From student to staff with Xavier Smith

From student to staff with Xavier Smith name

Class of 2016 Sports Rehabilitation alumnus Xavier Smith has just completed his first two months working at the University of Cumbria as a lecturer. We caught up with him to find out how it feels to go from student to staff.



Xavier Smith


What course did you study?

Sports Rehabilitation


Year of graduation:



Where are you from originally?



Any interesting family background you would like to share?

My name... Xavier Smith, a nod to my Mexican heritage and English. Usually a good conversation starter.


Why University of Cumbria, what attracted you?

The location, with the Lake District just on your doorstep, it is such as wonderful setting for the morning and sunset person.


Why did you choose your particular course?

I'd learnt about the sport rehabilitation course through a lecturer during a placement at the University of Brighton back in 2012. She really encouraged me to pursue a career in sport rehabilitation and that placement really opened my eyes to the type of role I wanted to do in the future, and a further eye on lecturing as a career.

From that, I chose the University of Cumbria based in Carlisle at the time, and my current career started the moment I walked into the room on my first day.

The placement options open to me were something that really caught my eye, having the opportunity to work within a sports teams while studying is what separated University of Cumbria from the rest.


What is the most important thing you learnt as a result of your course?

I feel I've learnt a great deal, but the standout ones are resilience and confidence, as difficult as it was to learn the specific areas of the shoulder for example or nerve pathways, I would tackle it straight on, and have the confidence to find a way of learning that suits me.


Did you have a staff role model or personal hero?

A definite mentor of mine is Dr Katie Small, our program leader in the sports rehabilitation team. She'd taught me throughout my undergraduate and now my senior, she remains very approachable and enthusiastic so I'm very lucky to have someone there I know and trust.


Any memorable or funny stories?

Yes, absolutely loads of funny stories... now, for one I can share... I remember being part of the football team in my final year and one of the players won the golden boot that season. As students our living was very modest, and we couldn't afford a trophy. So, we'd found a nice sized log, and drilled the goalkeepers football boot to it, painting it by hand gold. I don't think that made it into his trophy cabinet.


Current Employer:

University of Cumbria


Job Title:

Sport Rehabilitation Lecturer


What made you decide to apply for your lecturer role? 

I had been doing some lecturing at another university, and working on my teaching qualifications, so I was already open to looking into it. Six years from graduating, and at a place where all sport rehabilitation students from the University of Cumbria would recognise, a very special place called Brathay, I saw my old lecturer, and we caught up. I couldn’t believe she remembered me and was genuinely interested in what I was up to and what I had done since graduating. After leaving that conversation I thought to myself, if anything comes up there, I have to apply, I took that random meet as a very encouraging sign.


How does it feel to go from student to staff member? 

To go from student to a member of staff is a real eye opener, the really interesting thing is there are always people in classes that you seem to recognise from the time you were a student all those years ago. Through maybe their characteristics or other similarities, and you just want to say, “you remind me so much of….” but obviously, they wouldn’t have a clue who I’m talking about.  


How has your perception of the university changed as a staff member? 

My perception has changed greatly, as a student you turn up to your lectures, do your course work and placements and that’s it… I thought. But now being on the other side, the work that goes into getting a placement, the hours in the car to get a yes or a no, paperwork, phone calls to set these opportunities up. Looking back, it was all handed to me, now I know the work that goes into it. 


What is a typical day like? 

A typical day nowadays is, I’m up early to travel to Lancaster, a Tuesday would mean supervision at a public clinic at Salt Ayre leisure centre, where our 2nd and 3rd years have started to work with clients during their injury rehabilitation journey. Wednesday we run a massage clinic from campus, and 1st years are involved with that. Half work with clients and the other half run through a small practical skills session, and then swap, after that, 2nd years will come in and treat some of their clients and finally Thursday I’m calling or driving around trying to set placements or potential placements up for students, so non-stop at the moment.  


What is the most satisfying aspect of your job?

Seeing the students progress, in the past I have mentored students who are working at professional football clubs and that to me is most satisfying and why I look to help the students today.


What are your career ambitions, now and in the future?

I want to continue within the department and complete a professional doctorate.


Tell us what you have been up to since graduation, share your story here.