In case you didn’t know it yet, the Graduate Research School offers a whole host of glorious workshops and events for graduate research candidates to utilise and enjoy throughout their time here. These are varied in topic and presented by a number of experienced academics and Otago staff, who aim to engage with and inspire with their wealth of knowledge and genuine interest in helping you along the way. Among the heap of sessions run by GRS, the Student Learning Centre and HEDC; here are just a few snippets!
Presented by our pretty great GRS Dean, Professor Rachel Spronken-Smith, Doctoral candidates are treated to stage-based workshops: for those in the early stages of their study (Embarking on your Doctoral Journey), for those mid-way through their study (Keep Calm and Carry on), and for those hitting crunch time in the final stages of writing up (Hitting the Home Stretch).
Our very own GRS Manager, Claire Gallop, runs the ‘Insider’s Guide to Doctoral Domination’, which is a series of 6 x 1 hour workshops (next round starting in May!) aimed at helping you successfully negotiate your way through doctoral study. Claire also gleefully presents the ‘Mastering Your Thesis’ workshop, designed to offer Masters candidates some handy tips and advice on conquering their theses.
I asked a couple of our current students their thoughts on any workshops they’ve attended so far and received awesome responses! One PhD candidate gave us an insightful rundown of her experiences:
“Both workshops [The Insider’s Guide to Doctoral Domination and Keep Calm and Carry On] were well run, jam-packed with useful bits of information and a friendly environment to raise questions and talk to others experiencing similar research challenges/successes!
… The Insider’s Guide ran over the course of a couple of weeks, and this was a great amount of time for getting to know the other people in the workshop, which helped me feel like I was not ‘alone’ in this research adventure. It also gave me space to ask some of those broader questions (“where is the best coffee shop on campus?”) that you feel like your supervisor wouldn’t have time to answer, or you might feel stupid asking!
The Keep Calm workshop also creates a comfortable space for asking questions, breaking into smaller groups and offering really helpful advice. One of the nice things about attending the Keep Calm workshop at the thesis halfway mark, was actually recognising and reconnecting with some of the students who had attended Insider’s Guide a year or so earlier! I also thought both workshops were really helpful for helping you make the transition from Masters to PhD research. Both Claire and Rachel were great at putting things in perspective and providing practical solutions to counter all fears! The very blunt statement that this is “just a PhD”, was probably the most constructive, practical, keep-your-feet-on-the-ground-and-stop-the-panic advice I took away from these workshops.
My personal recommendation would be to attend both of these workshops. They help make connections with other PhD students, across a variety of disciplines and allow you to see, not only is there life beyond the four walls of your office, but your experience is not unique, and sharing this with others is quite therapeutic!”.
Ashraf Alam, a recently inducted PhD candidate echoed this response: “I believe all those workshops were useful. As a Masters student, I was mostly benefited from the ‘Mastering Your Thesis’ workshop. I’d be happy if I could really tell Claire Gallop, how grateful to her I am! I’d suggest all Masters thesis students to attend this particular workshop within the first month of beginning their research”. He indicated that the most important pieces of advice he received was to publish, and to get in touch with the subject librarian, stating that this was “… an invaluable asset that Otago has”.
When it comes to networking, Ashraf said that he appreciated receiving “… advice about managing the relationship among different stakeholders (supervisors, librarians, departmental faculties, peers, etc). It is not easy in a multicultural environment where general expectations are very diverse (much more than what you can imagine) among individuals”.
Current PhD candidate, Keely Blanch, shared her thoughts on the ‘Networking’ workshop run by Rachel: “Networking is one of those things you know you ‘should’ do, a necessity even if it seems at times to be a painful stilted way to meet people at conferences. Being half way through my PhD I gamely signed up and dragged myself off to Rachel’s seminar. Rachel offers some good reasons on why networking is good for your career – finding mentors, creating a network of people who can help you find out about job opportunities, creating new friendships and so on. Many opportunities to network can evolve naturally from chance meetings and so interactions are less ‘forced’. Other meetings, such as those at conferences where you know no one, are more difficult. Rachel took us through a series of exercises designed to let us practice meeting and chatting with complete strangers. Sure the conversations can seem a bit awkward when you first start, but once that ‘commonality’ is identified things seem to truck along more smoothly. You may ask what a short seminar on your own campus can offer, but in one afternoon I met postgrads from other departments (which means familiar faces to chat to at other functions), and I connected with someone who also blogs about their postgrad journey. I may have headed there with trepidation, but the afternoon was enjoyable and worthwhile”.
