UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology


Dr Caroline Selai profiled in Women at UCL: Presence and absence exhibition

8 March 2016

We are delighted to announce that Dr Caroline Selai, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Neuroscience, and Head of the Education Unit, UCL Institute of Neurology, has been nominated and chosen as one of the 24 “inspiring women” at UCL to be profiled in the exhibition Women at UCL: Presence and absence, which will run in North Cloisters from 7th – 31st March 2016.

“I am absolutely delighted to have been nominated and selected for inclusion in the exhibition of Inspiring Women, UCL, to be opened by The Provost on 9th March, 2016...” Dr Caroline Selai

Photographs profiling women working across the university will also feature in the show, celebrating the diversity of UCL’s female staff and UCL’s achievements in being awarded an institutional Athena SWAN Silver Award.

We interviewed Dr Selai to ask her more about her nomination and her roles in Queen Square and across UCL.

Tell us about the forthcoming exhibition and your nomination as an ‘inspiring woman’

"UCL recently sent out a call to all staff and students asking all to nominate an ‘inspiring woman’. I was put forward and was selected (along with a small number of other people) from over 200 nominations.

Amongst my many roles at UCL (Senior Lecturer, Tutor, Researcher, etc) this nomination related in particular to my voluntary role at UCL since 2000/2001, facilitating informal resolution of inter-personal issues amongst the staff and student body. I am currently a Dignity at Work Advisor (DWA) and Co-director of UCL Cultural Consultation Service (CCS)

I see staff and students for individual consultations, larger groups, teams, departments and faculties across UCL. The presenting issues, which might be complex and long-standing, may include features such as mental health and/or inter-cultural issues, personality, gender, power, hierarchies, authority, leadership and hitherto unarticulated assumptions and expectations.

I have developed a number of bespoke interventions using a combination of psychological approaches e.g. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), educational strategies e.g. small-group interactive workshops, one-to-one and/or team coaching and group mediation. International requests for consultancies have come from India and China".

Is there a particular woman who has inspired you during your career?

"Many people have inspired me but if I had to choose one it would be Professor Jane Dacre, now President of the Royal College of Physicians, who was my mentor and a great source of support and encouragement to me and many women at UCL".

How do you, in turn, aim to inspire and encourage your students and colleagues?

"It is difficult to answer this question briefly..! As Head of the ION Education Unit, I am in a position of leadership, (i) for the colleagues in our immediate team, (ii) for a much larger pool of colleagues at ION and the wider UCL community and (iii) for our students. There is a lot of literature on leadership styles and ‘impact’. I am to facilitate, mentor, coach, encourage and empower my colleagues and students to achieve the very best that they are capable of.

In addition to being academic head of the ION Education Unit, I am Co-director of: (i) MSc in Clinical Neuroscience; (ii) MSc Clinical Neurology; (iii) PG Diploma in Clinical Neurology; (iv) MSc Neurology for Clinical Trainees; (v) UCL Diploma in Clinical Neurology via Distance Learning; (vi) the Dual Masters in Brain and Mind Sciences (I am also chair of the exam board for this programme); (vii) MSc/MRes Stroke Medicine; (viii) MSc/MRes Neuromuscular medicine. I was involved in designing the (ix) MSc in Advanced Neuroimaging and I am on the committee for the (x) MRes in Brain Sciences. I have also mentored staff who are developing new MSc programmes e.g. the new MSc Dementia (2016/17)".  

Can you tell me more about your role in championing education at the UCL Institute of Neurology?

"When I got my half-time post, co-directing the MSc Clinical Neuroscience (nearly 16 years ago) I was the only member of academic staff at ION whose core post specifically related to teaching. I was given a free rein plus support and encouragement to continue my own professional development through training courses at UCL and beyond – and to bring back and implement recommendations. I was the first member of ION to become a member of the Institute of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (ILTHE) which was a forerunner of the Higher Education Academy (HEA).

Two very early initiatives I introduced were the introduction of small-group interactive seminars for our MSc students and training our PhD students to tutor the MSc students (peer-tutoring). I was later invited by Professor Jane Dacre to become a Faculty Sub-Dean for Postgraduate Education. I represent the ION on various UCL committees. I have mentored and trained countless staff and students. I continue to ‘champion’ education at every opportunity, and was awarded a Provost’s Teaching Prize in 2007".

What impact do you feel the Institute's commitment to the Athena SWAN charter has made to the experience of staff and students in Queen Square?

"The Athena SWAN Charter was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research.

I think we have seen a number of positive, incremental changes at ION. We have collectively become aware of the roles and careers opportunities for women academic/research/professional support staff. Our commitment to the Athena Swan Charter has encouraged us all to think more broadly about gender issues and the impact of these issues on career development. It is great that we are talking about the issues. Not so very long ago, we did not have discussions about ‘gender’. Now these issues are on the table, we are collecting data, we are having a conversation!"

Further information

Image: Dr Caroline Selai and Chinese student Sally Zou in the ballroom of the Grosvenor House, Park Lane at the invitation of the High Commissioner of India for the Republic Day Reception on Friday, 29 January 2016

Caroline and Sally gratefully acknowledge support from UCL Grand Challenges; they were recently awarded a 'Grand Challenges UCL 2034' small grant.