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Ross Wilkinson

Career Path: Learning & Engagement Manager, Durham University Library & Collections
Location: Durham, UK

Having always had the ambition to work in heritage, museum or cultural education, I first wanted to complete my teacher training. Once gaining my teaching qualification, I underwent a post graduate distance learning MA in Cultural and Heritage Management. After finishing teacher training, I was able to get a part time job whilst doing a distance learning MA working as a Project Learning Assistant for the Durham University Lindisfarne Gospels Exhibition.

Working with local schools, communities and families. Once I graduated my MA, I then applied for the permanent position of Learning Officer, supervising the delivery of the formal learning programme across the cultural venues of the university. By October 2019, I was successful in gaining the position of Learning and Engagement Manager and am still in role. Throughout university I also worked as a waiter and barman, I always find customer service roles really teach you a lot about your confidence and communication.

What are you doing now?Ross Wilkinson

I am currently the Learning and Engagement Manager, responsible for the team and the core offer across the Oriental Museum, Museum of Archaeology, Durham Castle, Art Collection, Bill Bryson Library and the Archives and Special Collections of Durham University. Alongside the role of managing the team, I academically teach and support modules in Archaeology, School of Education and MLAC (Modern Languages, Arts and Culture). I am also part of many collections engagement research projects within the UK, but also within Jordan and partner organisations there. I have also supported projects with the UNESCO chair in Nepal and wider afield the national Museum of Japanese History and Taiwan. My main passion will always be cultural, heritage and arts learning and engagement and have been very fortunate to work in the role I do. 

What was it about Northumbria that made you decide to study here?

At my time of applying, in 2008 / 2009, the teacher training programmes were one of, if not the, best in the country. I wanted real life experience, in school from week 1. This Northumbria provided. For postgraduate, I needed to work and I wanted the flexibility of distance learning, which in 2012 was hard to find. Northumbria allowed me to study part time across 2 years and I was extremely grateful.

What was it like studying at Northumbria? 

Teacher training was very practical and vocational ,with a lot of broad placements. From London to the wider North East we were lucky to go to so many schools. But the academic side was equally interesting and plenty of fun group work. Distance learning was very different, it taught me self discipline as it was on me to catch up with lectures and to submit work. But it was the flexibility I needed, so was great.

How connected was your course with industry?

Education, very! Many schools and we had conferences with head teachers and unions. It was great. Again, distance learning much more solo, but I still attended field trips if I could and had one to ones in person with my dissertation supervisor over coffee which was great.

If you took on a placement during your course how did you feel this helped you in your career/ with your studies?

I came because of the placements, you have to have a mix of vocational and academic at university and this certainly provided. Lots of support from tutors and plenty of feedback and reflective time. Exhausting but learnt so much on placements.

What was the best thing about your course?

The best thing was the amazing tutors and lecturers, so experienced and had real world experience in the fields they taught in. Wonderful people!

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals/ give your career an edge?

I could combine the qualified teaching with the heritage and cultural aspects through my postgraduate. Plus, the support to study postgraduate was great, particularly from finance perspective. I wouldn't have my job if it weren't for Northumbria's offering.

Which skills/knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now throughout your career?

Work ethic Professionalism Academic writing Vocational confidence Reflective learning Management Teaching.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Northumbria University?

Always the people, so much fun. And Newcastle is such a vibrant and fun city. I made friends for life, and we are still friends to this day, particularly from teachers who trained together. Plus they bring their school groups on trips to the museums so I pop down and have a catch up! Little cohort community.

What advice would you give somebody who is considering studying at Northumbria?

Do it, if you feel it is the right choice for you, look at the course and what it offers and go for it!

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in three words?

So much fun!

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