Mutual inspiration: Lucy and Claire
To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March, female academics and students describe what they admire in each other.
Lucy Williams, Students’ Union Activities Officer and Politics graduate
I knew Claire before she knew me because I attended her lectures on European politics. She really drew me in, made concepts clear to understand, but wasn’t at all patronising. It was always a lecture I wanted to go to. And then, in my second year, I was a student rep and was tasked to air some concerns, which I didn’t do in the most diplomatic way, but Claire helped me to navigate that problem.
Right in the middle of my second year I had a really big wobble. I didn’t have the confidence to do things, and as a consequence I didn’t have the motivation. It was a vicious circle. Claire picked up on the fact that I was struggling to study. She suggested I go to the Student Support Centre for my dyslexia and dyspraxia, and they said that I should have been getting help all the way through uni. And from there, Claire gave me highlighters and pens and a wall planner. When I was having this really bad time, Claire was someone who empowered me.
I’d hated school and hated authority. I left school with five GCSEs and worked in a factory. But Claire was nothing like most of my old schoolteachers. Even if a student said something that might not be historically accurate, Claire wouldn’t say that they were wrong, but would tease it out until they were where they needed to be. That’s such an amazingly strong quality.
When I was writing things for Claire I wanted to produce the best possible work I could, because it was my way of saying thank you to her for giving me the confidence to believe in my academic abilities.
I really respect Claire’s professionalism in every sense. She was on BBC TV’s ‘The Big Question’ recently. It’s very easy in debating situations to talk rubbish, or to stumble when people don’t agree with you. But she, as always, really calmly put an alternative point of view across. It reminds me that I should not be so hot-headed.
Professor Claire Annesley, Head of Politics in the School of Law, Politics and Sociology
My first memory of meeting Lucy was in the middle of her second year. She came to me, as head of department, about issues with a particular seminar she was taking. She was appointed spokesperson for that group, completely articulate. You know with Lucy that she is definitely not going to hold back.
I then saw her again a short while later when she was close to dropping out. I had a long conversation with her about why she shouldn’t do it, and then, from being on the verge of dropping out, she turned things round completely. All of her marks were then in the 70s and 80s and she graduated with a first-class degree and won a prize for the best dissertation.
All of a sudden she completely found her focus. And she just absolutely smashed it. Now she wasn’t struggling with the basic things, an amazing creativity came out. I taught Lucy in the autumn term of her final year and what she produced was just fantastic.
Lucy is always clear about her politics, which is another thing I admire about her. But she will always step out of where she is and challenge her views to understand different perspectives. It shows her curiosity and a real confidence. She is definitely not a follower. She is a real independent thinker, and fearless. Whatever she sets her mind to she will do.
Lucy would be great as a politician. She says she wants to work behind the scenes in politics, but I think she should be on the frontline. I think that politics needs people like her. She’s an independent thinker but also fiercely loyal - and that matters.
Like Lucy, I would question authority at school to see if it was legitimate. And I’ve found out that we are both from families where politics was talked about and discussed. Without knowing much about Lucy, I recognised something of myself in her. I knew there was a lot there and I felt I knew how to get through.