Celebrating
a centenary
of Learning

  • 74
  • by Shawanda Stockfelt
  • graduated 2012
  • studied MEd in Educational Leadership, Policy and Development (ELPD), Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)
  • from Jamaica, Sweden, UK

Today whenever I look at her, I feel a deep sense of personal pride for what I perceive as my ‘double accomplishment’ – the start of an academic career and my role as a mom – I am Dr Mom.

I am an educational researcher with a background in psychology and anthropology. I undertook the Master’s in Educational Leadership, Policy and Development before moving on to successfully complete the Doctor of Philosophy program within the Graduate School of Education (GSoE) at the University of Bristol (UoB). Prior to the commencement of my Master’s, I worked as a teacher of psychology and philosophy at an international college in Sweden. After teaching for three years, I had an aspiration to move into educational leadership which lead to my application for this pathway. However, the thriving research-lead international environment at the GSoE nurtured my fledging passion for making an impact on educational policies through research; leading to the award of the University of Bristol scholarship to pursue a PhD.

The study environment at the GSoE fulfilled my expectations. I applied to the department in response to its reputation for academic distinction and rigorous international scholarly research. The application process prompted a sense of awe and respect for the support staff that are often the first point of contact to the university. I initially applied to four different top universities within the UK to undertake the Master’s program. I was accepted for three and was waiting on a response for the fourth when I decided to choose University of Bristol. My choice was based simply on the impressive organisational skills of Bridgette Blackmore - demonstrated in her friendly but professional approach, quick responses and willingness to make the transition from work to student life as easy as possible. I later realised that this was the norm within the GSoE, where staff (both academic and support) were used to dealing with professionals from different contexts.

As a whole, the University of Bristol is a thriving, international community; situated within a historic but cosmopolitan student-friendly city. As an African-Caribbean individual who was living in Sweden at the time, my first experience of Bristol was quite mixed. Quite frankly, I was initially troubled by what I perceived as the dominance of a classist white-British mono-culture. However, I quickly discovered the existence of an integrated, culturally/ethnically diverse, international and local community on a path to multiculturalism. The GSoE is also a leading centre for its contribution to research aimed at closing the gap between marginalised and mainstream groups within the British society. This was demonstrated in the excellent academic support (and pastoral care) provided by my research mentor Professor Leon Tikly who has worked on programs like ‘Aiming High: Raising African Caribbean Achievement’ in the UK. Overall, such an environment, coupled with the high-ranking research-led milieu of the GSoE, supported my PhD research exploring the nature of boys’ educational aspirations – in response to their under-representation in higher education – in urban Jamaica. I was recently awarded the British Academy Postdoc Fellowship and will be returning as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow to the GSoE in September 2013 for 3 years within the Centre for Multilevel Modelling. My research will focus on the interrelation between educational aspiration and educational and labour market outcomes for Black Caribbean males in the UK.

Overall, my most significant educational memory relates to my proudest achievement while studying at UoB. That is, the birth of what I and my fellow PhD sojourners fondly referred to as my ‘PhD baby’. I gave birth to my first child one month after successfully defending my PhD thesis. I was able to undertake such a challenging venture while doing the PhD through careful planning, systematic structure, and through - quite significantly - the support of a fantastic husband, a supportive research mentor and the world’s best research colleagues. These memories brought me to tears towards the beginning of my PhD defence when my external examiner asked me a specific question about my meta-theoretical approach. In that moment I felt my little one started kicking me ferociously, jarring a memory of this same discussion with my colleagues as well as my mentor a few days earlier. In response, I opened up and thoroughly enjoyed the experience – I would like to think my little one did too. Today whenever I look at her, I feel a deep sense of personal pride for what I perceive as my ‘double accomplishment’ – the start of an academic career and my role as a mom… I am Dr Mom.