Monthly Archives: April 2015

Dissy selfies galore: Final years celebrate handing in their dissertations

This fateful week saw third years across the University hand in their dissertations. Here are a collection of celebration pictures from finalists in the department:


Danielle Bull and Caroline Horn


Abbie Farmer and Charlotte Pignatelli


Ellee Dowell


Issy Hoole, Jessica Parker and Gemma Joyce


Victoria May


Charlotte Pignatelli

Did we miss your dissertation hand-in pic? Tweet us your post-dissy snaps at @UoESPAnews!


Gemma Joyce

Discovering Sociology and Anthropology at Exeter

Amory BuildingAlthough one of the smaller disciplines within the department, Anthropology nonetheless has a large number of students who are proud and excited about their programmes at Exeter. Often taken in conjunction with other related courses such as Sociology and Philosophy, Anthropology is also a fascinating discipline in its own right. We caught up with two students in the latter stages of their courses to see how they’ve found it so far.

Owen, 2nd year BA Sociology and Anthropology

My first two years of studying anthropology totally removed the blinkers forged throughout my life as I discovered an incredible variety of world-views. It made me question and put into perspective my own culture, which up until then seemed to be a universal truth. It only now seems to be one of the myriad ways of living and going on about one’s life. It is as if you had been taught all your life to put in milk before the tea and then someone showed you that you could also put it after. Not only can you put the milk after but at any moment and in any fashion! The way people bring up their children, the customs and habits, the symbols vary dramatically from one culture to another. All these ways of being are just as valid as one another although in some lectures I have been tempted to judge certain practices. Criticizing one culture for its practices is tempting as we touch upon ethical issues such as FGM. Obviously the picture is far more complex. If anything, anthropology has taught me to be far more critical of what I see in everyday life and how I’ve been socialised into a certain world-view.

Jess, 3rd year BA Sociology and Anthropology:

Anthropology at Exeter offers a diverse range of modules that have grounded my understanding of the discipline through the study of classical texts, but that have also opened up exciting new fields ranging from childhood to medicine and even terrorism studies. Taught alongside Sociology, the dual nature of the department (particularly following the BA stream) provides the opportunity for a more inter-disciplinary approach to studying which I believe is unique to Exeter and makes the course fresh and exciting with the wider range of module choices available each term. This alongside our own personal ethnography and artefact projects has allowed me to engage practically with the course and work not simply as a student but as an anthropologist out ‘in the field’. In particular I have enjoyed the small, close knit and supportive nature of the department with students collaborating across year groups on projects and seminar discussions.

During my time here the successful Sociology and Anthropology Society have organised a range of fantastic careers talks aimed specifically at the interests of students within the department. These areas have so far included the charity sector, the police force and journalism. They have proved particularly useful in third year as a source of networking. Termly socials and end of term balls have increased the sociable nature of the degree too. Student led subject mentoring, module choice guidance, friendly, approachable and down to earth lecturers and a brilliant administrator have really contributed to my overall enjoyment of the course alongside everything else the wider University has to offer.

Meet brand new Philosophy Society President, Dan Mason

Tell us about yourself and your involvement with the Philosophy society

Currently I’m a first year BA Philosophy student of equal Scottish and English descent (I always like to point this out, it’s important for some reason that I have forgotten). I live along the coast in Hampshire. I’m an out of practice painter, amateur photographer and poet, and a huge movie buff. I have been involved with the Philosophy Society since freshers’ week, regularly attending their speaker events and socials and getting to know them. They have been extremely welcoming and I have had a very enjoyable time. I decided to run for President as a first year because I felt as though I had a vision and the passion to bring said vision to fruition.

What is it that drew you to studying Philosophy?

I used to be highly political. I was considering a career in politics as I wanted to help people and try to improve their lives – Naïve and idealistic, I know! I have gradually become increasingly disillusioned with practical politics due to its child-like manner and its disregard for genuine thought; it all seems so fake and dishonourable. I started studying Philosophy out of a fluke: I dropped Sociology in the first week of college and had a choice between doing Dance or Philosophy – As you can tell I clearly chose Dance… I fell in love with philosophy. It is such a wonderfully free subject that in my opinion is the basis of all human endeavour. My A-Level teachers inspired me, not only through their manner of teaching but also through the support they gave me. During my last year of college my two grandfathers passed away within the space of a couple of weeks; I found myself in a dark and terrible place as you might imagine. It was my teachers’ understanding that helped me, and made me want to give back by hopefully inspiring people myself one day. I also owe a debt to Friedrich Nietzsche, his Thus Spoke Zarathustra dragged me out of the darkness and cemented my devotion to philosophy.

What can we expect from the Philosophy society for the rest of the year and beyond?

We’ll be developing a schedule of speakers, events and socials for the coming year which will be finalised through summer. Check out our facebook page for up to date information. Simply put we have a greatly able and ambitious committee and we are dedicated to getting the society off the ground. I want to see the society grow and that will be our primary focus. We shall also encourage people to do philosophy, through our THINK! Journal, by which I mean produce original work, be it essays, poetry, stories – we really want to see freedom and creativity flourish.

