Debra Jane Croft, Director of Equalities and Manager for CWPSI (Centre for Widening Participation and Social Inclusion)
Alongside my role as Manager of CWPSI, I have recently been appointed as Director of Equalities for Aberystwyth University, a new role, which encompasses all aspects of Equality for staff and students.
At the moment I see this as an exciting opportunity to bring together many areas of policy for the University as a whole. I hope to draw on the diverse aspects of my own portfolio career to date, together with the various working groups and committees responsible for delivering equality and access in their widest senses.
A bright but lazy kid who left school at 17 and refused to go to Uni, I trained as an accountant, before jumping ship, travelling and working in short term jobs across UK / Europe. Part of that included political awakening and activism on a number of fronts: the ‘70s and ‘80s were a great ‘school’ in that respect. Plus an OU degree in Research Methods, Maths & Stats in Social Science.
Work included financial and management training, employment consultancy and IT (in the early days!), as well as running festivals with an ethical standpoint with a small collective, and then working for a national charity as a regional manager. Personal circumstances dictated a change in lifestyle and a return to education in 1995 – a BSc in Geology and Environmental Science (Royal Holloway), quickly followed by Masters in Camborne School of Mines (Exeter Uni) and PhD / research and casework in Forensic Geoscience, working alongside my supervisor Ken Pye.
The move to Wales in 2004 (land of my father and also my mother’s side of the family) started with part-time lecturing work in Geography, and Lifelong Learning at Aberystwyth University, as well as casual outreach work for CWPSI in the sciences for schools, colleges and the wider Ceredigion community, including the EU funded Science Circuit project.
Inspirations have come from some of the great people (largely women) I have worked with and for, but also some of the great campaigners and workers for social change that I have had the pleasure of meeting and campaigning with over the years.
My personal life is very much that; my current partner has been a friend for more than 30 years and it is a great partnership, but separate from my working life. Without that style of relationship, I would not be able to work as I do.
I have 2 sons and 3 step-sons, with their own current and previous partners, 5 grandchildren but that doesn’t begin to encompass the complexity of a large group that I call family; with a mix of genders, sexualities and relationships. And it is this aspect of my personal life that dictates some of my stance on equality and diversity. There is no ‘one size fits all’ in the family or relationships of today and we need to recognise that.
Currently, I have had the greatest of experiences of working with students and prospective students and hope that I have maintained the role of CWPSI within Aberystwyth University, particularly in leading science access work. It’s not all we do, but it is our main focus.
The future (and the new role) will mean stepping back a little from that, but the team I work with will ably carry on the work we do to remove the barriers to study. I am not making any great plans yet as I need to take an audit, see where we are, what exists already and what the different groups do. Build on the best, and not take for granted that the best remains so. Most importantly, I plan to draw on the expertise of a wide team across the academic, service, support and management teams to not only fill “what we have to”, but also what we would like to have. A big task.
The Athena SWAN Bronze award and action plan will be one of the first places I intend to put my energy; to pick up what the previous teams have delivered and to formulate our next steps.
My aim is to bring my disparate expertise from having worked across all three sectors, in finance, recruitment, academic research and teaching, widening access and community outreach, to benefit the widest of Equality agendas possible.