The current pandemic has had an impact across the University community, not least doctoral researchers, and the Doctoral College has been proactive in taking steps to support the wellbeing and ease financial and other concerns of many of our doctoral researchers. We recognise that no two doctoral programmes are the same, and no two postgraduate research students are the same, and so the impacts on individuals are inevitably varied in nature.
At the start of last month, we undertook a survey to better understand the impact of Covid-19 on our doctoral researcher community. We had a fantastic level of response – 668 individual responses, which represents approximately half of the University’s actively enrolled doctoral students, from all nine academic Schools. Thank you to those who took the time to respond, we have used the results in Committee discussions, and to inform policy and practice, some of which are summarised in this blog. The raw results have been carefully anonymised and shared with each School. This blog focuses on the important areas of Wellbeing, Finances, Supervision, and Workspace and Disruption.
You were asked to rate your physical health, mental health and work-life balance on a five-point scale from very good to very poor (see figure 1).
Generally, respondents rated their physical health as being better than their mental health. This corresponds with anecdotal evidence from across the UK that lockdown affected people’s mental wellbeing more than their physical health. It is also clear that when working from home it is difficult to maintain work-life balance (which can already be a struggle in an academic environment). While we do not have comparable pre-Covid data on this, we do intend to assess wellbeing in this way in any future surveys.
We consider the wellbeing of our doctoral researchers to be of utmost importance and have taken steps to address this. In April, the University engaged a new provider for its Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which is an external resource and helpline for a wide range of wellbeing issues including mental health support and financial advice. The Doctoral College funded provision of the EAP for doctoral researchers, and you are able to access the resources and advice here. This service complements that provided by Student Services which is also fully accessible to all postgraduate research students.
There is a wide array of online resources available for wellbeing support; we asked which ones you had heard of and used. The most commonly used were the wellbeing section of our Remote Learning site (used by 15% of respondents) and the University’s Wellbeing App (7%). Other resources can be found on the new Wellbeing section of our website. These resources are available for you, do use them.
For a more ‘personal touch’ we have also provided the opportunity to talk with a member of the Doctoral College team in July, and Katryna and Duncan hold regular training and development online appointments, bookable through the Development Portal.
Of all respondents, 177 (26.6%) reported that they were facing some level of financial hardship. The most common reasons were loss or reduction of part-time work at the University or outside the University, a reduction in income for somebody providing financial support, and studentships coming to an end. Uncertainty about future income had also pushed some to make adjustments to their finances so that they have some money in reserve in case it is needed. The University’s hardship fund has given funding to 19 out of the 22 doctoral researchers who have applied, paying out a total of £25,998 to support them. You can find further information on the University’s Hardship Fund pages.
We are hugely sympathetic to the financial difficulties many of our students are facing. Like all Universities, though, we are operating in very challenging financial times with very uncertain income streams. For this reason, the provision of studentship extensions has been very carefully considered. The Doctoral College surveyed doctoral researchers in receipt of a studentship that was due to end between 1 March 2020 – 31 March 2021. Of those, 109 (56%) requested an extension to their studentship and 98 of those applications were awarded an extension (90% of applicants). If you are due to submit after this time period, you should work with your supervisors to modify your research plan so that you are able to meet your submission deadline with a thesis of an acceptable standard, which might be quite different from your original research vision. The survey indicated that 62% of you had already reviewed or revised your research plans in light of the disruption caused by the pandemic; it is clear that some level of disruption will continue for the foreseeable future, so we urge you all to check and revise your plan for thesis completion on a regular basis. Consideration will be given to whether further stipend extensions may be possible, although it is expected these will only be awarded in exceptional circumstances.
Ninety-five percent of respondents reported meeting with their supervisors at least once a month, with most meeting more frequently than this. Encouragingly, only a small proportion felt that the level of supervision that they were receiving was inadequate, and this data has been fed back to Schools. The Doctoral College Office also undertook an audit of Co-tutor records to look for any signs of researchers in need of further support. If you still feel concerned about your supervision you should get in touch with a member of the Doctoral Programme team in your School in the first instance, book an appointment through the Development Portal or make contact with the Doctoral College directly.
Workspace and Disruption
The survey indicated that around 34% of doctoral researchers did not have access to a full-time work space. A third of you stated that you would be likely to use a bookable University study space complying with social distancing guidelines. Since the survey, first James France and now the Library have been open for study on the Loughborough Campus. Graduate House is not yet open due to spatial constraints. A quarter of you (26%) reported that you had significant caring responsibilities that disrupted your work schedule, and 47% reported that they were unable to work without significant disruptions. If you feel your studies have been significantly disrupted, this can be taken into account via the mitigating circumstances process at your annual progression review.
As always, the Doctoral College values the many contributions you make, not only in terms of research but more broadly to the University community and beyond. If you have any queries about the survey or our response please get in touch with us directly via the email address email@example.com. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, and we look forward to continuing the ongoing dialogue with you.
Author: Tobie Timmermans
Hindsight – the unfair belief that I should have started collecting research for my dissertation earlier when in reality, I think it is important to not get bogged down in pages on notes but instead allow your dissertation subject time to develop gradually. But also, it perfectly summarises the link between my degree as a history student and my dissertation in behavioural economics and the 2008 financial crisis.
Across my time studying history, I was taught not to approach any aspect of the past at face value but instead to understand different biases in order to reach an accurate conclusion. Whilst both studying economics during my year abroad in the US and looking for jobs in my final year of university, I regularly found myself explaining the significance of a history degree. My reasoning is simple. You can often learn from history and use it to analyse, understand and explain the present and/or future. By applying the historical context of behavioural economics to the 2008 crisis, I believed I could illustrate this.
Hindsight bias makes it easy for economists, bankers and government advisors to insist that the crisis should have been foreseen before it caused global catastrophe. However, in reality very few people predicted it, and even fewer could understand it. One of those who did, was Robert Shiller who voiced his opinion that the housing bubble in America would burst and a worldwide recession would follow.
Shiller based his argument on behavioural economic theory – an inter-disciplinary study of psychology and economics – that had been developed across the previous two centuries but did not become academically apparent until the late 20th century and didn’t become mainstream until the causes of the financial crisis unfolded following 2008.
My dissertation, primarily aimed at using history to understand the present, used key behavioural economic research journals from the latter half of the 20th century to explain the causes of the crisis in the US and analyse the economic model’s proficiency in government policymaking going forward. I analysed the limitations of the widely accepted neoclassical models including the efficient market hypothesis which attempts to predict financial market movements based on the rationality of human beings.
Instead, using quantitative data such as graphs and tables, I demonstrated the effect behavioural theories like human irrationality, limited cognitive ability, short-term bias and overconfidence had on financial markets in the United States that caused the economic crash. Whilst behavioural economics is neither a new nor an under-researched sub-discipline, its real-life application is minor, and I attempted to fill this void. By combining the two topics and following the development of behavioural economics, I evaluated its application potential going forward which has thus far seen inadequate implementation in policymaking. However, with greater improvements based on historical research, behavioural economics and the understanding of real human nature may enable the prevention of future financial crises which, according to US Senator Elizabeth Warren, will reoccur every 15 to 20 years if human irrationality is uncapped. This study is one of extreme importance and one I will continue to research in the future.
Bio: My name is Tobie Timmermans, I have recently (2020) graduated from Loughborough University with a First-class Honours in BA History accompanied by an international Diploma of Studies following my year abroad in the United States majoring in International Business and Economics at Oklahoma State University. I plan to move back to the US to pursue a career in Business Analysis and Management Consulting which was largely inspired by my Dissertation subject; Behavioural Economics and the 2008 Financial Crisis in which I achieved a mark of 75.
Author: Karra Hough
My personal interest in the Chinese culture, language, and history undoubtedly influenced my choice of dissertation topic. This interest was first sparked when I visited China and was able to experience and appreciate China’s history and art in person. Writing a dissertation allowed me to explore this interest further.
My dissertation explores how Chinese women belonging to the Qing Imperial court were portrayed in traditional Chinese paintings. To accomplish this, I analysed fifteen Chinese paintings of women, also known as meiren paintings. I conducted a visual analysis of each painting, identifying common symbolism and motifs (such as plants and animals), commenting on the use of certain colours, and any shared physical characteristics between the women.
From this, I was then able to argue and explore three ways in which Qing court women were represented in Chinese paintings. In my dissertation, I argue that Qing Imperial court women were portrayed as;
- Sexual objects used for viewing pleasure
- Possessions that belonged to the Qing Imperial court and the Qing emperor
- Idealised images of what was considered to be the ‘perfect’ woman from a male perspective
Further research into Qing meiren paintings revealed that this area of Chinese history was neglected, with limited scholarship dedicated to the subject. While I acknowledge and praise research that does discuss meiren paintings, I felt that there was still much to be explored and so, through my dissertation, I aim to highlight the importance and value of studying Chinese paintings in history and contribute to the discussion of Qing meiren paintings.
I began the research process by scouring my university’s library and the internet for books and articles that discussed my dissertation topic. While this was a difficult task in itself given the scarcity of such sources, the literature that I did discover was incredibly useful. It helped me understand how I wanted to structure my own dissertation and how I could contribute and build upon existing research on meiren paintings.
A significant part of my research process was also dedicated to learning about Chinese culture, particularly Qing culture, in order to aid my analysis of the symbolism and the hidden meanings behind them. I also relied heavily on my knowledge of the Chinese language to help my analysis.
I credit the module for this dissertation for supporting and guiding me through writing my dissertation. This module helped me to improve my ability in finding credible academic sources and how I should use them in my own work. It also supported me in developing the necessary skills to critically discuss and analyse other scholars’ work.
Writing a dissertation was an incredibly challenging, yet rewarding, experience. While there were moments when I doubted myself and my dissertation, I am sincerely grateful to my family and my dissertation supervisor for believing in me and for supporting me throughout this journey.
Bio: My name is Karra and I am a Loughborough University 2020 graduate with a BA degree in History. I am a very career-driven person with ambitions to teach English as a foreign language in China and South Korea. Studying foreign languages is a passion of mine. I have been studying Mandarin for three years as part of my degree, as well as also self-studying Korean. I love exploring and learning about different countries and cultures, and in my downtime I enjoy watching Netflix, napping and cooking.
Author: Omotara Nadi
My dissertation question: To what extent is the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) an equal partnership between the EU and Africa aimed to examine the relationship between the European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU). Whilst the world has been focused on Brexit and the EU’s relationship with other countries such as the US and China, little attention has been paid to EU’s relationship with Africa. As such, I found the topic both innovative and exciting, and I was proud to be able to contribute to the existing literature on this sorely understudied relationship.
The research process
I had not studied the EU-Africa relationship specifically during my undergraduate degree, so the first step was making myself aware of what had already been written on the topic. To do this, I visited the European Commission Library in Brussels in March 2019. The Library gave me access to many valuable resources on the EU-Africa relationship. The next major task was sifting through the piles of sources I had acquired in order to focus my argument. Even though a dissertation is 12,000 words, it is extremely easy to go well over the word limit due to the amount of information that is available.
Finally, the dissertation module helped me to understand how I can successfully present my argument. The weekly lectures that focused on a different approach were immensely useful when I was deciding upon which research method I would use to argue my points. I decided to conduct a single case study analysis on AMISOM which helped me to focus my research.
What I found
Despite the rhetoric given by the EU and Africa that AMISOM was a partnership, my dissertation argued that the partnership was still unequal. I found that there were two main reasons for this. The first reason is that the EU and Africa do not share the same interests when it comes to military intervention in Somalia. The EU’s involvement likely stems from a desire to prevent the proliferation of piracy – an issue that negatively affects the EU’s trade – as opposed to a genuine desire to help Africa with its security issues.
The second issue, and perhaps the one I was most surprised about, was the actions of African states. Only six countries within the African Union (AU) contributed troops to AMISOM. In addition to this, AU Member States are not mandated to contribute to the AU’s budget.
This means that the bloc relies on donations from western actors, such as the US and the EU, to fund its military operations. In the case of AMISOM, this has meant that the donor-recipient dynamic that the EU and Africa have pledged to move away from is apparent, resulting in a partnership that continues to be based on inequality.
Autobigraphical statement – Omotara Nadi studied Politics and International Relations at Loughborough University. Alongside her degree, Omotara was an active volunteer at Loughborough Students’ Union (LSU). Some of her volunteer positions included POLIS & English Department Chair 2019/2020, Chair of the Ethnic Minorities Network 2019/2020 and Student Coordinator for the International and Erasmus Scheme 2018-2020. After graduating, Omotara joined the Loughborough Graduate Programme as a Graduate Management Trainee.
Loughborough University’s Institute of Diplomacy and International Governance have created a series of mini-lectures that discuss the effects of Covid-19 on a national and global scale. The lectures have been distributed to students providing weekly video content that pose pivotal questions and encourage students to consider the implications of a global pandemic on politics and the economy.
Tatevik Mnatsakanyan: Security, Sovereignty and Covid-19
In the final part of the Institute of Diplomacy and International Governance’s mini-lecture series, Dr Tatevik Mnatsakanyan talks about security, peace and the current Covid-19 pandemic, and offers reflections and connections with her research and teaching.
Mnatsakanyan first highlights some issue areas and trends in the fields of international security, and conflict and peace: impacts of this crisis on the re-eruption or worsening of conflicts, as well as on human vulnerabilities caused by long term structural inequalities. She then reflects on the very unique status of the pandemic, i.e. what it exposes about discourses and practices of “security”, “political violence” and “sovereignty” – conceptually and theoretically, the areas of her research, along with her specific concern with the politics of denial. She briefly explores the paradox of “boundary” thinking; suggests examining multiple and overlapping forms of denial that the politics around Covid-19 is exposing across the globe; and how they call for a re-articulation of the ethos of sovereignty. She finishes by reflecting on the intellectual and policy opportunities: the pandemic allows re-connecting the dots in national and global politics across and traversing a multiplicity of issue areas and problematic, demanding synergistic approaches.
