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My Cardiff

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

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!

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