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What is a typical day at work for you?

‘A typical term-time working day involves: delivering and preparing for lectures (with the latter – ‘behind the scenes’ work - often taking up quite a lot of time, especially in researching fresh content); providing students with feedback on their assignments, either ‘formatively’ (by commenting on ideas and work in progress, including essay plans) or ‘summatively’ - providing marks and feedback for submitted work; and other administrative tasks that keep student programmes ticking along’.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

‘Having done some other things career-wise before returning to my ‘first love’ of History, I feel very privileged to now have the opportunity to spend my working hours (and quite a lot outside work too – it’s a hobby as well!) teaching others and sharing with them my enthusiasm for Historical subjects. ‘Living the dream’ is perhaps an over-used phrase these days but in my case it aptly sums up how I feel about my work as a History lecturer at UCS’.

What has been your proudest moment whilst working at the university?

‘Attending student graduation ceremonies and witnessing all that hard work being rewarded and knowing you have helped individual achievements along the way is of course, professionally, hugely rewarding. Both UCS graduation days held so far, held in the institution’s home town of Shrewsbury, divided between the awards ceremony itself at St. Chad’s Church and the celebratory party in St. Mary’s Church afterwards, have been splendid occasions which anyone involved with UCS (and the wider University of Chester) should have felt extremely proud to be involved with; I know I was! Other professionally exciting, rather than proud moments, involve new discoveries in research. For example, a postgraduate student on the MA Military History programme has recently come across a hitherto unrecognised and unpublished diary of a Shropshire soldier who served as a Yeomanry (horseman) volunteer in the Second Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902. This was an exciting find in its own right, as well as adding considerably to the student’s dissertation research. So, one can feel proud about History students inquisitively developing their research skills in this kind of way’.

Have you seen anything funny or surprising while working at the university?

‘It would be unprofessional to mention the occasional inadvertent lapses in students’ prose that raise a smile …’.

Do you have any exciting upcoming projects?

‘Yes (well exciting to me and, I hope, when publication is achieved, also to a wider audience). I am writing about two little-known military engagements in the West Midlands in 1644 during the English Civil War; researching interactions between the ‘civilian’ and the ‘military’ (both regular army and part-time militia forces) during the first half of the eighteenth century, tacking Shropshire as a case study. Over the last couple of years, I have also become increasingly interested in the anti-invasion defences built across Britain during 1940 and into 1941 in expectation of Nazi German invasion. 2020 will mark 80 years since these fortifications – including about 20,000 so-called ‘pillboxes’ - were constructed; but in many ways we still do not know a lot about them. Where were they situated and why? Who built them? Who manned them? What were the overall defensive plans? There is still much to find out, and it will be interesting to do so by looking at Shropshire and the wider region. Tracking down obscure lumps of 1940s concrete also fits nicely with my interest in walking and exploring the landscape’.

What is the best thing about the course?

‘The MA Military History programme based at UCS – of which I am delighted to be the current programme leader – is very well team-taught and absorbing to study (and don’t just take my word for it; student surveys indicate a high level of satisfaction). Over recent years, students have produced innovative and well-researched dissertations on subjects as diverse as the military contribution of Canada during its own ‘finest hour’ of 1939 to 1940; the cavalry lance in the British army during the nineteenth century; British naval ship-building in the Inter-War years; and fresh insight on a diversionary assault on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, I July 1916’.

If you could have a superpower what would you choose?

‘The gift of Eternal Life would be useful; there is so much History out there to explore, one life-span is not nearly enough!’.

What should your students remember about you?

‘I hope they always found me polite and approachable’.

What might people not know about you?

‘No dark secrets, I am afraid, or crazy hobbies (anyone for ‘extreme gardening’?). I am perhaps unexciting in being a History buff, in and out of university; reading History books for pleasure, and combining my enjoyment of country/hill-walking (sadly curtailed at time of writing, of course, during the COVID19 ‘lockdown’) with visiting historic sites (especially churches and ancient earthworks) along the way. Shropshire and the Welsh borderland is packed with scenic landscapes full of hidden histories awaiting personal discovery’.

What is the best piece of advice that you could give to a student?

‘Especially at the time of writing (amid the COVID19 crisis), my best advice would be to “Keep Calm and Study” (acknowledging the UK Ministry of Information’s iconic poster of summer 1939)’.

What makes University Centre Shrewsbury unique?

‘UCS provides a rare opportunity in the present UK university sector; for students to undertake their studies among a friendly and close-knit learning community, with small group tutorial-like teaching as the norm’.

If you would like to know more about studying at University Centre Shrewsbury, you can chat to one of our students

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