We know the path to success doesn’t always go smoothly, so we asked our lecturers about the ups and downs on their path to the University of Brighton. Today it’s Criminology lecturer Dr Hannah Thurston, who says: “I was the first in my family to come to university… I enjoyed the independence, of moving out and having more control over what I studied.”
What were you like at school? Were you a diligent pupil?
“I’ve always been a bit of a nerd so yeah, I was pretty diligent. I think it’s because I’m quite nosy! I enjoy learning about other people’s lives, so all the subjects which allowed me to do that appealed to me. I do struggle to stay focussed sometimes though. I was (and still am) a student that prefers to learn visually so reading takes me ages!”
I do struggle to stay focussed sometimes. I was (and still am) a student that prefers to learn visually so reading takes me ages!
Why did you decide to go to university?
“If I’m completely honest, I don’t really know why I decided to do a degree. I was the first in my family to come to university, so I can’t say I had any ‘expectations’ as such. I had done a foundation course in Art and Design and I enjoyed the independence, both in terms of moving out and having more control over what I studied. I guess that was the main reason I wanted to do a degree, to keep that independence and to keep learning.”
How did you decide which subject to study?
“I originally accepted a place on a Fine Art Course. I only decided to do a BA (hons) in Criminology and Psychology in clearing. I’d done a bit of psychology at school and really enjoyed it. Plus, the artwork I produced in my foundation year was all about social stigma and labelling. I’ve always been interested in how and why society constructs ‘difference’ and ‘deviance’ so I felt like criminology was a good fit.”
I’ve always been interested in how and why society constructs ‘difference’ and ‘deviance’ so I felt like criminology was a good fit.
What did you do after graduation and why did you choose that path?
“I went straight onto an MA in Criminology, where I developed my interest in penal policy and punishment. My dissertation involved interviewing people in Lewes Prison and then my PhD allowed me to research the death penalty and mass-incarceration. There were a few decent jobs offers along the way, but academia was always my preferred path – I know its cheesy, but I honestly do just love learning and teaching!”
Tell us about any career highs… and any lows you want to share too!
“Every year graduation is a proper highlight for me! I absolutely LOVE to see my students walking across the stage, collecting their awards. They have often been on a real journey while they’re with us – both personally and academically – and that degree is a such an amazing achievement. I also went to Texas for 6 months to do my PhD research, and I gave a speech about prison reform at Westminster. that was pretty good.”
Every year graduation is a proper highlight for me! I absolutely LOVE to see my students walking across the stage, collecting their awards
At what point did you decide that you wanted to teach others?
“I taught a fair bit during my PhD, and quickly realised it’s not just criminology we teach. A great bit of the job is helping students learn the skills they need to become critical thinkers, able to challenge taken-for-granted knowledge which so often reproduces inequality. I think it was when I realised I could help people do that, to challenge what is wrong in the world, that’s when I really appreciated how lucky I am to do this job.”
Was there ever a point where you doubted yourself – where you felt that you weren’t going to achieve your goals?
“Absolutely! We all experience self-doubt from time to time, and we all have goals we don’t quite manage to achieve. Sometimes I can pinpoint what went wrong and learn from it, other times it’s not so easy. I’ve overcome a few hurdles here and there, and I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved in my life. It’s all about getting the balance right!”