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Alumni interview: Dr Dawn Mannay

11 July 2014

“I would say don’t just rely on your degree, you need to be doing other things as the labour market is so competitive.”



In the next interview of our alumni series we’re talking to Dawn Mannay, Cardiff University protégée and current Psychology lecturer. 


Hi Dawn. You’ve been in Cardiff for a while now, haven’t you?

Yes – I studied my BA in Education, and then my MSc in Social Science Research Methods followed by a PhD in Social Sciences.

What brought you to Cardiff originally?

 I initially chose the BA Education on a British Psychology Society accredited route because I wanted to be an educational psychologist. However, I was invited to apply for an ESRC funded MSc and PhD, which changed my career direction. In my post-grad study I employed visual methods such as photo-elicitation, collaging and mapping to work with mothers and daughters; exploring barriers to education, gender and place. You can find out more about this work from my university page.

And you’re a lecturer now?

Yes, in Social Sciences (Psychology) at School of Social Sciences.

How did you find the university from a student perspective?

I learnt new many things and made some good friends. I really enjoyed my PhD study, working with my participants and later doing work that could have some practical outcomes.

Do you have any particularly fond memories?

Meeting friends like Melanie Morgan who I work and write with now, and the postgrad café where there were lots of interesting talks (made more interesting with the free wine). Also my first graduation and the celebrations after with family and friends.

You must have faced some challenges?

In my undergraduate first year it was difficult as I was a mature student with two children; and I was also working at a research centre part-time. In post at Cardiff University, I have set up a coffee club to support mature students after doing some research into the experiences of non-traditional students.

How did your career progress?

Getting the job post with the BRASS research centre was great as it was initially a five-week job through the university’s job shop but I was there throughout my undergrad and MSc study and also won the National Association of Student Employment Services, Welsh Employee of the Year Award.

In my PhD study I also had lots of opportunities to present at conferences, nationally and internationally, which were great opportunities with lots of good memories.

How does it feel being back?

It is very different on the inside; and being the Lecturer rather than the student. However, I have kept studying and am currently doing a part-time MA in Online and Distance Education with the Open University and a Postgraduate Certificate in University Teaching & Learning with Cardiff. I think that this keeps me in touch with the student experiences and makes me a better lecturer. 

What advice would you give to those who are looking for a similar career?

I would say don’t just rely on your degree, you need to be doing other things as the labour market is so competitive. I published very early and did lots of work for different organisations, while I was studying, which has stood me in good stead. I have done a number of small projects with students and try and make sure that they publish.

My previous dissertation student, Non Geraint, is also writing a chapter for a new edited collection that I am working on for University of Wales Press, ‘Our Changing Land: Revisiting Gender, Class and Identity in Contemporary Wales’. I think students have a lot to offer and they should be seen, and see themselves, as part of the academic body while they are studying, rather than wait for graduation.

So you have to be confident in what you can achieve and seize every opportunity. The Cardiff Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (CUROP) programme is something that can be really useful.

What about more general advice?

Always, support your friends and you will get support in return. If you stamp on other people or leave them behind then you are not really going anywhere that you will want to be. University has become very competitive but collaborating with good people, across institutions and the third sector, and avoiding the not so good, has worked really well for me. Pob lwc!