Loughborough University’s Institute of Diplomacy and International Governance have created a series of mini-lectures that discuss the effects of Covid-19 on a national and global scale. The lectures have been distributed to students providing weekly video content that pose pivotal questions and encourage students to consider the implications of a global pandemic on politics and the economy.
Helen Drake: Covid-19 and Political Leadership
In this lecture Professor Helen Drake, Director of the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance at Loughborough University London, asks what Covid-19 can tell us about political leadership.
Professor Drake tackles the difference between leaders and leadership, looks at questions of trust and communication and addresses the under-representation of women in global decision-making.
The lecture considers how the Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated the ongoing power struggles between the worlds biggest and strongest nations. Drake discuses how political leadership is more than the leader and who has authority, it must consider who trusts the authority and the legitimacy of that leadership. She discusses how leadership is as much about followers as it is about leaders.
Drake concludes her lecture by asking what we – the followers – want from political leadership at this time of crisis.
Loughborough University’s Institute of Diplomacy and International Governance have created a series of mini-lectures that discuss the effects of Covid-19 on a national and global scale. The lectures have been distributed to students providing weekly video content that pose pivotal questions and encourage students to consider the implications of a global pandemic on politics and the economy.
Dorina Baltag: Covid-19 and European Diplomacy
Dr. Dorina Baltag elaborates on the diplomacy of the member-states of the European Union (the EU) in the new world order created by Covid-19 in the fifth part of the mini-lecture series.
Usually, scholars evaluate the European Union as a political entity based on the politics of rule -since it is based on a vast amount of regulations and directives. Instead, Covid-19 has given the rare opportunity examine the European Union based on politics of events -on an ad-hoc basis. A retrospective timeline of diplomatic actions of EU member-states reveals the vulnerability of the interconnected states and the current political crossroad that the EU finds itself at: that of national interests and solidarity efforts.
Dr. Baltag ends this mini-lecture by looking forward and proposing several ways in which this vulnerability can be addressed via diplomacy.
Cristian Nitoiu: Covid-19 and the World Order
Two months ago, the world order was mostly centred around the struggle between the western world and the non-western world. The world order has been created and populated by a wide range of views about the way in which the world order should be organised, what should be the main values or the main ideas that should characterise the behaviour of states and international organisations.
The arrival of Covid-19 has meant a lot of things have changed, not only domestically in the way we live our lives but also in the way States behave within the world order as well as the world order as a whole. The coronavirus has bought states and societies together in an unprecedented manner, it has seen states imitating one another, waiting on other countries to lead the way in making tough decisions. Other states have adopted what we may have referred to as authoritarian policies a few months ago to curb the liberties of people.
As the world order increasingly adopts a more monolithic belief in science, the importance of international organisations such as the World Health Organisation grows and there is a move away from the pluralistic approach which has previously characterised the world order, we begin to see numerous political shifts happening globally.
In the fourth part of the mini-lecture series, Dr Christian Nitoiu discusses the global response to Covid-19 and how, despite stark differences between states, a ‘one size fits all’ approach has been adopted internationally. Nitoiu considers the positions of international organisations within the world order and the increasing importance of the impact conspiracy theories have on the world order.
Nicola Chelotti: Covid-19 and the Future of Europe
In the third part of the Institute of Diplomacy and International Governance’s mini-lecture series, Dr Nicola Chelotti discusses how European Union (EU) countries have reacted to the Covid-19 crisis. The lecture reviews what the European Central Bank did before focusing more specifically on the reaction of individual governments of EU Member States. In this context, the video introduces some of the main controversies amongst EU countries (especially between Northern and Southern states) on how to finance the debt incurred from dealing with Covid-19.
Chelotti looks at the necessity of economic expenditure to sustain affected sectors in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the implications this has upon economic markets within the European Union. The lecture concludes with a poignant reflection on how the political and economic compromises and negotiations of the moment will determine the future of Europe, whether the European Union will survive and how these decisions will inform the state of politics on the European continent.
Tim Oliver: Brexit means Brexit despite Covid-19
Boris Johnson might have won in the December 2019 UK General Election campaign with the slogan ‘Get Brexit Done’. In reality, however, it was a case of ‘Get Brexit Started.’ The UK’s withdrawal at the end of January 2020 was more the end of the beginning of Brexit than the actual end of it. No surprise then that it looked like Brexit would continue dominating UK politics. Covid-19 soon displaced it from the headlines. Brexit, however, has not gone away. Lots remains to be negotiated and Covid-19 has made things more complex. Even a No Deal Brexit, which has grown more likely, won’t ‘get Brexit done’. What Brexit means remains deeply contested in both debate and practice.
Dr Tim Oliver contemplates how COVID-19 has slowed down Brexit negotiations, conversations and decisions as we approach the end of the beginning of the UK’s exit from the European Union. Oliver poses the question of politics or economics; which will drive what happens to the UK?
Aidan McGarry: Protest Movements during Covid-19
COVID-19 has upended politics as we know it, and it is likely to have a long-lasting impact on how we organise and express ourselves politically. One way this is going to be felt acutely is through protesting. It begs the question, how can we protest/gather and demonstrate as we comply with social distancing rules?
In the first part of the mini-lecture series, Dr Aidan McGarry discusses some of the manifestations of protest since Covid-19. The lecture considers some examples of how protests have manifested since Covid-19 looking at anti-government protests in Israel and anti-lockdown protests in the USA. McGarry concludes by suggesting that protests and resistance will be vital in terms of building community and addressing global concerns in a post Covid era.
After gaining my place at Loughborough to study Geography with Economics, my friends joked that I would need to take my colouring crayons, and that I would just be sat learning about rocks and rivers all day. Continue reading
£9,250 a year is a lot of money to spend whilst sitting in one place, in one library, just to get one piece of paper. Continue reading
I had a stereotypical view on foundation years to begin with, but I couldn’t have been more wrong! Continue reading
Dr Adaku Jennifer Agwunobi is our first Black doctoral researcher to complete her PhD, and the first doctoral researcher to complete their PhD within the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. What’s more, Dr Agwunobi also completed her PhD in an impressive 2 years and 10 months – pretty inspiring, right!
In this blog, hear from Dr Agwunobi in her own words as she reflects on her PhD experience at Loughborough University London.Continue reading
Written by the Doctoral President Team, Tom Baker (President) and Rieman Rudra (Vice-President)
A short update regarding the Presidential Team, PhD Awards, Communication with Senior Management, and our Surveys and Open Letters.
Presidential Team Applications
Hopefully you have seen the email from Ana-Maria, our LSU Education Executive Officer, that applications are open for the new Doctoral Research President Team of 2020-2021. The Role Descriptor is available online, and applications can be made on the LSU Website, with the deadline being Monday 27th July at 5pm. The Team have had to adapt significantly over the past few months for reasons that are hopefully clear. This is a very important time for representation and to have a voice in matters pertaining to all aspects of our Doctoral journey. We have set aside time in the latter half of next week for interviews, with the role handover being a transition over the next few months.
If you are interested in the role and wish to find out more, please reach out to myself or Rieman (emails at bottom) for further information or consider talking with your Doctoral Representatives and Lead Representatives on how we work in combination. The role changeover for Reps and Lead Reps will occur at a later date.
The PhD Awards are in the midst of planning as you read this. We have been meeting weekly to update the awards as this year we have combined some with the LSU Loughborough Academic Awards. We have done this to better align how we are part of the LSU student representative system. Something we have been aiming to improve upon since the loss of the PGR Executive Officer, although more on that another time. We are on track for the end of August, where we will also announce the new Presidential Team and generally celebrate all the wonderful work the Loughborough Doctoral community do!
If you wish to put anything forward for mention, please contact us (emails at bottom), otherwise keep your eyes peeled for the nominations!
COVID-19 Survey Results
Although submitted to the Research Committee near the start of the COVID lockdown, we wish to thank all the respondents to our survey: COVID-19 – Understanding Doctoral Researcher Perspectives. From this we have managed to foster improved mental wellbeing support in a number of areas (such as Student Services, Skills Development, Resource Access, and the Doctoral College Development Portal), access to the Employee Assistance Programme, Doctoral specifics FAQs (Staff FAQs also applicable), improved access to the Hardship Fund, among other assistance areas.
If anyone wishes to see the report, please email us to be sent a copy. We cannot append documents to the Blog.
We wish to extend another massive thank you to all those in the Doctoral College for their endless support in these matters. We couldn’t have had much of this without the team and we couldn’t be more grateful for their work.
Research Culture Survey
You may also remember the Research Culture related work ongoing throughout the year, and the survey (now closed) we shared earlier this year. Unfortunately, many of the events we were planning or were scheduled had to be cancelled/postponed. Nonetheless, we wish to thank the respondents to our survey and to say that these comments have not gone unheard. A paper is due to be submitted to the Research Committee being held in September. Once this is complete, please feel free to request a copy from myself or Rieman (emails below).
We have the initial points of an open letter to be submitted to senior university staff in the works. We have had comments from your Lead Representatives added so please continue to pass information along, or as always, contact us directly. The Presidential Team, Doctoral Lead Representatives and members of your department Doctoral Representatives have met twice so far this year directly with the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research (Steve Rothberg), Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Doctoral College (Elizabeth Peel), and other individuals to discuss the information. We are due to meet again in September.
If you wish to put forward or see the current points or comments, please get in touch.
On top of the above, please consider signing the open letter Research Student Funding during the Coronavirus Pandemic addressed to UKRI and subsequent Councils. Previous correspondence has been made by UKRI.
Any other questions please get in touch.
All the best,
Doctoral Researcher President: Thomas Baker – T.E.BAKER@LBORO.AC.UK
Doctoral Researcher Vice-President: Rieman Rudra – R.RUDRA@LBORO.AC.UK
So we really can say we are a super star institution, but what does this actually mean?
The QS Stars rating system is an opt-in rating system for higher education institutions and unlike other ranking systems which compares the performance of different institutions, the QS Stars system rates a university entirely on its own performance. Institutions receive a rating between 0 and 5+ stars overall, with 5+ being the highest and most desirable rating as well as a rating of between 0 and 5 stars in a number of sub-categories: teaching, employability, internationalization, research, facilities, innovation, and inclusiveness.
The rating for teaching is calculated by looking at student satisfaction, the faculty-student ratio and the rate of study. Student satisfaction totalled 90% contributing to the 5 stars awarded for the great teaching delivered at Loughborough University.
At 5 stars, employability is not just about academic strength but focuses on students’ actual readiness for work. This not only takes into account the university’s reputation among employers, (we garnered a massive 157 nominations from the 2019 QS global employer survey), but also skills such as: the ability to work effectively in a multi-cultural team, deliver presentations and to manage people and projects. With on-campus careers fairs, interview training and career advice sessions, it’s not surprising that we were awarded 5 stars for employability!
At Loughborough University we realise the importance of our global reputation. This category considers international research collaborations, partnerships with international institutions, international exchange students and international diversity on campus. With 998 international partners it’s not surprising that we were awarded 5 stars in the internationalization category.
As a core component of many universities, research is a key area for us at Loughborough University. The research category considers research productivity and the impact of that research, the amount of funds dedicated to research as well as the university’s reputation for research among academics. We received a colossal 966 nominations from the 2019 QS global academic survey, contributing to our 5-star rating.
We are proud of our 5-star facilities! This category may be of great importance when selecting a university as it provides students an insight into the environment they can expect for their university experience. At Loughborough, we have a strong library expenditure, approximately $272.4 per student. Did you know students at our London campus can request books to be sent from Loughborough’s Pilkington Library for free?
The advanced criteria of the QS Stars system also includes innovation – a characteristic we at Loughborough value and stimulate. Innovation and knowledge transfer are becoming more and more important for modern, progressive institutions, . Our 5-star rating was achieved through various innovations at Loughborough University including 25 patents, 3 spin-off companies established in the last five years and 69 distinct industrial research collaborations in scopus in the last five years.
For an institution to be world class it must value and implement inclusiveness. Loughborough University has received a further 5 star rating for this advanced criteria, which takes into account: provision of access and support for a variety of disabilities, the amount of funds available for student support and the number of students from low-income backgrounds.
Taking into account the solid 5 stars given to each area it is not surprising that Loughborough University was given a 5+ star overall rating. Proud as we are, we will strive to maintain and improve all areas of university life, so come to our 5+ star institution and become an all-star graduate!
Our institution has been open and committed to supporting the wellbeing of its staff throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Maia, the University’s Women’s Network, has recently hosted virtual Coffee Hour chats, which have highlighted how many staff are worried about the mental wellbeing of their children.
In this blog, Dr Gemma Witcomb takes a look at some of the concerns raised and offers some advice on how we can best support children at this time, drawing on research expertise of colleagues in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences.
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown has caused an unprecedented change to everyday life. This change is particularly challenging for those with parental responsibilities.
Many of the narratives of the difficulties faced by parents specifically have focused on the challenges of attempting to do two jobs simultaneously: working from home and caring for children.
Such challenges have been witnessed by many – from unexpected little guests on Zoom calls with colleagues, to accidental Teams calls to School and Admissions staff (sorry!), to national news interviews that have featured children interrupting their parents with their burning questions or requests. While on the surface these may be rather amusing incidents, they highlight the inescapable overlap between work and family; something that is uncomfortable for both parents and their children.
As expected, anxiety – a natural reaction to an invisible, uncontrollable threat – has soared. But wellbeing has also been affected by the specific precautions necessary to control the virus, which in an unfortunate coincidence target the known major risk factors for poor wellbeing: access to outside spaces, opportunity for physical activity, and interactions with supportive family, friends, and others.
