What is your role and how long have you been doing it?
I am a freelance specialist mentor, mainly working with students with mental health difficulties but I also see some ASD students.
Up until 2 years ago I was employed by the same specialist creative arts university that I studied at; after being artist–in–residence for a number of years I worked as a mentor and learning support assistant for 7 or 8 years. When, due to the government changes, we were all made redundant I took the Route 1 path offered by DSA QAG and finally registered with my professional body, UMHAN, late in 2018. Since then I have been working with Clarion and other agencies, providing both in person and face–to–face support to university students.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
As well as being a mentor I am an artist with a first–class degree in glass making and a qualified university lecturer. Working as a freelance mentor means I have the chance, during the long summer breaks, to continue with my creative practice. This doesn’t always work out though as I also have my own mental health issues to contend with; sometimes I just need to take a break and recharge myself.
Being by the sea relaxes me and I would happily sit on a stony beach and listen to the waves, whatever the weather. I studied Tai Chi for over 7 years and, although I don’t practice regularly at the moment, I still use it to help centre myself, especially after a tough day.
What is it like working with your students?
Working with my students can be challenging, frustrating, demanding and hard work. It is always rewarding though, often funny and genuinely a privilege. There will always be ups and downs, but the pleasure derived from helping them get through those hurdles is deeply satisfying.
Why do you do what you do?
Originally, I began working as a mentor and LSA to help pay the bills while I was building my name in the glass art world. Frustratingly I worked myself into a breakdown by taking on too much, so my creative practice took a back seat and I focused on supporting students on their educational journeys instead. My training as a university lecturer, along with my understanding of mental health issues, and now my registration with UMHAN, means I can support students studying a variety of courses while still leaving time for me to be creative.
What is your motivation?
I benefited from a DSA mentor when I was a student and remember the value of having someone, external to the course, that I could talk to. I also want to use the knowledge and understanding I have gained, through living with mental health issues, with others; to help them realise it is possible to finish studying, to have a fulfilling job and to help them get through the difficult times.
If you would like to take part in our ‘5 minutes with’ series or have any questions about joining our freelance network, please get in touch with Chloe – firstname.lastname@example.org