University of Portsmouth



Professor Sherria Hoskins

Sherria is currently the Dean of Science at the University of Portsmouth and for seven years before that she was the Head of Psychology.  Before beginning her degree in Psychology in 1991 she qualified as a Basic Adult Education tutor and taught adults leaving school without basic reading, writing and mathematics skills.  This was the beginning of her passion for understanding learning.

Her research (in nursery, school, college and university aged learners) takes a social cognitive approach to understanding how learner’s beliefs (e.g. implicit and self-theories) impact their learning behaviour (e.g. resilience, motivation, approach to learning and decision making) and academic outcomes.  She is specifically interested in whether we can influence those beliefs to positively impact learning.

Sherria’s research and innovation has been conducted with over 250 local, national, and European non-academic partners.  She is currently leading three high profile funded research projects, a HEFCE Learning Gain project, an EEF funded nationwide randomized control trial testing the impact of her mindset intervention on the character development and attainment of school pupils and the OfS Catalyst Changing Mindset project.  She has played a role in research teams generating over £10 million of research and innovation income.  As the lead researcher she has secured over £2 million of funding in the last four years. Sherria is also a Principal Fellow and National Teaching Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.


Dr Jessica Gagnon

Under the guidance of Professor Sherria Hoskins as Principle Investigator, Dr Jessica Gagnon will lead and manage the OfS Changing Mindsets project. Dr Jessica Gagnon is a Senior Research Fellow focused on higher education in the School of Education and Childhood Studies at the University of Portsmouth. She is an educational sociologist. She completed her PhD in February 2016 ;at the University of Sussex, earning an unconditional pass/no corrections. Jessica’s doctoral research was focused on the university experiences of the daughters of single mothers in the United Kingdom. She earned an MSc in Social Research Methods from the University of Sussex and an MA in Higher Education Administration from Santa Clara University, both with distinction. She completed her BA in English and Journalism with honours at Framingham State University. Jessica is a first-generation student from an American working-class, single mother family. She has worked in higher education in the US and UK for more than 15 years. In addition to her research, Jessica has taught at the undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral levels.

Dr Arif Mahmud

Arif is an affiliated researcher on the OfS Changing Mindsets Project. He had recently completed his PhD from Middlesex University, whereby his thesis focuses on the role of emotional intelligence in the development of adolescents’ social and emotional abilities and academic performance. His interest in the Changing Mindsets project stems from an interest in enhancing student’s mindsets but also in exploring the stereotype threat and unintentional bias that exist within the higher education system in the UK. Coming from an Asian, working class background he is keen to not only explore but also reduce the barriers BME and socio-economically disadvantaged students may have in their quest for success. Arif has worked in Higher Education in the UK and around the world for more than 5 years and has taught across undergraduate and postgraduate levels in Education and Psychology Departments. Arif is also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. 

Miss Motorola Deji-Fowokan

Motorola is the Project Administrator for the OfS Changing Mindsets Project. She is currently doing a Masters in Project Management and has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Law. From being an underachieving student to being awarded a certificate for being part of the top 10% of students with an outstanding performance at De Montfort University, Leicester, Motorola hopes to inspire other BME and socio-economically disadvantaged students by making them aware that intelligence is not fixed and everything you want to achieve begins in the mind. A famous quote she stands by is “There are no limits out here, the only limits are those that you impose upon yourself”. She is able to combine her experience and skills gained from her Masters course to provide administrative support for the Changing Mindsets Project. She is passionate about creating change to help close the attainment gap of BME and working class students in schools.

Miss Charley Bentley

Charley was the Project Administrator for the OfS Changing Mindsets Project. She recently graduated from University College London with a BSc in Psychology. Whilst studying her degree, Charley worked in recruitment and as a writing intern for a busy London start up company. Since graduating in 2016 Charley has worked as a freelance technical writer for a number of high profile clients in a variety of sectors, including: fintech, food and drink, education tech, business management, website development, fitness tech, and eCommerce. Charley is able to combine her knowledge of Psychology and her organisational skills to provide comprehensive administrative support for the Changing Mindsets project. Coming from a BME, mixed race background she is enthusiastic about being part of a project that aims to reduce the attainment gap of BME and working class students.


Mr Shane Thomson

I have always had a passion to support children aspire to be the best they can be. I firmly believe that everyone has a right to education. Growing up in South Africa I looked up to Mr Mandela who said, ‘education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. Since then, my interest in performance psychology has led me to explore the key ingredient that can support a positive mindset and motivation. I believe helping children to develop a growth mindset can help them unlock their dreams and potential. Committing time, research and workshops is an ambitious, innovative and exciting way to develop how we teach in schools across the UK. I am incredibly honoured to be part of this highly talented team. My role as a research associate is to carry out quantitative data analysis, support workshops and senior research associates.


