No point in dwelling on past crises

September 23, 2005

Name: Helen Thomas

Age: 58

Job: Research director, London College of Fashion, University of the Arts.

Previously, sociology professor at Goldsmiths, University of London. My job is to develop a long-term research strategy and a strong, supportive research environment. Fashion research is often perceived to be trivial but I was amazed at the exciting work that comes under this heading at LCF: cultural studies, theatre costume design, 3-D design, sustainable fashion, cosmetic science and the application of techniques that are dying out, to name but a few.

Salary: Better than my last job.

Background: Laban art of movement certificate; teachers certificate; dance teacher for seven years; BA sociology; PhD sociology.

Working hours: I tend to work quite long hours - I am a bit of a workaholic.

Who are your students and colleagues? I line manage three research office staff, about 20 research fellows, professors and readers, and oversee the research of some 100 research contract staff. I have seven PhD students.

Biggest challenge: Everything I took for granted before (using the telephone system or knowing whom to contact about a problem) was a major challenge when I joined LCF. But my biggest challenge was to get a university research centre on fashion, the body and material cultures through the rigorous three-stage process.

How did you solve it? We had a terrific team and did it through consultation, cross-college negotiation and hard work. As I was new, I bludgeoned my way through any potential barriers in complete ignorance.

Worst moment in university life: Usually the last crisis, so there's no point in dwelling on it.

What is your office like? It looks on to a roof garden, but it is a bit noisy. We are moving to a larger, refurbished research space on the third floor in the autumn. No garden, sadly.

What university facilities do you use? The editing suites for my dance research videos.

Do you socialise with people at the university? LCF is a very sociable place. I attend launches and events in the evening.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with professionally? None really, although working with "artists" is certainly different from engaging with sociologists.

Do you interact much with other parts of the university? Yes, at college and university committee meetings and through the research centre.

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