Dr Debra Willison

Debra Willson, Science

Faculty: Science
Department: Pure and Applied Chemistry
Job title: Vice Dean Academic for the Faculty of Science, Deputy Head of Department for Applied Chemistry, and Director of Centre for Forensic Science
Joined: 1978

Dr Debra Willison joined the university as a Trainee Laboratory Technician aged just 17, and has now been with us for 39 years. Her career progression has seen Debra employed in various roles, and she is now Vice Dean Academic for the Faculty of Science.

What is your name and job title?

My name is Debra Willison and I am Vice Dean Academic for the Faculty of Science, Deputy Head of Department for Applied Chemistry and Director of Centre for Forensic Science

How would you describe Strathclyde in three words?

Supportive, Family, Encouraging

What initially attracted you to work at Strathclyde?

I started my first job at the University as soon as I left school when I was 17 years old, as a Trainee Laboratory Technician. To be totally honest, at this point my main priority was to get a laboratory technician job and I had not considered where that job might be, as long as I was able to secure one!

However, I have now worked at the University for 39 years and I am so grateful for the chance I was given when I was 17, if I had known then what I know now the University would have been very high up on my list when I initially started to apply for jobs all those years ago!

What has your experience been like working here?

My experience has been absolutely great, and it continues to evolve and change in a positive way the longer I spend here. The variety of different roles I have undertaken and the development opportunities I have received from the university have very much to do with this great experience, as well as the wonderful colleagues I am surrounded by. I look forward to coming into work and taking on new challenges and working across different faculties, both adding to a very enjoyable career.

I think my record of staying with the University for 39 years says a lot about what this place has to offer!

Do you like working in the city centre of Glasgow and Scotland as a whole? 

Yes, I really like working in the city centre of Glasgow. It is very convenient and it is easy to combine your working day with other things you need to be getting on with since everything you need is very local to you. A main highlight for me is when we are responsible for entertaining external guests that visit the university there is such a variety of places we can visit in the city for food or culture, you are never short of things to do.

What is the best part about working here?

The best part about working here is the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues across the whole university. This brings in a whole host of people from other services and faculties who have expertise in different areas who you get the chance to work with and build great working relationships with.

For example, I worked on a funded project which allowed student interns and staff from all four faculties to work together with colleagues from Professional Services. The outcome of the project was the development of student resources which are still used across the university and we would never have achieved this without working together.

What has been your greatest achievement while working here?

My greatest achievement has to be my contribution to Personal Development Planning for students. A Framework was proposed, which was accepted by Senate, and then a long term project was undertaken working with the faculties, professional services and most importantly the students to see what would make PDP worthwhile and useful for them.

The project was a great success and the PDP resources are widely used by students across the university, improving their learning experience here.

Does anything significant stand out to you about Strathclyde?

I would say the University’s flexible approach to working and their understanding of staff individual needs is an area that deserves to be highlighted here. In my experience, staff are always willing to go the extra mile to make sure work is completed to a high standard.

This commitment and loyalty is valued and recognised, hence why the university has an element of flexibility when it comes their staff members. This is especially true if people want to consider doing further education, there is the opportunity to work part time and complete this with plenty of support.

What has your career progression and development been like and do you have access to any opportunities working here?

My career progression has been brilliant over the years. As mentioned, I joined the University as a trainee laboratory technician and I had the opportunity to study an HND, then a part time undergraduate degree and even the chance to study a part time PhD all while working for the University.

I transferred from technical staff to become an academic member of staff, where I had the chance to become Director of Teaching which I loved because there was a big focus on students and improving their time here. Other roles I have had the chance to take on were Associate Dean for Learning Enhancement in the Faculty of Science and my current role which is Vice Dean Academic for Science as well as Deputy Head of Department for Pure and Applied Chemistry and Director of the Centre for Forensic Science.

I think my record of staying with the University for 39 years says a lot about what this place has to offer!