Sonia Mazey is the Pro Vice Chancellor of Business and Law at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.
Sonia grew up in Oxford and obtained a BA (Hons) Social Sciences degree from Leicester University in 1979 before moving back to Oxford University (Nuffield College) to undertake post-graduate study.
Sonia was awarded a scholarship at Oxford’s Nuffield College, not realising at the time the prestigious environment she was entering. She reached a crossroads just six months into her M.Phil degree programme; feeling like a fish out of water, she decided to leave. When College Fellow, Dr Vincent Wright, heard of this plan, he instructed Sonia to bring two coffees to his room immediately. He sat her down and informed her that students did not leave Nuffield College. He encouraged her to embark immediately on a D.Phil in French Politics under his supervision. This was her big break; Sonia began to enjoy Oxford and successfully completed her Oxford University D.Phil. in 1984. Her supervisor, Dr Vincent Wright, became a mentor and lifelong friend – constantly edging her out of her comfort zone.
Sonia subsequently held full time academic positions in European/EU politics public policy at North London Polytechnic (now London Metropolitan University) and Brunel University, before being appointed to a Fellowship at Churchill College, Cambridge University. Here, she spent seven happy years with her husband (and research collaborator and co-author), Jeremy Richardson and their two young daughters, both of whom were born in Cambridge. But Oxford would be in her sights again following Jeremy’s appointment in 1998 to a Chair in Politics - at Nuffield College. After six months’ Sonia concluded that commuting between Oxford and Cambridge was not sustainable with a young family. So, it was a relief all round when she was appointed to a Politics Fellowship at Hertford College, Oxford University in 1999.
Following a brief period in the UK National health Service (NHS), where she undertook the NHS Executive Leadership Programme, Sonia returned to Oxford University in 2003, this time as a Fellow and senior academic manager at Keble College, Oxford University. This role ushered in a period of stability with a better work-life balance.
However, five years later, following a family holiday to New
Zealand, Sonia and Jeremy decided for lifestyle reasons to move to New Zealand.
So – to the amazement of colleagues and friends - Sonia resigned from an Oxford University Fellowship for a second time.
Arriving in Christchurch with no job, Sonia obtained a fixed-term position as Academic Manager at Canterbury University’s (UC) College of Business and Economics, before being appointed as Associate Dean. In 2012, she was appointed to her current position, Pro-Vice- Chancellor for Business and Law at UC. Sonia is also Deputy Chair of the national Steering Group for the New Zealand Women in Leadership (NZWiL) programme.
Sonia has extensive University leadership experience, both as a frontline academic and as a senior executive and regularly mentors academic and professional staff, as well as doctoral students within and beyond UC. Sonia’s approach to mentoring is to help colleagues to identify aspirations and potential pathways and then empower and support them to achieve these goals. Based on her own experience, she believes that personal resilience, integrity and flexibility, as well as collegial professional networks are important for women seeking leadership roles within the University sector.
Though Sonia misses friends and family in the UK, she and her family love living in New Zealand. As someone who has benefited personally from the personal development opportunities offered by higher education, she is also passionate about helping other women to become effective leaders within the sector.