Dr Penny Walters (Psychology, 1984, Fylde) tells how she juggled her studies, work and research recently culminating in the publication of two books.
"I left school with average O’ Levels, then scraped my way through 3 A’ Levels. I thought the University of Lancaster looked like a castle on the hill, and was overjoyed to be accepted. I studied Psychology, Philosophy, and Behaviour in Organisations from 1981-1984 and I was in Fylde College. I had the wildest social life, did a summer as a cocktail waitress in Long Island, New York and scraped through my degree.
After I left Uni, I got pregnant with my first daughter, and from then on, juggled working full time and studying one day a week Postgraduate Diploma in Health Education followed by a Master's in Health Promotion in six week blocks. I mentioned to someone that I felt like a fraud going to work every day, as my boyfriend smoked and I was the national No Smoking Day Co-ordinator, and someone said that must be an ethical dilemma, so, for my dissertation I researched whether Health Promoters had any ethical dilemmas in their work too, or whether it was ‘just a job.’ I used the recently invented floppy disc, and whilst typing my Master's, somehow my floppy disc got corrupted, and I literally had to start again three months before the deadline. I was told my Master's was a borderline pass/fail, but I’d been given the benefit of the doubt.
Whilst lecturing about smoking, a professor who was listening to my lecture said that he was fascinated by the talk, and why didn’t I study for a PhD under his guidance. A professor, who spoke eight languages and had published more than 50 books, was fascinated by ME? Unbelievable. I applied to Roehampton Institute, paid £300 a year, but fell pregnant again and considered giving up, but was told that I could prolong the PhD. Roehampton was subsumed by Brunel University, and they didn’t raise my fees. I used to read books and articles when my children went to bed, and basically did my PhD between 9pm and midnight for years, finally passing in 2000.
So, my point is, that I was average in everything during my student life, but I now have a PhD. This ‘imposter syndrome’ is especially rife in women. I have written loads of books in my head, and sent loads of wonderful manuscripts to numerous publishers over the years, and never got any replies, let alone an opportunity to discuss anything, so I gave up.
My job is a Lecturer (Unit Director) in Consumer Behaviour at University of Bristol. I also guest lecture internationally about compiling family trees, adoption, black British heritage, DNA testing, Irish heritage, and so someone suggested that I combine my interest in ethics with my genealogy hobby, as we are basically uncovering ancestors’ secrets and lies. A friend of mine said that self-publishing is the ‘new normal,’ as it cuts out the intimidation of approaching a publisher, and the commission is about 50% not the 5% if a publisher takes you on. I adapted my genealogy lectures into the book ‘Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy’ (2020). I uploaded it to Kindle Direct Publishing, I designed the cover myself, and ordered ‘author copies’ to be sent to me for proof reading. It was straightforward and clear. I have, since then, written a second book ‘The Psychology of Searching’ (2020). Both books are available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle."Back to News