Jayne Dowden, Director of Human Resources, is the proud owner of a Cardiff BA and MA and has a long and varied association with the University. Her story is recalled below in three parts.
Part 1: In 1975 university was not by any means a routine next step. So it was with some trepidation that a shy 18 year old from Neath arrived in the big city to see what this university world was all about.
The first experience was learning to live in Aberdare Hall. Can you believe there was only one shower on the first floor between 40 women? Early lessons were in tactics and planning! Next came the cultural experiences of enjoying the facilities of the pristine new Students’ Union on Park Place and MedClub at the Heath. Oh and yes, there was the development of the mind and exposure to new thought and ideas.
By definition, a University is the community of its people: universitas magistrorum et scholarium. So it is the people who woke my mind, inspired curiosity and challenged me to think and discover that embody Cardiff for me: Terry Hawkes strutting and fretting majestically as Burbage; Martin Coyle on the evolution of mediaeval drama from liturgy; Peter Walcot inspiring a life-long love of Graeco-Roman art and architecture (I finally made it to the Piazza Armerina in 2005 and could still hear Peter on the subject of antique bikinis); Donald Hill evoking Homer’s wine-dark sea and Actually Speaking Greek; Nick Fisher on hubris, on home-brew and on why I was not inspired by Athenian imperialism; John Percival’s precise analysis of Roman history and the thrill of understanding Ceri Davies’ exposition of the Poetics. This education inspired me to stay on for an MA, rather rare in those days. Then it was off into the wide world of employment in the Department of Industry – in 1979 in South Wales that was a really interesting opportunity.
Part 2: Cardiff’s troubles in the late 80’s were also very real for me. Married then to a lecturer at the University College Cardiff ( now Cardiff University), who sat on Senate and Council as chair of the non-professorial staff, I experienced, if at one remove, the uncertainties which led to merger in 1987/8. That difficult and unsettling time led directly to moves: for us to Birmingham and for friends to other Universities across the country. One last day spent packing books from his academic office in the (unextended) Humanities Building as the Department of Classics closed and my second Cardiff chapter came to an end.
Part 3: The geographical move led to a move from operational management into HR: in law firms, in criminal justice and then in the University of Birmingham. And then in 2006, I saw the job advert: Director of HR at Cardiff University.
I was intrigued. Tickled. The web browser fired up and … I was bowled over. This was not the Cardiff University I remembered. Here was a vibrant, exciting University which had achieved so much, reinvented and transformed itself in the intervening 18 years. The pride in that achievement, in the contribution made at all levels shone through. Was there substance to back up the impressions? I made discrete enquiries and… yes, there was. And here I am again!
I am so delighted to be back here. Cardiff University makes me proud in so many ways. It educated my mind and helped me develop the confidence to use it. It has seen hard times but has risen to the challenges and opportunities presented. It has grown, developed and prospered as a result. And now I am proud to have been given the opportunity to contribute more directly to its future and, hopefully, to give something back.
So here’s to the next one hundred and twenty-five years!