Postgraduate Representative Report – July 2010

Hannah Schuerholz
Chiara Minestrelli

“I was particularly impressed last year by the number and calibre of academics who contributed to the masterclass. I was surprised by this. I felt there was a depth of experience available to the students and the opportunity to access individual expertise.” (student response to the postgraduate workshop, ASAL Conference 2009, ANU, Canberra)

Postgraduate Representative Activities:

After the postgraduate workshop at last year’s conference in Canberra, which was a great success and is still in the mind of all those of us who attended this event, Chiara attended the 10th biennial EASA conference in Spain and strengthened the bond between the ASAL and EASA postgraduate community by highlighting the importance to join the EASA discussion forum. EASA promotes the study and discussion of a wide variety of aspects of Australian culture: Aboriginality, literature, film, the media, popular culture, history, political discourses and the arts. The aim of the conference was to start an interesting academic discussion over the issue of national and cultural (dis)solutions in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. Scholars and postgraduate students successfully worked together in the analysis and exploration of new political solutions, new cultural (re)constructions and narrative formulas involved in the process of (dis)solving the past and the present to go forward with confidence. In particular, the EASA conference constituted a big opportunity to all PhD students, who participated in interesting seminars and lectures. A postgraduate seminar was held one day before the conference, thus giving postgraduate the chance to present and discuss their own projects. Furthermore, before the end of the conference Mark Froud (Bath Spa University, UK) was elected representative for the EASA postgraduates. Eventually they all agreed to establish a connection with the ASAL postgraduate through the on-line EASA forum, so as to create an active net of academics who work in the same field, share knowledge and help the circulation of new ideas.

Besides updating and maintaining the list of current ASAL postgraduates, the highlight of the first half of 2010 has been the organisation of the masterclass for this year’s ASAL conference ‘Archive Madness’ at the University of New South Wales.

Unfortunately, the initial response to the idea of holding an event like a masterclass at the start of the conference was not as immediate and extensive as we had hoped. Only after re-sending the invitation to enrich this class with suggestions several times, we finally received a satisfying amount of suggestions from other ASAL postgraduates regarding the organisation of the masterclass. In the process of preparing for this postgraduate workshop, which is to be held on 7 July 2010, we have now gathered interesting and valuable ideas from the postgraduate community. These ideas reflect the problems and concerns postgraduate students, especially those in pursue of their PhD, have to face in the course of their candidature. Some of the answers we received address the need for more guidance and preparation when it comes to preparing for a life in academia after submission. Generally, a large number of students believe it is highly necessary to create the grounds on which postgraduates can meet and discuss these problems. This will prevent a considerable amount of insecurity and confusion, which are common feelings in the process of writing a thesis. It might be rewarding, both for postgraduates and organisers, to re-awaken a more vibrant and regular discussion and interaction between students by virtual discussion forums, regular meetings and possibly a larger committee of postgraduate representatives.

In the following we have listed a range of topics suggested by current ASAL postgraduate students to be addressed in the masterclass in July this year, run by Dr. Anne Brewster and Dr. Maggie Nolan.

Topic suggestions for discussion:

- How important is it to publish in A-ranked journals?

- What can we do to prepare for an academic career after submission?

- What do I have to keep in mind when presenting at a conference?

- What planning should we be doing while we finish our thesis to help our job

- Should we be tutoring while working on our PhD?

- What is the importance of getting out into the wide world of conferences?

- How do I deal with the emotional challenges of a PhD?

- What can we do to boost the writing process?

- What characterises a good conference paper and a good presentation?

- What advice and information can be given on archive research and the handling of manuscript collections and correspondences?

Suggestions for the Postgraduate activities in 2010/2011:

1) With the generous contribution of CAL funding, students are given the opportunity to get financial support to attend the ASAL conferences. We would like to thank ASAL and CAL for giving this support and we would be really happy to see it continuing.

2) If possible, the very high registration fees for conference attendance should be reduced for postgraduates or funding should be given that cover these fees.

3) If the opportunity is given, it might be beneficial for the postgraduate community to intensify distributing the ASAL Postgraduate newsletter every month in order to keep students informed about the different events held by ASAL, upcoming conferences (especially for postgraduates), publishing opportunities etc. This would supplement the website information and would make it directly accessible to students and encourage them to respond. Being a more personal way of keeping students informed about postgraduate activities, the newsletter should also emphasise that every student’s engagement and contribution is welcome and needed.

4) Also, we strongly agree with the suggestions made in the 2008 report which highlights the importance of an online discussion forum in which membership can be monitored.

5) We would appreciate it if any important information regarding postgraduate matters and formalities is forwarded directly to the current postgraduate representatives. It is also crucial that new representatives receive a short briefing on their duties before they commence their position.

6) We also suggest a new link on the ASAL postgraduate website that outlines further career opportunities and job offers for PhD graduates as well as scholarhips and funding opportunities.

7) Also it might be good to give information on the publishing industry in academic respects and a brief description of the grading system of existing journals.

Hannah Schuerholz
Chiara Minestrelli
Melbourne in July 2010