Professor Sheila Hunt
Professor Sheila Hunt, Dean and Head of School of Nursing and Midwifery Studies, thanks Cardiff for widening her world.
Professor Sheila Hunt
In 1981 I was a staff midwife working part time at University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. My life was two nights a week, two kids, and one car – but I had a passion to learn.
I had attended a statutory midwifery refresher course with ‘research’ as its theme. I was inspired and wanted more!
I met with Professor Paul Atkinson, sociology sounded a safe bet and I was awe inspired. I did not have a degree, a diploma or even a certificate! I was a registered nurse and a midwife. I could talk, persuade, cajole and was probably one of the department’s most enthusiastic students.
Paul took me on and I joined the MSc Econ (Methods and Applications of Social Research). Lesson one, how to turn on a computer. Lesson two, there is another way of looking at anything. My eyes were open and inspired by the likes of Terry Rees – now Pro Vice-Chancellor, Anne Murcott, and Sara Delamont. Somehow, I made my way into academia.
I was uncertain, hesitating, often out of place, frequently confused but passionate. The librarians in Column Road were brilliant, they never patronised and took time to explain, demonstrate, and guide me – and eventually I found it. It all began to fall into place, I was winning. I took Paul to do field work in a neighbouring maternity unit. Ethics committees were a little more relaxed in those days! This was quite an experience – sociology theory in the making. I learnt what it was like to be an ethnographer. My first book (with Anthea Symonds) followed – The Social Meaning of Midwifery. Not bad for a midwife! Paul did some of my dissertation supervision via air mail letter. I think he was in California. No email but the flimsy letters with tightly packed wisdom and encouragement continued to support my learning. My MSc was proudly achieved and I never looked back. Posts followed in Swansea, Birmingham and Dundee but I knew my heart belonged to Wales. I am delighted to be back.
Thank you Cardiff University for widening access before it was fashionable and for letting in a midwife!