Category Archives: Alumni

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

Interview: Ashley Kilgallon, Exeter graduate, on her new life at Leeds

This week SPA Undergrad News interviews Ashley Kilgallon, a recent Exeter graduate who secured a place and funding for a master’s and PhD course at the University of Leeds. 

Tell us about yourself and your connection to Exeter

I graduated from Exeter in 2014 with a degree in Sociology and Anthropology. Alongside this, I was the SSLC representative for Sociology from my first year and was also the Academic & Careers Representative for the Sociology & Anthropology Society during my final year.

Where are you now and how did you get there?

I’m currently working towards my Master’s at the University of Leeds in Security and Justice. This Master’s is part of my ESRC 1+3 scholarship, a pathway master’s with the ultimate goal of completing my PhD.

I always knew I wanted to go onto further study after completing my undergraduate degree and someone recommended that I visit, which lists a large amount of the scholarships and programmes available in the UK. This website was an amazing resource to find and I’d recommend any student looking for further study opportunities or research jobs to look on this website.

The website advertised a PhD funded opportunity that looked absolutely perfect for me: a partnership PhD between the University of Leeds & the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), exploring Liaison Based Public Order Policing and Processes Governing the Reduction of Conflict During Crowd Events. Thus, the project involved me exploring crowd events such as a football match, a protest or an event like Nottinghill Carnival and observing what different methods defuse conflict with a specific focus on Police Liaison Teams – a new tactical option which involved officers being deployed into crowds and communicating with people, specifically focused on a less confrontation method to defusing any potential violence.

After seeing the project advertised I got in touch with Cliff Stott, the lead for the project and now my advisor! We shared a few emails and then had a phone conversation, following this there was an application process, where Dana and Hannah from the department kindly provided me with a reference. I was then invited to the interview process and subsequently offered the position. I was totally over the moon!

What’s your new course like?

My master’s programme, which is a 12 month course, is very different to my undergraduate degree and I’m noticing how differently it’s making me think, which is great and it’s also introducing me to a whole new body of academia which is so beneficial. Alongside doing some politics/international relation type modules I also take a few modules in policing (both within Britain and internationally) therefore I’m able to keep my core interests central to my master’s alongside learning new things.

My PhD will begin officially in September and lasts for three years. In September I’ll be located predominately in London where I can visit New Scotland Yard on a more regular basis and shadow officers there, understand the planning process behind different crowd events and also attend regular crowd events in London.

What’s your favourite thing about the work you do now?

My absolute favourite thing about the work I’m doing is how varied it is! I get bored very easily and knew this challenge would keep me interested and focused. There are obviously still the dreaded deadline weeks where you spend an ungodly amount of time in the library, but this is contrasted to days where I spend researching. A few weeks ago, alongside my advisor and another student of his, I spent Saturday observing the policing of Leeds vs. Millwall and on Sunday we travelled to Bradford to observe the policing of Bradford vs. Sunderland. This week just gone, I spent Wednesday in Peckham shadowing officers and seeing what a night shift consists of. In a few weeks time I’m travelling to Ireland to spend a few days with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to observe the policing of St Patrick’s Day. Alongside this, I also find policing a very interesting world and have a lot of respect for the work officers do, therefore interacting with them regularly leads to a lot of very interesting conversations. I literally learn something new everyday and it’s amazing!

What’s the biggest challenge for you at the moment?

I think my biggest challenge at the moment is trying to learn the best way of conducting ethnographic research. As this is my master’s year, it allows me a lot of freedom to spend time fumbling around in the dark trying to work out where my skills lie and how I can utilize them. Spending research time with my advisor is extremely helpful because I can observe how Cliff operates in different environments and try to learn from him. But research is such a personal experience; you have to be honest with yourself about where your skill base lies and where you aren’t as strong. As any lecturer will tell you, research methods classes only teach you so much, you have to actually ‘do’ to learn this skill properly and I anticipate constantly learning different methodological skills during the entirety of these four years.

What are your plans for the future?

Since my very first year at Exeter my ultimate career goal was to be a leading policing academic. I haven’t changed my mind yet – but maybe ask me again in four years!

Look out for Ashley’s tips on taking your degree further coming soon to the blog!

– Gemma Joyce