Siân Pierce, a Human Geography lecturer at Bangor University, who says she finds people “endlessly fascinating”, has been awarded an Inspire! Tutor Award after watching thousands of her students graduate in her more than 20 years.
The awards celebrate the achievements of exceptional tutors and mentors in Wales who have shown outstanding passion and commitment to encourage, support and teach other adult learners to pursue their goals and transform their lives, whether it’s in their community or the workplace.
Run by Learning and Work Institute, with support from the Welsh Government, the awards reward outstanding individuals whose commitment, knowledge and communication skills have given adult learners the tools to transform their lives.
Siân, 61, joined the university’s staff in 1996 after 11 years spent as a civil servant, helping people with their benefit claims.
According to Siân, the experience encouraged the empathetic approach she uses every day with her students.
She said: “It taught me to listen. When a student is in crisis, it can sometimes be what they are not telling you that’s important. I’ll ask them ‘is there something else you need to think about or talk about?’
“Also, in their first week at university, I keep on at them to phone their families – I tell them to involve those who have helped them in their learning journey.”
As senior tutor in the Environment section of the university’s School of Natural Sciences, Siân is in charge of pastoral support, making her a point of contact for more than 500 students, as well as staff.
She also runs the school’s Welcome Week programme, and for the Environment students is Peer Support and Employability Coordinator and Disability Tutor.
“I have a disability myself (Siân had major surgery 10 years ago and was unable to work for 16 months) and I tell some of the students who worry they’re not going to be able to finish their degrees that it’s going to be hard, but I understand the challenges that they face. I tell them that as a team we will encourage and help them on their journey: ‘Never give up – we’ll get you there!’
“We place a lot of emphasis on fieldwork within our degrees, much of which takes place in the uplands of Snowdonia. This can be a challenge for some of our students, but it’s the best feeling knowing that as a group of staff, we’ve fostered an inclusive environment in which all our students are able to engage with this work and get the most from their studies.”
Siân studied at the same university, gaining a degree in English and Sociology as a mature student when she was 35, later completing a postgraduate qualification in Social Science research and then moving into research as a geographer.