Originally studying languages to progress his scientific career, Tim Heenan (BA European Studies, 2015; MA French Studies, 2020) didn’t know those lessons would pay dividends for years to come. At 71, Tim’s putting his research skills to good use in supporting his local community.
Tell me about your journey to Warwick
I originally graduated as a scientist back in the 1960s. When I started working internationally, I realised I needed more languages to communicate with my suppliers. Having taken courses in French, Italian, German, and Japanese, I ended up at Warwick on a part-time degree in European Studies. After graduating, I retired from full-time work and returned to Warwick. I started a master’s degree in French Studies and submitted my thesis in 2020.
What are your fondest memories from your undergraduate degree?
I have plenty! Attending my Research Methods course. Researching for my thesis on French adult education (my thesis was on mature student university studies in France). Being part of URSS (Undergraduate Research Support Scheme) and doing a Summer Research Project, gaining a grant to visit Blaise Pascal University in Clermont-Ferrand in central France to research their adult education process for a week. Presenting my research to an audience of a few hundred people back at Warwick.
How did you find the Master's degree? What did you take away from it?
Difficult. I had to organise putting both my parents into care and deal with their subsequent deaths during this period. However, I really enjoyed making visits to various archives in Paris to research some fairly obscure studies on the French anti-nuclear protest movement, and going through copies of local newspapers reporting protest meetings in the Centre Pompidou Library. I learned interviewing skills, how to reference and organise large documents, as well as gaining a significant understanding of French post-war government and anti-nuclear protest. Dealing with French bureaucracy meant developing a completely different mindset. These are skills that have come in very handy.
What are you doing now?
After retiring, I became a Parish Councillor in my village. My main job was putting together a Neighbourhood Plan, which is a legal planning document that governs the planning and development of our parish over the next 20 years. The skills I learned on the Research Methods course at Warwick were invaluable in setting up all the research projects I needed to complete the plan, ranging from historical to wildlife, transport, and housing needs. So, although I am not using my Warwick degrees in a career capacity, I am putting the skills I learnt there to good use to serve my community.
What does the future hold for you, Tim?
I would have liked to follow my Master’s with a PhD, but unfortunately Covid put paid to that. After five years of work on our Neighbourhood Plan – that will control planning and development for our village for the next 20 years – it’s close to being presented to a local referendum and being adopted by our local authority. Overseeing this will occupy me for at least the next ten years. By that time, I’ll be 82 and probably easing off a bit!
"So, although I am not using my Warwick degrees in a career capacity, I am putting the skills I learnt there to good use to serve my community.”