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Meet Our Mentors

The mentor programme is one of the best features of College life. As a new member of Ustinov College you can opt in to have a College mentor, to help you make friends and settle in to postgraduate life at Durham. Many of our mentors have worked at the University or lived in the local area for a long time, and look forward to helping you with any questions you may have, or point you in the right direction. Whether you take up their invitations to dinners and trips, or just meet for a coffee and a chat, it is reassuring to know that someone is there for you if you need them.

To find out more about the mentor programme, contact                                                                                                                     

Christine Shinn Taylor

As an alumna of both St. Hild's College and The Graduate Society I have been involved for some time in various aspects of DurhamUniversity's life.

For many years I taught music in secondary and primary schools before moving into higher education work at another university in the north east of England. I became Director of Initial Teacher Training and then Head of Teacher Education and Development in a large Faculty of Health, Social Work and Education.

In 2000 I was appointed as an Advisor to the British Government in its Education Department. My achievements in this position resulted in my being awarded an MBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours List of 2005.

Much of my professional career has been concerned with Workforce Development, Practitioner Enquiry and Quality Assurance. I have been an accredited Registered Inspector and Trainer of Inspectors for OFSTED, a Reviewer of Higher Education for the QAA and have had wide international experience in Europe and in the Middle and Far East.

I am a keen gardener and traveller and continue to enjoy music-making. I run Music Therapy sessions for a local Parkinson's UK group. I am currently putting the finishing touches to an historic novel set in the twelfth century and will soon seek publication. My research for this has opened up new areas of study and interest.


David Barnes

My connection with Durham University began with my first degree – as an undergraduate I studied music in Durham. Afterwards, I went to live in Italy and stayed there for about 30 years, first working in the field of language teaching and later specifically teaching academic writing (mainly for the European University Institute in Fiesole, near Florence). During my time in Italy, I returned to the UK to do my master’s degree (in teaching English as a foreign language to adults) at Reading University.

For the past twelve years I have been working as a proofreader of academic writing and also as a teacher each summer on the Durham pre-sessional course. I have now decided to come to live in Durham and am looking forward to a new experience as a Ustinov College mentor.


Felicity Breet

I was born in County Durham and lived on Teesside until I went to college and then University. After teaching in the south of England I began a career in English Language teacher education which gave me the opportunity to live and work around the world, for example in Cameroon, China, Nigeria, Oman, the Solomon Islands and South Africa.

Since I completed my PhD here as a member of the Graduate Society ( now Ustinov College), and chose Durham as my permanent UK base, I have worked at this and other local Universities with students learning to be teachers both locally and in their own countries. I have enjoyed and learnt much from all the people with whom I have worked. Country Durham is an amazing place to live and work and I’m always happy to spend time here, at home.

I am delighted to have this opportunity to maintain and strengthen my links with the University of Durham as a Ustinov College Mentor. Getting to know my Mentees, to learn from their experiences of the world and to share my own so each person has the best possible experience of the University, is an experience I value very much.


Gwyn Purvis

I have been a mentor at Ustinov College and in its predecessor, the Graduate Society, for many years I feel it a privilege to have met (and hopefully to have added in some small way to their Durham experience) so many students, from around the world, who have come here to study. Alongside this I organise the Durham University International Women’s Group where we try and provide a meeting place for all overseas women coming to Durham with a programme of various cultural activities and trips I am a member of the Methodist Church in Durham and am also a keen long distance cyclist ( this year the wonderful 192 mile coast and castles route from Newcastle to Edinburgh) badminton player, mountain walker and camper and photographer.


Katherine Humpleby

I was brought up in South Tyneside and have lived in County Durham for over 15 years and currently working as a Secondary Lead for the Hope Learning Trust - a Multi Academy Trust of five secondary scholld and five primary schools in York. I am extremely proud of the region and relish the opportunity as a Ustinov Mentor to share my passion for its people, stunning landscapes and fascinating history. I also really look forward to learning about different cultures, languages and traditions, to share memorable experiences and to develop new friendships. Above all I am here to support you in all aspects of your personal and academic journey, to ensure you have a truly first class experience at Ustinov, in our world class university, in this beautiful city.