Mr Dieunedort Wandji

Dieunedort Wandji is a Research Associate on the Changing Mindsets Project. Dieunedort is in the final year of his PhD in the School of Area Studies, History, Politics and Literature (SASHPL). Prior, he obtained a PGCE and a master’s at the University of Portsmouth. He had also been involved in various aspects of education advocacy and teaching over the past 15 years, both in Africa and in Europe. In 2010, he was appointed Project Coordinator for the Access to Knowledge (A2K) Programme in Cameroon. Dieunedort has also worked on the Priority Programme Team at Consumers International in London, focusing mainly on promoting financial literacy in developing countries.



University of the Arts London

Professor Susan Orr

Professor Susan Orr is Dean at University of the Arts London. Prior to this, Susan was an Assistant Dean for the Faculty of Arts, Computing, Engineering and Sciences at Sheffield Hallam University. Susan has recently been appointed as a Visiting Professor at Bournemouth University’s Centre for Excellence in Media Practice.

Susan studied at University College London and completed a Doctor of Education at the University of London’s Institute of Education. Her thesis Making Marks: the Artful Practice of Assessment in Fine Art explored fine art lecturers’ studio based assessment practices. She has written extensively on the subject of art and design assessment and her more recent work explores various aspects of art and design pedagogy in higher education. Susan is editor for the journal Art, Design and Communication in Higher Education, and on the editorial board of three further journals: Teaching in Higher Education, Writing in Creative Practice and Media Education Research Journal.

Susan is on the Executive of CHEAD (Council for Higher Education in Art and Design) and GLAD (Group for Learning in Art and Design). In 2010, Susan was awarded a Higher Education Academy National Teaching Fellowship. This was awarded in recognition of her teaching, leadership, research and contribution to art and design HE pedagogy. Additionally, in 2016 HEFCE appointed Susan as a member of the Teaching Excellence Framework panel. Susan is the sole representative of Arts Education on the Academic Panel, which comprises of 13 leading academics from universities across the UK.


Ms Lucy Panesar

Lucy Panesar joined the UAL Teaching and Learning Exchange in January 2017 as an Educational Developer (Diversity and Inclusion), after working for almost two years as an Academic Support Lecturer at the London College of Fashion. Before that she taught at the University of Creative Arts, where she first began to research cultural diversity and ethnic inequality in response to data highlighting the BAME attainment gap. Lucy’s interest in data relates to her work as a live artist, in which she has interrogated methods used to quantify complex social issues in the guise of her corporate alter-ego Felicity Mukherjee.


Ms Vikki Hill

Vikki has worked in arts education settings in London, Istanbul and Ho Chi Minh City, teaching a wide range of age groups. She is a moderator for Pearson and Trinity exam boards and has extensive experience of curriculum development.  Vikki has 11 years’ experience working at London’s largest sixth form in the city’s most ethnically diverse and deprived borough. She has taught, tutored and supported students who, in the main, come from Black Minority Ethnic (BME) and working class backgrounds, and has first-hand experience of the issues they face in successfully completing their studies, gaining high grades and progressing to HE. As both a teacher and manager, she has implemented the development of inclusive pedagogic practice by delivering relevant curricula for learners and fostering positive and secure environments to discuss issues of racism, whiteness and diversity. The Changing Mindsets project offers an exciting opportunity to consolidate knowledge of student experience by addressing key issues to close the attainment gap.


University of Brighton

Professor Gina Wisker

Professor Gina Wisker is the Head of the Centre for Learning and Teaching with interests in interactive learning and teaching, academic writing, postgraduate study and supervision. Her books include The Postgraduate Research Handbook, The Good SupervisorGetting Published. Gina is chief editor of the SEDA journal Innovations in Education and Teaching International, currently chair of the SEDA scholarship and research committee, chair of Contemporary Women’s Writing Association ,and previously was chair of the Heads of Educational Development Group and on the Society for Research in Higher Education Council.

Her pedagogic practice is based in learner-centredness, growing from working with learners in secondary school, further education, adult continuing education, Open University (OU) Cambridge university tutoring, undergraduate and postgraduate students at Anglia Ruskin and The University of Brighton. Gina’s research interests in higher education include: learning, teaching assessment, supervision and academic identities, writing for academic publication, international/global learning, widening participation and social justice.