Commonly, parents are not a significantly vulnerable group (with appropriate exceptions) and single parents living alone with children may not typically be at risk, but the effects of lockdown on social isolation and connectedness may exacerbate the development of poor wellbeing.
Since caring responsibilities remain predominately the burden of women, women (and those they care for) are likely to be disproportionately affected. Decades of research has shown that children’s mental wellbeing is closely linked to that of their parent(s) and so it is important that we safeguard parents’ wellbeing at this time.
But it is important to remember that children are living through this too. Their worlds have also been turned upside down and many parents are concerned about their children’s wellbeing.
Below are a few of the common concerns raised and some tips on how to approach them.
- My child is really worried about the virus.
Talk to them. It is really important to have age-appropriate honest and open conversations with your child(ren). You may instinctively feel that you want to shield them from any information that you feel will worry them but dismissing their concerns do not make them go away. Rather, they will continue to grow and may be fuelled by false information. Talking to your child and engaging with their fears allows you to address their anxieties and can help children gain a better understanding of the situation. Talking – both by instigating conversations with your child and being receptive to conversations instigated by your child, is a crucial part of supporting their wellbeing.
- My child is having difficulties sleeping.
Anxiety in children can be experienced in a number of ways, including increased restlessness, tummy aches, and difficulties sleeping. These effects are due to quite clever physiological processes that are there to protect us. In the case of sleep, if we perceive a threat it makes sense that our brains will stay alert when they should be sleeping, so that we can respond quickly if we need to. Children may not be aware that they are feeling anxious and may be unable to associate their physiological feelings with their thoughts, so it is important to try to help manage their possible anxiety for them.
Dr Iuliana Hartescu stresses the importance of “a predictable sleep time routine, to mentally unwind and prepare children for sleep”. Weighted blankets, which work by providing deep pressure to calm the nervous system and have been used widely in the treatment of conditions such as ASD, ADHD and anxiety for years, are growing in mainstream popularity too. Research suggests that they can calm and improve the sleep of individuals suffering from insomnia and may help with anxiety. While these are available for children, always check with your GP before using a weighted-blanket for your child.
- I am finding it difficult to manage my child’s time and schoolwork while I am working.
Be kind to yourself, and your child. We are not home-schooling our children. Home-schooling parents do not have jobs that they are simultaneously trying to do. Nor do they follow the same curriculums, in the same way, that mainstream schools do. So the strange set of circumstances that we find ourselves in – working at home, “role-playing” a teacher (in my case for Years 4, 5, 6 and 7 – ouch!), with tasks often unconducive to a traditional home-school education – is going to be tough.
Maintaining a routine and focusing on activities that promote wellbeing is the most important, incorporating key skills if possible and feeding children’s natural curiosity. Play, and especially play in nature, is fundamental not only for young children’s learning but also for their mental health and wellbeing. Research has shown how the natural environment serves to improve mental wellbeing and work led by Dr Janine Coates relating to Forest School has demonstrated the power of the natural environment as a remedy for the stresses some children experience.
- We have no routine anymore.
Children really like structure and routine, even if they may object to getting out of bed early! One of the easiest ways to build in structure and routine, especially in lockdown, is around mealtimes. A recent report by BiteBack2030 found that 60% of teenagers (14-19 years of age) thought that family meals were good for health and wellbeing and wanted this to continue after lockdown.
Dr Hannah White’s own research supports this, showing that having more frequent family meals for both adolescent girls and boys is linked with lower levels of depression. Therefore, trying to ensure meals are eaten together can help restore routine that has a positive influence on children’s wellbeing. It may also provide more natural opportunities to talk about fears and worries.
- My child is spending a lot of time online and on devices.
We are all spending a lot more time in front of screens and children are no exception. Without devices, many children would be totally cut off from friends and extended family and would be losing out on much needed social connectedness and social support. Indeed, many young people play online with their real-life friends and maintaining this connection is vitally important, especially during adolescence – a critical period in identity development. Loneliness during COVID-19 poses a significant risk factor for poor mental wellbeing in this age group and so being supportive of online interactions may be helpful. However, as with everything, moderation is key. Providing attractive alternatives is important now more than ever.
‘Kids FIRST’, a recent pilot randomised controlled study led by Dr Natalie Pearson and colleagues in SSEHS, found evidence to suggest that, for younger children, having non-screen activities available and accessible can help to reduce screen time. School-age children enjoyed having an activity jar which was filled with suggestions for various activities such as reading a book, playing football, going for a walk, craft activities or baking cakes. Activities could be written on bits of paper, lolly sticks or cocktail-stick flags and put into the jar for children to select from. However they’re presented, the evidence suggests that this can help children to engage in a variety of activities rather than resorting to having their eyes glued to a screen.
- I am worried that my child is not coping at all.
For some children, increased anxiety can instigate the use of more extreme coping strategies, such as tightly controlling their eating behaviours, compulsive exercise, or engaging in self-harm. While this may be extremely alarming for parents, it is important to avoid attempting to stop the behaviour through anger, threats, or coercion, as this rarely works. Rather, seek help from your GP as soon as possible.
Few months ago, people were shopping in the high street, going into the stores to browse for their items. What used to be a normal shopping trip suddenly became a luxury! In March, COVID-19 turned into a pandemic, leaving governments with a single option: Lockdown. This decision couldn’t get any worse for high street retailers who for years have been threatened by the elephant in the room: E-commerce (yes, Amazon!). In 2019, experts were predicting the downfall of brick and mortar stores, arguing that consumers will shift towards a fully digital shopping experience for several reasons including convenience. But that was due to happen few years from now until COVID-19 showed up. Customers were forced to shop for their non-essential items online, and in many cases, their essential shopping too (unless you wanted to risk your health or waste hours in queuing). This condition left all of us with one major question:
Is it finally the end of the physical store shopping experience?
Even the optimistic would have said: Yes.
However, the enforced lockdown exposed the downfalls of pure online retailing: Late deliveries, inconvenient delivery slots, out-of-stock items, wrong orders delivered, stringent return and exchange policies, etc. (Hang on, weren’t most of these the reasons why people stopped shopping in the physical stores at the first place?). But these issues were only at product/service level. Shopping experience includes emotional and social elements to it such as going with your beloved ones to shop, meet friends for a drink, or even enjoy a nice film after shopping. All of these were never part of online shopping experience. During lockdown, shopping was mainly involving you and a device that literally shows you pictures of products (videos if you are lucky), and some music in the background (did you know that the type of music can affect your buying decisions?).
Four months into the pandemic changed how we see the physical store. Customer realised why the high street was essential for them. For customers who were going into the high street before the pandemic, it was the experience beyond obtaining the product or service that kept them going. The lockdown amplified customers’ desire to experience feelings and emotions when shopping such as enjoying a vibrant atmosphere and talking to people. The evidence? Just look at the picture above of customers queuing on the first day of non-essential stores re-opening.
Yes, the high street took a significant hit during this pandemic, particularly retailers who don’t have an online presence. Customers’ patronage of the high street may take a long time to return to pre-pandemic level. However, these unprecedented circumstances showed us ways to revamp the high street and capitalise on it. Here are two suggestions based on academic research I have conducted at Loughborough University:
1) Re-shape the store shopping experience by offering superior customer service, lean store layout, strict hygiene protocol, distinct atmosphere with aroma and music, and better assortment.
2) Integrate digital into the physical store. It is simple, customers went shopping online in search of reduced transactional costs, save time and effort. However, the shortcomings of deliveries and returns was exposed. Thus, high street retailers can retrieve customers patronage to the store by offering new services such as click and collect, online queuing system, mobile payments and tablets to order items that are not available in the store.
Studying Politics and International Relations: Podcasts, Radio and TV Show recommendations from the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance
There is no shortage of podcasts on politics, business, international relations, diplomacy, war, trade and much, much more. We asked what podcast, radio or TV show IDIG staff would recommend students subscribe to or tune in to listen to. Here are their suggestions.
Dr Tim Oliver – In Our Time
For over 20 years this radio discussion show has been one of the most successful and popular shows broadcast by the BBC. Chaired by veteran broadcaster and polymath Melvyn Bragg, each programme is essentially an academic seminar involving Bragg and three academics who are top in their fields, discussing a specific cultural, scientific, historical, philosophical or religious topic. Its weekly audience of millions of listeners, along with the millions who each week download one or more of the 900 episodes freely available on the BBC archive, is proof that hard, intellectual thinking can be accessible and popular.
Dr Aidan McGarry – Talking Politics
Talking Politics is produced through the London Review of Books. They have a series called ‘History of Ideas’. It takes big concepts like freedom or liberty or the state or patriarchy and uses key thinkers to discuss them, usually analysing their key books and arguments. It gets to the point and serves as a useful introduction to key thinking and thinkers on central political ideas which have occupied political theorists for centuries.
Dr Nicola Chelotti – RadioLab
RadioLab is a New York-based documentary radio. It presents itself as a radio show and podcast weaving stories and science into sound and music-rich documentaries. But it covers also many stories related to politics (recently, 6 excellent episodes called “The Other Latif” on an alleged Al-Qaeda’s top explosives expert). The best thing of these docu-stories is that they combine rigorous evidence, traditional investigative journalism and innovative storytelling methods.
Dr Dorina Baltag – The World in 30 minutes
Chaired by Mark Leonard, the founder and director of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Affairs), this is a weekly series where the host explores big issues in foreign policy with invited guests. Most of the podcasts offers insights into developments that affect European countries. The latest themes covered Europe’s pandemic politics and the way in which the virus changed the public’s world view; how solidarity was felt in the different European countries during COVID-19; on anti-racisms protests in the US and Europe or the peace process in Libya.
Dr Cristian Nitoiu – Foreign Correspondent
My recommendation is the weekly documentary shows Foreign Correspondent on the Australian ABC news channel. The episodes focus on timely issues around the world. Some recent stories include China’s changing foreign policy, the role of the church in Russia or Poland or the conflict in Syria during the coronavirus crisis. I really appreciate the Australian perspective on reporting which is very detailed, insightful, self-aware (and self-critical) and objective. It is very difficult nowadays to comes across quality reporting about world affairs that is sensitive to different points of view and does not try to convey an underlying normative or civilisational message.
Professor Helen Drake – Rethink
The BBC in June 2020 started a series of 6-minute ‘essays’ designed to ‘RETHINK’ the world, the planet and its humans in the light of Covid-19. A recent highlight is the Dalai Lama on ‘Rethinking Ancient Wisdom.’ The essays cover a huge range of topics (health, sport, the body, debt) – you name it and it is probably there.
Dr Tatevik Mnatsakanyan – Conversation
The Conversation is an online magazine which brings to us news stories and in-depth analyses on current affairs produced by academics and researchers. It combines researchers’ knowledge of their subject areas with journalistic storytelling — in their own words, “unlock[ing] their knowledge for use by the wider public”. Recent highlights are on the 1990s as the foundation of modern day Russia; on the long-awaited UN Security Council’s call for global ceasefire; and on the moral indefensibility of vaccine and “treatment nationalism” emerging out of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Loughborough University provides our students with an environment that encourages them to become innovators and leaders in their fields of study. In celebration of this, we wanted to highlight some recent notable achievements from our PhD students.
Alan Brejnholt (Institute for International Management)
Alan has had immense success recently with Sustainability. Published only just in May, his article is quite literally, hot off the press! Having studied at the Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering, at the Loughborough University campus in Leicestershire before continuing his studies at our London campus, Alan has had the dual campus experience. His article appeared in the Special Issue Design and Management of Sustainable Products, Industrial and Manufacturing Systems. Demonstrating what can be achieved through our outstanding university, we are certain that he will sustain his achievements in this field.
Joosep Hook (Institute for Digital Technologies)
Joosep’s most recent triumph has been to be published in Neural Networks. His article, Deep Multi-Critic Network for accelerating Policy Learning in multi-agent environments, contains a wider feature selection and practical implementation than previous research, making him an innovator. We at Loughborough inspire and nurture innovation in all of our students. Joosep’s journey began at the Institute of Digital Technologies at Loughborough University London, and has accelerated to him being published in a national and highly respected publication and he will, without doubt, continue to even greater heights!
Talia Hussain (Institute for Design Innovation)
Thanks to her inventive and imaginative research, Talia has garnered funding from Techne for the remainder of her PhD. This is no mean feat. While Loughborough University, one among the handful of universities whose students are accepted, gave her the opportunity by referring her to the fund, it was her own performance that lead to her success. According to Techne they only fund “outstanding students pursuing the ‘craft’ of research through innovative, interdisciplinary and creative approaches across the range of the arts and humanities”. A justly outstanding endorsement of her work!
Hussa Khalid Al Khalifa (Institute for Sport Business)
Hussa truly is a winner, having been shortlisted for the International Olympic Committee Women and Sports Awards. Here at Loughborough we pride ourselves on our home grown champions and not only is Hussa a sporting champion, she is also about to be published, with an article entitled: Adapting to Local Context and Managing Relationships: A Case Study of a Multinational SDP Partnership in Bahrain to be published in the Journal of Global Sport Management. Hussa expresses creditably, the global and academic aspirations of our students, stimulated by their time with us.
Fiona Meeks (Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship)
The word outstanding is often used indiscriminately, however in the case of Fiona it categorically does apply! She was awarded the 2020 Doctoral College Research Student Prize due to her outstanding academic performance and achievements. As if this were not enough, it also included contributions to the university over and above her own research! Illustrating that, as we at Loughborough embolden our students to do, going above and beyond yields success. Her distinction and drive have been recognised and rewarded, an auspicious start to what we envisage to be an outstanding future.
Federico Winer (Institute for Sport Business)
Federico is not only an academic high achiever but also appears to have “the gift of the gab”. Invited as a speaker at Esports Trade Association – US and on Sports Talk Ukraine he revealed the ability to discourse with ease, fluency and authority. On top of that, he has been interviewed by both The Independent, in the UK and Pagina 12, Argentina. Notwithstanding all of these achievements he has also authored: Sport after the coronavirus: A cross-sectional view of the impact of the crisis on sport published by Amazon in May of this year. A highly contemporary and forward thinking work, exemplary of what we at Loughborough anticipate from our community.
