• International

      MAKING A DIFFERENCE

      Work/life experiences of Brookes’ academics

  • International Academics: Pushing Borders and Pushing Boundaries

    Brookes is lucky to have academics from across the world, bringing international talent and world-leading research to its centre. Interestingly, many staff who came from overseas had not planned on staying. They saw working in Oxford as an opportune next step, particularly young academics with few ties. However, falling in love or getting a job that they really cared about led colleagues to start their own families here. Dr Esra Kurul, from Turkey, was in fact very close to returning home when she met her partner with whom she now has a family.

  • The experiences that growing up in or experiencing different cultures afford have been extremely influential for many people. Professor Alison Honour’s tendency to “back the underdog” comes from spending time growing up in places like the West Indies and the Caribbean where educational inequality was stark. Dr Emma Wragg, who grew up in Zambia, now researches unplanned settlements in Zambia, using her academic position to make sense of what she had observed as a child. Meanwhile, for Dr Brigitte Clark, the decision to enter research itself was informed by the political situation in South Africa at the time.

    Knowledge is thus gained through exposure to cultural and institutional difference and this in turn positively influences research. Dr Farzaneh Yazdani has bought perspectives gained through travel and living in Iran, Jordan and the UK to her discipline:

    Travelling helped me to bring the concept of sociology and later even politics into my understanding of occupational therapy and counselling.

    Dr Farzaneh Yazdani, Occupational Therapy

    Helen Wilson’s role at Brookes has seen her travel to a myriad of places and this has been hugely instructive to Helen’s own development:

    Knowledge is thus gained through exposure to cultural and institutional difference and this in turn positively influences research. Dr Farzaneh Yazdani has bought perspectives gained through travel and living in Iran, Jordan and the UK to her discipline:

    I’ve learned so much by meeting people from different countries.

    Helen Wilson, Education

    The international dimension of research itself is also extremely important to colleagues. Professor Tim Shreeve has an international network of colleagues and he finds having these external links central to supporting his career. Dr Bridget Durning is extremely proud that her highly successful book on environmental assessment and management has now been translated into Chinese. Meanwhile, Dr Verena Kriechbaumer’s network of colleagues across the world meant that she was awarded a fellowship from the Korean Brain Trust to work with scientist Woong June Park in South Korea, which she took for three months.

    The fellowship in South Korea was probably one of the best times in my life

    I’ve learned so much by meeting people from different countries.

    Dr Verena Kriechbaumer, Plant Biology

    Academia is a necessarily international profession, with knowledge being generated through exposure to new ideas and different practices. It is only through crossing borders that breakthroughs in knowledge can be generated. Keeping the international spirit alive and animated at Brookes is essential.

  • For a number of colleagues, such as Professors Mary Briggs and Linda King, an academic career had meant that their children had opportunities to travel which would not have otherwise been possible, and that they remember as highlights of their childhood to this day. 

  • The children have benefitted from my travelling around. That’s given them the opportunity to see different things. Kenya was really very memorable. My daughter was quite little but she still remembers the Masai.

    Mary Briggs, Education
  • For Dr Sara Hannam, who also has to travel a lot for work, there was a different but equally positive picture. She found that these short trips away from her family enabled her to have a break from the demands of family life - making her refreshed and rested when she came back, perhaps even with a present for the family. And her children saw her absences as an opportunity to have some of the rules relaxed a little!
  • 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 to relax and do things - things that I may not always have time to do at home.

    Dr Sara Hannam, Business & Management
  • Family life also extended beyond simply having a partner or children, with many staff having fascinating hobbies that occupied their time outside of the university. Ross Jordan is a stand-up comedian and Dave Carter used to be a competitive table tennis player!

    Whatever it was that kept colleagues busy outside of the university walls, it tended to benefit their job. Reflecting on the challenge of managing people, Linda says: 

  • That’s where having children helps! Learning to deal with children helps you deal with people and listen to everyone’s points of view. It’s never one sided.

    Professor Linda King, PVC and Virologist
  • Meanwhile, Ross Jordan recognises the aptness of the term “lecture theatre”. He borrowed some techniques from stand-up and sees similarities between this and lecturing:
  • There’s no greater reward or pleasure than enabling someone to laugh. In the same way that I think there’s an equal reward and pleasure in helping someone learn something about themselves […] a lot of entrepreneurship teaching is about helping people to understand themselves.

    Ross Jordan, Business & Management
  • These stories pointed to the complementary, rather than conflicting, nature of the work life relationship. They do not constitute a zero-sum game, but in fact are mutually reinforcing.