What are you most looking forward to as President?

The challenge of nurturing the society, of growing it and maintaining it, and of fostering both an intellectual side to cater to doing philosophy and an entertaining side to cater to the society’s wellbeing. One thing I have enjoyed about this year’s committee was the friendliness, something I wish to see continue. I also enjoy meeting new people with different ideas – I love talking to people about their opinions.

What’s the biggest challenge the society faces?

Attracting people to our events and socials. This is at the top of my lists to tackle – we need to encourage more people to come along to our speakers and socials.

Do you have a favourite module and if so, why?

As for a favourite module so far, I must say Philosophical Readings 1 where we studied Plato’s The Republic. I find Plato to be fascinating for two reasons, the first being that as Whitehead said, most European philosophy since can be generally characterised as mere footnotes to him and the second being that I tend to liken him to a pile of dirt: most of it is utter drivel, but you do find the odd hidden gem.

Is there anything else you’d like to say our readers?

If you are at all interested in philosophy, then do come along next year, it promises to be a very interesting one indeed. However if you’ve never been interested, then please do come and investigate. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the value of philosophy. The society is a friendly place too so don’t be daunted by the subject, just come along and have a good time.

You can find the Philosophy Society on Facebook here and Twitter here.

Gemma Joyce

Interview with Julia Paci


This week, SPA Undergraduate News caught up with Ms Julia Paci, Employability and Outreach Manager for the College of Social Sciences and International Studies.

Hi Julia! Good to meet you. Could you first give us a lowdown of your role in the university?

I’m the Employability and Outreach Manager for the College of Social Sciences and International studies. What that means is that I look after the interests of the College’s departments when it comes to delivering the activities we need to provide the best opportunities we can to students to help support their career development and employability skills. This varies a lot from supporting work placement modules and helping develop placement opportunities to bringing in alumni and employers from sectors that are not otherwise represented at careers fairs to create information events and networking sessions.

What are some of the most common questions students ask you when they deliberate on career and employability issues?

There seems to be a sense of “information overload” and actually I find myself constantly sending students links to websites and pointing out where information can be found. Typically, this is on internship opportunities but also on where to look to get advice on writing a CV and cover letter. It’s all fairly basic stuff.  What I have tried to do with my ELE page, My Brilliant Career, is to bring together those most requested links and I carry out research and post up useful websites there. It’s quite a long page but it’s got a lot of good stuff on it!

What do you make of the current job market for SPA undergrads?

This is a really interesting question. The job market is the same for SPA students as anyone else. However, I think students, especially in Sociology and Anthropology, need to be more aware of what they have to offer the employer. A few years ago we ran an event on Management Consultancy specifically for SPA students. It was a real challenge getting students to go but the feedback afterwards was amazing. It helped that the employer was willing to work with us and pitch the event in the right way. The overwhelming response was that this was a careers path which was perfect for a sociologist but that without having gone and tested it out, the students would have never known. It goes to show that it’s good to be open-minded!

Over the years, how has the job market changed in terms of recruitment? What are employers looking out for right now?

One of the biggest changes and pressures for students now is the fact that employers see a good 2:1 degree “as a given” and it’s what else that is on your CV that interests them more. This presents a challenge to the students who get a lower degree classification and also to those struggling to make themselves “stand out” from the crowd. My advice to those who are having a wobbly time right now is not to bury your head in the sand and to try and get any job, especially office-based work with manageable, regular hours that you can comfortably fit in with your studies. Most employers feel much more confident about employing someone with experience and a basic understanding of “office etiquette” (reliability, punctuality, good teamwork skills) than someone who hasn’t got that experience. It doesn’t matter where you get the experience – there are some great SCP internships that are offered at the university. This is exactly the sort of thing that employers are looking for on your CV and will make up for any other gaps.

What do you think are the biggest job market challenges facing SPA undergrads now? What’s your advice to them in overcoming these challenges?

I suppose the biggest challenge in the job market is about the perception of these degrees. There is to some extent a natural progression from say sociology in to social work and charity work, but it’s not a clearly vocational degree. In some respects, this is great because the range of careers you can do with any of these subjects. I am constantly amazed at the variety of different professions students with Philosophy degrees go in to. There are no hard and fast rules! However, there are challenges and learning how you can demonstrate to an employer just how career-orientated your degree is, can make all the difference. I would recommend all students at some point in their degree take time to reflect on the career skills you get from your degree. Helpfully, SPA produced a handbook for this which is on the SPA ELE page and more general information is on My Brilliant Career. It will really help when answering application form questions or at interview.

What are the common career pathways that SPA undergrads take upon graduation?

There isn’t a common career pathway! Having said that, I see a lot of SPA students who want to go on to postgraduate study and I think that some students find a vocation during their three-year degree which then involves some kind of re-training. An obvious example is teaching which is popular, but also social work, nursing or law conversions. Other popular career choices are marketing and public-relations. These are careers where you almost always have to start at the bottom and work up. You have to have realistic expectations and set yourselves clear goals of what you want to achieve and by when. We recently piloted an event called “Careers that make society work” which brought together people working in jobs which help others such as charity work, or in areas such as probation and child protection. These areas are also popular with SPA students and I hope to make this event a regular feature of our career events programme for SPA students to attend.

