Laura Lyth: “If you go by stereotypes, I was never destined for University”

Originally from the Scarborough area, Laura Lyth returned to undertake a BA in Business Management and Sustainable Business at the age of 23. Since then she has gone on to study an MSc in Coastal and Marine Resource Management at the University of Portsmouth and to found Coastal and Marine Experiential Education (CMEE), where she is the Education and Policy Advisor. In 2018 she will be commencing a PhD.

“I am the first person in my family to go to University,” she says. “I am about to start a PhD at a Russell Group University and I have travelled to over 25 countries either though my various youth work roles or as a Solo Traveller. Be what you want to be, NOT what others tell you to be. Stereotypes are made to be broken, and I think I have broken plenty. I’m not sure if I would have done all I have if I hadn’t taken the leap and called up Scarborough Campus. I saw an advert in the Careers Centre window on Westborough as I was heading to the job centre to sign on. It was a total knee jerk reaction and one I have never regretted.”

How did your time at Scarborough inform the person that you have since become?

It has been 11 years since I graduated from Hull’s Scarborough Campus. Reflecting on this time and what I have done since 2006, it made me realise that I can do anything that I want to do and not let myself be held back by pre-conceived ideas. I grew up in a council house in a nearby village and on the local Holiday Camps (Butlins, Amtree Park, Promrose Valley and Reighton Sands). My dad’s first job was as a Coal Miner until he joined the RAF. My mum became the 2nd Cook and Caretaker at my Primary School as well as primary carer for my incredibly missed Granddad. My brother was a mechanic at the garage opposite my family home until he became Technician on Offshore Windfarms. Before I decided to go to Scarborough Campus, I was a Bar Tender/ 2nd Chef for Yates Wine Lodge!  If you go by stereotypes, I was never destined for University.

Shortly after I started at Scarborough, I also became an Air Training Corps Civilian Instructor in 2004, which I did for 11 years. I also discovered Sail Training as a result of my ATC service. Without making that decision to go to University, I would never have decided to aim for more than what was in front of me, I would never have joined the ATC and therefore I would have never discovered Sail Training – and look at what I am doing with that now!

You are the founder, Education and Policy Advisor of Coastal and Marine Experiential Education. What does your organisation do?

Overall, CMEE provides an understanding of human behaviour and their impact on the marine environment. It promotes Marine Citizenship through Alternative Education Spaces with the aim of developing public awareness for a sustainable future.

In my role as Education and Policy Advisor, I develop and maintain strong working stakeholder relationships. To achieve this, I generate new thinking and build alliances to support leadership that promotes marine citizenship and environmental awareness, preserving the marine environment for the future. Working with leading and progressive Sail Training operators to develop innovative and sustainable approaches to coastal zone and marine resource management through educating today’s youth. Lastly, I conduct robust research, analysis and writing, getting to grips with complex coastal/ marine environment and youth development debates.

Why did you set up this organisation and what do you hope to achieve in the near future?

When I completed my MSc I became permanent crew on board a Sail Training vessel. However, although I love everything about Sail Training, for me the traditional role of being permanent crew wasn’t quite right. I identified during my MSc dissertation that there was a critical need for more research based on Sail Training. I felt I had more to give (and gain) if I pursued this avenue, remaining as an occasional volunteer or relief professional crew onboard Sail Training vessels. Due to Sail Training’s unique operating area (out at sea), it relies heavily on youth, volunteer and professional crew’s word of mouth recommendation to increase public awareness as well as shoreside promotion from the various charity operators. Although research is increasingly supported within the Sail Training domain, I felt like I needed a suitable platform to produce and promote my research and Sail Training. At the time, there was no opportunity to become an employer of a Sail Training organisation to purely focus on research etc, so I made my own.

You recently presented at the EMSEA Conference in Malta. Could you tell us a bit about your presentation and what impact this exposure will give to your organisation?

EMSEA is the European Marine Science Educators Association. This year’s conference was hosted by the University of Malta, Valletta, Malta. EMSEA is “an international non-profit organisation committed to boost ocean literacy in Europe. The EMSEA conference was in collaboration with the Department of Geosciences, Faculty of Science, University of Malta.

The exposure it has given me has been incredible, especially as I was the only Sail Training representative in the world to be there and there were only four others referred to in conversation by fellow delegates. It was attended by approximately 100 delegates, ranging from Ocean Literacy Teachers, Charities, related industry organisations, academia and various government representatives from local to international level including the EU, NOAA and the UN. My next project that I am aiming for as a result of attending this conference is to write my first chapter in a Geography Textbook. I am currently sourcing best practice case studies from around Europe and editing my draft abstract application.

Thanks to my work to develop and promote my CMEE brand and my presentation at the 2017 EMSEA conference, I have become a member of The Challenger Society for Marine Science, European Marine Science Educators Association and the United Nations Association UK. I have just returned from my first UNESCO event-  the UNESCO-IOC International Ocean Literacy conference. Whilst here, I have had the opportunity to get Sail Training included as part of their non-formal education activities for their three year global Ocean Literacy action plan. Something which I have already made a voluntary agreement to be part of.

Laura presenting at the EMSEA Conference

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