Leading from the front

Helen Lloyd Wildman joined the University in January as Pro Vice-Chancellor and Director of Corporate Services. Her main areas of responsibility are IT Services, Marketing and Communications, Personnel, Risk, Safety and Health, and the University Secretary’s Department but she also has oversight of other departments across the University.

Before joining the higher education sector, Helen spent 23 years in the Army and Ministry of Defence, in a variety of roles, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. On leaving the Army, Helen became Director of Strategic Planning at De Montfort University. She then joined The Open University as Regional Director for the East of England.

Helen’s first degree was in Library and Information Studies. She also has a PGCE, an MBA from Cranfield, an MSc in Strategic Studies and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

When Helen Wildman took her first role as a librarian, she could never have imagined that her future career path would take her away from that quiet setting to war-torn Afghanistan.

But when she was accepted into the Army and Ministry of Defence, new opportunities opened up to her, which made for a very interesting and varied journey.

Helen had initially studied Library and Information Studies but decided to swap libraries for a new challenge. After applying to the police, Air Force, Army and Navy, she went through a gruelling selection process with the Army.

The indoor and outdoor assault courses were particularly tough and Helen even had to throw herself through a wooden frame, representing a window, as part of the course.

She successfully completed the process then undertook officer training at The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and professional training with the Royal Army Educational Corps.

Helen’s career with the Army and Ministry of Defence lasted for 23 years and has given her many memorable experiences, including time spent in Hong Kong and the Falklands.

Her first posting was teaching soldiers in Germany, something she very much enjoyed. "They were challenging students but were so motivated because if they passed their exams they got promoted. They would hang on to your every word," she says.

"I loved it and found it very rewarding. We were there when they got their results and it was really satisfying to see them achieve their goals."

She later held posts as Commander Educational and Training Services, Head of PR for the British Forces in Germany and HR Manager at the Army Personnel Centre in Glasgow.

Latterly, she spent five months in Afghanistan where she was Spokesperson for the International Security and Assistance Force, overseeing press officers from 19 different countries and co-ordinating the media strategy.

The barracks were shelled a couple of times but as well as dealing with the situation, Helen had to provide information to the media.

"One day in Kabul, we had just been shelled and I had to hold a press conference about it. The adrenaline was going and it was only when it was over that the reality of what had happened really hit me," she says.

After leaving the Army, Helen returned to the UK and took a post as Director of Strategic Planning at De Montfort University. She then became Regional Director for The Open University in the East of England, based in Cambridge, raising the profile of the OU in the region.

While University life may be a different environment to the Army, throughout her career Helen has been closely linked to education. All her time in the Army was with the education and training corps and she has always retained her passion for higher education.

She acknowledges that there are many challenges within the sector at present, particularly with funding cuts affecting institutions, but she is confident that there are also many opportunities and positive changes ahead.

Outside of work, Helen enjoys amateur dramatics. She belongs to two societies in Cambridgeshire and stage roles have included Captain Mainwaring’s love interest in a Dad’s Army production and a lion tamer in Annie Get Your Gun. In the future, she would be interested in setting up a staff drama group at the University.

Helen plans to move to the region later this year with her husband, Ivan, and two daughters. She is now enjoying shaping her new role at Wolverhampton and finding out more about the University and the surrounding area. "My priority is to get to know the different departments and Schools and how they all fit together and complement one another.

"The portfolio of this job reflects my past experience. It’s a very exciting opportunity."