I am Emeritus Professor of International Relations and a senior fellow at LSE IDEAS. I was a graduate student in the 1970s and began working at LSE in 1987. My research was on Soviet foreign policy, then later the foreign policy of Russia and the successor states. I was made an LSE Honorary Fellow in 2014.
Tell us about your background? How did you begin working on Russia and international relations?
I am South African by birth and qualified there as a physiotherapist. I came to the UK in 1963 and worked as a physio. I went back to university at the University of Surrey and studied Russia and International Relations. As an undergraduate, I got a scholarship to go to Moscow State University for the year 1969-70 which made an enormous difference in terms of my knowledge and understanding of the country. After I graduated, I got a job at Surrey while doing my PhD and worked there for 14 years. When I had published my first book, I got a job at LSE.
As the Soviet Union had started changing it was a very exciting time to be involved in the study of it. I had a front row seat watching and was on TV and radio commenting on the changes in the Soviet Union at the end of the ‘80s and beginning of the ‘90s. Being on TV and radio was daunting to begin with but I got used to it. LSE was very encouraging of this kind of outreach work.
Tell us about your time at LSE? What are you most proud of?
Apart from teaching Soviet and Post-Soviet Foreign Policy, I taught Foreign Policy Analysis which was one of the core courses in the Department of International Relations. Professor Halliday and I also launched the first course in the UK on Women and International Relations. Of course I am proud of my research and publications, but mostly I loved teaching and I’m proudest of having the opportunity to teach so many bright and interested students. The greatest pleasure is receiving emails from former students – some going back to the ‘80s. When the Research Excellence Framework usually measures the impact of research but in my view is that the main impact university teachers have is on our students. It can have a great multiplier effect as that student goes on to influence others.
I was also proud to be Adviser to Women Students at the LSE. It was a necessary role in in what was a very male dominated society. I was approached by women members of staff during my tenure as Adviser to Women Students and formed an informal group called LSE Women where women academics could talk about their differences and exchange views, which ran for five years. LSE was much smaller in 1987 than it is now. But even then it was very exciting, with very international staff and students. I felt very lucky to be teaching at the LSE and was proud to become Convenor of the Department from 2002 to 2004.
One alumnus said:
Dr Light has done decades of remarkable research on the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia. She was one of only a few women working in the field of International Relations for many years and she worked tirelessly to remedy the disciplinary/academic bias against women in all aspects of her work. She made significant contributions to improving LSE.
Department of International Relations