♦ What is your original hometown - where and what did you study?
I am lucky enough to have grown up in several different cities, but my original hometown is Vienna in Austria. Although I considered returning to Vienna for my undergraduate education, I ended up falling in love with the town of Brighton in East Sussex so I enrolled at the University of Sussex as an international student, majoring in Experimental Psychology. I then studied in Edinburgh and the Netherlands before returning to the University of Sussex for my PhD.
♦ Can you summarize your career path to date? Have you always been an academic?
Like many academics, I have alternated between intensive research positions and teaching positions, before finding an interest in academic administration and a more future-oriented perspective of higher education. I have worked outside of academia as an equine behaviour consultant, combining my love of horses and my academic expertise. That said, I ended up using my experiences to collaborate on an article on the age-related development of social cognition in domestic horses. Similarly, I’m currently working on a project on anthelmintic resistance in horses in conjunction with colleagues from laboratories in Scotland and England. So even when I’m enjoying my hobby, I’m always asking questions that seem to end up with some form of data collection and analysis. My work as BISC Deputy Academic Director stays interesting for the same reasons: students and their needs are changing, the availability (and accuracy!) of information is changing, the purpose of university-level education is changing. So, there are always more questions to ask and to answer – this is something that guides my life and also something I try to share with my students.
♦ When did you start at the Castle and was there something in particular about the job advert that caught your eye?
Like many before and after me, I of course immediately noticed the word “Castle” in the advert. That alone made me want to have a closer look. In 2009, I started teaching Psychology as a part-time sessional lecturer. At the time, I was heavily invested in my research with colleagues from the Perception and Communication Lab, and I certainly didn’t anticipate still being at the Castle ten years later. However, there is something about this institution that is truly unique. The word “Castle” may have first caught my eye; but the vision of the BISC and the incredible experience we provide students are what made me stick around.
♦ Have your areas of focus, or academic interests as a whole changed over your time at the Castle? If so, how?
The Castle has broadened my academic interests and enabled me to develop increasingly inter-disciplinary perspectives. Working as part of a small faculty means that we all learn more about each other’s disciplines than would ever be possible at a larger institution. This in turn develops the awareness and appreciation of how many academic subjects link together in ways that we don’t normally often get to explore.
♦ Your lecture on dogs at the 25th anniversary was tremendously well received. For those unable to attend, what’s your favourite fact about dogs and/or what do dogs mean to you personally?
The co-evolution of humans and dogs is the most incredible framework to learn about both our species. Most people understand that our ancestors have had a great impact on dogs (i.e. selecting the desirable traits of the tamest wolves to breed dogs with important functions that supported our own evolution: hunting, guarding, herding etc). Then all these years later, we have ended up with a companion that is unrecognizable from its ancestors. What people don’t always appreciate is that the impact of dogs on humans have been equally significant. I am fascinated by the whole concept of co-evolution and how both our species have benefitted and changed because of each other’s influences. Unfortunately to elaborate on this, I’d have to give the whole lecture again, so that will have to wait for another opportunity
♦ Why would you recommend the Castle to a prospective student?
The Castle offers an undergraduate experience like none other. Students are attracted by the location and the small class sizes, but they don’t truly appreciate the impact of their experience here until years later, when they realize that we have already started to prepare them for graduation and the world of employment. The connections that students build with faculty at the Castle can last a lifetime. We aim to help students grow into more confident, responsible, and dynamic individuals. We are proud to send our students back out into the world, having changed forever the way they engage with material (more critically!) and other people (more considerately) and more open to diverse perspectives. The Castle experience is a meaningful one, and we aim to help students fully appreciate that meaning well beyond the boundaries of the classroom.