UCL News


Spotlight on Tessa Trabue

17 October 2017

This week the spotlight is on Tessa Trabue, Executive Assistant, UCL Knowledge Lab, UCL Institute of Education.

Tessa Trabue

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am Executive Assistant to Professor Rose Luckin in her role as Director of the EDUCATE project. EDUCATE is an exciting new UCL led partnership with Nesta, F6S and BESA, match funded by the European Regional Development Fund, which helps London-based EdTech SMEs and start-ups further develop the quality of their educational products and grow their businesses. It also provides opportunities for teacher and researcher entrepreneurs to develop their own EdTech initiatives. We achieve this by bringing them together with experienced academic researchers and business entrepreneurs through a rigorous six month training programme. The first cohort of EdTech companies started in June 2017, and we welcomed our second cohort at the beginning of September.  

EdTech companies' unique area of expertise in EDUCATE cohorts ranges broadly including Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality(VR)/Augmented Reality(AR) at all levels of education from early childhood to higher education, social media and learning management platforms. We are actively encouraging UCL IoE academic staff who have interest and expertise in these areas to get in touch and apply to become an EDUCATE mentor to one of these companies. This will be a mutually beneficial relationship as the EdTech company will benefit from the academic's expertise, and the academic researcher will benefit from developing an ongoing relationship with the company for various opportunities including research project collaborations, impact case studies, high impact publications, and consultancy agreements.

My role as Executive Assistant for Rose mainly involves organising her very busy schedule - arranging boards, committees and other meetings with externals, researching conference arrangements including travel, organising interviews, booking rooms and catering, and helping out team members with ad hoc admin tasks. It also involves helping plan big events, like our upcoming Educate project launch, which is very exciting too. Our team is based at the UCL Knowledge Lab, which is a fantastic place to work.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I've been working at the UCL Institute of Education since April 2016, although it feels much longer! Prior to working for Prof Luckin I was an Executive Assistant in the IOE Directorate, supporting Professors Sue Rogers and Norbert Pachler. Before coming to UCL I worked as a diary secretary for an MP in the Shadow Cabinet at the House of Commons, which was amazing. Having no political background (apart from grassroots campaigning) it felt very special to be there. It was certainly an eye-opening experience.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

In my free time I am a campaigner for Let Toys Be Toys, an award-winning social media campaign that challenges gendered marketing to children in the toy, publishing and advertising industries, as well as offering resources to schools and early year settings for challenging gender stereotypes. I joined the campaign shortly after it formed, being made aware of the issue by starting to witness the negative effects gendered marketing was having on my then 6 year old son. When the campaign started in 2012, our first survey revealed gendered signs in 50% of toy stores across the UK. Our campaign has achieved success in convincing 14 major retailers to take down the gendered signs in the toy aisles, and our most recent survey at the end of 2016 revealed virtually no gendered signs in any toy shops across the UK.

When I joined the campaign I particularly wanted to do something about gendered books, and in 2014 I helped found our Let Books Be Books campaign. I'm really proud that this has also seen great success, with over 10 UK children's book publishers agreeing to no longer publish gendered titles. We have attracted support from several prominent authors for this campaign, as well as from politicians and celebrities for the Let Toys Be Toys campaign more widely.

As well as calling out problematic issues in marketing, Let Toys Be Toys also wanted a way of promoting and celebrating retailers that were getting it right in terms of marketing inclusively to kids, so in 2013 I also helped found our Toymark award scheme. To date we have awarded over 50 toy stores, museum shops, bookshops and bike retailers across the UK, with many more on our waiting list to be assessed.

What initiative or project are you currently working on?

I am part of a small team at Let Toys Be Toys who are currently working on a new initiative to get resources for challenging gender stereotypes to teachers across the UK. Although the girls and boys signs are down in the toy aisles, children are still surrounded with gender stereotypes through a variety of mediums - advertising, comments from parents and other children, and unfortunately sometimes in schools themselves. These messages not only limit children's interests from an early age, meaning that they miss out on a chance to develop a wide variety of skills and interests, but research also shows that children develop fixed ideas about what careers might be suitable for them by ages 8 or 9, and that after this time these beliefs become hard to shift. Not only that, but as illustrated in the recent BBC2 documentary about a class of 7 and 8 year olds, gender stereotypes also have a detrimental effect on self-esteem and confidence in girls, and on emotional development in boys. Our aim is to raise awareness of the limiting effects of these stereotypes in schools throughout the nation, and ensure that teachers and other school staff have the knowledge of how to challenge these stereotypes and embed good practice throughout all areas of the curriculum.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

That is a completely impossible question! This week my answers are:

Album: Charlatans' Some Friendly

Film: Moonlight

Novel: A Reckoning by May Sarton

What is your favourite joke?

Don't really know any so asked my 11 year old for one:

What did the proton say to the electron?

Why do you always have to be so negative?!

Who would be your dream dinner guests

My ideal dinner party would be a Long Table event, hosted by the creator Lois Weaver herself. Dream guests at this table of 12 to start the discussion going would include Alison Bechdel, Angela Davis, Aziz Ansari, Bettina Aptheker, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Obamas, Peggy Shaw, Gloria Steinem, and a couple of my favourite feminist MPs.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Not to waste so much time worrying, as life experience has proven that most things I worried about never happened, and those that did were out of my control anyways!

What would it surprise people to know about you?

That despite not being able to sing or play any musical instrument I still harbour a secret ambition to be in a rock band. Some sort of Breeders/Sleater Kinney/Bikini Kill fusion. Any aspiring riot grrls please get in touch!

What is your favourite place?

Any good coffee spot in London whiling away an afternoon with my wife.