Sometimes when life insists on throwing sticks and stones at us, and we feel tired and uninspired, that is when we turn to other people for solace and inspiration. Recently we’ve been talking about how we need a mentor or a guardian angel in our academic lives, and sometimes a role model is just what we need. We thought that it would be nice to share our role models with you in a team blogpost, so here are the special people that spur us on to be the best that we can be.
“My own role model would have to be Queen Elizabeth I of England. I remember reading that her personal motto could have been “Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow” and it amused me so much because of course it’s the opposite of the usual aphorism that one should “never put off until tomorrow that which can be done today”. She was of course, a strong woman who achieved a lot. She led a nation at a time when it was a “man’s world”. She lived through the most dangerous and testing of circumstances yet brought relative stability to her country. Elizabeth was also known for her beauty and intelligence: how could I not find inspiration in such a strong and glittering character? And yet it seems that maybe she shared a weakness with me: a need for a really compelling deadline!”
Jenny Delasalle, piirus.ac.uk social media manager
“I don’t know if I’m happy to claim him as a role model, but I certainly look up to the Florentine philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli. He went through so much in his life: from riches and influence to imprisonment, torture and virtual exile. Despite this, he created several great works, including popular plays and poetry alongside the more famous political works. It’s these political works that have ensured his persistent notoriety, however, and these – particularly The Prince – gain new meanings with every generation. With that said, it’s the instrumentality and pragmatism that I admire most in Machiavelli, perhaps because these are traits that I largely lack. His remains now lie in Santa Croce Basilica in Florence, alongside Michelangelo, Galileo and Rossini, with a fitting epitaph: tanto nomini nullum par elogium (No elegy is good enough for such a name). It’s a name that’s given us a way of thinking, a way of understanding power and a way of negotiating the world. Machiavelli is precious to me for how completely he understood the world and his point in history: if only I could be such an expert!”
Christopher Ferguson, piirus.ac.uk correspondent
“My role model is Kate Richardson-Walsh. 2016 might have been the first time you heard her name, as she lead Team GB to victory in the Olympic hockey final. Yet she was captain of England and GB for the previous 13 years. She earned the role through years of commitment and hard work; from her international debut in 1999 to the point in 2003 when the team voted for her to lead them. This speaks of her character and value not only as a leader but as a member of the team. She held the position through tough times – finishing 11th out of 12 in the 2014 World Cup. And fought on with her team, even after breaking her jaw part-way through London 2012. To win Olympic Gold, the team needed a shared goal, a belief in their ability and an empathetic, charismatic leader who set the standard for success.”
Emma Cragg, piirus.ac.uk correspondent
“In my career space, especially as I shifted from a social work practitioner to researcher, I can’t go past Brene Brown. She is a social work professor from the US and author of many books. Her TED talk on the power of vulnerability really resonated with me as there was finally a Social Worker representing the complex work we do on the world
stage. I was lucky enough to meet her while finishing my PhD; she reminds me to acknowledge the impact of the stories we hear as researchers, to honour that space that participants invite us in to, and that grappling with our research outcomes is normal.”
Sarah Wayland, piirus.ac.uk correspondent
“In all the uncertainty of recent times, I’ve been finding solace in books. Right now, I want to read about hope and redemption and endings where evil is vanquished and goodness does win at the end of the day. So I have turned to reading Harry Potter, among others, and more and more am inspired by JK Rowling. Not only has she fashioned an incredible writing career, where children are reading books almost too heavy for them to carry, but she has also created a fantastic female character in Hermione. Hermione is brilliant, passionate, focused, ambitious and loyal. JK Rowing has gifted us a girl who reads books and can also save the world, and the author does that in real life as well. These are uncertain times where it seems too easy for people to fall into nastiness – where people are attacked for being Other. JK Rowling’s Twitter account is brave and honest and deeply funny – she stands up for herself without ever falling into nastiness – and she lets those who feel alone or outcast know that they have people on their side. JK Rowling uses words beautifully to demonstrate that bravery comes in all shapes and forms.”
Kathryn McKay, piirus.ac.uk correspondent
“My role model is not a household name, nor has she done anything outstanding or worthy of accolades or column inches. In fact she has no formal qualifications either. She just lived life the best way she knew how. It’s not original and is actually pretty cheesy, but right now my inspiration is my Nannie, my maternal grandmother. On the days when I feel like giving up on my PhD, I think of her. My Nan was born disabled in 1929, and so her entire life was just a little bit harder than normal. From a young age she was taught to serve others and be grateful just to be alive. She is clearly very bright, but her education was disrupted by war and her family could only afford to send her older brothers to college. So I study because she wasn’t able to. Her fate became that of many women from her generation, and putting aside any thoughts of a career or life of her own, her sole purpose was to nurture her children trying to give them the things she did not have. My Nan is my role model because of her determination and positivity that keeps her going. She shows warmth and charm towards others even though she knows she is different to them: she defies rules that she thinks are beneath human decency. Nan’s stubbornness never to give up on anything or anybody really makes her an act to follow. If she can do life, then I can do this blimmin’ PhD.”
Heather Griffiths, piirus.ac.uk correspondent
“I was just a teenager when I first heard of Shania Twain, the famous pop-country singer. I was studying to get into medical school in the beginning of 2000’s and Shania Twain’s life story kept me going. She was born in Ontario, Canada and started singing as a little child to provide for her family, especially in Canada’s rigorous winters when they had no shoes to wear or heating in the house, as she tells us in her biography. Shania overcame the stagefright and left for Toronto at age of 16 to pursue her musical career. She had to give up her career when her parents suddenly died, and she came back home to raise her three younger siblings. Shania never surrendered in face of the adversity, always held her chin up through the hard times and never gave up on her dreams. In a world made for men, she dared to be a strong woman with a voice. Her album Come On Over is the most sold album for a woman in all history. She won 5 grammys and in 2016, when she won a Billboard Icon Award for women in music, she credited ‘Dreaming, working hard and being courageous’. That’s the message that I hear in her songs and her personal story. Like her one of her song lyrics says: ‘I’m gonna hold on/ cause what I believe in is so strong/ No matter how long / No one can tell me I am wrong / I ain’t going down’, I too, ain’t going down.”
Luana Chiquetto, piirus.ac.uk correspondent
“I prefer to keep my role models closer to home these days, and I can’t find a better example than my partner Sarah. She is currently pregnant with our third child. It’s a wonder we are on baby number three because she suffers from something called Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) – constant and unrelenting vomiting. It’s a wonder she is still alive, and without the aid of intravenous fluids I dare say she would have found herself in a critical state before now. Sadly, HG is very poorly understood and many HG sufferers face inconsistency in the level of care they receive and in the level of knowledge health professionals have. Sarah has been told by countless GPs to ‘try ginger, sip water and eat dry crackers’! Completely ignorant of her body’s complete inability to hold down any food for longer than one minute. As if battling HG was not enough, she also must fight to get the healthcare she requires. Sarah and other HG sufferers are incredible role models to me – I panic at the first sign of nausea! She’s fighting for more than just herself, and I think that’s an important trait in all role models.”
Andrew Clappison, piirus.ac.uk correspondent
I think the best part of a role model is that they are real human beings, with fears and flaws, like us. They can be a super star, a famous writer, a partner, a parent, a friend. They somehow made it through the ups and downs of life, showing us that we can also overcome anything. Tell us, who is your role model?
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