I sought out a university that was welcoming and supportive to students from diverse backgrounds

PhD Spotlight | Mariya Ado Tenebe


Mariya Tenbe profile

My research concerns employees’ views, narratives, stories and their overall experiences of organisational restructuring (that involves staff reduction) and how it impacts their perception and the meanings they ascribe to wellbeing in their socio-cultural and socio-economic contexts. Particularly, I considered how individuals (retained employees) perceived wellbeing in pressured contexts, such as layoffs and redundancy, in order to recommend meaningful intervention programmes / policy solutions to the organisations concerned.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your path into the PhD program

I am currently completing a PhD in health and community studies at Leeds Beckett University. My research interests are centred on the experiences of pressured events and wellbeing. My undergraduate degree in business administration and human resource management was obtained at the Bells University of Technology, Ogun State, Nigeria, and my Masters degree in management was earned at the University of Leeds. Before starting my doctorate, I worked as a graduate assistant at the Kaduna State University, Nigeria. Additionally, I worked as a human resources adviser at a non-governmental organisation. Besides spending time on my computer screen, I also enjoy cooking, reading novels and exploring nature.

Why did you choose Leeds Beckett?

I selected Leeds Beckett University primarily based on the positive comments of students who have attended the university in the past. I sought out a university that was welcoming and supportive of students from diverse backgrounds. Additionally, I wanted a university that had a supportive postgraduate community and access to outstanding research facilities that would facilitate my research endeavours. My research revealed that Leeds Beckett has most of the characteristics I was looking for in an institution of higher learning, which prompted me to apply.

What is your research about and what makes you passionate about it?

I am always concerned about the welfare of those around me and their coping mechanisms in the event of stressful and pressured circumstances. Being raised in a society where individuals are encouraged to endure very stressful and sometimes traumatic events, I realised people tend to refrain from discussing stressful situations and how they have been affected by them. The result is often a culture of silence, which has been internalised in such societies. The experience I had as an undergraduate during my industrial training programme opened my eyes to the unfairness individuals experienced at work. During this time, I developed a passion for fair treatment in all employment relationships.

As a result of these experiences, I was inspired to pursue a PhD. As part of my research, I decided to focus on individual experiences; to understand how certain events impact and shape their perceptions of wellbeing. The goal of my research would be to give employees a voice to express their experiences of organisational restructuring (which has resulted in staff reduction) while being retained, and how certain sociological factors affected their overall sense and perception of wellbeing in their organisations. I believe that through these narratives and opinions, organisations can develop meaningful intervention programmes for managing employees’ wellbeing.

How have you applied what you’ve learned from your work at the School of Health

I have indeed learned a lot during my research journey. I used the skills, knowledge and experiences I acquired in my fieldwork (data collection abroad) when I joined a team of researchers to examine the placement experiences of African, African Caribbean and other minority ethnic students. I had the opportunity to demonstrate my ability to listen intently while interacting with participants during the first round of focus group interviews. I acquired this skill over the years and refined it when I interviewed professionals abroad. Initially, I did not have the ability to establish rapport easily, but this skill has improved with time and has been useful during my interviews. Participants felt comfortable interacting with me since I made them feel at ease to share their experiences with me. It is critical to possess this skill, particularly when speaking with individuals about their lived experiences.

As the research assistant, I conducted focus groups and organised them. Additionally, I was a member of the analysis team. The training undertaken before my fieldwork, as well as the knowledge and experience gathered during my data collection for my thesis, enabled me to perform my tasks with ease. During my time at Leeds Beckett, my intuitiveness developed considerably. I was able to interpret and decipher people’s body language and tone, which I used extensively in collecting data. As well as learning to articulate and interpret my findings, I learned to draw meaning from them. Having only done quantitative research before Leeds Beckett, this is definitely a skill I gained at Leeds Beckett University.

I gained several organisational skills, such as project management and team management; this involved taking responsibility for my project and setting goals that would ensure its success, as well as collaborating with my supervisory team. The ability to manage my schedules and appointments has been a valuable skill that I have applied during my time as the research student representative; I was able to attend most meetings scheduled.

How would you reflect on your time as a postgraduate researcher at Leeds Beckett?

Research for a PhD can be a lonely undertaking. In spite of this, I am grateful that mine had a balance. Sometimes it was lonely, but it was also exciting. During the programme, I met many amazing people and became friends with a few. My favourite experience at Leeds Beckett is the people I encountered. The staff and faculty members were warm and welcoming. My most cherished experience at Leeds Beckett University was having healthy, funny and inspiring conversations.

I also had an excellent supervisory team all along my academic journey, from my first year all the way up to my writing up year, which made for both an enjoyable and challenging experience. My research experience was greatly impacted by those qualities because it helped me become a better researcher. The journey to obtain a PhD can be an extremely challenging one and having a supportive and understanding supervisory team is imperative.

The PhD experience has been both interesting and challenging. As compared to my first year, my project has evolved in terms of methodology and approach. I am able to see how far I have come, when I reflect on my academic and personal development. I have acquired both transferable skills and research expertise over the years. It is interesting to see how my PhD storyline has evolved over time. The first few years were really all about reading, reviewing and writing down materials that were conducive to growing my knowledge. The writing year has been my most challenging so far, because it involves proper articulation of the entire thesis. I had to constantly remind myself that I am immersed in my research throughout my PhD journey. This awareness was crucial to my ability to effectively manage my biases and opinions in interactions with participants, data collection, interpretation and analysis.