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Emeritus Professor Wendy Dossett.

Here Wendy and colleagues discuss the aims and impact of her work and how she has broken with tradition in taking the title.

Dr Wendy Dossett from the Department of Theology and Religious Studies researches the spirituality of people in recovery from addictions. Her work has recently achieved considerable profile following her contribution to the ground-breaking BBC 2 documentary I’m an Alcoholic: Inside Recovery. Closer to home, she has led on the University’s journey towards becoming a Recovery Friendly University, which reached a significant milestone on March 6, 2023, with the signing of the Recovery Friendly University Pledge

Unfortunately, however, Wendy suffered a heart-attack in April. While she’s making a good recovery and plans to continue her research and advocacy work, she has nonetheless been advised by clinicians to retire from the University for health reasons.

On receiving the sad news about her retirement, the University determined that she should nonetheless receive a new title which reflected the significance of her public engagement work during the last decade.

The Acting Joint Head of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Dr Ben Fulford said: “It’s wonderful to see Wendy’s achievements marked with a professorial title. Her research, expertise, activism and public engagement work have been ground-breaking and widely recognised by practitioners, governments, campaigning organisations, and academic specialists, as well as by the panel for Theology and Religious Studies of the Research Excellence Framework 2021. She has been a brilliant and much-valued colleague and we are delighted to continue our association with her.”

Professor Wayne Morris, Associate Dean of Postgraduate Research Studies added: “Through Wendy’s work, it has been my privilege to encounter and learn from world-leading experts on addiction recovery as well as many diverse people in recovery themselves. I have seen the difference her research has made on how we imagine addiction and recovery, the impact this has had concretely on the lives of people in recovery and others around them, as well as on policy and practice. Her work embodies the transformative power of religious studies scholarship and I could not think of anyone more deserving of this recognition.”

Retired professors who, like Wendy, identify as female, usually take the title “Professor Emerita”, but Wendy has asked the University if she could break from that tradition and be referred to instead as “Professor Emeritus”.

Wendy said: “I’ve had the privilege of a gender-free courtesy title since achieving my doctorate in 1997. Both ‘Dr’ and ‘Professor’ are gender neutral. It seems very strange that my gender should, for no obvious reason, suddenly become foregrounded at the point of my retirement. These days we prefer “actor” over “actress” for women in the acting profession because it signals parity of status. I feel similarly about my post-retirement professorial title. I’m grateful that the University understands my view and will call me Professor Emeritus. I totally support anyone who feels the Emerita title is important for gender visibility. My decision was not an easy one to make, because there are compelling feminist arguments on both sides. But I hope that my break with tradition may at least give people the opportunity to think about the ways that our titles embody and enact power dynamics.”

Wendy outlined her thinking in a short essay which has today been published on the Times Higher Education website at:

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Theology and Religious Studies