Another year begins….

….and there is so much in store!

I am delighted to be returning to the University after maternity leave with my daughter, Jess.  I am very grateful to Terry Hanley for keeping #SEEDSR going strong whilst I was away.

September always brings promise as several thousand students arrive and many more return.  Its wonderful that so many undergrad students took part in the Sustainability Challenge yesterday.


Whilst a thought provoking exercise in itself, undertaking the interdisciplinary challenge in Welcome Week affirms sustainability as one of our core priorities across the University, and particularly in SEED.  SEED prides itself on its social responsibility, much of which is supported by our research.  As the globe prepares to strike for climate this Friday I am making a declaration; this year SEED will review our operations and processes and become even more sustainable.

That is a challenge that needs to be understood in full.  There are trade offs and synergies to sustainability, a huge number of critical decisions to be made.  Fieldwork, for example, is core to who we are as a School.  This year colleagues in Geography, Chris Darvill and Jonny Huck are piloting a low carbon field option to the Isle of Skye.  It will be really intriguing to see how this is received by the students as an alternative to flying to a more exotic location, putting the aim of fieldwork into critical question.  Our pledge to make all SEED catered meetings vegetarian has encountered some resistance.  It is too easy to hide behind the popular ‘plastics message’; the University is striving to prevent unavoidable single use plastics.  Illustrating some of the complexities of sustainability, I would argue that plastic is a wonder product that has become an environmental villain only through poor use and disposal. Our gold Green Impact Award winning labs team, for example, experimented with reusable plastics in the labs but they contaminated results using significant energy in the process.  Complex processes need thought and brave trials – which is what SEED will do this year and happily share our learning so that others might also benefit.

I’m also excited to be the new Chair of SEED’s Equality Diversity and Inclusion Committee.  I have the large shoes of Dr. Susie Miles to fill who has become the Faculty lead for EDI.  Under Susie’s leadership and with particular thanks to Rosie Williams, our last Head Of School Administration, and a strong assessment team, in 2017 SEED became the proud holder of a bronze Athena SWAN award for gender equality.  We have a lot of work to do to roll out the action plan that achieved the bronze award but I’m also keen that that action plan continues as an operational approach for SEED, rather than a tick box exercise.  I also believe that there is more to EDI than Athena SWAN.  In the next few months, with guidance and support from colleagues, I will be reviewing the structures of the committee, how often we meet, our roles and remit, etc to really critically consider what SEED’s EDI vision is, and how to achieve it.   I am particularly grateful for the support of Monique Brown, SEED’s Doctoral Services Manager, who is supporting EDI for SEED this semester. Together we are keen to increase the role of students and PS colleagues in these discussions. As I return to work, part time, and Mum for two young daughters, I feel immense pressure to champion a successful work life balance for academics everywhere. The dreaded chicken pox phone call from nursery on day 3 of welcome week (and my first working day) brought that into sharp focus…… 

Indeed, I see a huge part of ‘Responsible Processes’ as working together.  To SEED colleagues – staff, students and alumni – I would love to hear more about your work and your ideas about how we can make SEED a more socially responsible place, for all. Drop me a line, or come say hi.


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