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Alison Dunn

Career Path: Chief Executive Officer, Citizens Advice Gateshead
Location: UK

The alleviation of poverty, disadvantage and inequality are the threads that flow through all my work and volunteering. Having found my way to Citizens Advice Gateshead and witnessing first hand the systemic inequalities and hardships faced by so many, it was impossible to look away. I've dedicated my career, my time, and my volunteering to causes which speak to this agenda.

As a volunteer, I am the Chair of VONNE (Voluntary Organisation Network North East), a Commissioner for the Gateshead Poverty Truth Commission, and alongside my work as CEO of Citizens Advice Gateshead I am an Executive Director for Society Matters Community Interest Company, which is a subsidiary of the charity, providing a profile and platform to influence regionally and nationally. 

What are you doing now?

Working and volunteering in the charitable sector Alison Dunn

What was it about Northumbria that made you decide to study here?

Studying at Northumbria on a part-time basis allowed me to continue to work, to earn a living and to raise a family whilst still striving to achieve my own personal goals. I came to Northumbria as a mature student, I already had commitments and the more traditional student experience wasn't an option for me. The opportunity to study day release over a two year period made everything possible for me, and opened up some great friendships, learning and opportunities. 

What was it like studying at Northumbria?

I really enjoyed my time at Northumbria University. Up until this point most of my post school education has been done at a local night school or via an open learning course, so to come back to a more traditional learning environment was great. My course was part-time, day release, one day a week, and because of that the mixture of people, their experiences, and backgrounds was very diverse, and I created to some great friendships during my time there.

How connected was your course with industry?

I enjoyed my learning, my lectures were interesting, my lecturers had very practical and relevant experience of their topics, but I am also glad I was working in the industry at the same time because it brought it to life for me in a very real way. I could immediately take what I was learning and put it in to practice, in some cases the very next day. That really appealed to my learning style.

If you took on a placement during your course how did you feel this helped you in your career/ with your studies?

I worked during my course, so I felt like I was always on placement! 

What was the best thing about your course?

For me the best thing about the course was being able to take what I was learning and immediately put it in to practice. My course was part-time, one day per week, and I was working in the industry for the other four days so this really appealed to my learning style, and helped me to gain experience, confidence and promotion in my work place. I also really enjoyed the experience of meeting other learners and created some great friendships. I had a lot of fun, as well as lots of learning.

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals/ give your career an edge?

Because I was part-time, one day per week, I could immediately put in to practice what I was learning so by the time the course was finished I had a lot of very practical experience to share with prospective employers. Other students who perhaps had taken a more traditional route, had a comparable qualification but didn't have my practical experience so this definitely felt like an edge when seeking opportunities

Which skills/knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now throughout your career?

Apart from the very obviously practical and theoretical learning that I did, I learned a lot about people, about their motivations, goals, dreams and reasons for studying whilst working, raising a family etc. We prioritise what we value, and finding the time to study at this level, with so many other things going on, is not easy, but it is definitely worth it.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Northumbria University?

I enjoyed feeling part of something, I came to Northumbria as a mature student and I worried I'd stick out like a sore thumb, but there were lots of people like me at the University, and I felt welcome, valued and stretched all of the time.

What advice would you give somebody who is thinking of studying at Northumbria?

The university is a vibrant place, its full of great people doing great things, it is welcoming and challenging all the same time. As a mature student, studying part-time, I received lots of help and support to succeed. My lecturers were cognisant of my life outside of the University, their expectations of me were reasonable, but not too forgiving - they still kept me to task! 

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in three words?

Kind. vibrant and fun. 

For more information about me visit:

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