Ms Jennifer Jones

Jennifer is experienced in researching the experiences of first year students and, in particular international students, in relation to student engagement and success. Her role will be to lead the University of Brighton research and evaluation aspect of this project. Methodologically, she is particularly interested in taking a qualitative and narrative approach to interviewing students and staff in this context. This will be alongside overseeing the circulation of the survey and sourcing institutional data.


Mrs Catherine McConnell

Catherine’s role within the Changing Mindsets project is to design and deliver training materials to the 130 student mentors on the PASS (Peer Assisted Study Sessions) scheme, and Course Teams, at the University of Brighton. She has planned to incorporate exciting and inspiring ‘Growth Mindset’ materials into the online and face to face training programme. As well as growth mindset, the training will continue to raise the mentors’ awareness of implicit bias and stereotype threat. These activities will help students to learn about the process of learning, and the potential for exploring new study strategies. The aim of embedding this into the mentoring scheme, is so that the students can confidently talk to their mentees about the concept of mindset, and instill an interest in learning how to learn across their course. She hopes this project will be both empowering, and resilience building for students in the university’s learning communities. Through the evaluation of the project, the team will look specifically at which students are engaging, and whether there has been any influence on their attainment.

Ms Jenny Terry

Jenny recently graduated from the University of Brighton with a First-Class honours degree in Applied Psychology and Sociology. During her studies, Jenny developed a passion for academia and psychological research, as well as a keen interest in student engagement and wellbeing. She was heavily involved in the PASS (Peer Assisted Study Sessions) scheme, via which Changing Mindsets will be delivered at Brighton. Jenny also founded a peer-to-peer support scheme for students with mild depression, ran an investigation into the associations between academic consumerism, motivation, and wellbeing, and undertook several Research Assistantships.

These experiences confirmed Jenny’s research interests in social-psychological approaches to mental health and wellbeing, particularly for disadvantaged and minority groups. These topics are what brought Jenny to the closely-aligned Changing Mindsets project, which further compliments her exploration of these areas in her concurrent post-graduate studies. Jenny’s responsibilities on the Changing Mindsets project include adapting, promoting, delivering, tracking, and evaluating the scheme at Brighton. Jenny is particularly excited to be working on an interdisciplinary intervention that brings together applied psychology, sociology, and education, and one that explicitly seeks to avoid the student deficit model.


University of Winchester

Mrs Paula Green

Paula is Head of Student Academic Support at The University of Winchester and joined the Changing Mindsets team as institutional lead in January 2019. Her role within the project builds upon her particular interests in how peer-led learning can enhance student engagement and transition – an interest which developed in both her academic study and professional work. As part of her previous role at the institution, she developed one-to-one academic skills mentoring schemes, as well as more recognised Peer Assisted Learning programmes. The latter of these schemes now embeds Changing Mindsets at Winchester. Paula was awarded her MA Philosophy of Education with Distinction from The University of Winchester in November 2017.


Ms Laura Watson

Laura has recently graduated from the University of Winchester having studied BA (Hons) Education Studies and is continuing at Winchester to complete a Masters in Philosophy of Education.

During her studies, Laura took on roles as an academic skills mentor as well as Peer Assisted Learning Leader, integrating this with Changing Mindsets. As a consequence of this work, she has developed an interest in Growth mindsets and how this can improve student wellbeing and learning. From July 2018, she joined the Changing Mindsets project team as Research Officer for the University of Winchester.

Laura’s experience as a mature student highlighted the benefits of peer learning for other students in similar situations and encouraged her to take on roles that helped students thrive at university. During cohort 1 of the Changing Mindsets project, she had an active role in devising and delivering workshops to one of the participating cohorts, which has equipped her to take on this new role.


Dr Karl Alvestad

Dr Karl Alvestad is an affiliated researcher for this project at The University of Winchester, completed his PhD in History at The University of Winchester in 2016 and has since been working in the Academic Skills Service and as a Hourly Paid Lecturer in History at the University of Winchester. His interest in the Changing Mindsets project stems from an interest in how students learn and how they become motivated as well as how this influences their attainment. These are challenges and themes he has encountered from his own teaching experience and from previous research into BME inclusive curriculums at The University of Winchester. Being a first generation student to Higher Education he is also interested in the barriers towards learning among students from non-traditional backgrounds, including international students. Karl’s role is to run the interventions and all related activities at Winchester.


Project Advisor


Professor Patricia Devine

Professor Patricia Devine is the Kenneth and Mamie Clark Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is serving as is the advisor to the project. Professor Devine’s research interests are closely aligned with the project’s goals, which has granted the team access to her invaluable expertise and guidance. Professor Devine’s research is specifically focused on how people manage the intrapersonal and interpersonal challenges associated with managing their own biases and addressing prejudice in society.