Feeling motivated to attend?! (Heck, even I am!) Head to the website and sign up!
Thanks for tuning in 🙂
As part of our series checking out the who’s and what’s of the Graduate Research School I paid my first visit to Claire Gallop – Manager of the School* to ask her the hard, and sometimes not so hard, questions. Claire talked 91.38% nonsense about her role in the School and the wider University. Here’s a run-down of our conversation….
Susan Craig, Graduate Research School
1) Tell me about your role as “Manager of the GRS” – what is it you do?
It’s great work if you can get it.
2) What’s your favourite aspect of the role?
No! Of course it’s working with the thesis candidates. They are a bunch of smart, enthusiastic people and it’s great to be a part of their thesis journey. I loved running the Insider’s Guide to Doctoral Domination PhD induction programme (which is coming back next year). It is fantastic to meet the candidates and hopefully be able to help them with issues that they might be struggling with.
I also really enjoy when a candidate comes into the School to submit a PhD – it’s great when they bring their friends and colleagues and really celebrate what is, after all, an incredible achievement. When I finally submit might I’m going to create chaos the like of which GRS has never seen before!
3) I can’t help but notice the fabulous collection of Lego in your office and the smattering of Halloween decorations poking out of your cupboards… would you like to tell me about those? Rumour has it you have the unofficial title of GRS Halloween Queen…
Not after last night’s truly evil Halloween Quiz run by OUPS; turns out I’m barely a Halloween Lady-in-Waiting. I reckon they made up half the answers to those questions. Where was the romance novel section? Why didn’t they ask for the lyrics of ABBA songs or what PhD Regulation 4 b. is?**
I take back what I said about enjoying working with students.
Ahem, yes, I do have a bit of Lego in my office. I am slowly building up a village from the Creator Expert series. I keep it in my office so my kids can’t play with it.
5) I know from personal experience and enjoyment that you are a fabulous baker Claire. What’s your favourite thing to bake and why?
Caramel Chip Cookies. Mmmm cookies. They are super yum and super easy.
6) If you could have ONE wish granted, what would it be?
7) You’ve been with the GRS for a few years now, but I’d like to know about your life before the GRS…
Do you mean post- or pre- witness protection?
Well, I was a lecturer in the Bioethics Centre for around five years and I’ve been hanging around the University doing a PhD in Philosophy for quite a while. Before that I lurked around the Politics Department at Auckland University studying and teaching. I guess I’m a university groupie.
8) What is the best piece of advice you would like to share with our graduate research candidates?
Ask questions! Ask lots of them, ask them diplomatically, and ask the right people. Ask your department about what they do to support you. Ask the Graduate Research School about the PhD regulations. Ask your supervisor about how they manage the writing process.
If you are worried about it, ask! Actually, even if you are not worried about it, ask. But ultimately this is your thesis so you will have to decide how you choose to respond to the answers you are given.
9) Your house is a bit of a menagerie, with a collection of giant cats and chickens. If there was a fire, which would you save first and why??
Oh that’s easy. It would have to be Monster Truck. He may be big of body and even bigger of paw, but he is a cat of very little brain. All the others could get out alive but Monster Truck would walk towards the fire and slap a steak on the couch thinking he was at a barbecue.
10) And finally, and most importantly, would you rather fight a horse-sized-duck or 100 duck-sized horses?
It’s a little known untrue fact that I’m called the Bruce Lee of GRS so I’m glad you asked me this. I’ve thought about this long and hard and I’m totally going 100 duck-sized-horses. Ducks are dodgy at the best of times and a horse-sized-duck would be lethal. That vicious bitey bill would be at you. Also who wants to get slapped by a giant webbed foot?
However, you could easily boot the teeny horses out of the way. I reckon you could punt them quite far; it would be poetry in motion.***
* The views expressed in this interview do not represent the views of the Graduate Research School nor the University of Otago. Heck, they barely even represent Claire’s views.
** 4 b. The minimum period of study shall be equivalent to 2.5 full-time years and the maximum period shall be equivalent to 4 full-time years. Exceptions shall be permitted only with approval of the Senate.
*** No horse-sized ducks or duck-sized-horses were harmed in the course of this interview.
Diana Ross had the Supremes, Tina Turner had the Ikettes, Britney Spears has her voice synthesiser, every great artist has to have back up and Claire Gallop is no different. Today we talk with Sarah McGregor and Mel Adams, Claire’s backup for the blog:
So why are you doing a blog and why now?
