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Professor Emeritus Mary Wood

Former head of the Dept of Media and Cultural Studies

(Elected 2012)

Mary Wood is Emeritus Professor of European Cinema at Birkbeck. Head of the Department of Media and Cultural Studies up to her retirement in March 2012, she has played a pivotal role in Birkbeck’s development over the past 30 years.

Her career began in the University of London's Extra-Mural department in the early 1970s, and she was subject officer for Film and Media when the programme was taken over by Birkbeck in 1988. She built the section from 12 to 100 courses in 10 years, making it one of the biggest media studies programmes at that time. In the 1990s Professor Wood integrated Film and Television Studies into the BA Humanities, using that experience to launch the first BA programme in the Faculty of Continuing Education in Film and Media in 2000, followed by the Foundation Degree in Media and Business Applications. The distinctive combination of film and media theory, and the opportunity to acquire screenwriting, practical journalism, TV production and multimedia skills has attracted students and influenced developments in Birkbeck.

Professor Wood has been active in many organisations committed to developing Film and Media Studies into the lively academic field which it is today. She is a former member of the Education Committees of the British Film Institute, the Museum of the Moving Image and the Board of the London Film and Video Development Agency. A scholar of international renown, her research in Italian film studies and the European film industry is extensively cited and widely taught in film studies courses in the UK and abroad.

‘I never had a plan,’ said Professor Wood. ‘I had graduated with a languages degree and was working as a secretary when I took an extra-mural diploma in film studies, studying in the evenings. It changed my life! I used that to start a PhD and my appointment to develop extra-mural film studies allowed me to change careers and turn my passion for film into research. I was simply in the right place at the right time, and with the right organisational skills to be involved in the development of film and media studies in the UK.

‘When you teach adults you need to build their confidence and value their range of experiences. I’m really proud of having taught many people who have gone on to positions in this field in other British universities.’

In retirement Professor Wood is looking forward to using her two-year Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship award to work on an Italian film noir project. She added: ‘As a Fellow I hope my profile will help show that women can do what I have done, even with no career plan! I was able to grow in confidence through my career progression, and my role has been to encourage others in the same way. That has given me great satisfaction over the years.’