at the end of the day and feeling like I’ve had a productive day. That I’ve achieved what I wanted, I’ve had good interactions with other people, any problems that have arisen have been solved. Everybody’s happy. It’s those things.

    Sara is married with two children and so she also has a criterion of success for her home life:

    In my home life it’s feeling that I’ve spent an appropriate amount of time with my kids. That I haven’t missed anything that’s going on for them. Giving them support.

    Her current role, because of working around different time zones, means that she can spend time with them too - taking them swimming and dropping off and collecting them from school a few times a week:

    I really try and protect those moments because I think they are really important for the kids; that I’m there to meet them went they come out of school sometimes.

    Sara met her husband in Greece and he is extremely encouraging of her career. She travels for work and feels: "Very lucky that I have a very supportive husband."

    Sara is also exceptionally organised:

    I have to be very careful to make sure I know in advance what’s happening so everybody is warned. Lots of measures have to be put in place in advance. For a couple of weeks before I go I have to get everything in place to make sure it’s all going to run smoothly while I’m not there.

    However, Sara clearly excels at organisation and this enables her to manage a high-profile career with her family life:

    It’s a bit crazy sometimes. In terms of organising everything for the kids, getting everything done at work. So I kind of thrive on that organisational element.

    Moreover, once all the organisation is in place travelling from work enables her to have a break which means that she comes back to the family in some ways rejuvenated:

    You’ve got to be someone who has an ability to switch off. When I get on the plane, I know everything is planned at home so I can then go ahead without feeling any stress. It’s almost like a break space for me. Even though I’m working really hard and need to stay on top everything, I’ve got the privilege of being my own person for that time I am away and having some space - things that I may not always have time to do at home.

    Sara clearly takes immense pleasure from her job. She likes the autonomy that Brookes affords her, as well as her colleagues and the University’s ethos. She says that she has a “really good bunch of colleagues” and says that:

    One of the things I like about Brookes is I feel aligned with their values. I like the fact there is an emphasis on being ethical, that our University is actually doing good things in the world.

    This focus on tackling injustice and creating a better world is a value Sara holds dear:

    There are a lot of things that are taken for granted and unless you crack them open, they will continue. Gender is one, race is another. It’s one thing being a white woman trying to operate in academia, being a black woman it would be a lot more difficult. I am glad to be part of an organisation committed to challenging that.

    Stay true to yourself. Don’t compromise who you are for success.