My name is Seyi, and after four years, I’m finally graduating from Loughborough University with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering.
To top it all off, as I am about to become an alumna, the University has been awarded ‘University of the Year’ at the WhatUni Student Choice Awards – ‘proud’ would be the biggest understatement of the year, I couldn’t have imagined ending university like this.
My student journey, like anybody else’s, has been unique to me. But what has made it more unique today is the fact that I’ve spent those times at Loughborough. The accolade is very much deserved, and I thought I would share my experience at the 2020 University of the Year with you.
For someone whose ambition has been to go to university based on the career path I’d like to follow in life, I initially had no idea as to what to expect. Speaking to my teachers, family and older friends, there was always this running theme of ‘my time at university has been one of the best times of my life’.
However, 16-18-year-old Seyi would roll her eyes every time she heard that phrase and think ‘what an exaggeration, how could it be? You’re in education, learning, going through assessments, what could have possibly made it so great?’
After four years, I get it. It wasn’t the stress and challenges brought on by academia, but the university experience outside of getting a degree: the life lessons; the people you meet; the ‘pushing me out of my comfort zone’ activities you undertake; the societies that become your own mini-community inside the big community that is the Loughborough family. It’s the growth you experience.
Receiving my golden ticket was my first indication that I’d become a part of the Loughborough family. On 18August 2016, I joined this special community and not once have I been disappointed.
To me, the facilities and resources available at the University are second to none. The quality of teaching on my course surpassed my expectations; the lecturers were not only friendly but helpful, devoting their time and resources to dish out the knowledge and skills needed. Their style of teaching involves collaboration and teamwork both within and outside the University.
The support I received during my time at Loughborough was incredible, ranging from career advice, access to mock assessment centres, to CV checks. These were extremely helpful when applying for and undergoing the two summer internships I was able to complete whilst at University.
Outside of the University bubble, students are constantly going through their own issues and problems and being in an environment where pastoral care and wellbeing are emphasised upon can be such a soothing relief.
Whilst at Loughborough, my family experienced the death of a loved one and I truly cannot quantify the support emotionally and academically received from not just the friends I’d made at University, but also the University itself.
A family doesn’t take care of only one aspect of your life, they do their best to help in all areas. The same applies to being a part of the Loughborough family – it is a community that cares for all.
Now I could go on and on as to why I’m so proud of Loughborough University. From the beautiful and well-cared for campus (massive shout out to the University gardeners, they are brilliant!), the five-star accommodation (I know very few would disagree – I lived on campus for two years, so that says something right!?), the iconic fountain in front of the Hazlerigg and Rutland buildings, to our very own VC Bob.
The celebration of individuality, culture and community were all rolled into one. But really and truly, I’m very proud of the connections I’ve made and my personal development in being a well-rounded individual.
For anyone reading this, whether you’re considering studying at Loughborough or maybe you’re already a student here, I’ve put together my three top pieces of advice:
- Collaboration and teamwork are two of the most important life skills anyone could ever acquire. Working with people is essential to a progressive environment, so aim to develop upon these skills during your time at university. You can do this not only academically, but by taking part in Loughborough’s extracurricular activities by joining a sport or society. I’ve been involved in kickboxing, the Loughborough Women’s Engineering Society and a Christian society called Radical Youth.
- The Loughborough Careers Network Team are not one of the best kept secrets of the University but make the most of them! They provide 1-1 appointments, workshops as well as events to meet with potential employers throughout the academic year.
- Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. My university experience has taught me that a well-educated individual isn’t one that has many degree certificates, it’s the individual that has been exposed to different people and cultures, learning and growing from those interactions.
Overall, reflecting on my time at Loughborough, I have to admit it was a worthwhile adventure studying at one of the UK’s greatest universities and I now understand why people say being at university was some of the best years of their lives. The conducive environment gave me all I needed to excel academically and achieve all-round development, and for that, I thank everybody in the Loughborough family who helped me get to where I am now.
Now, I’m ready to see what the future brings!
On 16 June 2020 the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance together with the Institute for International Management hosted an event with their alumni to showcase how to achieve a career in international politics and business.
The panel was chaired by Dr Tim Oliver, Director of Studies, and Senior Lecturer for the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance, and included four alumni from the institutes: Christina, Theresa, Oliver and Tomhas. Professor Helen Drake, Director of the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance, and Dr. Gerhard Schynder, Director of the Institute for International Management also participated in the panel discussion.
Initially Professor Drake began the session by providing an overview of careers paths and attainable services within the university. Then, following questions from Dr Oliver, our four alumni provided enthusiastic, articulate and highly motivated responses throughout and shared their practical advice based on their own personal experiences. While each alumnus had their own individual area of focus, they all shared an attitude inculcated during their time at Loughborough University London. This included: being open to all opportunities, in depth research into particular interests, flexibility, authenticity and networking.
They all expressed a great deal of affection for Loughborough University London and their time with here. Christina, who currently works for the United Nations in Nigeria, referred to Loughborough University London as “family”.
Tomhas, who has been working at Chatham House, recommended that students take up the opportunities offered by the University and networking routes particularly funnelled through the Future Space team. Tomhas provided a concrete example of how he used networking and volunteering to obtain a role at Chatham House: “I went to Loughborough University London, I met Tim and through him I managed to get volunteering experience at Chatham House.”
Oliver, who works for an MP, said “I did what Loughborough taught me to do”, this in effect was to narrow down and select his focus and network. His top tip when networking is to always come away with contact details and leave your own, this was the way he obtained his current role.
Theresa, a freelance consultant, stressed the importance of being flexible and authentic. Furthermore, not only Theresa, but all of our alumni strongly recommended and undertook voluntary work. For Tomhas this led to employment, for the others it was a great way of getting valuable experience.
During this event our alumni gave detailed accounts of their experiences, recommendations, and provided our current students with the opportunity to ask their questions about the sector. These included questions covering topical issues such as how to network during the current pandemic; Theresa suggested joining webinars where possible and to continue to network online.
Another question referred to what can be quite a challenge, moving to study in London. Again, the alumni highlighted the opportunities offered by the University and that students should take every opportunity given.
The event proved to be engaging, practical and of great use for students to see the possible breadth of options and how to access them for those considering careers in international politics and business.
Loughborough University London would like to thank each of our alumni for sharing their insights and experiences.
To find out more about the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance or the Institute for International Management, please visit our website.
Print and Post Services Manager Helen Clarke has continued to work on campus throughout the coronavirus pandemic, supporting both her team and the students that have remained in halls over the last few months.
Here she explains how her team have adjusted to working in lockdown, and the steps taken to make staff, students and visitors feel safe when using the print and post services.
It’s fair to say that this is a stressful time. COVID-19 has impacted everything and everyone in some way or other, including our work.
The University’s Print and Post Services has not closed during lockdown, along with a few other teams, we have stayed open throughout.
We have done that for our students still on campus. The team in the Herbert Manzoni Building have been consistent – taking in and handing out mail as well as providing a friendly face and a caring voice. But that’s not happened without concern, careful planning and constant communication.
The service has had to adapt: ways of working, building layout and processes have all had to change. Our team has learnt how to exist safely yet practically, and as some colleagues have returned, these measures have eased worries and given confidence to live the ‘new normal’.
Full risk assessments, signage and floor markings have been used to define and mitigate risk to reassure colleagues of the safety of the environment.
One of our front of house supervisors Michelle had expressed her concerns before returning, with initial worries about staying within two-metre working spaces and having the correct PPE (personal protective equipment) for her own safety.
“After my induction, I felt reassured that the necessary steps had been taken to ensure I felt safe and confident to work,” said Michelle.
“We have Perspex screens for the counters, clearly defined work areas to ensure we have the right number of people in a space and my manager is constantly checking that we have the PPE we need.”
One of our other team members, Tony, also shared similar feelings: “Working with couriers and delivery drivers had been a real worry for me coming back to campus, but the steps taken to protect us and make us feel safe have been well thought out and work in our practical environment.”
Keeping customers and visitors safe has been equally planned to assess and mitigate risks. Essential activities to manage printers across campus, reinstate postal deliveries, and the management of couriers have all been modified to meet current guidelines.
Redefining service delivery and managing expectations in the ‘new normal’ have been essential to the service moving forward as lockdown eases. Huge changes have happened within the service, including a significant move to all print requests coming via the Online Shop to reduce human interaction.
Postal services have also changed as turnaround times are unpredictable, and an increase in department mail to the Herbert Manzoni Building adds to the workload whilst most other buildings are closed.
And yet, the team know these changes are essential to the future of campus operations. Becoming the single location for mail has enabled the University to control cross-contamination. Couriers and delivery drivers can no longer move freely across campus nor enter buildings unchallenged.
Mailroom Manager Sue has continued to work throughout the pandemic: “Providing our service to the students has been crucial. Packages from home have not stopped, and myself and the team have worked hard to be the friendly face, still here, still smiling and having a laugh.
“Some of these students have been in their halls for weeks on end because of the lockdown. They needed to see us, to see that we are happy to be here. We could have let our own worries and stresses show but we knew our role was beyond that.”
The team’s unwavering ‘can do’ attitude during lockdown has been exceptional and their emotional intelligence and resilience to do right by others in the face of dramatic challenges has set them apart.
Their confidence in the social distancing measures and their willingness to make them work has enabled the service to carry on and stand as an example to others as the campus is reoccupied. I’m very grateful for all their hard work during this time, and I hope gradually I can start to see more familiar faces return to our campuses soon.
Studying Politics and International Relations: Book recommendations from the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance
We asked academic staff, post-docs and PhD students from the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance for their book recommendations. Whether you are currently studying Politics and International Relations or just have an interest in these areas, keep scrolling to find out which books should be on your reading list.
Hoffmann, Stanley (1967), ‘Heroic Leadership: the Case of Modern France’ in Lewis J. Edinger (ed.) Political Leadership in Industrialized Societies: Studies in Comparative Analysis. (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1967).
“Stanley Hoffmann has been an inspiration and a role model for me from the very start of my studies in international relations, and this is one of his most-cited pieces. Hoffmann’s life experience taught him that boundaries and borders are arbitrary and permeable and he brought this to his scholarship, bringing whatever academic tools he could to the study of the realities and messes of world politics. He made the marriage of theory and empirical research seem particularly effortless. He also had a soft spot for Charles de Gaulle and this piece on ‘heroic leadership’ is one I return to again and again when thinking and writing about diplomacy and leadership today. Oh, and he was nice and generous to other scholars and to his students. That matters.” – Professor Helen Drake, Director of the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance
Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth. (New York: Grove Press, 1961)
“It’s one of the most important books of the 20th century and is vital reading today. It explains how colonised people fight for freedom, and the political, social and psychological impact of colonisation. If you want to understand issues like BlackLivesMatter and contemporary racism then this is essential reading into structures of oppression and how they can be dismantled.” – Dr Aiden McGarry, Reader in International Politics
Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991. (London: Abacus, 1994).
“This is one of those required readings from a university course that stays with you for the rest of your life. Hobsbawm’s breath-taking (if not entirely perfect) review of the world from the start of the First World War to the end of the Cold War puts our current world into perspective by showing how much we have been shaped by that short, bloody but transformative century. It is the final book in a widely acclaimed series on world history since 1789.” – Dr Tim Oliver, Director of Studies, and Senior Lecturer for the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance
Arlene Tickner and David Blaney, Claiming the International, (London: Routledge, 2013) and Thinking International Relations Differently (London: Routledge, 2012).
“I would recommend these complementary as two of the recent most rich and inspiring collections exemplifying the evolving movement and call to diversify and pluralise the otherwise conventional Western-dominated disciplines of International Relations and Diplomacy. The volumes bring together alternative voices and “worldings” – i.e. ways of writing and theorising that open up to the world and bring the world in – through uncovering alternative histories. In so doing, authors from across the world explore alternative ways of thinking about “the international”, “security”, “sovereignty” and “politics”. Contributions range from indigenous women’s pluralising of sovereignty to Arab scholars’ take on globalisation; from a critique of reading the world in ways that absents Africa to Chinese IR theorising; from religion and the state in Southeast Asia, to how the world “looks” from Latin America. ” – Dr Tatevik Mnatskanyan, Lecturer in Diplomacy and International Governance
Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow. (London: Penguin, 2011)
“This book on behavioural psychology and decision-making is by the Nobel-prize winner, Daniel Kahneman. It is an accessible text that summarises and further develops a series of important articles that Kahneman wrote together with Tversky in the 1970s and 1980s. The book analyses how humans make decisions – and incidentally how people make wrong judgements due to biases and heuristics. It argues that we have two systems of thinking – System 1 (thinking fast) and System 2 (thinking slow) – and that we use both systems to make sense of the world and to operate our choices.” – Dr Nicola Chelotti, Lecturer in Diplomacy and International Governance
Georg Sørensen, Rethinking the New World Order. (London: Macmillan, 2016)
“Few books have managed to provide a clear understanding for the concept of the world order. This is one of the recent attempts to theorise the world order through a wide of Western and non-Western perspectives. It is an important guide to understanding changes in the world order in the context of the rise of China.” – Dr Cristian Nitoiu, Lecturer in Diplomacy and International Governance
James Martin, The Meaning of the 21st Century. (Eden Project Books, 2006).
