Shirl Tanner Project Manager Sussex Pathways

Graduate journey – from Placement Mentor to Project Manager

Applied Social Science Graduate Shirl Tanner talks to us about how her degree helped prepare for her roles at Sussex Pathways, initially as a Placement Mentor, before eventually progressing to Project Manager.

What did you study?

I initially completed an Applied Social Science degree and then did a Msc in Social Work for the first year which meant that I came out with a Postgrad in Social Sciences from the University of Brighton.

Shirl Tanner Project Manager Sussex Pathways

How did you hear about your current role at Sussex Pathways?

When I was doing my first year of my Social Work Msc – it was my first placement.  This 70 day placement was part of the course and be within a Third Sector organisation.  The placement was doing the mentoring role.

What do Sussex Pathways do?

Sussex Pathways help by supporting people leaving prison to successfully resettle back into the community. They do this through the provision of their ‘Connecting Pathways’ volunteer based mentoring services for prison leavers, as well as rehabilitation support within prisons and a restorative justice service that works pre and post release with perpetrators and victims of crime.

How would you describe your role and what is involved.

I started over 8 years ago with Sussex Pathways, initially as a mentor on placement.  I then moved onto a Volunteer Coordinator role for 3 years, followed by a Restorative Justice coordinator role. A year ago, I then got promoted to Project Manager for the organisation.  As Project Manager I manage the projects, on the mentoring side and on the restorative justice.

How did you become interested in this type of work?

It was natural progression into the role.  However I was always interested in working with offenders with mental health issues for a long long time but never did anything about it until I went back to university.

What did you do before University?

It was completely different.  Before University I was a Dental Receptionist – a total change.

How had studying Applied Social Science at University of Brighton prepare you for this work? 

Definitely.  Before I went to university as I didn’t have the qualifications, I did a foundation course to get into university. That foundation year was a good taster and encouraged me to study and learn more.

Following this, the BA (Hons) in Social Science, opened my eyes to lots of different avenues as up until then I didn’t do much studying. However this set the foundation and after doing the Masters and the placement, it all fell into place.  There were things in the subjects I never even thought of in my life. Doing the course was really life changing and a real eye opener.

Did you feel that you were able to put into practice some of the things that you had learnt on your degree?

Absolutely! I can apply a lot of the theories and what I learnt in this role as a mentor, Project Manager and as a Practice Supervisor for Social Work students. I couldn’t do this if I hadn’t done the Applied Social Science degree.  I am really lucky to have done this.  In fact, I class myself as one of the luckiest people around!

If you were going to do it all again, what advice would you give your younger self?

I would say apply a lot more theory to practice.  Actually put it into your everyday life.  Even as a student then and looking back, I didn’t realise how much I learnt on the theory, and how relevant it is to my everyday life.

I would also say to absorb everything you can, and enjoy it. Half the problems with students, and when I was a student, is that I stressed over the work, instead of enjoying it, I stressed about it.  I definitely say that you should enjoy the journey and absorb what you possibly can.

Would you recommend University of Brighton as a place to study Applied Social Science? If so, why – what are the strengths of the course and of the teaching staff?

100% – because I got a 100% out of it!

It is a brilliant learning environment and the staff are brilliant and approachable. The campus and the classroom, everything about it has a nice feel about it.  Even now when I walk around, it has a nice feel about it.

I love the fact that I wake up in the morning I enjoy going to work. I have a real passion for the job I do.  Everyone who works in Sussex Pathway are so passionate and committed this, it is just a great place to work and I am very lucky.

Find out more about our social science courses and take your next step towards a challenging career that will offer boundless opportunities and exercise your mind.


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