There’s no ‘I’ in Team – but there is in Coniston!

In July, Leanne Campbell, a current PGR in the College of Social Sciences, went to the Lake District for a course on team building. Here, she tells us what she did and what she learnt.

Earlier this summer I took part in the Coniston PGR trip as part of the PGCARMS programme.  This is an advanced transferable skills module which focuses on team skills and collaborative working.  This may seem a strange choice given that my doctorate in Education is essentially a solo endeavour, but that’s exactly why it appealed to me; doctoral research can be isolating and pretty lonely at times, so I jumped at the chance to do something interactive, learn new skills and to meet new people, and of course spending a week in the beautiful Lake District was also a bonus!

paddleboardingAt Coniston we were split into two teams and each day brought new challenges, from paddle boarding to rock climbing to navigating our way back from the village pub in the pitch black at night which definitely tested our skills as a team!  Each activity had a collaborative element and at the end of each day we were asked to reflect on what we had learned about being part of a team.  We also had a session on the different Belbin team roles and reflected on our own Belbin profile and how it fitted in with the others in our team. Continue reading “There’s no ‘I’ in Team – but there is in Coniston!”

The PGR Writing Summer School 2019 eased the PhD journey for me

Last week was the PGR Writing Summer School 2019, and Eric Ngang, a Global Challenges Scholar in Law, was there.

PGR WSS Pen Shield
To follow the links in this post, self-enrol on the PGR Writing Summer School 2019 Canvas module: https://canvas.bham.ac.uk/enroll/Y6HXJ4

If you want to get top tips on how to navigate your PhD journey irrespective of the stage at which you are in the process, the PGR Writing Summer School is the ideal opportunity. I took part in the 2019 Summer School and it has been the most invaluable opportunity for me to reflect on my PhD journey after one year.

The first two days of the School were made up of well-structured packages covering specific modules including academic writing for your thesis, and writing for publication: the publication process, ethics and article structure. Continue reading “The PGR Writing Summer School 2019 eased the PhD journey for me”

De-colonizing: emphasizing the universality of the university

In this post, Dooshima Lilian Dugguh reflects on the De-Colonizing: Past and Present Workshop held on 13 May 2019 in the College of Arts and Law. This two-day multi-disciplinary workshop examined de-colonization in relation to both research and school curricula.

Reading the workshop title “De-colonizing: past and present”, I am sure that several participants had a rough guess that it was centered around discussing historical realities of colonized nations. But I am also certain that many, like me, were amazed at the understanding that beyond the initial idea is a whole new perspective that exports the concept of de-colonization and applies it to academic endeavors such as impactful research and development of academic curricula, giving an opportunity to rethink research and taught patterns of university courses. This workshop underlined two very important aspects: de-colonizing research and de-colonizing curricula.

De-colonizing asks us to examine assumptions regarding racial and civilizational hierarchy which in the past informed a lot of thinking about how the world worked, what was worth studying in it, and how it should be studied.  SOAS blog

Continue reading “De-colonizing: emphasizing the universality of the university”

Don’t ‘plan,’ just ‘do’: how to let your career find you during your PhD

This post, written by our very own PGR Careers Advisor Holly Prescott, was previously published on the FindAPhD blog.  It follows on nicely from Shana’s posts before Christmas (part 1 and part 2) on her “extra-curricular” activities.

In the autumn of my second PhD year, after 3 glasses of 99p wine (stipend-allowing), I reluctantly agreed to help a friend out running campus tours at the University’s Postgraduate open day. I knew I’d have to walk around on the day with a lime-green, plastic ‘here to help’ sign, like a weird student-recruiting Lollipop Lady. But… my hob was broken and there was a free dinner in it for me. So I said yes.

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A University of Birmingham Open Day

The truth? Green lollipop aside, I actually sort of enjoyed it. I enjoyed the simplicity of being helpful. So for the next year, I carried on helping with campus tours and advising at open days and other events. It gave me a break from my niche research. It gave me perspective. It even gave me a few extra quid to get my hob fixed. Continue reading “Don’t ‘plan,’ just ‘do’: how to let your career find you during your PhD”

Specialization and overspecialization through your research: the forest and the trees

In this post, Alex Feldman, a recently completed PGR in the School of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology, shares his thoughts on specialisation.

It’s a jungle out there, as the old cliche goes. Although we prefer the seemingly protective ivory walls of academia, we still live by the same law of the jungle. Whether we say “publish or perish” or “eat or be eaten,” some truths endure whether we’d admit them or not. You want to advance in your field, but you don’t want to be disposed when your field’s fashions change; such is the academic’s conundrum.

I’m no expert on academic fashions, but it depends on your circumstantial approach. Whereas conventional wisdom once advised planting your flag in some underpopulated area and holding on tight, you’re also aware we now have newer standards to follow: inter-disciplinary research, cross-field inquiry, discourse analysis, etc.

You need to specialize in something to be taken seriously in that field. Continue reading “Specialization and overspecialization through your research: the forest and the trees”

The thesis is not enough… (part 2)

In the second and final part of her post, Shana Gander-Zaucker, a current PGR in Psychology, shares her experience of being involved in wider non-research-related aspects of University life.

Representing the University as a Postgraduate Ambassador

One role I have had is that of Postgraduate Ambassador. You might think that as a Postgraduate Ambassador during open days you mostly stand outside holding an umbrella when it is windy and rainy waiting to provide directions to potential students. Although this might be part of the role it is also a great opportunity to meet new people. As a Postgraduate Ambassador you get the chance to meet and advise prospective students from a variety of disciplines on open days and other University events, which can be very rewarding. Continue reading “The thesis is not enough… (part 2)”

The thesis is not enough… (part 1)

The pressure of submitting a thesis might be overwhelming and some PGRs might feel guilty about spending time on social or other activities. In this two-part post, Shana Gander-Zaucker, a current PGR in Psychology, explores these matters in greater detail and shares her experience of being involved in other aspects of University life.

When starting my PhD at the University of Birmingham I remember going to a Careers Network event during which one of the attendees stated: “try to gain as much experience as you can in different fields at the University while doing your PhD as it will help you obtain a job afterwards”.

Shana Gander-Zaucker RPC 2016
Shana presenting her poster at the RPC 2016

My first reaction to this was a feeling of slight anxiousness as I felt a little overwhelmed by just beginning a PhD and I didn’t want to add more to my so-called ‘to-do list’. However, since then I have obtained some work experience in different capacities and have been involved in a variety of social activities. They have greatly helped me in my development as a researcher. In this post I will talk about how focusing on more than only your thesis could help you not only while you are doing your PhD, but also afterwards. So what types of roles have I been involved in? Well, they have been varied. However, while reading this you should recognize that this is not a comprehensive list and that each PhD journey will be different with its own valuable and unique opportunities.   Continue reading “The thesis is not enough… (part 1)”