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  1. Health Sciences
  2. About the School
  3. Language and Communication Science
  4. The Roberta Williams Memorial Lecture
About City

The Roberta Williams Memorial Lecture

Roberta Williams

Williams profileRoberta qualified as a Speech and Language Therapist in 1974, working for the National Health Service initially in Newham and then in Lewisham. Roberta’s area of specialist clinical expertise was dysfluency (stammering and stuttering); and there are many speech and language therapists working today who owe their knowledge about stammering to Roberta. She continued to support clinical work and teach in this area up until her retirement.

Roberta joined City in 1982, as a Lecturer in the Department of Language and Communication Sciences but she did much more than simply teach. Between 2003 and 2008 she took on the role of Director of The Compass Centre, the on-site clinic within the Department of Language & Communication Science, for children and adolescents who stammer. This work changed the lives of many young people. Roberta’s sense of fun and creative approach to therapy, integrated word games, pavement interviews, improvised drama and even football into her work.

Roberta was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2003 and continued to undertake key strategic roles in the department. In 2009 Roberta became Associate Dean for Education, Quality and the Student Experience, a role she both excelled in and enjoyed immensely. In this role Roberta took forward projects on curriculum design for delivery as part of a institution-wide group, the development of School wide innovations on assessment and improved the quality of information for students in respect of their programme and module information. She was instrumental in both improving the student experience in SHS but especially in encouraging student involvement in the School. She was totally committed to working in partnership with students always offering them tremendous support throughout her time at the University.

A proud member of the ‘thirty years club’ Roberta undertook almost every possible academic role during her time at City, University of London, including Head of Department, Programme Director, Module Leader, Director of Professional Education, Compass Centre Director, Admissions Tutor, Lecturer, Clinical Tutor, Clinical Supervisor, External Relations and Alumni Officer, Quality Officer, Personal Tutor, Student Research Supervisor and Senator. Roberta was a key member of the group of Associate Deans for Education and the City Equality Committee. She played a key role in  graduation ceremonies, making full use of her perfect diction.

The range of people who came to her retirement party from across City was a testament to the impact Roberta had on her colleagues and the high regard and affection in which she was held. People spoke of her encouragement to others and the high quality of her work. Her enthusiasm and great sense of fun together with an amazing eye for detail and commitment to high quality education for health care professionals will never be forgotten.

The Roberta Williams Memorial Lecture 2017

This year's Memorial Lecture is the second of an annual series to be held in memory of Roberta’s incredible contribution to the School and her work with the students over the thirty-two years she was at City.

The Roberta Williams Memorial Lecture is a public event and is open to all. However, we do ask attendees to register online.

Speaker biography

Dr Jan McAllister worked at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Auckland before taking up her present post at the University of East Anglia where she was originally appointed as co-Director of the BSc (Hons) Speech and Language Therapy. Most of her research since joining UEA has focused on disorders of fluency. Recent studies on which she was Chief Investigator include an NIHR-funded project aimed at developing a treatment for social anxiety disorder in adults who stammer, and the ESRC-funded seminar series Born Talking: Using birth cohort data about speech, language and communication to inform policy and practice. She has been a Trustee of the British Stammering Association.


'Stammering and social anxiety'

Many recent research studies have suggested that social anxiety disorder is highly prevalent among adults who stammer, at least among those who seek treatment for stammering. Social anxiety disorder is a persistent and excessive fear of being humiliated, scrutinised or negatively evaluated in social situations. A common coping strategy in response to these fears is avoidance of situations that give rise to the anxiety, which could compromise many aspects of life including relationships, education and employment.

In this presentation Dr. Jan McAllister will explore several research questions concerning social anxiety disorder and stammering, including its emergence among children and young people who stammer, possible precursors of the disorder, its impact on functioning, and intervention.

Previous lecture

The Inaugural Roberta Williams Memorial Lecture 2016

Speaker biography

Dr Rosemarie Hayhow, PhD, FRCSLT, Honorary Researcher Bristol Speech & Language Therapy Research Unit.Hayhow profile

Rosemarie has over 40 years of clinical, teaching and research experience in the field of stammering. She completed a Masters in Human Communication in 1975 and gained a Diploma in Personal Construct Psychology in 1988. Before moving to Bristol in 1995 she taught on SLT courses in London and Cardiff.  A full-time clinical post in Bristol highlighted gaps in expertise with children which led to the Lidcombe Program.  A doctorate study of parents’ experiences of the LP was completed in 2008. Publications include book chapters and journal articles and Rosemarie has been a long term advisor for RCSLT and BSA.


'Reflections on changes and choices over four decades'

It is rare to be invited to give a keynote address on ‘your work in the area of stammering’ so the preparation of this presentation has been largely pleasurable. My relationship with Roberta goes back nearly forty years and so the pleasure has been mixed with deep sadness. As in my relationship with Berta I am taking a long view of my clinical, teaching and research work. Over this time there have been many changes and some welcome developments however curiosity is one consistent theme that emerges from the three roles that have intertwined throughout my career. I will present some of the questions that have arisen from clinical work and how, through research, I have sought to answer or better understand them.  The presentation will end with a summary of some lessons learnt, of questions that continue to intrigue and disturb and some thoughts regarding future research.