Senior Lecturer in Ecology and Environmental Science, Dr Nicky Hunter, is retiring from Harper after 28 years of service. In this blog, she looks back at her time at the university – and the moments she will remember most fondly.
Over the last 28 years, I have seen many changes on Harper, not only in its name and management but also in the widening of our courses and entry opportunities for students.
I started at what was then Harper Adams Agricultural College in 1993 as a Visiting Lecturer, teaching mainly Agriculture students about soils, water, and crop botany.
I eventually increased my hours and become full-time in Sept 2000 when I revalidated and took over the University Access Course – which is now the Extended Degree Programme.
Then, in 2007, I became a Course Tutor for the Countryside, Environment, and Geography suite of courses.
I have been proud to contribute to many initiatives, including my role as an elected staff governor for eight years, working with local schools, and managing the Children’s University on site.
I also developed the national REAP project, which involved teaching primary teachers about food and farming and how it could be integrated into all aspects of the curriculum.
Outside the academic field, I have enjoyed working with fellow colleagues in the past on the staff pantomime and staff reviews which were great fun. I also ran a large plant sale for many years to raise funds for Cancer Research and Severn Hospice.
My background is in ecology, wildlife, and conservation and this has been my passion to enthuse and encourage students interested in this area of the environment. I have been actively involved with my membership of a professional body The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) and was involved for many years on the education committee developing accreditation for Universities across the UK. Harper Adams was one of the first four HEI’s in the UK to gain accreditation which really helps with employment in our sector.
I have conducted several pedagogic research projects within Harper about student feedback and support and recently completed my Education Doctorate (EdD) at Keele University, researching the effectiveness of student support, which is of major interest to me for student progression in HE.
I am extremely proud to achieve many awards and professional recognition over the years, including many Aspire Awards from students and also externally as Educator of the Year from the Dyslexia Awards, Senior Fellow (HEA) and Recognised Senior Advisor from UKAT.
Whilst I have achieved many successes in my own 40-year career, my biggest satisfaction and rewards have been seeing the success of the students I teach and support and the fantastic careers they progress to after leaving Harper – graduate jobs I would have loved myself!
All our Environmental and Wildlife courses are accredited, are very applied and have the additional benefit of a year's work experience in the environmental sector. As a result, we have some of the most employable graduates in the UK
So, what makes HAU so good and what will I miss? – well the fantastic staff community and the great students. As a small HEI, we really get to know our students and can support both academic and personal issues well.
As for future plans – those that know me, know I do not sit still for long, so I have lots of plans on my bucket list post-Covid, which I hope will continue to include some academic advisory work and research, as well as my ongoing passion for wildlife survey work.
Some of Nicky’s many former students have also paid tribute to her and her work.
Andrew Barrett, who studied a BSc (Hons) in Wildlife Conservation, is now working towards an MSc in Ecology & Conservation, at Uppsala University. Sweden
“Nicky shared with all of us her absolute passion for wildlife and her interest in mammal conservation and research. With a kind heart, natural pastoral care, and always an open door, Nicky Hunter went beyond the role of tutor and educator to support us through the complications of university life. It is an end of an era, and Harper Adams will be at a loss without Nicky to lead the students of the Wildlife and Environment courses.”
Steph Poole, who studied a BSc (Hons) in Wildlife Conservation is now working as a Field Assistant at GVI: Seychelles
“Nicky has always been encouraging me to try new things and pursue what I love, which is marine work. Because of this, I can say that I have achieved a dream job as Field Assistant at GVI in Mahe, Seychelles to work on marine conservation. Nicky is wonderful, she is caring and kind and is always up for a chat, whether about a piece of work or something personal. I am sure Nicky will be missed at Harper, as she is one of the best lecturers they have.”