Teneille Humphris

'UC has a great sense of camaraderie amongst its postgraduate students...'

  • Teneille humphris

Bachelor of Arts in History with a minor in Philosophy

Bachelor of Arts with Honours in History and Philosophy of Science

Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours in History and Philosophy of Science

Master of Arts with Distinction in History and Philosophy of Science

Policy and Communications, Smart Energy GB, London

Museum Officer, Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret, London

As she embarks on an exciting career working on the largest public engagement and behaviour change campaign in a generation in Great Britain, Teneille is quick to recommend a UC Arts degree as a great way to develop skills for working life.

‘I currently work in Policy and Communications for Smart Energy GB, which is a not-for-profit organisation aiming to get more people engaged with their energy use and the rollout of smart meters – ultimately, this will help everyone in Great Britain to reduce their energy consumption and carbon emissions,’ she says. ‘We aim to transform the way that everyone understands energy use so that we can all work together to tackle climate change, and reduce the impacts of fuel poverty.’

‘Working to tackle climate change in this way, by making people more aware of their energy use and how they can reduce this using new technologies, is very fulfilling. It's a great office in central London, and I work with an amazing, knowledgeable, creative, and very dedicated team of people.’

Teneille’s particular passion for medical history also landed her a job of a lifetime within the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret in London.

‘We’re a small museum in the roof space of St Thomas’s Church in Southwark, London, and have Europe’s oldest operating theatre as well as a historic herb garret where the apothecary of St Thomas’s Hospital used to cure herbs for medicinal use.

‘I first visited the museum in 2011, and decided that one day I'd like to work there - after finishing my MA at UC. I visited the museum upon returning to the UK and was so fortunate to have a series of coincidences enable me to start working there almost straight away. I spoke with the curator, and told her about my MA thesis, which focused on knowledge of infectious diseases in eighteenth century Britain. By chance, she had been looking to hire someone with my specific knowledge base.

‘Lately, I’ve been researching the museum’s old poison bottles, our surgical instruments from the pre-anaesthetic era, and a skeleton. We then use this information to support our visitors’ learning and engagement with the history of medicine. It’s particularly rewarding to talk with children, and show them how medicine has changed over time, and about how they might’ve experienced life in London in the eighteenth century.

‘Throughout my university years, working at a place like this museum was an absolute dream – nothing like it existed in New Zealand, and it is so atmospheric and informative.’

When she first started university, Teneille intended to study History, and she chose UC because of the reputation of its History department. Her plans soon changed, however.

‘Without much forethought, I took a first-year course in Philosophy, which changed everything. I found the puzzles presented by Philosophy to be very challenging and extremely interesting. It enabled me to see the world differently, while giving me the opportunity to learn about topics I never knew I was interested in. Philosophy is an excellent choice for the insatiably curious.

‘There was a small interdisciplinary programme called History and Philosophy of Science (HAPS), which integrated courses from different departments and colleges. I was able to combine my enduring passion for history with my new interest in solving philosophical problems.’

Teneille says that one of the best things about her Arts degree was how easy it was to combine a wide range of courses. ‘Despite my background in the humanities, I was able to take courses in Astronomy and Mathematics to supplement my Arts education. I found the lecturers in those subjects to be very welcoming and supportive of my foray into the sciences.

‘The enthusiasm of the lecturers was generally inspiring – their passion was visible in the way they handled their classes.’

Following her honours study, Teneille went on to complete a master’s degree by thesis.

‘As a postgraduate student, one of the most rewarding things was the support and encouragement of other research students. UC has a great sense of camaraderie amongst its postgraduate students.’

Teneille has held some interesting jobs. She took time out from her studies to work in the UK, in the emergency department at London’s Charing Cross Hospital. ‘I was told that I got the job because I was studying the “history of medicine”, but as soon as a patient handed me his severed finger in a teacup, I knew that this was not your ordinary history and philosophy graduate role!’

She also worked as a teaching assistant at UC’s Department of Philosophy. ‘I loved tutoring – the students were just as passionate about Philosophy as I was. In the beginning, I bribed them well with coffee and biscuits, but then they started staying behind to solve epistemological problems after the tutorials were over.’

Teneille’s other roles have included working in the Department of Internal Affairs in Wellington, working as a Registrar, and also a role with MBIE (INZ) at New Zealand House in London.

Teneille adds: ‘I’ve often heard people doubt the job opportunities that Arts graduates have. Now I have the opportunity to speak from experience, and I haven’t had any problems. There are ample networking opportunities at UC through seminars, conferences, clubs, and open days. It’s just about making the most of your time there.’

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