It won't be news to anyone reading this blog that life as a researcher – perhaps particularly life as a doctoral student – can be, and often is, very isolating. You're working on a niche topic, which few other people may understand or seriously care about; your day-to-day research is self-driven and self-directed. Particularly in the humanities, there is often little to no organised time with peers. I felt the latter fairly acutely when I moved universities to start my DPhil: in my Master's programme I had had multiple weekly classes and the chance to get to know my coursemates well, but in doctoral study it was much harder to build those connections – there just wasn't the regular time.
Posts by Alicia Smith
If all truth is God's truth, is there an academic topic where you could serve and glorify God by doing a PhD?
Last weekend in Oxford saw the second of this year's Developing a Christian Mind conferences - an annual pair of events inviting postgraduate students to consider and deepen the intersection of their academic work with Christian faith. 'Seeking Wisdom' is split into multiple disciplinary streams (this year, Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Philosophy & Theology) to enable more specific conversations to take place on how Christians think and work in particular academic fields.
'A Christian University Is For Lovers', runs the provocative title of the final chapter of this book, James K.A. Smith's first sally in his three-part 'Cultural Liturgies' project. Lovers of what? - you might ask. Of knowledge? Of the life of the mind? Of theology?
Last term I had the opportunity to teach undergraduates for the first time, and alongside that I completed the teaching development course offered by the Humanities division here in Oxford. Part of the course involved writing a teaching philosophy, and so I had to consider: what do I think good teaching is? Specifically, what is good teaching in my discipline?
There's something special about conversations where you can be on the same page with both faith and work.
In his recent post ‘Forays into finance’, Richard reflected on the challenges of institutional sin in his new context of the financial sector: an industry governed by forces which seem to tend towards exploitation of others, manifesting sin beyond the personal to the societal level.
But, of course, you don’t need to be in finance to recognise the way human institutions can be a force for evil. This concept of sin is easily recognisable to those in academia, too.
Inspired by this post from the archives of The Well (InterVarsity’s ministry to women in academia and the professions), I recently took a mini-‘retreat’ in the midst of my current summer season of being at home, preparing for a family wedding and working on my thesis in the midst of planning and errands.
I've spent much of the last two weeks at academic conferences. Now, while I take a few days off to recover (!), I'm reflecting on some of the challenges of the scholarly environment that can be exposed with particular clarity at this kind of event.
I should say up front that in general I really enjoy conferences, and the two I've just attended were no exception - one was relatively small, for specialists in my particular research area, and the other was a huge medievalist congress that draws people from all over the world. At both I met old friends and made new acquaintances, heard eye-opening research papers, spoke to leaders in my field, and presented my own work to engaged audiences. I'm worn out, but I had a great time.
For Easter Monday, here is a reflection on a poem which I was sent by my supervisor recently: ‘Suddenly’ by the twentieth-century Welsh poet and Anglican priest, R. S. Thomas.