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Monthly Archives: May 2014

Student citizen journalists engage with communities

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Rose Hill residents celebrating their regeneration project

A new module within the Communication, Media and Culture programme not only introduces students to theories and practice of news production in digital contexts, but challenges them to engage as citizens in local and wider communities.

Students are encouraged to consider themselves as citizens of a range of communities, and to reflect ways in which they engage with global and local matters. As a part of their assessment they produce blogs on an issue important to them.

Topics included: EU membership; generational political differences; religious identity; the politics of high heels; sexist cultures in local student nightlife; and student funding and the need for financial education in schools. Some students engaged more directly with local communities in Oxford as they researched their stories, venturing onto the city’s estates and talking to residents to offer a refreshingly positive view of less-visited parts of the city.

This module countered the popular myth of a politically and civically disengaged generation. Not only have students shown how interested they are in issues from the global to the hyper-local, they are going out and getting involved. It has also been great to have guest speakers including a journalist from our local Oxford Mail newspaper Sophie Scott, and a colleague and blogger for the Huffington Post, Professor Beverley Clack, to show where some of these ideas can lead.

Dr Michele Paule, Module leader

 Comments from students

My blog was built on the premise that university students are often cut off from the surrounding community. It aims to engage student readers through countering some of the stereotypes of Oxford’s council estates and showing how residents are active, positive citizens. In this way I hope my blog both demonstrates and addresses civic engagement.

Thea

Writing the blog made me realise how powerful even the smallest amount of political action can be. Not because it changed the world but because it changed me. Trying, successfully or not, to convey my opinions on how things work and what is important, made me reflect on why I think these things in the first place. I’m not sure I feel more or less like a citizen but I do feel more connected to the issues and ideas I find contentious or inspiring.

Annelie, generational political differences

As young people today feel more and more that we should be supporting social causes, there is no better way to get involved than to take to the internet – we are, after all, the ‘digital generation’. In creating the blog post for this assignment, it seemed very important to write about something that I was politically involved in, and passionate about. It’s my opinion that student feminism has never been so relevant.

Clare

I had not given much thought to what it means to be a citizen and if I were to be asked I would have been unable to explain what this term even meant. Through the module I have been able to explore varying ideas of citizenship and what contributes to becoming a citizen. It has encouraged me to think differently about becoming involved in activities which I would never have considered before e.g. blogging, and becoming more politically aware.

Lily

Where people may be unheard, or where voices dissent from the majority, blogs and social media can be effective channels for acknowledgement and recognition. I was able to turn the critical gaze inwards and observe my voice, explore the areas of my identity that are not so well-known, and feel empowered as a citizen. I decided to confront stereotypes and prejudices surrounding Buddhism with my personal experience.

Gabby

Brookes’ lecturer to discuss Bluestockings with Melvyn Bragg on BBC Radio 4

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Dr Nicole Pohl, Reader in the Department of English and Modern Languages, will be discussing the Bluestockings in Melvyn Bragg’s BBC Radio 4 programme, In Our Time. Joined by Professor Karen O’Brien and Dr Elizabeth Eger the discussion will explore the historical significance of the Bluestocking circle in the eighteenth century, explore the increasing defamation of the term in the nineteenth century and look at new scholarship that appraises the Bluestockings in literature and the visual arts.

Dr Nicole Pohl has recently published The Collected Letters of Sarah Robinson Scott (Pickering & Chatto/Huntington Library Press, 2013), writer, reformer and the sister of the ‘Queen of the Bluestockings’, Elizabeth Montagu.

This episode will be broadcast on 5 June 2014 at 9.30pm

Brookes PhD student wins Hong Kong Young Artist award for literary arts

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With her poetry book Goldfish published by Chameleon Press, Hong Kong-born writer Jennifer Wong has received the Young Artist award for literary arts, presented by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. The awards were given annually to art practitioners in different streams to recognise their contribution towards arts development in Hong Kong.

Inspired by the rich and colourful history, Chinese culture and traditions in Hong Kong, Goldfish captures many scenes and settings familiar to the Chinese community. From voodoo doll practices under Gooseneck Flyover in Causeway Bay (‘Menace’), the elaborate tea rituals in a wedding banquet (‘Ceremony’), the impossibility to rely on fengshui to alter a marriage (‘Sign’), thoughts of an afterlife (‘Shanghai Street’), to the poetic film still from Wong Kar-wai’s ‘2046’ (‘2046’), the book fuses folklore with imagination, collective history with childhood memories, and conveys Chinese culture as the unifying force that connects Hong Kong people with China. In other poems, familiar cityscapes such as a snake soup restaurant in ‘Intact’ or herbal shops in ‘Turtle Jelly’ are juxtaposed with vivid moments of womanhood. Inspired by Miss Hong Kong beauty pageant, ‘What Happened to Miss Chang’ mocks the superficiality of beauty culture and celebrity entertainment.