Lourdes WattsPhoto


Raj BethapudiPhoto

I am GP Partner, trainer and appraiser, and have over a decade of experience in the NHS. I am also an Executive GP and member of the Governing body for Sunderland CCG. I am involved in shaping the health policies of Sunderland working in partnership with the local Council and Public Health bodies and I am currently working on reforms in Cardiovascular and Cancer specialities to improve outcomes for patients.

My areas of interest outside Medicine include playing cricket, world travel and practicing Yoga. I also have a keen interest in helping students in non-academic areas like communication, confidence building and interpersonal skills.

Sam NewingtonPhoto

I have been a member of the Ustinov for over 10 years, and each year see the College innovatively enhance, that it is such a pleasure to be pat of an pro-active and inspiring community. It is also an honour to have met the Sir Peter Ustinov who the College is respectively names. My journey at Durham began a decade ago, and in 2006 I completed my Ph.D. in the Theology Department. Although a classicist by training my research interests are interdisciplinary with particular focus on the Ancient Near East. In my spare time, I am a keen runner and try to complete at least two major races a year! Recently I have aspired to take the triathlon challenge and have also entered a few bike sportives - here's hoping for the best!!


Sam BethapudiPhoto

I have been associated with the university as a mentor for the last 5 years and continue to enjoy the pastoral and social aspect of the role. Originally from India. I came to the UK after qualifying as a Doctor. Durham has been home for the last 10 years or so. I am incredibly proud to be associated with this culturally vibrant city of the North East. Helping and caring for people has always been close to my heart and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity in making a difference both in my day job as a GP and as a Ustinov College mentor. I enjoy travelling, meeting people, socialising, gardening, walking, and going to the gym. I dabble my hand at fusion cooking, some of which has been certified to be “edible”! I am married to Joice and we have two little boys age 5 & 2 who try and keep us busy!

Simon FlemingPhoto

I come from Penrith, a small market town in Cumbria on the edge of the Lake District. After studying Music at Liverpool University I came to Durham in 2002 to train as a teacher. I subsequently did a PhD at Durham and now teach part-time in Durham University's Music Department; I am also the Curriculum Leader for Music at the QE Sixth Form College in Darlington where I run the college orchestra, classical choir and Baroque ensemble. Since 2010 I have been the organist at St Nicholas' Church in Durham's Market Place. Apart from music, I am interested in history (of which there is a great deal in Durham) and am an enthusiastic member of Ustinov College's SCR. You will no doubt bump into me around college, more often than not with my two children in tow.

Stuart ForsterPhoto

I began my working life as an apprentice, at the age of 15 years, in the coal mining industry at Houghton Colliery (between Durham and Sunderland). Some ten years later, I saw the light (excuse the pun) and left for pastures new, into the Financial Services Industry, serving over 21 years in sales servicing, marketing, training and management. My 'journey' leading to Ustinov began as a result of two major life changing experiences, one of which, was life threatening. I was given a second chance to live, and thereby, an opportunity to reassess my needs and options. I chose to give something back to the community, through Education and Welfare and at the age of 48, became a Durham University mature student at the Centre for Education and Studies in Counselling. After graduating with my Postgraduate Diploma in Counselling.


Tim JamesPhoto

I'm originally from the Isle of Man and came over the U.K. in 1987 to study a degree in Biological Sciences at Lancaster University. After completing this I worked for a year in a biotechnology company producing equipment to purify proteins. I then returned to University and undertook a Masters in Forensic Science at King's College London then came to Durham and did some research into Neolithic mitochondrial DNA. I started working for Staffordshire Police as a civilian Crime Scene Investigator in 1995 and transferred to Durham Constabulary in 1997. I was operational for 7 years and spent some time as a trainer at the National Training Centre during which I attained a PGCE. In 2002 I attained a lectureship in Crime Scene Science at Teesside University and am still currently working there.

Tom BritonPhoto

I’m married to Joan and have adult twin sons, Simon and Tim, both of whom are lawyers. Simon is a Durham law graduate and Tim is a Hull law graduate and former mentor at Trevelyan and daughter in law, Clare, who is a Trevelyan mentor. That is the why I am connected to Durham University, it’s in the family. I have a generic MBA, am a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers and also the Chartered Management Institute - an accountant by profession with a background in mutual benefit organisations and also insolvency/corporate recovery and, in the latter stages of my career, taught business management in higher education to international students. My recreational activities, other than mentoring at Ustinov, are with my grandchildren and flying microlight aeroplanes.