Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

HE&me

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

HE&me

Article excerpt

Amina Memon is professor of psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London. She is a fellow of the British Psychological Society, the Association for Psychological Science and the Royal Society of Arts. She is the founder of the Leadership Academy for Asian Women. In May, she won the professional category of the 2016 Asian Women of Achievement Awards. The awards, in their 17th year, were set up to champion the 'unsung Asian heroines of British life'

Where were you born?

London, within the sound of the Bow Bells.

How has this shaped you?

I was born in the East End in the 1960s to immigrants who arrived in London in the 1950s to make their fortune. I grew up in an environment where I saw my parents struggle to make ends meet but saw that they worked their socks off to make a success of their lives. That was what inspired me most. However, what really shaped me was going to North East

London Polytechnic [now the University of East London] to do my degree. I wasn't allowed to leave home so this was a last-minute decision to avoid an arranged marriage. The psychology department turned out to be superb. My tutors recognised that I came from a vulnerable background. It was their mission to make sure that I didn't drop out and get married off. The choices I made at 18 made me who I am today.

What did it mean to you to win this award?

It was recognition of my achievement over the past 35 years - from my PhD to my current post as professor of psychology. It's also a tribute to all the people in education who supported me throughout my career.

Some people might not conceive academics to be doing as 'useful' a job as doctors or lawyers. What message does your achievement send in terms of the academic profession within society?

Yes, there is a myth that academics just bury their heads in books and spend all their time writing and promoting their subject. That's just a small part of our job. We have been entrusted with educating the next generation, we are in a position to inspire our young people and create the leaders of the future. Of course the doctors and lawyers are there to protect and fix us when we break [something] or get into difficulty. However, it's what we as academics do that makes history and shapes society.

You have done work in the voluntary sector. Do you think that it is important for academics to have a civic side to their work, regardless of seniority?

Absolutely. It is our duty to contribute to society, however small. You don't have to be senior to do that. Junior academics have a lot to gain from volunteering to serve on an advisory board or the panel of a non-governmental organisation for instance. …

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