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Looking for inspiration? – Meet Sue Cook

Looking for inspiration? – Meet Sue Cook

Naked Leader Week 814 – 25 March 2019

Time to Read: 3 minutes

Looking for inspiration? – Meet Sue Cook

This month for our Leader Feature, Clive Barrett speaks with Sue Cook, cancer survivor and Chief Examiner for Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at the University of the Arts London Awarding Body (UALAB) – 

SUE COOK has climbed to the top of the ladder in education despite needing to overcome the most severe of obstacles.

How fitting that her surname should be the same as one of the world’s most difficult mountains to conquer on foot.

Those who have ventured up to New Zealand’s loftiest peak may be said to have shown admirable courage although nothing like on a scale that Sue has shown in dealing with a devastating cancer prognosis while maintaining a rising career.

Courage is her middle name.

Sue credits valuing relationships, connecting with people and collaboration with colleagues – working as a team to find the best outcomes – as vital to success in business. Just as collaboration with her consultant and doctors helped her overcome the crushing curveball life threw at her.

Sue from Wrightington, near Wigan, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in 2008 while Head of Art and Design at Winstanley College. Her survival chances beyond five years were rated at 40%.

She celebrated her five-year-in-remission milestone by having a tattoo printed across her chest to hide her Mastectomy scars. Incredibly, ten years on, she is now shaping the future of Education in Art and Design for young people

For the past three years she has been Chief Examiner for Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at the University of the Arts London Awarding Body (UALAB), having continued on a spiralling career pattern despite gruelling treatment.

Part of her senior role is to provide expert advice, subject knowledge and academic input to the design, development, delivery and assessment of UAL Awarding Body qualifications, including, but not limited to, qualifications at Level 3 and Level 4 Foundation Diploma in Art and Design.

Working closely with the Head of Academic Standards, Director and Deputy Director and the Head of Quality and Operations of UAL Awarding Body, her role also includes responsibility for recruiting, training and leading a team of Senior Moderators and External Moderators across a range of qualifications.

That’s not all. Amazingly, she has recently re-written the Foundation Diploma in Art and Design qualification, including the qualification specification and delivery guidance. ‘We have eight first delivery centres currently delivering the new qualification before it rolls out to the rest of our 110 Foundation Art and Design Centres from September 2019,’ says Sue, proudly.

‘It was both challenging and exciting to shape and influence developments nationally.’

She continues: ‘I didn’t apply for my current role until after my cancer diagnosis and treatment. Maybe I wasn’t ready before I had learnt more about myself. I think my prognosis meant I discovered I could become confident that I could get through this setback.

“I could be creative in how I managed and got through each day, one at a time. My creativity meant that I could transport myself out of the cancer bubble that takes over every waking moment of life.

‘I could persevere, even though the treatment was cruel and gruelling, leaving me exhausted, sick and at times Neutropenic and I could adapt to change.’

Resilience, determination, boldness, hope and optimism were traits Sue found she had in abundance during that time.

‘I now realise I had all of these prior to diagnosis and I was using them in different middle and senior management roles I held before working for UAL, but it was recognising these traits that has helped me to shape my approach to leadership,’ she adds.

‘My treatment centred around collaboration and I use this in my working life. A collaborative approach reaps rewards. It is more productive and adopting a leadership role of “first among equals” makes people feel stronger and more empowered.

‘Connecting with people, valuing relationships, and acknowledging the importance of other people’s contribution, stems from this collaborative approach. Success is not down to one person alone, but is generated by the whole team.

‘Finally I rely on “grit” and the passion, perseverance and courage to take risks, to draw creative energy from the whole team, to listen and adapt where necessary and encourage everyone to embrace a positive approach when meeting challenges. No retreat, no surrender Ha-ha.’

Looking for inspiration?

Sue’s moving story is a lesson for us all.

– Wow! Thank you Sue and Clive – Sue you are an amazing and inspiring woman, here’s a short video which Cancer Research UK has made with Sue click here.

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With my love and best wishes to you all



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