Shazneen Commissariat Limjerwala talks about how her PhD from Lancaster encouraged her to differentiate her work from others.

" I’m Shazneen Commissariat Limjerwala. I have studied Psychology in my Masters and trained as a Psychotherapist. I worked as a trainee research and academic associate at IIM, Ahmedabad. Following this, I worked in Oxfam GB in Western India, on Violence against Women. Thereafter, I joined Lancaster University, as a PhD scholar at the Institute for Health Research. 

At Lancaster I learnt how to conduct research, how to read, but most importantly, how to write. The latter is something I attribute consistently to Lancaster. It developed an eye for detail through my supervisor, Maggie Mort's comments on my writing. 

Since, my return, following my thesis, I have been engaged in different professional projects. I have presented at conferences nationally and internationally, significantly, at the SVRI (Sexual Violence Research Initiative) in South Africa. I have been engaged in research, discussion and writing in an international collaborative project on 'Vicarious Trauma'. I have created curriculum for women’s studies and teaching persons with special needs. I have taught a variety of topics such as women’s empowerment, social work, mental health, Psychotherapy, Management, Communication, amongst others. I have been taught and presented my work at varied institutions: Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences), Sophia College (Mumbai), Gujarat Institute of Psychological Sciences, SNDT University, Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, St. Xaviers’ College. 

There are two important aspects, that I believe differentiate my work from others. First, I do things differently. Whilst, this may sound clichéd to some, I create my training, teaching sessions as per the make-up of the student/audience. So, for example, in one of my classes, I used a movie about a girl diagnosed with schizophrenia, who was using alternative therapies and living independently. I paused the movie at several places and stimulated discussion with questions. I also created an exercise whereby one girl was asked to listen to two girls talking into her ears simultaneously. This was intended to give a first-hand experience of what it must be like to ‘hear voices’, a symptom experienced by schizophrenics. Having trained in Psychotherapy, I specialise in attending to details. Therefore, I pay attention to every student who participates in my training and each one is encouraged to participate actively. 

This is also the result of my cross disciplinary leanings in Psychology, Management, English, Law, Gender and Communication, amongst others. I read and engage with experts in each of these areas. I have engaged as a trainee and academic associate at a Management Institute, taught at management institutions, a social sciences university, women’s college, worked at a development organisation, and researched at an institution for persons with special needs. I have conducted workshops at a hospital, psychotherapy institute, medical and research council, (South Africa). The diversity of my training, experience and exposure has added to the intensity of my work. This is because for every deliverable, I offer a multi-faceted understanding, perspective. 

Lancaster has contributed to my training in several ways. Firstly, I learnt how to write academically, and yet retain my voice. This, I believe, is a very important aspect of writing; to be able to communicate what one wants to, even through one’s writing. I learnt that there are several ways of doing research, some of them very interesting and engaging. I learnt to participate actively in various seminars, and to ask questions bravely. I also learnt to be wide ranging in my perspectives, engaging with various university departments as a hub of learning. 

Today, when students appreciate my teaching, 'Ma’am, thank you for taking time out to teach us. I thank you for being there and enriching us with your experience', I know I have come a long way, and Lancaster has been a part of that journey."