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February 2012: Fiona Molloy
1990 Psychology and Sociology & Social Anthropology
What I am doing now:
I am a Contracts Manager for a counselling charity in Belfast which delivers a 24/7 crises helpline and services for those in crises or at risk of self harm or suicide. Wraparound services include counselling, creative therapy, complementary therapy and a befriending and mentoring service.
How did you get to where you are now?
When I left Keele it was a difficult economic climate and I spent a short while managing a pub in Kent. When I went back to Northern Ireland it took me a year to find a great job in the growing ‘peace and reconciliation’ sector. I was working for a Local District Council as a ‘Community Relations Officer’, organising projects and opportunities where people from both the Catholic and Protestant community could meet and discuss cultural or social issues or simply to socialise and to build relationships through cross community social events and projects. Significant public funding was being directed at consolidating the Peace Process after the 1994 ceasefires. I went on to work in European Peace Programme funding for over ten years after this, where cross community partnership boards made decisions on how funding was disbursed to projects within disadvantaged communities which encouraged collaboration across the community divide. Three years ago I made the move into the health sector in an effort to get closer to people and to support those with mental health issues (which are 20% greater in this region than in the UK, some believe because of the generation of conflict here).
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Five children from 19 years down to 21 months! My oldest son went to university in September 2011. He did consider Keele and that would have been great for me – but he followed his girlfriend to Kent!
And your biggest mistake?
Gosh, this is hard to say even if I did marry and then divorce an Englishman (joke, we are friends)! I don’t really believe in regrets. I believe that every experience is a learning opportunity that makes us into who we are, especially those which maybe don’t turn out as planned or expected.
What are your ambitions now?
I always thought, given my interest in psychology (… and my winning personality and ability to engage with others of course..!) that I should be working much more closely with people and even though this would not be a step up in career terms, I feel now it is where I would be happiest and most fulfilled. Therefore I will be undertaking some training to become a befriender and advocate for those at risk or with mental health problems. I might be able to combine this type of work with my present job.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?
In the counselling field in general you obviously have to have a deep concern and interest in the welfare of others. Even though I am not working on the frontline right now, everyone in the company is servicing the needs of those at risk, vulnerable or in difficulty in some way. You need empathy and compassion but you also need inner resilience as the trauma and the complexity of what goes on in the lives of others can be quite a shock. Most people need some kind of supervision or support in the form of personal therapy to work in this field and quite a bit of life experience helps also.
What made you choose Keele University?
I was from a very small parochial town in Northern Ireland and liked the idea of a campus university where I would certainly have accommodation on campus in the first year at least. I liked the idea that it was a smaller number of students than city universities and in a beautiful setting. It was close to two airports as well - for the commute home!
What kind of a student were you?
Let’s just say there wasn’t always the best balance between work and having fun! I was a (very) regular at the Union, the Golfers Arms, the Sneyd Arms, the Folk Club on Sunday nights etc. I had a lot of friends, especially from the International Community as I had arrived with these students early on. I was good at cramming and luckily I got a 2:1 but I am not necessarily recommending this approach!
Photo Left: Fiona at Keele with Sue Brooks (1990) and Ahmad Niszam Abbas (1991) from Singapore - the first time he saw snow!
How has Keele influenced your life?
Keele has influenced me in so many ways - it is part of who I am. Coming from a small place and with very little experience of the outside world before going to Keele my most important formative years were spent there; many of my formerly narrow attitudes were challenged and my horizons were well and truly broadened. It was hard to leave Keele behind and it lives on in many of my dreams - I am always there and happy.
What is your favourite memory of Keele?
So many to choose from! We had a formal ball and then a fancy dress ball where my best friend Sue Brooks and I dressed up as ‘Sexy Vampires!’ However we did have a ‘fake double marriage’ late one night in the dark outside the chapel where Sue and I ‘married’ two guys we were only just becoming friends with and we were ‘married’ by another friend who had strips of toilet rolls round our necks as if we were now tied together – I remember crazy stuff!
What is your impression of Keele now?
I have only been back once and this was some years ago. I imagine that everything is bigger: the campus and the numbers of students. I imagine also that it is less intimate than what I knew then. It certainly sounds like it has gone from strength to strength academically and in terms of recognition for its various achievements. I would love to get back there more - it might help with the catharsis from my dreams!
Anything else you would like to add?
I made good friends at Keele who I am still in touch with. The Keele years are the best years of your life!