Sophie Gilliat, MGC 1987 Leaver
I found my intellectual niche through my degree in Religious Studies at the University of Wales in 1989. I became fascinated by diverse religious and spiritual ‘worldviews’, and I was particularly interested in the growing presence of Muslims in Britain. Having gained a First Class degree, I then embarked on postgraduate study, gaining a Distinction in my MA in ‘Inter-faith Studies’, and then a PhD in 1994.
I started my postdoctoral career in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick, working on a high-profile project about publicly funded chaplaincy in Britain (resulting in the publication of Religion in Prison: Equal Rites in a Multi-Faith Society, with James Beckford). In 1999, I moved to Cardiff University as a Research Fellow. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2007, Reader in 2010, and Professor in 2013 (and produced three children along the way!). My book, Muslims in Britain: An Introduction has become a standard textbook in my field. During my career, I have won over £4.5m in research grants, published five monographs, and over 26 international peer-review journal articles, and more book chapters and reviews than I can count!
In 2005, I established a specialist research centre at Cardiff University, and with it an emergent field of ‘British Muslim Studies’. Day-to-day, I supervise PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, as well as taking a share in undergraduate teaching and university administration. I often address international conferences on issues of religious diversity, the accommodation of Islam and Muslims in public institutions, and religion in public life more broadly. I have successfully navigated a sensitive and complex field of study, winning the support and respect of grassroots Muslim communities across the UK, policy-makers, my academic peers, and senior university management.
What does success look like?
Success is that feeling of satisfaction, knowing you have successfully passed on the benefits of the advice, mentoring and support you have received during your career, to the ‘next generation’ coming after you.
What is your best piece of advice?
Don’t believe anybody who tells you that you can’t do something. Academic flourishing can happen at any time in your life. Be patient.