The book is also a reflection on the myriad connections between Hong Kong, the former British colony, and its motherland. Classical Chinese poems from Tang and Song dynasties such as ‘The Golden Coat’ (金鏤衣) and ‘Chinese Valentine’ (元夕), so often memorised by Chinese students, are translated and included in the collection. The motherland looms as a mysterious metaphor. In the poem ‘Leap Year’, the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony turns into a surreal dream where one catches a glimpse of ancient China.

In March this year, Wong was a featured poet in the Hong Kong Young Readers Festival, where she offered school talks and writing workshops to children aged 6 to 14.

Joanne Bailey uses gender as an analytical tool in all her research into the history of marriage

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Professor Joanne Bailey uses gender as an analytical tool in all her research into the history of marriage, parenting, and ideals of women’s and men’s behaviour. One of her particular interests is exploring how stereotypes of gender roles were often undermined in reality. She is delighted, therefore, to contribute to History Today (volume 64, issue 6, 2014) to explain why gender is essential to understanding the past in all its forms. In a short survey which takes account of how far the scholarship on gender has developed, she makes a powerful case that gender history should not be seen as something of interest only to historians of family, home, or relationships between the sexes (valuable as that is).

She states that gender ‘does not stop at the door when men walk out of their house into the public world. In fact gender history is an indispensable means to understand how past cultures, societies, politics and economies functioned and flourished’.

For example, she reveals how crucial gender is to new investigations of the First World War and its repercussions. Joanne concludes that gender history ‘is here to stay: embedded in academic and public histories and the national curriculum and it is already adapting’ to new approaches to historical study.

Antonia Mackay wins 2014 Teaching Teapot Award

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At a farewell barbecue party for English and Drama final-year students, Associate Lecturer in English literature, Dr Antonia Mackay, was honoured with this year’s Nigel Messenger Teaching Teapot Award. The award set up by Dr Daniel Lea a few years ago, is voted on by students, and has been won by Caroline Jackson-Houlston, Eric White, Daniel himself, Niall Munro, and now passes onto Antonia.

Head of Department, Dr Simon Kövesi, presented Antonia with the award. “The great thing about this prize is that I get to see student comments not just about the winner, but about all of my magnificent colleagues teaching across English literature, Drama and Creative Writing. We have a fabulous team here, and teaching is at the heart of what we do – and evidently we do it well. This battered old teapot is an annual reminder of that,” Simon said.

Programme Lead for English literature, Drama and Creative Writing, Dr Daniel Lea, was equally pleased. “I’m absolutely thrilled that Antonia’s hard work, commitment, and integrity have been recognised by the students. It’s fantastic for one of our own former students to be growing into her professional academic life with such evident promise, and for her to be rewarded by our students for her warmth and talent as a teacher. The Nigel Messenger award is a genuine reflection of our students’ appreciation of the teaching team’s expertise, and I’m delighted that Antonia has been the stand-out member of that team this year.”

Receiving the award, Antonia said “I am incredibly honoured to have been voted for by the students at Brookes and wish to thank them all for their part in the teaching process. Without their engagement and enthusiasm, this achievement would surely not have been realised. It is wonderful to feel such support from both my colleagues in the department and the students, and I hope to be able to continue to inspire and encourage future English students at the University.”

Students praised Antonia’s keen understanding of what they need in class, her engaging and informative style in seminar, her ability to explain everything in an accessible way, and her sheer passion for literature.

Simon added: “Antonia’s award is something we can all be proud of, as she has studied English here for her BA, MA and PhD. Indeed it has been a remarkable academic year for Antonia, as she passed her PhD in 2013, and now adds to that research triumph with evident teaching prowess. Nigel Messenger was a much-missed lecturer who retired a few years ago, and Antonia’s commitment to teaching is part of the proud tradition celebrated by the award which bears his name. We are very proud of her indeed.”

British Academy fellowship given to sociology academic

TinaMillerTina Miller, Professor of Sociology, has been awarded one of only  38 British Academy Mid-Career Fellowships to support research during the next academic year. Only 15 per cent of applications for these prestigious fellowships are successful.

Professor Miller, whose research interests focus on parenting, caring and working, will use the award to continue her research in this area.

Her project, Managing Modern Family Lives: public understanding and everyday practises of caring and paid work, will see her carrying out workshops with young fathers, fathers of older children, and single mothers. She will also plan and produce a radio programme, complete a monograph and disseminate her findings in various ways, including at the World Health Organisation in Geneva.

