Staff Stories: Alfonso Pezzella

Alfonso Pezzella is Senior Graduate Academic Assistant in the Department of Mental Health, Social Work and Integrative Medicine. Himself a Middlesex graduate, he works with BA and MA students on social work research, as well as helping students with simulated learning, communication and intercultural skills.

An ambitious tutor and researcher, Alfonso hopes to pursue a PhD and progress his teaching career in academia. He has a particular research interest in LGBT issues.

What inspired you to start teaching after you graduated?

It’s my passion – I have a real love for research methods and quantitative research. I like to inspire my students to appreciate research as well. Social workers and nurses often think it’s not needed, but it’s very relevant to their practice. Their research skills will impact the progression of their profession as a whole.

What do you enjoy most about working with students at Middlesex?

I love it; being young and a recent graduate gives me the opportunity to bond with students. They see me as one of them. I feel that they listen to me and take me seriously, but they’re also not afraid to come up and ask me anything, because they know I’ve been through the same things they are going through.

In mental health and social work in particular, students appreciate the support we give them. Because the programmes are professional-based and most students are out in practice for 50% of their course time, they often need support with their studies. I get to help them with the academic side of things.

What’s it like to work for the Department of Mental Health, Social Work and Integrative Medicine? What makes the Department stand out as a place to work and study?

It’s a great and diverse department, with people from a variety of backgrounds – social workers, nurses, psychologists and service users. It’s a vibrant environment.

Incorporating the service user element into our teaching is very important to the work we do. In social work, we engage people who have been in foster care, for example, and involve them in teaching and exams. We also involve mental health patients who are managing their condition, and give them the opportunity to help with teaching and research on the course.

Other universities have service user involvement, but we let the service users teach and do research for us. The students love it; it gives them first-hand experience and provides extra insight from people who have been in situations with which students will be dealing every day. It provides a different perspective. You can teach someone about a condition, but you never know how the person experiencing that condition really feels. So it’s beneficial to have someone there explaining it to you.

In mental health, we’re also one of the few universities to offer training in prevention and management of violence and aggression (PMVA). This is such an important skill for our students to have, to safeguard patients as well as themselves.

What would you say to someone thinking of studying at Middlesex University?

I always tell my students to get involved with the social side on campus. There are many active societies for mental health and social work students, such as lectures and events. It’s so important to bond and interact with people on your course, as they become your support network when you need them most. I found that during my studies, academically everything was great, but especially as a foreign student I really needed that support.

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