Sarah: GRS wants to reach the graduate research community far and wide. With the ever-increasing interest in, and use of, social media what better way than to start up a blog network where we can provide that community with all sorts of relevant information and entertaining ramblings!
Mel: We are wanting to build more of a community spirit within the graduate student community and using social media is one of the ways we can do this.
What is the purpose of the blog?
Sarah: To provide another avenue of heads-up for those who aren’t privy to the Facebook or Twitter worlds. Disseminating information to the graduate research community about what’s going on both in this little corner of the Clocktower and every other corner of the Uni that might be of relevance! Events, workshops, ideas, experiences, people of interest – you name it, we’ll blog it (probably).
Mel: We have Facebook, Twitter, a newsletter and view the blog as a space to share slightly more in-depth stories about folk involved in different aspects of the postgrad life.
Who contributes to the blog?
Sarah: The team in GRS will play a big role in providing posts for the blog. We’re also hoping for input from sources around the Uni, so hit us up!
Mel: We do! We are lining up an awesome collection of stories but are happy to hear from folk who have a story to share. If you are keen drop Claire, Sarah or myself an email and we will see if it is a good one.
What is your involvement in the blog?
Mel: I am a wrangler of the blog. Wrangle folk to write some stuff for the blog and try to keep Claire under her word limit (No Chance: Claire).
Sarah: Ditto! Deputy Wrangler.
What is your theme tune or what do you think the theme tune for the blog should be?
Sarah: Full House theme tune… the milkman, the paperboy, the evening TV! (Lame alert: it’s all about coming together as one big happy postgraduate family!)
Mel: I would have to go with the Muppets theme tune!
Mel Adams and Sarah McGregor
Welcome to the Graduate Research School’s Blog-With-No-Name. This blog is an opportunity for the University of Otago graduate research community and the people supporting that community to share insights and information about the thesis journey.
I am the Manager of the Graduate Research School and the School’s Chief Bloggerating Officer. I am ably supported by my Blog-of-Directors, Sarah McGregor from the Doctoral Office and Mel Adams from the Scholarships Office. Our mission is to share the ups and downs and the ins and outs of writing a thesis.
There is loads of support available across the University for thesis candidates but it isn’t always easy to find it at the exact moment you need it. This blog is a place where we can share resources and initiate new responses to the challenges thrown up by writing a thesis in our current environment. Check out our weekly post to see if there is something going on in your community that would help support you. If you have an idea for an amazing graduate research initiative, give us the word; you may be just one blog post away from glory.
Graduate Research should involve more than just slaving over books and Bunsen burners. We want to hear from thesis candidates not simply about their research, but also about their passions, and projects. If you are managing some amazing work-life balance, let us know and share how you managed it in our Life Beyond posts.
If you are barely managing a work-work balance, then look out for our posts on managing your greedy thesis. We will grab experts and pin them down about how to have the best possible thesis experience. Amongst other things, tips for dealing with writing woes, managing your supervisor, finding work in the current economic climate, and overcoming our own psychological foibles will be shared and discussed in our Conquer Your Thesis posts.
In our Behind Departmental Doors posts we will explore how various areas of the University support and develop graduate research. Ever wondered what a Postgraduate Coordinator does? Interested in what resources a thesis candidate can reasonably expect during candidature? We are here to blow those mysteries wide open. Want to know why there are goat noises coming from the department down the hall? Keen to know where to buy those instant-intellectual-look leather (or pleather) arm patches for your jerseys? Wonder no more! We are here to ask our departments the hard questions, the good questions, and the very-silly-indeed questions.
If you would like to write a post for the Blog-With-No-Name, then contact Claire Gallop. We have a few guidelines to prevent Blogageddon; we prefer not to slander people, be disrespectful, become the next WikiLeaks, or get embroiled in intellectual property disputes. We like our contributors to focus on positive solutions to issues rather than simply having a bleat and in the age of the sound-bite, short is good too, so aim for no more than 500 words. But beyond these rules, we want this to be your voice as well as ours.
Finally, do you know how many blogs there are that are called a Blog-With-No-Name? If you can come up with a great name for our blog there is a $50 supermarket voucher and a chocolate fish with your name on it; so get your thinking caps on and either email me or leave us a comment.
Claire Gallop, Manager, Graduate Research School