Professor of English
Arts and Humanities
- Mental Health applications
- Use of digital media and arts to explore and communicate the experiences of users
- Community mental health support
My academic interests are various, but one important strand centres on the development of initiatives which have genuine social impact and also offer undergraduate and postgraduate students chances to develop practical experience and knowledge. More specifically, my interests include the relationship between narrative, identity, and trauma; mental distress and ‘recovery’; and engaged pedagogies. My PhD (2004) focused on the relationship between narrative and human identity, with a specific focus on experiences of distress and trauma as described in first-person autobiographical writing. A lot of my subsequent work has involved me in working with people who live with severe and enduring mental distress (or mental illness), and with statutory and third-sector organisations which provide support. I also work with neighbourhoods and communities to help build understandings of cohesion and wellbeing through the study of residents’ stories, and frequently participate in partnerships and collaborations with a wide range of organisations.
I was awarded a Chair in January 2013 for my work in the areas of social and civic engagement, teaching innovation and excellence, leadership in widening participation, and my work in equality and diversity particularly in the fields of disability and mental health. I am the founder and co-director of the University’s Storying Sheffield project, and a co-founder of the Sheffield Arts and Wellbeing Network. I’m also Director of Learning and Teaching for the Engaged Curriculum; the academic lead for the Engaged University (Health and Wellbeing); and a member of Medical Humanities Sheffield. I’m a Senior Fellow of the Institute for Mental Health, and a National Teaching Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
My route into working in academia has been a slightly unconventional one. I left school at 16 with few qualifications, and returned to education in my mid-thirties on a university access course.