Professor Sarah Mills

PhD (University of Wales, Aberystwyth)

  • Research and Innovation Director (Geography and Environment)
  • Professor of Human Geography

Academic Career

  • 2023-: Professor of Human Geography, Loughborough University
  • 2018-2023: Reader in Human Geography, Loughborough University
  • 2015-18: Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, Loughborough University
  • 2012-15: Lecturer in Human Geography, Loughborough University
  • 2011-12: ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Geography, University of Leicester
  • 2007-10: PhD, Institute of Geography & Earth Sciences, University of Wales, Aberystwyth

Professional Responsibilities

  • 2024 onwards: Research and Innovation Director (Geography and Environment)
  • 2024 onwards: Cluster Lead, ‘Digital Communities and Inclusion
  • 2022 onwards: College of Experts, Department for Culture, Media and Sport
  • 2021 onwards: Fellow, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Political Literacy
  • 2020 onwards: Editorial Board Member, Social & Cultural Geography
  • 2017-2013: Academic Lead, Open Days / Marketing
  • 2020-2022: School of Social Sciences and Humanities Representative, University Ethics Approvals (Human Participants) Sub-Committee 
  • 2019-2021: Programme Director, MA Childhood, Youth and Social Policy
  • 2018-2020: Co-Editor, Geopolitics
  • 2017-2020: Fellow, APPG Democratic Participation (Political Literacy Oversight Group)
  • 2016-2021: University Teaching Assessor
  • 2016-.2019: External Examiner (BA), National University of Ireland, Galway
  • 2016-2018: Editorial Board Member, Environment and Planning A
  • 2015-2018: Elected Chair, GCYFRG, RGS-IBG
  • 2012-2015: Elected Secretary, SCGRG, RGS-IBG.
  • 2011-2015: Committee Member, GCYFRG, RGS-IBG (Elected Treasurer 2011-14)

Prizes and Awards

  • 2023: 'Outstanding Research' Award, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Loughborough University
  • 2019: Loughborough University Research-Informed Teaching Prize
  • 2017: Gill Memorial Award, Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)
  • 2015: AAG Political Geography Speciality Group's 'Outstanding Research Award' (Virginie Mamadouh Publication Prize)
  • 2014: ESRC Future Research Leader Award
  • 2014: ‘Inspiration Award’, Loughborough University Academic Teaching Awards

Professor Mills’ research focuses on the geographies of children and young people. Her research has been recognised by the Royal Geographical Society (Gill Memorial Award) and the American Association of Geographers (PGSG) for its contributions to human geography.

Professor Mills has recently examined digital geographies of childhood, popular culture and parenting through collaborative ESRC research on children and young people’s experiences of gaming/gambling. This research on paid reward systems in digital games and loot boxes (led via Newcastle University) has featured in international and national press, including BBC News Online, BBC Radio 4 and The Wall Street Journal. Prof. Mills is an invited member of the Department of Culture, Media & Sport’s ‘College of Experts’ (UK Government).

Professor Mills’ longstanding research interest and contributions focus on youth citizenship and volunteering (see all publications). Her ESRC and AHRC-funded research has examined several youth organisations and mapped how the moral geographies of education (i.e. character, citizenship and values-based education) shapes children and young people’s lives. She serves on the Academic Advisory Group of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Political Literacy and was called to give evidence on ‘National Citizen Service’ to the House of Lords Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement. Prof. Mills is an expert on British youth movements such as Scouting and Girlguiding, with interviews for BBC Radio 5 Live and The Economist.

Professor Mills’ research has primarily focused on children and young people’s spaces in the United Kingdom, however a recent international collaborative ESRC-GCRF project has examined volunteering by young refugees in Uganda (RYVU, with Northumbria University, Uganda Martyrs University & Mbarara University of Science & Technology). This research has produced several policy briefings, interactive games, exhibitions and other resources to highlight the connections between young refugee’s experiences of volunteering, skills, employability and inequalities.

Sarah's teaching focuses on cultural, social, political and historical geography across a range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules.

Current Research Students

  • Sophie Milnes (2022 onwards) “Shifting campus geographies: youth transitions of university students during the cost-of-living crisis”
  • Simi Kolajo (2021 onwards) Black geographies of (dis)comfort: Young people, transitions and home
  • Emily Holmes (2021 onwards) Digital Geographies of Parenting
  • Catherine Wilson (2020 onwards) – Children’s Citizen Science (NERC, CENTA)

Recent Postgraduate Research Students

  • Rosie Austin (2020) "Youth Leadership in the Scout Association"
  • Laura Crawford (2019) "A cultural-historical geography of Leonard Cheshire Disability"
  • Jo Hickman Dunne (2018) "Youth, Outdoor Learning and Life Skills"
  • Jonathan Duckett (2017) "Youth Citizenship and National Identity: A Case Study of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and Scottish Independence Referendum"
  • Tim Fewtrell (2017) "Youth Volunteering in Muslim Communities in Britain"