Portsmouth High School alumna Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh MBE chatted with headteacher Jane Prescott for our In Conversation With event last week. Lorraine is currently Professor of Environmental Psychology at The University of Bath.
Lorraine talked about how when she was a student at Portsmouth, there was a growing awareness of the environment amongst her and her peers. She described how she did her work experience in the planning team at the city council and learned about the benefit of green space in the city centre. She didn’t take a route directly into Environmental Psychology and instead studied French, Theology and Religious Studies as her undergraduate degree at the University of Kent. She described how the subject ignited her interest in what drives belief systems and from there, went on to study Science, Culture & Communication and eventually Psychology at PhD level.
Growing up, Lorraine looked up to her father who was a Professor of Environmental Economics and loved to explain complex things to her. She really enjoyed going into work with him and learning about what he did.
“Use your skills for good… look at what interests you and how you can help…”
Lorraine described the best part of her role as being able to speak to policy makers and engage with influential people who are making the decisions. She is also inspired by the Early Career Researchers at Bath and seeing how their interest and enthusiasm for the subject develops.
Jane pointed out that students at Portsmouth High School are vocal about climate change and have requested meat free Monday and are doing a 10km walk to raise money for Just One Tree – a charity that plants trees for £1 per tree.
When asked about receiving her MBE, Lorraine said that she originally thought the message inviting her to the palace was a hoax but felt incredibly honoured and particularly pleased that the field of Environmental Psychology was being recognised. She has since met King Charles which she described as a surreal and amazing experience.
Lorraine talked about meeting friends for life at Portsmouth High, a ‘school that inspires career aspirations with no limits and no jobs girls couldn’t do’.
When asked for a final thought to share with the GDST girls, Lorraine said “Use your skills for good. There are a million green jobs. Look at what interests you and how you can help in that context. Get your research out there and make it publicly available.”