What are the distinguishing qualities that SPA undergrads bring to the workforce?

I can answer this question with two examples but there will be many more. Firstly, SPA students bring to the workplace a number of skills, especially the all-important people skills and an understanding of human nature and what makes people behave in certain ways. This is incredibly valuable in any workforce. Employers are always looking for a balance of new recruits to work together and will identify those who demonstrate these qualities as potential employees. With the new BSc degree in Sociology and Criminology there are additional distinguishing qualities which students can offer with their data analysis skills. Students with these strong credentials bring to the workforce qualities and skills which are much in demand by employers, and on top of that they bring an enquiring mind that can be nurtured and developed by the employer.

And finally, what’s the most satisfying takeaway you get from your job?

I get job satisfaction when an event goes well and I like to think that I organise high quality events with a range of interesting speakers. I like the freedom I have to try different things. Most recently, I have been developing more skills session with employers but with different twists to them, making them more interactive and less reliant on passive listening. I also get an enormous amount of personal satisfaction when I see students that I have helped do well. Sometimes it doesn’t always happen straight away but I keep up to date with their progress on LinkedIn. I get some lovely thank you emails too, which I keep and look at if I am having a stressful day – they always cheer me up!I get job satisfaction when an event goes well and I like to think that I organise high quality events with a range of interesting speakers. I like the freedom I have to try different things. Most recently, I have been developing more skills session with employers but with different twists to them, making them more interactive and less reliant on passive listening. I also get an enormous amount of personal satisfaction when I see students that I have helped do well. Sometimes it doesn’t always happen straight away but I keep up to date with their progress on LinkedIn. I get some lovely thank you emails too, which I keep and look at if I am having a stressful day – they always cheer me up!

Interested to discover more career opportunities the department provides? Then head on down to the Facebook page that Julia runs:

Jason Chang

7 tips for taking your degree further

Recently we interviewed Ashley Kilgallon, recent Exeter graduate, on her move from Exeter to Leeds for further study. This week she gives her tips on how to take your degree further.

  1. Get experience outside of academics. Summers are the best time to get internship experience and during my first two summers at Exeter I interned at the Violence Reduction Unit in Glasgow, which was an incredible experience. In addition to this, I interned for 6 months at Ames Police Department whilst I studied abroad in America. When I applied for my scholarship for my Masters in Security and Justice at Leeds, I was so worried that because I wasn’t on track for a First my chances would be harmed. However, I was told that my internship experience would enhance my application. Naturally, university is so expensive and I appreciate that many people might work over summer to try and earn some money – if this is a necessity try and seek a job that is to some extent in your field of interest. If financially feasible also look for unpaid internships – both of mine were unpaid but the experience I gained was invaluable and has massively aided me.
  2. The advice my parents always gave me was to find what it is in life you love and build a career from there.  Don’t live a life “living for the weekend” – love everything you do! This is the same for your degree. Find your niche and build a career out of it. Policing and crime prevention was always my main interest therefore I knew where I wanted to focus my efforts when searching for a job/scholarships. Social science is such a huge discipline and at undergrad you cover so much, it is vital to figure out what it is you’re interested in. And if you can’t work out what you enjoy, try a variety of internships or voluntary positions to at least work out what it is you don’t enjoy and eliminate career paths from there!
  3. If you can seek a scholarship with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), they’re honestly the best! I’ve never experienced an organisation, which is more dedicated to your success. I’ve met so many other passionate students with a variety of research interests. The ESRC regularly put on workshops and conferences throughout your funded period with them. These focus on developing you as a student; enhancing your research ability; improving your writing; teaching you how to get published; networking with other researchers and so much more! The scholarships are competitive, but completely and utterly worth the hard work.
  4. Learn to network! I totally appreciate that not everyone is confident and speaking to unknown people can be daunting, but it’s such a vital skill. Alongside this, don’t shy away from using family and friend contacts. This can really help in getting the ball rolling with internships and opportunities. But remember, the family/friend contact can only do the introductions, you have to follow through with the hard work!
  5. Some female only advice (sorry men)! Naturally this is dependent on what type of work you’re going into, but ensure you lift each other up and don’t see each other as unnecessary competition. For those of you seeking work in a female dominated area – lucky you! For those of you who aren’t – it’s also great, but be prepared, it can be lonely! I recently met a female PhD student at a conference and we joked about how great it was that at least there was never a queue for the loos! Men are fabulous and working alongside them is great, but sometimes you can feel isolated. Seek out female colleagues and build each other up.
  6. Play hard, work harder. University is the best place to have fun and this is certainly something you should do whilst there. Never again will you be able to embarrass yourself so spectacularly at Top Top TP with minimal consequences. But you need to balance this with hard work. Something that continually motivates me is the idea that you can always do better therefore, always aim to move up and don’t become stagnant.
  7. Lastly, don’t panic if you haven’t got everything figured out by graduation. We’re all still so young – try different things out and if you fail, who cares! Just get up and start again. The only important thing is you don’t get put off by failure!

Gemma Joyce