“Not only must we avoid the mistakes of the 20th Century, but – argues Martin – we must reckon with a series of challenges that will come to a head by the middle of the 21stCentury, if we are to make it through that ‘canyon’. Some have already come, like challenge 10: a planet-wide pandemic (p230). That means we must not only address these issues now, but we must be training the next generation of leaders in various sectors who will have to navigate us through the mid-century perfect storm. Depending on how we do, Martin posits four ‘world scenarios’ for 2050 (chapter 18).” – Professor Phil Budden, Visiting Professor
Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy. (Simon and Schuster, 1994)
“When you are born and raised during Soviet Union (and from 1991 the independent Republic of Moldova) you are taught to understand world affairs in the key of Realpolitik and the 1994 book Diplomacy written by Henry Kissinger, a former US National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, is your academic initiation. It walks you through a history of IR and the art of diplomacy of the 20th century showing the balance of power in Europe. Although today I no longer examine global affairs through the prism of the school of realism in international affairs, this book remains the departure point for Diplomatic Studies.” – Dr Dorina Baltag, Excellence 100 Postdoctoral Researcher
Jan Melissen, The New Public Diplomacy, Soft Power in International Relations. (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2005)
“The New Public Diplomacy can be mentioned amongst one of the most frequently cited titles on public diplomacy. The book was written and edited by well-known and widely respected academics in this subject area. This book presents an extensive debate about public diplomacy and evaluates its role in foreign policy.” – Alicja Prochniak
Robert Jervis, Why Intelligence Fails: Lessons from the Iranian Revolution and the Iraq War (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011)
“This book can be regarded as a sort of the Haynes manual for understanding intelligence failures. It provides clearly written political and psychological case study analysis of two major intelligence failures. The failure to recognise the fragility of the Shah in Iran and the process failures leading to the assumption that Iraq had WMD’s. This book offers a good introduction to understanding the processes, pressures and pitfalls in formulating intelligence assessments. Despite being written in 2011 it is still relevant today. The section on Iraq can be used to cross reference the redacted SIS intelligence assessment and the CIA National Intelligence estimate of Saddam Hussein, both are available online.” – Sean Calvin
Katy Hayward and Catherine O’Donnell (eds., Political Discourse and Conflict Resolution: Debating peace in Northern Ireland (Abingdon: Routledge, 2012)
“This book explores the role of political discourse in conflict transformation, drawing specialist contributions from established scholars in the field of Northern Irish politics. It provides a unique and detailed insight into how political discourse shapes and influences political terrain in Northern Ireland. A must-read for those interested in gaining an understanding the importance of discourse in a region emerging from conflict, and how localized diplomacy plays a crucial role in securing an end to violence.” – Ruairi Cousins
Yuval Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (London: Jonathan Cape, 2018).
“This book can be seen as a summary of Harari’s two previous books, one based on the distant past experience of humanity named Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2011) and the one the author’s vision on the potential distant future, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2016). In this book Harari looks at the current technological, political, social, and existential issues that the human race has to deal with to face its potential future threats. This piece of work will be useful for those interested in futuristic ideas in IR Theories and for those who aim to form their own holistic views on international relations from the lens of past, present, and future of humankind.” – Viktoriia Startseva
My name is Darya, I am originally from Tehran, Iran and 22 years of age. Last year I graduated from Loughborough University with a degree in Industrial Design and Technology and I am currently doing my master’s in Design Innovation at Loughborough University London. Here in London, I get so many questions from my peers about how studying in Loughborough compares to studying in London and I have so many friends from London that are considering going to Loughborough but are worried about moving to such a small town. So, I thought I’ll write a short blog to share my experience of studying in Loughborough and London.
Initially, I found choosing which university to go to extremely difficult. I really wanted to go to Loughborough because they were the best in the UK for the course I wanted to study i.e. Industrial design. However, my friends and family were trying to talk me out of it because they thought I wouldn’t be able to have a good social and nightlife in a small town like Loughborough. However, having studied my A-Levels in Harrogate, a small town in North Yorkshire, I knew that the size of the town you live in doesn’t matter as long as you have good friends to enjoy your time with and of course, studying the course you are passionate about. So eventually, I decided to take a risk and accept my offer to study at Loughborough University despite being a little worried about my social and nightlife.
My time at Loughborough
I fell in love with the campus from the moment I stepped foot on it. It was huge, absolutely beautiful and as it was freshers’ week, there were so many exciting events happening there; from that moment onwards, all my doubts about not having a good night and social life magically disappeared.
The majority of my lectures and tutorials were in the Design School which is a very beautifully designed building with amazing staff and an incredibly friendly atmosphere. Everything I possibly needed to be creative, design and produce products were in one building which was extremely convenient. I spent so many days and nights in that building, ordered many Dominos when I was pulling all-nighters and even took showers there! Looking back at it now, I probably would not have been able to do all that in a big city university. I used to live in Robert Bakewell hall, so the Design school was just a quick shuttle bus away from my accommodation which meant that I could easily go to the Design school whenever I wanted to.
One of my favourite things about living in Loughborough was surprisingly the fact it was quite small. I could wake up just 30 minutes before my 9am’s and still make it on time and that I barely had to spend any money on transport. Reflecting back on my time at Loughborough now, I realise that not having to spend so much time travelling, not only helped me save a lot of money, but also time and energy. Everything I possibly needed was on campus, from a library to a nice Chinese restaurant and decent clubs. I’m sure final year students can relate to this a lot because the last thing you want to do in your final year is waste your precious time travelling for your daily essentials. Plus, I always found the walks to lectures and town really enjoyable because the campus was so beautiful and picturesque, especially during spring and autumn.
The last point I want to make about studying in Loughborough is that because almost everyone I interacted with on a daily basis was either a student or worked at the university, (apart from self-checkout guy at Tesco), it helped me stay focused on what I was in Loughborough for, studying, socialising and sometimes partying. I felt like I was living in this really nice bubble with other hardworking and smart students and staff who inspired me to stay on top of my game and work towards my goals.
Finally, after three years of blood, sweat and tears, I graduated from Loughborough with a degree in Industrial design and technology. But that wasn’t to be the end of my Loughborough journey.
Studying my master’s at Loughborough University London
There were many more things I wanted to learn such as the role of cultures and identities in design and design thinking techniques, therefore, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in Design Innovation at Loughborough University London.
I found moving to London quite intimidating as I knew studying in London was going to be significantly different from studying in Loughborough. At the start of the year when I was quite nervous, I surprisingly found a lot of comfort in seeing the classic purple Loughborough signs and Learn’s web page amongst all the rather scary and significant changes.
The main difference between studying in London compared to Loughborough for me was the students. In my undergraduate course, I was one of the few international students; whereas in London, almost all my course mates were international. I found working with students from different backgrounds incredibly difficult at first, especially the time when I was in a group with four people all from different countries who spoke different languages. However, over time, I realised how much working in diverse teams helped me grow academically and as a person. Each student brought a completely new and fresh perspective into the group which I found invaluable and now, I absolutely love working in diverse teams because although they can be challenging at times, they are extremely rewarding at the end.
Another difference between studying in London and Loughborough was the commute time…obviously! I spent more time than I would’ve liked on the tube going from one place to another which was really tiring and an absolute pain in the neck when I had a lot of fast-approaching deadlines; and although I’m loving living in London, with all the hustle and bustle of a global hub, I do sometimes miss the quiet and peace in Loughborough.
I can’t write about studying in London without mentioning the immense opportunities here. The highlight of my time in London has been attending fashion shows and design events and making new connections and friends. I found these experiences extremely valuable as they helped me grow a lot as a person and get first-hand insights into the industry I want to work in. Furthermore, I managed to find an internship in a sustainable fashion company back in October which I am still doing alongside my studies. This is something that would have been almost impossible in Loughborough as although the university tried their best to bring different businesses and opportunities to the campus, they were quite limited and the number and variety of them cannot even be compared to London. However, considering everything is now online, the lack of physical opportunities in Loughborough might no longer be an issue for future students.
Lastly, I must add that I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Loughborough and London; there are many pros and cons to each place, and I consider myself extremely lucky to have experienced both. I guess I’ll have to see where life takes me next once I finish my master’s in September, after living for 16 years in Tehran, two years in Harrogate, three years in Loughborough and one year in London.
So, to answer all my friends’ questions about studying in London and Loughborough, I have to say it really depends on what you want to get out of your university experience and how YOU choose to experience it.
Because of coronavirus, Loughborough’s cinemas have been empty and silent for the last four months. While we wait for them to be lively again, American Studies lecturer Dr Andrew Dix has created a podcast which recaptures the vivid history of the town’s film-watching from the end of the nineteenth century to the present.
Andrew takes a walk not only to the Odeon and Cineworld that are still thriving, but to Loughborough’s several ‘ghost cinemas’: those sites, now put to other uses, where townspeople once gathered to watch films. We will hear about the Victory, the Playhouse and Vint’s Electric Hippodrome – and about the community’s film-viewing even before the coming of purpose-built cinemas.
“In my film studies work, I’m interested not only in what’s on screen but, increasingly, in the places in which people watch movies – and where better to research than Loughborough itself?
“Through audio and images, I tell the story of eight locations in Loughborough where people have watched films from the 1890s to the present, including one cinema that boasted about its high-quality heating system, and another that was previously a roller-skating rink. I hope that in the podcast the town’s ghost-cinemas, as well as its two current ones, come alive.”
This podcast was commissioned by LU Arts as part of Loughborough University’s Arts Week, a programme of online talks, performances and workshops celebrating the creative community at Loughborough.
LU Arts would like to thank Dr Andrew Dix for his time in creating this podcast.
On this day in 2015, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a newly elected Conservative Government dramatically announced a National Living Wage designed to ‘make work pay’, while easing the burden on the Exchequer by cutting state support for working families.
It’s been a very long five years since this grand plan was launched by George Osborne. But it’s worth reflecting on how things have worked out – not least because this story remains particularly relevant today, in a much-changed Britain.
The Tories have made good on their pledge at that time to increase minimum wages for over-25s by about a third within five years (it has risen from £6.50 to £8.72 an hour). But the wider plan turned out to be flawed. As I pointed out the day after the announcement, higher hourly pay will never make up for cuts in targeted support for low-income working families, whose incomes tend to be constrained more by the number of working hours than by hourly pay. A major backbench Tory revolt in autumn 2015 caused Mr. Osborne to cancel some of the cuts, but not the freeze in benefits, tax credits and Universal Credit, which continued to undermine the value of working incomes.
But this year, not only has the freeze ended, but Working Tax Credit and Universal Credit rates have risen (temporarily) by £1000 a year more than inflation, in response to the coronavirus crisis. Coinciding with a 6% increase in the National Living Wage, this raises the net income for a family with parents working on low pay considerably, as long as they maintain their previous working hours (of which more later). Where does this leave the adequacy of working incomes, relative to family needs?
Coincidentally, today we are also launching the 2020 results of our Minimum Income Standard, with fresh research on what people require for an acceptable standard of living. While we have not yet been able to incorporate the new patterns of living seen since lockdown (which are in any case changing by the day), our research reflects how important it is for households to be able to afford to access to current technologies supporting their everyday lives, both for practical tasks and for social participation. The dawning of the age of Zoom, with remote working, remote schooling and remote socialising, has hugely reinforced these findings.
But another feature of our findings relates directly to the policy challenges of supporting working incomes in order to allow families to have decent lives. The Minimum Income Standard allows us to track whether people on minimum wages have enough to make ends meet. In 2008, when we started this research, tax credits got families almost to the MIS level, but by 2019, even helped by higher pay, they were falling well short. For example, a lone parent working full time to support two children had more than 20% less disposable income than they needed.
In 2020, for the first time in over a decade, state support for working families and minimum hourly pay are rising simultaneously. This has boosted working incomes so that it is now possible for the first time for a dual earner family, with a full-time and a part-time working parent, to have disposable income around the minimum level with the help of Universal Credit. Lone parents still fall short, but by only 8% if they work full time and get UC.
Of course, this does not mean that families are thriving: as mentioned earlier, the amount of work plays a greater role than pay rates, and many families are now out of work, or on shorter hours than six months ago. Nevertheless, Rishi Sunak has demonstrated something that George Osborne never accepted: that increases in state help can complement decent wages in raising the prospects of families with low earnings.
People like Marcus Rashford have helped shine a spotlight on the struggle faced by those on low incomes, and not just during the time of Covid. This highlighted the case for improved support for such families, on a permanent not just a temporary basis. In the months and years ahead, as Britain works to reduce its suddenly high rates of unemployment and underemployment, a renewed commitment to helping people whose incomes are falling short could become one of the benign legacies of 2020.
Vivamus sagittis lacus vel augue laoreet rutrum faucibus dolor auctor. Curabitur blandit tempus porttitor. Nulla vitae elit libero, a pharetra augue. Integer posuere erat a ante venenatis dapibus posuere velit aliquet. Praesent commodo cursus magna, vel scelerisque nisl consectetur et. Morbi leo risus, porta ac consectetur ac, vestibulum at eros.
Integer posuere erat a ante venenatis dapibus posuere velit aliquet. Vivamus sagittis lacus vel augue laoreet rutrum faucibus dolor auctor. Nulla vitae elit libero, a pharetra augue. Donec sed odio dui.
Nullam id dolor id nibh ultricies vehicula ut id elit. Vivamus sagittis lacus vel augue laoreet rutrum faucibus dolor auctor. Curabitur blandit tempus porttitor. Morbi leo risus, porta ac consectetur ac, vestibulum at eros. Integer posuere erat a ante venenatis dapibus posuere velit aliquet. Aenean eu leo quam. Pellentesque ornare sem lacinia quam venenatis vestibulum.
Vestibulum id ligula porta felis euismod semper. Donec id elit non mi porta gravida at eget metus. Vivamus sagittis lacus vel augue laoreet rutrum faucibus dolor auctor. Integer posuere erat a ante venenatis dapibus posuere velit aliquet. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.
