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People :: Alumni :: (Jane) Susanna Kerr

Susanna Kerr

Susanna Kerr

Diploma in Social Administration 1971

Graduated: 1971

I chose Edinburgh University because I decided not to stay on at school and try for Oxford and my father was keen that I went to a Scottish University. I did a an honours degree in history and after marriage I then worked for various organisations including The Edinburgh and Leith Old People’s Welfare Council at Dalry House. This work encouraged me to think about a career in social work so I enrolled in the two year course at the Social Administration Department.

I had a gap of several years after finishing my history degree so I was really a mature student. I enjoyed not having the pressure to be having a tremendous social life, and like the other mature students I probably worked more intensely than the undergraduates.

It was exciting when the students revolted against the standard and emphasis of the teaching – in particular the stress on animal behaviour rather than human behaviour. I had never contemplated complaining about the standard of the teaching staff during my history degree!

The staff were very kind: especially Andrew Rowe - who always allowed us to eat during tutorials - Hans Werz and Susan Sinclair. I found the statistics course impossible but just scraped through.

My placements were in hospitals: East Fortune in East Lothian and the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh.

I enjoyed the hospital work but the supervision was not ideal: the East Fortune supervisor was seriously ill and died not long after I finished the placement, and in Edinburgh I was made to tell an elderly woman that her husband had died unexpectedly under the anaesthetic – not something any student should have been asked to do and it has haunted me ever since.

During that year I got pregnant with a long wanted child and did not take up any social work until working for many years with the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

When my daughter was 15, I applied for a job at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh where I worked as a curator for 19 years, retiring as a Senior Curator. For ten years after that I worked free-lance as a lecturer in Scottish Art and History and have just now retired fully. My experience at the Social Administration Department and the Citizens Advice Bureau really prepared me more for my gallery work than the history degree!

Source: own contribution (11.12.2016)