Professor Miller said, ‘It’s just the most wonderful opportunity and I can’t quite believe it. I’ll have an uninterrupted year to focus on all these research activities.’

Oxford Brookes history lecturer writes on election prospects for The Independent

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Exactly one year before the next UK General Election, Oxford Brookes Reader in the History of Public Policy, Dr Glen O’Hara, has written for The Independent about what past experience of election run-ins and opinion polls can tell us about the likely outcome. He concludes that the result is still close to call: although the Conservative Party is more than likely to end up ahead in terms of votes cast, what that means for seats in the House of Commons is very unclear given the rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party and the very uncertain performance of the Liberal Democrats in key seats. As he concludes: ‘With one year to go, the British General Election is still shrouded in a statistical fog… there is but one consolation: at least the run-in won’t be boring’.

Humanities and Social Sciences Research Students’ Conference Held at Brookes

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Rowena Rouse, Research Repository Manager, talks to postgraduate students about publishing and Open Access

The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences hosted its regular Research Students Conference on Saturday 26 April, a well-attended event that more than achieved its goal of helping PhD students to assemble the skills necessary to complete their degrees, as well as considering the wider meaning and use of their research. In the morning two guest speakers – Chris Humphrey from PhD advice website Jobs on Toast, and Gina Wisker, Professor of Higher Education and Contemporary Literature at the University of Brighton, talked with students about jobs outside academia, and the thresholds of understanding that would cross as they pursued their research. Meanwhile, in the afternoon, colleagues from Oxford Brookes conducted workshops with students on information management, working with supervisors and shaping a coherent argument that stretched across the eventual thesis.

Dr Glen O’Hara, Faculty Lead on Research Degrees and Chair of the Research Degrees Sub-Committee, commented that ‘this was a really lively, enlightening, invigorating day that broke out of the usual “talk and point” format and was full of insightful conversations about the shape, content and use of research degrees. Students from across a wide range of different disciplines have begun to develop a real sense of collective identity and endeavour here at Oxford Brookes’.

Senior Lecturer briefs Minister on relations with Russia

Sarah Whitmore 2014

Dr Sarah Whitmore (Senior Lecturer in Politics, Department of Social Sciences) took part in a High-Level Seminar at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, chaired by Rt Hon. David Lidington, Minister for Europe, on ‘Future Relations with Russia’ on 1 May. The seminar included senior government staff and invited experts and business representatives. Sarah was one of three academics participating. 

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences picks up two awards at Brookes Union Teaching Awards

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The Faculty had two winners on the night, each receiving a beautiful glass trophy. Dr Ian Holgate won Best Single Learning Experience for a fantastic and “inspirational” visit he organised for Art History students to the Tate Britain and Tate Modern.

Professor Anne-Marie Kilday won the Most Inspirational Lecturer award. However, given that she teaches about gangland violence, terrorism and serial killing, this is perhaps a bit concerning for law enforcement agencies across Britain.

A lecturer is only as good as their students and this year’s students have been so awesome!

Anne-Marie Kilday, Most Inspirational Lecturer 2014

The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences were very well represented at the Brookes Union Teaching Awards last night. Now in its second year, this event celebrates teaching and support practice across the university, and whilst it only captures a fraction of the fantastic work that goes on across the university it nevertheless is arguably a much more positive way gathering student feedback each year.

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Humanities and Social Sciences colleagues were nominated in every single category of award as follows:

Most Inspirational Lecturer (HSS had 6 of the 13 nominations in this category):

  • John Lo Breglio
  • Mark Cain
  • Jennifer Day
  • Laura Higgins
  • Anne-Marie Kilday
  • Eric White

Best Module (HSS had 5 of the 7 nominations in this category):

  • Chara Bakalis (Medical Law)
  • Dr Wendy Che (Beginner Mandarin Chinese 1A)
  • Sumire Hori (Japanese 1A and 1B)
  • Dr Harry Mount (Reading Art History)
  • Nick Swarbrick (Outdoor Learning)

Best Single Learning Experience (5 of the 8 nominations in this category and both finalists were from the History of Art programme):

  • Jean Clark
  • Elizabeth Darling
  • Catherine Gilson
  • Ian Holgate
  • Maggie Wilson

Best Academic Advisor (3 of the 9 nominations)

  • Niall Munro
  • Michelle Paule
  • Mary Wild

Above and Beyond the Call of Duty (2 of the 6 nominations)

  • Rev Robert Bates
  • Jonathan Reid

Best Non-Academic Staff Member (1 of the 9 nominations)

  • Mandy Archer

The Most Innovative Use of Technology (1 of the 3 nominations)

  • Chris Lloyd

Congratulations to everyone nominated. Thanks to the students for their nominations and to the Brookes Union for organising the event.