Morbi leo risus, porta ac consectetur ac, vestibulum at eros. Integer posuere erat a ante venenatis dapibus posuere velit aliquet. Nulla vitae elit libero, a pharetra augue. Duis mollis, est non commodo luctus, nisi erat porttitor ligula, eget lacinia odio sem nec elit.
Vivamus sagittis lacus vel augue laoreet rutrum faucibus dolor auctor. Cras justo odio, dapibus ac facilisis in, egestas eget quam. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Nullam id dolor id nibh ultricies vehicula ut id elit. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.
Maecenas sed diam eget risus varius blandit sit amet non magna. Integer posuere erat a ante venenatis dapibus posuere velit aliquet. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Maecenas sed diam eget risus varius blandit sit amet non magna. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Curabitur blandit tempus porttitor.
Nullam id dolor id nibh ultricies vehicula ut id elit. Etiam porta sem malesuada magna mollis euismod. Donec sed odio dui. Donec id elit non mi porta gravida at eget metus. Cras mattis consectetur purus sit amet fermentum. Nulla vitae elit libero, a pharetra augue. Vestibulum id ligula porta felis euismod semper.
Curabitur blandit tempus porttitor. Morbi leo risus, porta ac consectetur ac, vestibulum at eros. Vestibulum id ligula porta felis euismod semper. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.
IT Services have launched a new training service to support staff and students in the use of Office 365 applications.
The new self-service area on Learn hosts a variety of learning resources from Microsoft and LinkedIn Learning. The module is easy to navigate through and offers a range of bitesize videos and downloadable guides.
How to access the module
Sign into LEARN with your Loughborough credentials and use the module search bar to search for ‘Office 365 Training’ (you can click on the link here for quick access). The module is set to ‘Self-Enrol’ so you’ll need to click on this to access all the content.
To complement this, IT Services – in collaboration with Organisational Development and the Doctoral College – will be launching bookable face-to-face training workshops for staff and Doctoral Researchers later this year. These courses will introduce you to the available tools and features for storing, communicating, and collaborating with others using Office 365.
If you have struggled to understand when you should be using OneDrive or O365 Groups, then this course will help you to understand the basics of how to store and share documents and collaborate effectively with others.
A basic introduction on how to access the app, create a notebook to collect and organise different types of information, and how you can use it collaboratively to collect and share resources and information with your team.
An introduction to Forms to help you create surveys, quizzes, polls, and capture feedback and how to access real-time analytics once live.
Dates for these workshops will be released in the autumn of 2020 and will run if it is safe to do so at that time, ensuring any health and safety requirements are met.
The Loughborough University London Inspiring Success programme is currently in its 6th year with our latest 2020 cohort.
What is Inspiring Success?
Inspiring Success is a two-part programme designed to provide employability support to unemployed and underemployed East London graduates. As part of this exciting opportunity, participants are invited to attend insightful workshops delivered by Loughborough University London staff and experienced trainers. As well as access to the workshops, eligible candidates are also invited to apply for a 100% scholarship for a master’s programme of your choice offered at our London campus.
Our Inspiring Success workshops
We welcomed our latest participants to the workshop programme in June 2020. For the first time, the sessions were completed virtually across a series of six online evening workshops. The programme was led by the Future Space team and throughout the programme we covered a range of topics, including:
- • networking
- • recruitment
- • and interviewing.
Whilst staff and trainers delivered the sessions, we always encourage our participants to get interact and engage in the session content and therefore our sessions featured various activities including video interview tasks and whole group discussions to make sure everyone had the chance to get involved and share their experiences.
Our workshop on LinkedIn was popular with participants taking us into the deeper depths of the world of LinkedIn. Throughout the session everyone explored the newly discovered functions on LinkedIn, and participants were encouraged to try these features out. Each of our experienced trainers delivered interactive sessions giving our participants a chance to discuss their experiences and challenge them to reflect on of ways they can put the lessons from the sessions into practice.
Another favourite moment for many was when three graduates from the Inspiring Success programme joined the workshop. Our participants were inspired by their experiences and discussed the positives of coming to study at Loughborough University London. Our alumni gave some great tips on how to make the most out of your experience studying by getting involved with extra-curricular activities and enjoying the sense of community here at Loughborough University London.
Our penultimate session saw participants take on the challenge of speed interviewing. We invited interviewers from different businesses including BT Sport, Ford and Here East to come along to the session and give participants a great chance to practice their interview skills. The session was fast-paced, fun and energetic for all involved! The programme ended with our enjoyable celebration session, where our participants described the programme as engaging and inspiring. Our staff were praised, and participants felt the staff’s enthusiasm and passion for Inspiring Success made the experience more exciting and encouraging.
The Inspiring Success Scholarship
As well as offering employability support and access to 1-to-1 career consultations, the Inspiring Success programme offers participants access to apply for Inspiring Success scholarship. Eligible participants can apply for a 100% scholarship to study a master’s programme with us here at Loughborough University London. Our Inspiring Success workshops are a fantastic opportunity to benefit underemployed and unemployed East London graduates and empower you to take the next steps in your career journey.
If this opportunity or the scholarship interests you, check out our website and we might see you in September or as part of next year’s Inspiring Success team!
Wednesday 1st July should have seen us coming together for Loughborough University’s annual Learning and Teaching Conference. Whilst the current situation means that we cannot gather in person to share the innovation and good practice that happens at Loughborough we can still celebrate this year’s Teaching Award winners.
Congratulations to the winners of the prestigious Research-Informed Teaching Awards. This award recognises excellence in research-informed teaching at Loughborough. The four winners are Lara Alcock (Mathematics Education Centre), Ash Casey (School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences), Clare Hutton (School of Social Sciences and Humanities) and Chris Wilson (School of Business and Economics).
Congratulations also go to our 2020 Teaching Innovation Award winners. Whilst the current Covid-19 situation may necessitate delays or changes to some of these projects we want to celebrate their success and look forward to a time when we can share in the outcomes of their innovative projects.
More information about the RiTA and TIA award winners can be found at https://www.lboro.ac.uk/services/cap/procedures-schemes/teaching-awards/
From 22nd to 29th June we hosted the University’s Arts Week. Held annually to coincide with the School of Design and Creative Arts’ degree shows and end of year drama production, it celebrates our creative staff and students through a programme of workshops, discussions and events. With the restrictions placed on us by Covid-19, and the fact that students and academics are currently scattered around the country we felt it was even more important to amplify the students’ work to create a sense of community amongst our staff and students. We embraced online technologies and delivered a series of events that made visible some excellent work being undertaken by staff and students.
My personal highlight had to be the short film competition, whose winners were premiered as part of the week. We received 29 entries, all made during lockdown and with the limitations it brings with it, and the overall quality was very high; so much so that we selected four rather than the intended three winners. (See separate entry on The Limit).
I was also impressed with the quality of prose and poetry that was performed by our English and Creative Writing students; and with the fact that Dr Barbara Cooke could easily step into Victoria Coren’s shoes as Chair and Quizmaster, which were the roles she had for An Evening of Readings and our Literary Lockdown Quiz. Our Drama students also produced a fantastic radio play that was very professionally delivered and presented.
I have also got to mention our Fine Art and Textiles students. Each year I have the pleasure of being one of the judges of the Edward Sharp Prize, through which we purchase works from the degree shows. These then become part of the University’s art collection and are exhibited within the University campus. Rather than just see the work in exhibition this year we were able to see their research and experimentation process, which really shone a light on just how considered and informed the final works are. The students’ ability to communicate and engage others in their practice was also shown through three Arts Week workshops we organised, in which students shared their skills via very popular video tutorials on Facebook Live. These are still available on our Facebook page, as are the other videos from the events which were live streamed via Facebook.
I am also very grateful to PhD students and academic staff within the School of Creative Arts who contributed to the week. We had some fantastic discussions around textiles practice, looking at its relationship with technology and alternative forms of living, whilst Daniel Fountain delivered a really interesting presentation on ‘queer craft’. On Saturday night it was great to get an insight into the storytelling and performative aspects of professional wrestling from Dr Claire Warden and Sam West.
Jackie Donachie is an artist we commissioned for Radar a number of years ago and since then she has taken up the post of Doctoral Prize Fellow at Loughborough. To kick off Arts Week, we hosted Jackie in conversation with Professor Craig Richardson, looking back at her extensive practice. Finally, I would highly recommend the video essay looking at Loughborough’s cinema history put together by Dr Andrew Dix, which combines a walking tour of the town with archival images that covers its architectural, social and cinema history .
We are still learning about which are the best platforms to present work on, and while the digital will never replace the live experience there is a real appetite to be part of live online events, which also open them up to international audiences. We tend not to get people travelling from Kentucky to Loughborough for events on campus! We will no doubt continue, in part, to embrace the digital in the next academic year.
This will be the last weekly digest until September. We are reducing content on The Limit over the summer months while we organise programmes for the new term, and hopefully get a holiday. Have a great summer.
Director, LU Arts
As part of our Creative Media Weekend (16 & 17 May 2020) we launched a short film competition, which encouraged students to submit their creative short films. We had some excellent work sent to us and we are really excited to share the winning entries with you!
We received 29 films in total and were very impressed with the overall quality of the submissions. They represented a broad range of film making styles and content and the level of creativity involved made the judging extremely difficult. In the end we went for the films that had left the biggest impression on us, the ones who had used the medium most effectively. While the four films selected are very different they manage to engage the viewer successfully through the quality of the content and the film making.
You can watch all four of the winning films in the video below including a short introduction by each student.
First Prize: Amber Cannings – Every Day is the Same but Different
Footage from Loughborough, Britain, during the corona virus pandemic. It tells the story of two girls from the beginning of the pandemic, and how they grow to adapt to a ‘new normal’, a normality of virtual relationships and lots of time spent at home.
The judges commented on the quality of the observational recording of real lives during the pandemic. The film was an honest and real portrait of the protagonists lives and the relationships they maintained with each other or their friends. It also contained humour which the judges felt is not easy to achieve successfully. It was an excellent piece of documentary film making.
Second Prize: Laura Evans – Bodies of Water
From rural paths to the confines of my back garden, I have used my time in isolation to journey through and investigate ways humankind experience nature. Astrida Neimanis’ essay ‘Hydrofeminism: Or, On Becoming a Body of Water’ (2012) forms the narrative of this short film, and I attempted to visualize her concepts around re-connecting the human form with the landscape and the importance of ecological kinship. Humans continuously cut ties to the earth, replacing this vital relationship with screens and pixels. Technology persistently takes root in all areas of our lives and as we willingly plant and water it, we extend the distance between self and nature exponentially. Through mining resources both online and on-land, I have visualized the connection between the digital and the natural in collage form.
By using footage appropriated from nature documentaries, YouTube and Google Maps, I have explored how our encounters with nature are now mediated through screens and based upon our rampant, obsessive consumption of imagery whilst scrolling through mass and social media. I hope to replicate these notions, whilst acknowledging a growing desensitization to the world around us; the physical, the daisy in our garden, the duck in the river, the bodies we occupy. Our digital devices facilitate journeys across the globe – we inhabit foreign landscapes, experiencing a 2D, pixelized rendition of Victoria falls whilst remaining within the confines of our homes. In a culture where the narrative surrounding our impact on the environment grows bleaker, I hope to highlight how, and the importance of, reconnecting and re-blending our watery bodies with the other bodies of water that surround us. I found Neimanis’ poetic writing the perfect framework to illustrate and weave together my love of visual imagery and the ecological concepts I have been considering.
The judges commented that this was a very considered piece of film making, involving significant research and combining high quality videography overlaid with a narrative written by the artist. It was a very accomplished film.
Third Prize: Rennae Walker – 56 Black Men
Inspired by the 56 Black Men Campaign, this story reflects and challenges the stigmas black men in Britain combat daily, with a hope for a land of higher ceilings and ferocious dreaming.
The judges commented on the quality of the film making which powerfully communicated the message in a very direct and engaging way. It was very well produced and put together.
Special/Honourable Mention: Sri Hollerma – The Hollerma Bubble
A really seductive heartfelt bit of film making that is beautifully filmed and offers a glimpse into the Hollerma family life in lockdown
We are grateful to alumnus Alex Widdowson for his help in selecting the winning films.
Alex studied Fine Art at Loughborough University and animated documentary at the Royal College of Art. His graduate film screened at festivals around the world and received seven awards. He is currently developing project on autism as part of his PhD at Queen Mary, University of London, funded by the Wellcome Trust.
By Mayowa Fagbure
Sunshine fills the room; this place that I occupy for the time being. The duvet sits above me, protecting me from the rambling wind outside of my window.
It is 8am and my lecture starts in an hour. Toast is my breakfast, quickly made and buttered. I settle onto the plastic kitchen chair, hearing my flatmates’ accents before I see them. The two other people I live with come through the kitchen door.
I am greeted with a forced smile, as usual. Once, when I had tried to socialise with them, the differences between us were made evidently clear. Every word I said was met with a puzzled look; they didn’t understand my accent. This accent that I never even knew I had before leaving Nigeria.
They enter the kitchen and continue chattering away. I scroll through my phone and try finishing up breakfast, quickly.
“How are you?” one of the flatmates asks, pushing a bowl into the microwave. I mumble, “Good”, over the sounds of the beeping controls.
That question does not seek an answer. That and many other things I have come to understand are normal here.
“Ah, good” she responds. “Just got a lecture.” She rolls her eyes. I should sympathise and understand. The only thing we have in common is that we are both University students.
The accent is what I have not been able to perfect. My friends from back home, who came here at the same time as me, have become fluent in switching. On the phone with one of my friends, I heard the Nigerian and British accents waft through her voice as though two people lived within her. I just can’t seem to get the pronunciations down. On the outside, I act like I’m too stubborn to switch; that I’m too pro-African. Asking, “They don’t switch for us, so why should we for them?” But inside, I understand that knowing how to switch would benefit me.
She grabs her heated up bowl of food and leaves the kitchen with the other flatmate.
