Finding community in writing

Umas Jin is a final year English PhD researcher, who is about to submit his thesis. His research looks at the intellectual resonances between Virginia Woolf and neuropsychologists of her time and those who came after her. It also touches upon how narrative can play an important part to better understand the mind-body relation as holistic and dynamic.

I would like to share my writing experience with the writing workshop Shut up and Write. In the pre-Covid lockdown era, I normally worked in the office with other colleagues as they gave me a sense of “togetherness”. Although we were doing our own research, we were working, basically, together in the same location and time. English is not my first language so I would have the opportunity to ask my colleagues in the office about grammar and language. At that time, I was aware of the writing group but I rarely attended. Looking back, I think I took it for granted. However, things changed when the lockdown began last year. I could not go back to the office and many of my colleagues moved back with their families, friends, and partners. I was thankful to my best mate Chris who accompanied me throughout the difficult times.

During the lockdown, the Shut up and Write group moved online. First, I doubted whether it would work for me as I prefer working with people and seeing them face-to-face. Nonetheless, it went pretty well! Because it is online, I’ve got to know people around the UK and even the Globe. People are very nice and welcoming to each other. I like how we split time into 25 minutes for work and 5 minutes for break, so we would not indulge too much in our own work but balance our time in a day. I decided to help hosting the online workshop which was a good experience. As we gradually walked out of the lockdown in April this year, I was able to do two in-person writing sessions in St Luke’s Campus. I was indeed keen on doing the workshop with peers and seeing faces. We chatted, ate cookies, and worked on our research.

In the PhD journey, we may feel isolated and lonely as we are doing different research, topics, and fields on our own. However, the purpose of Shut up and Write, I believe, is to help us understand that we are not alone and are supported by one another. In addition, the group also introduces us to people from various disciplines, ethnicities, and cultures, which I think can be inspirational for our own research and lives. Whether the group is online or in person, we are able to interact with others who are actually walking along with us in our journey.

With plans to restart the writing group in person next year, I would make the most of it and try my best to support peers. Community is what researchers need the most!

The PGR seminars of SITE, a new space for student engagement and visibility

Josep Pinyol Alberich is an ESR fellow at the Academy of Business and Society (ABIS) and a PhD candidate at the University of Exeter. Josep’s research project focuses on the analysis of the existing political discourses on the topic of Circular Economy in the European Union and the relationship between existing public discourses and policy change.

Professor Jing-Lin Duanmu joined the Business School in January 2020.  Her research interests include foreign direct investment, international trade, political relations, and corporate social responsibility. Her research has appeared in Strategic Management Journal, Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of World Business, International Business Review and World Economy.

Since March of this year, we have started a new series of webinars at the SITE department. This series of webinars allow our PGRs (MRes and PhD students) to present their research project to their peers and academics in SITE. This was also an opportunity for us to personally get in touch with all the PGRs and to get to know what their research projects are, and to both learn from it and from the feedback and opinions from our peers at SITE.

The PGR webinars were first announced on the 22nd of February, when a call of abstracts was made. The first webinar was made on the 3rd of March, and since then, we organized 8 webinars, and three more webinars are planned until November. Our objective is that at least, all PhD and most of MRes students present their research to SITE.

The PGR webinars of SITE addressed several topics, for instance providing new insights into different issues of leadership, public policy, and the circular economy. Thus, it provides an opportunity for all members of SITE to learn about what kind of research our PGR student are engaging and what methods they use, where they conduct their research, and how they have access to their data. This has been a highly inspiring experience, as it provided us a chance to learn more globally about the work that is being done in SITE, thus, acquiring a broader vision of the department’s work that we did not know before.

The organization of the PGR webinars in SITE has become highly valuable for all MRes and PhD students in SITE. First, it gives visibility to the ongoing student-led research, which helps all SITE members, especially students to better know each other and identify collaboration opportunities. The webinars are also a very valuable opportunity for early researchers to obtain feedback from the department. This feedback is an excellent opportunity for us to learn about potential literature that we may have missed, methods that we can experiment with, or data sources that we did not know about. Finally, to do these presentations is a great opportunity for students to gain experience in presenting their research.

In summary, the presence of the PGR webinars of SITE allows us to create a new space in SITE to give visibility to PGRs. This space enables students to connect and engage with the department, and for the department to know better our PGRs. This is mutually beneficial, as PGRs obtain valuable feedback and experience, and it benefits our research output, as it provides an opportunity to collaborate within the department. As organizers, this experience has been very positive, as it helped us to connect better within our faculty, and to obtain a better vision about topics and methods that we did not know about, and to learn from the feedback of our colleagues. Engaging in the discussions after the PGR presentations created an opportunity to enrich the students work with the experience and knowledge from the whole department, and an exciting opportunity for us to broaden our vision on diverse topics and to gain a department-wide perspective of how research is conducted in SITE.