While I wouldn’t say that 2015 was a terribly successful year for me in terms of my research (although I did get my data collection finished!) I would say that it included one of the most enjoyable experiences of my PhD process – having the opportunity to edit Postscript magazine.
Postscript is the magazine of the UWA Postgraduate Students’ Association and (luckily for me) comes out only once a year. In previous years the magazine has been printed and mailed to all students, but given this incredible cost, and the fact that a lot of international students are in non-permanent housing anyway, the decision was made to have the publication in an online format from 2014. This gave me the opportunity to massively expand on the scope of the publication, and take advantage of the changing cohort of postgraduates at UWA.
I had an editorial team that helped me brainstorm ideas and connect with people of interest across campus. I edited articles about postgrads’ experiences studying, volunteering and researching in the field. I had the support of the Student Guild for making the magazine look super slick. I included useful articles with tips for living in Perth, getting back to the task of writing and accessing funding. I chose creative pieces to support the fact-based articles. I interviewed postgraduate Matthew Pavlich, Captain of the Fremantle Dockers, and I wrote an article about the feedback I had had from postgraduates dealing with depression. I sought comment from postgraduates opposed to changes in the UWA community.
Importantly, after publication, I distributed the magazine. I sent a copy to everyone who had been involved with its creation. And I sent copies to the Executive of UWA. Including the Vice-Chancellor.
Given the content of the Postscript wasn’t overwhelmingly supportive of the running of UWA I was surprised to receive an email from the assistant to the Vice-Chancellor, commending me on Postscript and requesting a meeting with the Vice-Chancellor. I was shocked. I couldn’t imagine what the Vice-Chancellor would have to say to me. But, a week before Christmas, I met with the Vice-Chancellor to discuss Postscript and the wider experiences of the postgraduate body. It was an eye-opening experience.
It’s often easy to demonise someone who you don’t have the opportunity to engage with, particularly if they are in a position of power and make decisions you don’t particularly agree with. It’s another thing to have to sit opposite them, have an engaging conversation and realise that they are human and incapable of possibly knowing what was happening across the entire university. The Vice-Chancellor told me about some of his preferences for the future of the university which were very much in line with those that had been discussed by postgraduates. He talked about the difficulty associated with planning on tight budgets, which I have much sympathy for. I talked about the experiences of postgraduates, and he responded positively.
I don’t know if anything will come of our little tete-a-tete, but I appreciated the opportunity to talk with him. And I also considered it a valuable lesson in remembering to communicate the work that you are doing – because you never know who might be interested in hearing about it!