“Have the courage and conviction to follow your passions,”
says Special Achiever and Alumnae, Robin Mansell ‘69
It is was with some excitement and a little trepidation that alumnae Robin Mansell ‘69 walked through the doors of York House to speak at this year’s Alumnae Day, where she was honoured as one of this year’s Special Achievers. It was the first time she had been to York House since graduating and she just wasn’t sure what to expect or what she would have to say. It turns out she had plenty of words of wisdom to share with alumnae and on October 3rd and 4th, she returned to the school to meet with faculty and staff, students, and parents.
A Yorkie “lifer”, Robin is a Professor of “New Media and the Internet in the Department of Media and Communication” at the London School of Economics (LSE) and was the first woman to become Interim Deputy Director and Provost at LSE. Her training spans several social science disciplines including psychology, social psychology, politics, and economics. Robin’s research and teaching focus on the governance of digital media and communications, the social, economic and policy issues arising from innovations in digital technologies, the interactions between technical design and the structure of markets, and sources of regulatory effectiveness and failure.
A central theme in her conversations with parents and students alike was how her York House experience has empowered her and prepared her for a career in education. She also shared her thoughts on what our graduates need to do, in today’s world, to be best prepared for their post-secondary studies. It was reassuring that so much of what she shared so closely aligns with the work that we are already doing at York House in support of teaching and learning.
At the Senior School student assembly on October 4th, Robin provided a snapshot of how she arrived at her career today and reminded students to trust in the fact that they are at one of the best schools to help them prepare for life, wherever that may take them. She also spoke directly to how our York House values will inform the decisions that they make throughout their lives.
On “courage”, she spoke about how shy she was a student and how the encouragement of her York House teachers gave her the courage to try new things and to be open to new opportunities. After completing her undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Manitoba and her master’s degree at Simon Fraser University, she took a break from academia and joined a consultancy firm based here in Vancouver. Teaching was not yet on her radar. From there, she was offered an opportunity to work with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris. In this international role, she soon discovered the importance of engaging effectively with people from other cultures, and having the conviction to know that you can achieve what you want if you are well prepared. She returned to SFU to complete her Phd but was soon drawn back to Europe where she joined the University of Sussex in the UK in 1994 as a professor, followed by the London School of Economics in 2001. Discovering each of these opportunities is something that Robin attributes to the courage she developed at York House.
Robin defined “responsibility” as the ability to make a commitment and follow through on that commitment. When she was tasked by the OECD with developing an international report on the impacts and governance issues that societies face today as a result of an information society, she led a steering committee with representatives from 35 countries. She had to have the conviction to carry through on this responsibility. Navigating different cultures and divergent views was not easy, but it was her sense of responsibility that fueled her desire to persevere.
In their post-secondary careers, especially for those studying abroad, Robin emphasized that students will also need to have the capacity to have both “respect” and “empathy” for different political and cultural viewpoints. As an example, students from close to 170 countries attend the London School of Economics each year. There are multifaceted differences and students need to consider how they can best demonstrate respect and empathy within this new community of peers and educators.
Robin ended her remarks with a few questions for our Senior School students to think about as they make the transition from York House to a university environment where they can sometimes feel anonymous. She asked the girls to think about: “How do you bring with you the communication skills that you have learned here? How do you manage a situation that erupts on social media?” Students were reminded that they don’t have to stay silent and there is always someone to reach out to.
For both university and life, she asked students to keep three things top of mind:
- Keep alive your intellectual curiosity;
- Learn to listen carefully and process what you hear – communication skills are critical; and
- Exercise resilience. Try and try again. Always remember the chances and opportunities that you have.