UCL Career Frameworks


Head of Student Support and Wellbeing

Natalie Humphrey, Head of Student Support and Wellbeing (Disability, Mental Health and Wellbeing)

Natalie Humphrey
I am one of the Heads of Student Support and Wellbeing responsible for The Disability Mental Health and Wellbeing Team. I joined UCL in November 2017, having worked for 2 previous universities, specifically within Disability Support. I joined as the Deputy Manager for the Disability and Specific Difficulties Team. A few months after joining my line manager resigned creating a vacancy. Her vacancy was amended slightly (made into a bigger role) and I got it. I acted up for a few months before applying and getting the job permanently. Before leaving my last university, I knew that I wanted to head up a service and progress through management. I came to this realisation after having some mentoring via a BAME staff development programme. Before Higher Education I worked within the community providing support to vulnerable adults via charities.

When I started my career, I did not know what I wanted to do. It took a few years to learn that I was interested in people and supporting people. I grew up around disability, substance misuse, homelessness and from this I have an interest in understanding how people get there and supporting them out of it. This led me to the first half of my career working in the community. From there I just progressed and took chances as they came to me. Moving into Higher Education started out because I thought I would get better holidays! However, it was the best career move I made. As I have developed in this part of my career, I have found an interest in management and strategy and developing services to enable support and success. My current role has a lot of this involved along with still being able to interact with and support students.

Training is great and there is a place for it; but where I have gained the most is through mentoring, effective management and networking. I like to talk about things, I like to be encouraged to find the answer and I like to get things done or give things a go. I recently attended coaching training, which I found incredibly helpful. It was a very practical programme and during it you are also coached (as practice for others). I also attended a Women in Leadership Programme at UCL and the opportunity to learn from the other women in the room and reflect on yourself as a Leader were meaningful. In terms of experience, for me the most valuable experience has come from dealing with extreme experiences. Experiences, such as the death of a student or service user, or the great success of a student or service user. A great success I remember is a homeless ex-gang member securing a job as an apprentice support worker and then securing a permanent home for themselves. From these experiences you reflect on what went well, what could have been done better and learn. You are rarely working on these cases in a silo, so you can also learn from others involved.

To constantly reflect and learn from yourself and those around you. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by a team of experts in their field and I learn from them, as well as sharing my knowledge and experience.

I think as a manager, in this area, I would say it is important to create a network. You might not have someone in the same role as you to act as a direct peer, but you might find people in the wider UCL community or sector community that can give you that peer to peer support. Management can be difficult, so having a network of peers is really important so you can debrief, support each other and learn from each other.

I am happy in my career at the moment. I have achieved my goal of heading a service and I am working more in strategy and service development. I think my goals now are around developing as a manager and my management style and to develop the wellbeing of my staff. At a university our primary business is to students and I think we can, as managers, be at risk of forgetting our duty or care to our staff.