Our team


Who we are

The Changing University Cultures team is unique in its blend of academic and practitioner experience and expertise. Brief biographies are below – you can also click the following links to access a list of Alison’s and Liz’s academic publications, and organisational development projects led by Jess.

Alison Phipps, Professor of Gender Studies at Sussex University
Alison is a political sociologist who has published widely on a number of different topic areas including educational and workplace inequalities (especially in science, engineering and technology), and harassment and sexual violence. She was consultant to the National Union of Students on Hidden Marks, the first national prevalence study of violence against women students, and co-authored the NUS report on ‘lad culture’ which led to its national strategy framework in this area. She has recently finished co-leading a major pan-European intervention which trained 900 university staff to respond to disclosures of sexual violence. She has worked closely with individual universities and sector organisations on equality and diversity issues as well as issues such as bullying, harassment and violence, and is on the advisory board of the 1752 Group, the UK’s first lobby group on staff sexual misconduct.

Liz McDonnell, Senior Research Fellow in Sociology at Sussex University
Liz is a senior social researcher who has worked for over twenty years in academic and community settings conducting research around crime, health (HIV/AIDS, mental health), sexuality, family/parenting, disability, education, employment disadvantage and psychotherapy-related issues). She has used and developed a range of qualitative research approaches and methods such as case studies, narrative and biographical inquiry, participatory/action research, Grounded Action Inquiry, diaries, interviews, focus groups, observation and documentary analysis. Her research interests are framed by a curiosity about connectedness, the relational, and how the social (including structural inequalities and disciplinary logics) are experienced and narrated by individuals. She is Chair of the SOC/ARTS Cross School Research Ethics Committee at Sussex University and research ethics is both an area of interest and expertise.

Jess Taylor, Organisational Development Consultant
Jess has fifteen years’ experience of developing, delivering and managing a range of consultancy interventions at an operational and strategic level. These include: multi-agency domestic violence and counselling services; volunteering systems; staff supervision and coaching; leadership programmes; and cross sector partnership projects. She has helped a wide variety of organisations implement transformational change programmes, developing strong governance and change frameworks in support of these processes. With a passion for partnership, diversity and social justice, she utilises a range of systemic tools to ensure quality, value and sustainability of service provision in contexts involving highly complex processes and conversations.


How we work

Our capacity-building framework SHAPE guides our practice by blending various aspects of emotional intelligence with social and political consciousness, and the capacity for action. By using SHAPE we aim to nurture five key attributes through our work:




Political Consciousness


Read our post on the SHAPE framework to find out more. SHAPE can be nurtured at departmental, school/faculty levels or across the whole institution. Through our programme we aim to engender a cyclical and holistic process by which individuals with these qualities SHAPE institutions, and then in turn the institutions nurture and SHAPE individuals within them. Furthermore, we try to embody the SHAPE qualities in everything we do: our relationships with research participants; our interactions with university leadership teams; our external engagement; and our relationships with each other.