Alumni Profile: Karen Trew
I enrolled as a student in the Psychology Department in October 1961 and almost sixty years later I am still working part-time here as an Honorary Associate.
Professor George Seth (the founding head of the Department) addressed my first psychology lecture which involved so many students that it was held in the Whitla Hall.
Four years later, after I had graduated (and had married John Trew), Prof. Seth became supervisor of my doctoral research. I completed my doctorate in five years with informal help offered by fellow students and staff.
The Department occupied splendid houses in Lennoxvale until 1993 when we moved to the David Keir Building. Staff had smaller offices there, but we shared access to greenhouses on the flat roof in which some green-fingered staff grew tomatoes, peppers and salad veg which often enhanced lunch fare in the staff coffee room where we socialised downstairs.
Over my 31 years as a member of the academic staff, I enjoyed the collegiality of the University and the ethos of the School; my teaching and research developed via close collaboration with colleagues. The division of tasks reflected staff enthusiasm and ability. We all benefitted from Dave Hale’s early adoption of state-of-the art Apple computers on our desks and in the labs. Research and innovative teaching were fostered by supportive management from Professor Ken Brown. Subsequent Heads also maintained this supportive tradition at a time when academic life was becoming increasingly constrained by prescriptive codes and expectations.
My first research collaboration was with Liz McWhirter. We met as we waited to be interviewed for what turned out to be two lectureships. Soon after, we worked together to examine the psychological and social impact of the Troubles on children and young people in Northern Ireland. The timely nature of the research led us to be featured on television as well as producing a range of publications. Liz later joined the increasing number of Queen’s psychologists working in the civil service.
My other research collaborations included:
- John Kremer, in researching and teaching topics associated with the psychology of gender and sports psychology;
- Irene Turner, in a ten-year project exploring the progress of mathematics from 6 to 16;
- Noel Sheehy, Harry Rafferty and Carol McGuinness, in a longitudinal evaluation of the impact of early years interventions;
- Evanthia Lyons and Chris Cohrs on political participation as part of a large European project; and
- Orla Muldoon and Clifford Stevenson on the role of social identity on intergroup relations — as well as young people’s food preferences!
Nowadays, Professor Rhiannon Turner and her colleagues in the Centre for Identity and Intergroup Relations (CIIR) continue to work collaboratively, internationally as well as nationally, in order to relate academic scholarship in the areas of social and political psychology to key challenges facing individuals, groups and societies. I aim to incorporate their activities as part of my ongoing efforts to record the history and development of social psychological research in Northern Ireland.