My mother wonders why I am not closer to my flatmates. It is not only the cultural difference that distances us, but the fact that they do not want to get over it. There is the presence of difference, but the continued acknowledgement of it, is what creates barriers between people.
I drop my empty bowl in the sink, unwashed. I know there will be a message on the flat group chat later today. Something along the lines of ‘Could we please remember to wash up after we cook and eat? It’s really not that hard like just do it xxx” The passive-aggressiveness of their messages amuse me. Sometimes I don’t wash up, on purpose. Just to see what they’ll text next.
I track back to my bedroom, staring at the mirror as I put my clothes on. I can understand how a bedroom can be a haven for some. After a long day out, it must feel great to come back to a place that is all yours. But for someone like me, who hides out every day underneath her duvet, in this bedroom it is the opposite. The outside has become my haven.
I am already late for the lecture but only by 5 minutes. I take longer to pull my boots and coat on before I lock up my room. The routine of my life sickens me. As does seeing groups of my people – people my age, who I should be friends with but am not, pass by me. They are going to my places – lecture rooms in tall buildings. But I walk alone.
In the lecture, Stella smiles at me and walks over. It’s odd that now I only have one friend. Compared to the number of people I had been friends with in secondary school. Then, I had craved my own company; needed a break from friends. It’s funny to look back on that now.
“So cold today” she whispers as the lecturer greets the class, answered by a stark silence.
“Yeah” I answer, smiling back.
“What did you do yesterday?” She asks. “There was something at the Union?”
“Okay,” she says. Always smiling, she is.
“I had this British guy trying to dance with me all night. They’re so clingy!” she laughs.
After the lecture, we walk back to our accommodation buildings. I like speaking to Stella. We bond over being strangers in Britain, far away from home. I can’t do that with my friends from home, who are here. They seem to have adjusted quickly to all that comes with living here. I feel left behind.
“We should go to the cinema on Saturday, if you’d like to come?” she asks.
“Yeah. That would be nice” I answer.
We keep talking until we get to my building, then hug goodbye. I exhale deeply before walking in. I know that this is my life now. It is something I have to accept. I was happy that it snowed the other day. I felt euphoric, seeing that for the first time. It’s a daily thing, adjusting. Living with myself in a strange place. Soon, the switching will fall upon me and I will become who I am meant to be here. And then people will understand me. And then I will have friends. I have to keep learning how to make Home here.
By Mayowa Fagbure
Mayowa Fagbure is a Nigerian writer who enjoys using words to paint vivid pictures and capture the human experience. Her stories and poetry cover a range of emotions – from pain, grief, joy, melancholy and nostalgia . They are all written with an eye to understand and encapsulate the mystery of life. She blogs at www.mayowafagbure.wordpress.com.
On Friday 3rd July, from 8:00am to 10:00pm, the Windows 10 Staff Re-Image Task Sequence will be updated. Support for five new models of Dell Laptop will be added.
In order to support updated network drivers on these models, Task Sequence Media will have to be updated after this change.
The Task Sequences will be at risk during this period. It is therefore recommended that you do not attempt to image any Windows 10 staff computers at this time.
CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION AND HELP?
Please contact our Service Desk at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
In sport, human beings and the natural world come together as competitors and partners, an athlete’s relationship with the natural world is raw, passionate and physical.
Nature and sport are inextricably connected and nature’s role can be decisive in the outcome of an event. The greatest tournaments and events rely on energy, infrastructure and resources to be successful. Therefore, it is vital sport plays a role in protecting the natural world it so heavily relies on.
All of us have experienced sport at some point in our lives. You might have been the overly competitive kid at school like me, perhaps you avoided it at all costs growing up, or you prefer just to watch it from the comfort of your sofa. However, even those with little interest in sport day-to-day usually come together to enjoy the huge world spectacles such as the Olympics or world cups. Estimates vary, but the sports industry is commonly considered to be worth around $1 trillion, with some estimates suggesting as high as $1.3 trillion.
For me, sport is a huge part of my life; it’s one of the reasons I came to Loughborough to study. I’ve also got another huge passion – sustainability. Therefore, I’ve always been interested in exploring whether these two areas should work hand in hand, and subsequently, is sport doing enough to reduce its environmental impact?
An often-overlooked issue is climate change’s influence on sports and recreation. Cancelled football matches, flooded cricket grounds, lack of snow on the slopes and golf courses crumbling into the sea – climate change is already impacting our ability to play and watch the sports we love.
Sport is not just a victim of change, however, but also an important contributor.
One thing that cannot be escaped is the commercial beast that is football, its estimated that European professional leagues are worth €28.4 billion, yet currently only 2% of clubs in the top-5 leagues are signatories of the UN Sport for Climate Action Framework.
The constant strives by both sports brands and clubs, to maximise their brands across the world comes at a heavy price. It’s common practise for clubs to release brand new kits before every season, with Man Utd topping the sale charts with an average of 1.75 million shirt sales globally each year…..the city itself only has a population of around 600,000 people! These alarming levels of consumption are not exclusive to football and can be seen in sports like rugby too.
Travel associated with sports teams or events is quite often the largest contributor to carbon emissions for example the 2010 World Cup in South Africa showed an impact of 2.8 million tonnes CO2 attributed to travel, representing 86% of the total event’s reported footprint.
It’s not surprising that travel has this level of impact when you consider international events. For example, pre-season tournaments like the International Champions Cup see between 15-20 European football clubs travel to the US, Singapore and China to play in friendly games. We’ve also seen the growth of American sports being played in the UK, with London hosting NFL, MLB and NBA games annually. Flying all over the world to play games that could be played on the same continent and still be broadcast to millions all over the world seems questionable. As we all know though money talks!!
The Olympics are frequently described as the greatest show on earth, and often seen by governments as a way to bring in investment and create an Olympic legacy for the host country, but what happens when the eyes of the world turns its attention away after the games? All too often these venues can be found unused and in disrepair within months of the hosts celebrating the biggest event in the world. There are even examples of stadiums being built where the capacity exceeds the cities they are located. Surely we need to see Countries demonstrate the viability of these facilities long term before handing over these vast sums of money and the environmental costs that come with hosting these huge events.
However, some sporting events have begun to recognise their environmental impact and have started working towards minimising this or even making a positive impact.
The 2012 London Olympic games were supposedly “the greenest ever” held. It made use of existing venues and the Olympic Park was largely accessed by public transport. Some 86% of Olympic visitors travelled by rail, according to the post-game sustainability report. And 99% of the 61,000 tonnes of waste was either recycled or reused. The London Games stadium wrap, made of hundreds of fabric panels, were repurposed for projects benefiting former child soldiers in Uganda, and for use at shaded community areas at the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil. This is great example of SDG 12, Responsible Consumption & Production.
Formula One recently announced that they plan to be net Zero Carbon by 2030, this is remarkable considering the whole sport has been built on fossil fuel-powered engines. You may not realise it but F1 has been a pioneer in a lot of technology we now use to reduce our environmental impacts. For example, the hybrid systems we now see in everyday vehicles and the aerofoil technology used in supermarket refrigerators to reduce their CO₂ footprint were both developed on the racetrack.
Sports brands are trying to reduce their footprint by looking at how they produce their products. In 2015, Adidas launched their ‘Parley for Oceans’ scheme, where they make football shirts, training clothes and trainers using recovered plastic from clean-up operations around the world.
Parley’s strategy is based on three ideas: avoiding plastic where possible, intercepting plastic waste and changing how plastic is used. It takes 11 plastic bottles to make a pair of trainers, with other recycled materials making up the rest of the shoe. Big hitters such as Real Madrid have worn full kits made from recycled plastics. These kind of collaborations between clubs and major sports brands are the positive stories that can make a huge impact. Furthermore, Adidas has also committed to using recycled plastic in all its products by 2024.
It is also pleasing to see most Premier league football clubs are now taking their environmental management obligations more seriously. I won’t go into all the detail but you see here that most teams are engaging in some form sustainable practises.
Its interesting to bring this topic back to the context of Loughborough, The University is renowned for its world class academics, athletes and facilities, it also plays host to a large number of the UK sports governing bodies. Could we use this unique position drive meaningful change across sport at Loughborough and beyond?
Its clear sports are not doing enough, and as the participators, observers and funders of the industry, we can help show we want change by supporting campaigns such as Parley for oceans and demanding better resource management. A survey from Sport Positive, showed more than half of respondents (58%), strongly agreed with the statement: “I care about how my club impacts the environment.
Sport’s status as a beloved entertainment form has perhaps shielded it from the scrutiny felt by other economic sectors. But it is time now for sustainability to play a central role in sport.Jochem Verberne, WWF international
I believe sport is in a unique position to lead by example when it comes to sustainability. It is something we all encounter at some point in our lives and many of the clubs and individuals act as role models for millions across the world. There can be little dispute about the extraordinary levels of passion that sport is able to inspire as well as its capacity to cross boundaries and bridge divides is unique. Not many sectors have this ability.
It is in the interest of sports to try their best to reduce their environmental impact, for some sports climate change could be their demise.
It doesn’t seem like five minutes ago since we were celebrating the 15th anniversary of the launch of LORLS and now here we are now at its 20th. Unfortunately the current lockdown prevents us from celebrating its birthday in the usual manner (i.e. with cake).
LORLS was initially conceived of in 1999 in response to an enquiry to the Library from the University’s Learning & Teaching Committee. The system was written using the open source LAMP development stack and launched the following year. Since then it has been used by a dozen other institutions, survived six major revisions, three different library management systems and seen the rise and fall of numerous other reading list management systems.
So what does the future hold for LORLS, well the sad truth is that all of the staff involved in its development have either moved on to take on new responsibilities or left the institution. And finally after 20 years there are now commercial offerings that at least meet, if not exceed, the capabilities of our little in-house system. So whilst LORLS is not yet dead, it is more than likely it will be taking a very well deserved retirement at some point in the coming years.
SASNET (The Swedish South Asian Studies Network) at Lund University in Sweden hosted a panel discussion on “Questioning Racism in the Indian Diaspora: Cultural Perspectives” on 16 June 2020.Continue reading
One of the 5 key environmental challenges for the UK highlighted by the House of Commons was waste, in particular, our inefficient use of resources
and single use plastics.
To help you feel a little less overwhelmed by Plastic Free July, we’ve made a fun bingo card so you can take a step at a time.
You can download the bingo card from the link below. Feel free to share it on social media (don’t forget to tag us) or print it and pop it on your fridge so you can cross off your achievements!
From my personal experience, some of the best changes I have made
Switching from disposable sanitary products to a menstrual cup was incredibly easy and I am so glad I made the decision.
I think what is important to keep in mind about Plastic Free July is that it doesn’t mean going cold turkey. Nobody is expecting you to completely cut out plastic from day one! It’s deeply embedded into every part of our lives. Medicine, fashion, beauty, food – the list goes on. Reducing our reliance and use of plastic is a journey, and Plastic Free July simply helps you to take those first steps.
Plastic Free July isn’t just about buying a reusable cup or bag, it’s giving people the tools to change their habits, to pause and think how we as individuals can make an impact for the better and reduce our reliance on plastic.Erin Rhoads, Author ‘Waste Not’
Creative Arts and Design Degree Showcases
18 Mar | All day | Room 1
Our final-year Creative Arts and Design students’ work is being showcased exclusively online. The exhibits demonstrate a breathtaking combination of creativity, imagination and technical skill.
Arts Degree Show 2020 – http://artshow.lboro.ac.uk/
Design Degree Show 2020 – https://designshow.lboro.ac.uk/
The Aesthetics of Risk: A conversation with Francesa Cavallo and Ksenia Chmutina
29 June | 6 – 7:30pm | YouTube
We’ll be exploring many of the issues at the heart of Radar’s Risk Related project via this conversation between the disasters researcher Ksenia Chmutina and curator Francesca Cavallo. Drawing on artistic works, curation, the urban environment, the politics of disasters and more, the wide-ranging conversation will explore the ways in which artists have approached, used and reformulated ‘risk’. It will ask whether risk produces its own aesthetics, but also whether the aesthetic might be mobilised to rethink risk.
Radar Producer Laura Purseglove will also provide an introduction to Risk Related and outline the approaches taken by commissioned artists.
Click here for more information.
Doctoral College Summer Showcase
29 June – 03 July | 9:30am – 5pm | Online
Our annual Summer Showcase is taking place between 29th June and 3rd July and will be held entirely online! All doctoral researchers at both campuses will have the opportunity to show off their work and learn about the great research being undertaken by their peers.
For more information, click here
Inspiring Minds Online: STEM taster event
01 July | Online
This event is open to UK and international students in Year 11 (going into Year 12) and post-16, and is a great opportunity to learn more about the options available to you at university across science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects.
You will be able to view a range of taster sessions from our academic departments, as well as learn more about Loughborough University and receive guidance on university applications and careers. There will also be the chance to take a virtual tour of our outstanding campus, with live web chats for you to ask our current students any questions you may have.
Click here for more information.
CALIBRE Awards: Voting Now Open
Voting is now open to help choose the winners of the Summer 2020 CALIBRE Awards. The Awards – which recognise the excellent work undertaken across both campuses – celebrate our international research collaborations.
Click here to cast your vote
IAS Themes 2021/2022: Sandpit 2
30 June | 10:30am – 12pm | Online
We are delighted to announce the second in a series of sessions to develop IAS Themes for the 2021/22 Academic Year.
IAS annual Themes are organised around an inspiring concept designed to highlight aspects of Loughborough’s most innovative areas of research activity by facilitating interactions between the arts, humanities, social sciences and STEM subjects through a coherent programme of International Visiting Fellowships and events.
Do you have an idea for a Theme that you would like to lead? Or would you just like to learn more about how to become involved in an IAS Theme and brainstorm potential topics with colleagues?
Then come along with your ideas, thoughts and colleagues to our virtual Sandpit/Ideas Lab via Zoom on 30th June, 10.30-12.00. A link to the Zoom meeting will be circulated on the day.
Click here for more information.
End of Term Clear-Out
Until 04 July | Loughborough Town
Students who have stayed in Loughborough throughout the coronavirus pandemic are being encouraged to get behind an end-of-term blitz on waste on Saturday 4 July.
Charnwood Borough Council and waste management partner Serco have teamed up with Loughborough University to organise the big clear-up in student areas of the town including Kingfisher Way and Park Road.
Click here for more information.
Got something for This Week at Loughborough? Email us at email@example.com
Microsoft Teams is a platform with lots of options, apps and settings and, as such, it’s easy to miss some of the less visible features available and you may stumble when it comes to the manner in which they should be used (the etiquette if you will e.g. when should I use I post a thumbs up or use an announcement message?). This post will explore some of these known and less well known features and highlight our top 5 tips for using Teams.
#1 Meeting options
When you create a meeting within the Teams calendar, there are some quick settings that you can adjust but did you know that there are more slightly out of sight? If you click on meeting options you can, in amongst other things, set whether who has the ability to present.
You can do make these changes in a pre-scheduled or instant meeting. See the Change participant settings for a Teams meeting page for further details on how to make these changes.
#2 Roles and permissions within Teams
There are two roles within Teams: owner and member. The owner is the default role given to the person that created the team. A team member is still able to create channels within a team and access all parts but they cannot edit the team name/description or add in additional members. If you want staff to be able to do this, you can elevate to the role of owner within a team (up to 100 owners).
This is a new feature that lets you send praise badges to your colleagues. This is automatically available in the chat options and you can select from a range of badges and customise the message to go with it. It’s a nice way of recognising a team member.
Did you know you can create a tag to group colleagues and then you can use this tag in a chat to notify all those people at once by an @mention (e.g. you could create a tag to group colleagues by roles, School or even Department). For instance, in the images below you can see that we have created a tag for myself and Matt Aldred – you could contact us both at once in Teams by using the @theMatts tag.
You can add a huge range of apps into MS Teams to increase the functionality even further. One of the apps that we have used is the Planner app to manage tasks and track how specific projects are progressing, but there are several project management apps that you may wish to use or explore. Watch out for another blog post where I’ll be looking at apps in more details.
If you think there is a top tip that we’re missing, why not get in touch with us at CAP@lboro.ac.uk
We invited three final-year students from Loughborough University to make a vlog showing what life has been like for student artists during lockdown as they finish their courses, prepare for a digital showcase of their work and think about what they do next.
Millie Barrow (Textiles)
My work is about empowering victims of sexual assault through textiles and currently my days consist of a lot of reading and exploring new concepts of projecting a voice through fabric. I am currently developing a concept of bringing everyday politics into the everyday environment through embedding text into decorative features such as cushions, bed covers, ceramics etc. My vlog follows me developing my ideas that address issues of social injustice
Amber Cannings (Fine Art)
My name is Amber Cannings and I am a finalist at Loughborough University studying my BA in Fine Art. My work explores the nostalgia of a Mediterranean summer through paint and installation, I intertwine my own personal nostalgia of summer (pleasant memories, photographs, stories) with more collective elements (colours, objects), so the viewer can relate to the work, while maintaining the personal element.
My future plans involve completing artist residencies around the world as travel is one of my key sources of inspiration and going to South America to teach English as a second language.
Co-vid 19 has seriously impacted my studies, and my plans post university. I have learnt to adapt my practice so that it can be enjoyed from a computer screen, focusing on the visual aspects of the work. With regards to post university plans, travel is still restricted so for now I plan to stay in the east midlands and continue to engage with the art community here.
Watch Amber’s vlog here:
Natasha Dingwall (Textiles)
Hi, I am Natasha Dingwall, a 23 year old graduate student from Loughborough University who has studied Textiles: Innovation & Design for the last four years. Specialising in Print Design my work expresses who I am as an individual and my strong desire for inclusion for all. Expressing my love for colour, pattern and textures, I aim to create fun and exciting designs that also explore accessible design solutions, whilst continuing to look incredible!
Watch Natasha’s vlog here:
You can view the work of all three students on the Arts Show 2020 Digital Showcase:
These student vlogs were originally commissioned for Arts Week (22-29 June 2020) – an online celebration of the creative arts at Loughborough University with workshops, artist talks, quizzes, discursive events and more.
As part of the April 2020 update, a new frequently requested feature has been released – the option of having a leaderboad in any poll. If you choose to have this enabled, it will display to a customised screen to students that finish a poll in 1st, 2nd or 3rd place.
The best bit is that it’s no extra work and all you need to do is click the trophy icon at any stage in a poll to show users the leaderboard and send personalised information to their own devices.
How do I enable a leaderboard?
It’s simple. Go to https://lboro.vevox.com/ and log in with your Vevox credentials. Find the meeting you want to poll with and click on the 3 dots in the top right-hand corner. Select settings > features and then enable the identification option. This will allow students to enter their name (or something of their choosing) when they enter a poll.
How to do I show the results?
While in the presentation mode on a browser, click on the trophy icon at ant point to show how the leaderboard is shaping up. You can do this throughout a poll to generate competition and show students how they’re doing overall. These results are also stored in the meeting so they can be referred to after a poll has been run.
Can you use the leaderboard with a team?
Yes. You can ask your students to group together and choose a team name. With identification on, ask the group to put in their team name when they join the poll. This will then be displayed on the leaderboard which you can share during and, or, at the end of a poll.
Can I use this in the PowerPoint plugin?
It’s not available in the PowerPoint plugin at this time and needs to be used within the presentation mode in Vevox. If you want to learn more about the presentation mode and the other features within it, contact a member of the Technology Enhanced Learning for support.
More information is available on the Vevox blog: https://www.vevox.com/blog/the-vevox-leaderboard-is-here
Hi everyone! My name is Seyi, I am a final year student at Loughborough University studying Aeronautical Engineering Continue reading
Despite national flour shortages some of our intrepid Loughborough University London PhD students have taken a break from the books to express their PhD through the art of baking as part of the ‘Bake your PhD’ competition.
The judges, who were of course torturously unable to taste the creations, have deliberated. The competition was fierce. They decided that all of the following four entries will all be receiving a prize:
Erica Fletcher: My research explores contemporary performed poetry communities and will seek to understand how poets and poetry event organisers use digital media to enhance community creation and maintenance. Performed poetry communities are often presented as inclusive spaces, and my research aims to understand whether these communities are inclusive and how this impacts the formation and development of them.
I’ve reflected the contemporary performed poetry community by baking a scene featuring a stage with a performing poet and an audience. Inclusivity is represented in my bake by the diverse gummy sweets both in their type, sour patch kids and gummy bears, and colour. My research will explore the role digital media has in this community, as represented by viewing the cake through a (make-shift) computer screen.
Judges: This decadent chocolate cake offered a 3D scene of a poetry slam, including using a diverse group of gummies as the audience and a ‘screen’ to signal the digital dimension. The judges were impressed with the clarity of the illustration of the field of research through the medium of a cake, especially the use of a diversity of gummies, in Erica’s design. “The view with the keyboard and mock screen emphasising the focus on the role of digital media works brilliantly.”
Talia Hussain: My research is about how to facilitate networks for materials and goods in a circular economy, hence my circle of cinnamon swirls!
Judges: Deserving pride of place in a Swedish bakery, Talia’s cinnamon buns make use of the circular ‘swirl’ as a reference to the circular economy. The judges loved Talia’s short and simple description, but with a very clear and strong concept being communicated. They commented that “This is a great way to illustrate networks and the concept of circularity.”
This cake illustrates some of the transformations that are taking place in Cuba’s capital, Havana, with the “controlled” liberalisation of the private sector, which is one of the most radical reforms introduced with the “realignment” of the socialist system in the island a decade ago.
The city’s infrastructure, history and formal institutions constitute the base of the cake. The fruits are the entrepreneurial assemblages that have emerged during the economic transition in the city. Different urban configurations are represented by the combination of colours and flavours that are part of Cuban imagery and culinary traditions (lemon, lime, mango) with others that are rarely found in the island or are imported mainly for consumption in the tourism sector (grapes raspberries, strawberries). The three sections at the top of the cake represent the spatial distribution of the private sector across Havana.
Judges: This ‘Mixed fruits and flavours of Havana’ cake shows off a tantalising splash of different tropical and temperate fruits. The judges agreed that this cake was ‘brilliant’ and loved the symbolism of fruit to represent some of the concepts being explored in the thesis “Such an interesting use of the different ‘classes’ of fruit to illustrate demarcations, including physical, economic, and tradition vs innovation.”
Best PhD Cake in Show – Laura Bradshaw: My PhD cake bake entry represents my research on ‘A Phenomenological Study of Organisational Innovation in Elite Sport’ which was carried out at multiple organisations around the world.
The cake represents the findings of my research which revealed that innovation is often messy, sometimes uncomfortable and there is a real need to embrace the fear of public failure to learn lessons for more successful iterations. The strawberries represent the colourful ideas that come from ideation, innovation and invention and the mint leaves represent how innovation often emerges as green shoots which need to be nurtured in an organisational setting. The cream represents the overflow of ideas, creation and connection that enables innovation to happen. The original idea for the cake bake was to create an iced cake but actually, the findings revealed innovation in organisations cannot simply be just icing over the cracks to make the organisation look good externally. The most successful innovation was found to be organic, homemade innovation, that nurtured green shoots and enabled opportunities for creativity to flow. By embracing the messiness, fear of public failure and learning from past mistakes, organisations found that further iterations could be carried out with very successful results.
Judges: In the end, this simply gorgeous Victoria sponge replete with clever metaphor exploring the ‘messiness’ of the processes won the judges over. They said, “this is a really superb way of illustrating the key findings from the research. Who would have thought you could get such complex ideas across by talking about strawberries, mint leaves, and cream!”
Well done PhD bakers – you will all receive your tub of PhD Smart Butter – the most important secret ingredient in every PhD!
To find out more about our Doctoral Researcher community, please see our website.
“[Equality] can be and should be achieved to ensure a life of dignity for all. Political, economic and social policies need to be universal and pay particular attention to the needs of disadvantaged and marginalised communities“UN Sustainable Development Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities
In 2009, at the UN Copenhagen Climate Summit, a document called “The Danish Text” was leaked. It contained an agreement made between only a few rich developed nations, called “the inner-circle”, which included the UK and the US. The agreement set out to abandon the Kyoto protocol, the only legally binding treaty which held these richest countries accountable for their historic emissions and therefore have to commit to significant reduction targets.
Instead, “The Danish Text” was to set an agreed target to cap global temperature rise at 2 degrees Celsius. At the time, this was more than double the amount of warming experienced so far. Not only this, the agreement stated poorer countries could not emit more than 1.44 tonnes of carbon per person by 2050, whilst giving richer countries an allowance of 2.67 tonnes. The agreement also flipped the responsibility of climate adaptation and mitigation onto poorer countries by stating any funds or resources they needed was now dependent on them taking “a range of actions”.
This secretly agreed 2 degree cap and generous 2.67 tonne per person allowance would give countries like the US and UK a comfort blanket of continued economic freedom and development whilst snatching the covers off developing countries. It would lead to even more frequent storms, floods, and droughts for nations like Haiti and Bangladesh, and therefore ever more increasing threat of conflict, poverty, famine, and displacement.
News of the leak was met with outcries filling conference centre by countries like Africa shouting “2 degrees is suicide”. Mithika Mwenda of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance described the conference as “a matter of life and death for the friends and families of those that are here”, and going home with a 2 degree agreement would be “signing a death warrant” for nations like Haiti and Bangladesh.
Tensions came to a head when after continuously banging her fist against the table in frustration at feeling ignored, lead Venezeulan negotiator Claudia Salerno accidentally cut her hand. In an act of desperation, she thrusted her bloody palm in the direction of UN officials and the Danish hosts remarking: ‘”Do you think a sovereign country has to actually cut its hand and draw blood [to speak]?”
Salerno’s bloody palm came to represent the intersection of racial inequality and climate change. The notion that richer developed nations were willing to sacrifice the lives of millions of ethnic minorities to extend their “business as usual” exposed, in the words of Naomi Klein writing for The Nation, “the reality of an economic order built on white supremacy [as] the whispered subtext of our entire response to the climate crisis, and it badly needs to be dragged into the light.”
Though the events of COP-09 is now a faded memory for most, the recent resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement made the event resurface in my mind as a clear symbol of how climate change is not just an environmental issue.
Intersectional environmentalism is the understanding that the injustices happening to the earth also have an overlapping social aspect. That social issues such as racial or ethnic marginalisation, gendered discrimination, urban/rural divides, and poverty all shape or are shaped by environmental injustice. That when we think about vulnerability to climate change, this cannot be viewed through a single geographical lens, but instead should be seen as multi-dimensional process. We must bring critical social issues of equity, access, distribution, and causation vs. exposure to the fore-front of our understanding. Therefore, when we push for climate justice, we must also push for social justice.
One recent example which highlights the necessity for an intersectional understanding of environmental issues is the race gap in air pollution. In a study conducted by the University of Minnesota, researchers found that pollution in America is ‘disproportionately caused by whites, but disproportionately inhaled by Black and Hispanic minorities’. The study concluded that whilst Blacks and Hispanics were exposed to over 50% more pollution than they caused, non-Hispanic whites experience 17% less than they cause.
Co-author Jason Hill describes the white experience as “pollution advantage” – longstanding societal inequality in terms of wealth and access means whites consume more and consequently pollute more yet ethnics minorities are more likely to live in locations with higher concentrations of pollution – “pollution burden”.
This example of the intersection of race and climate is not just visible in the US. When Public Health England reported that BAME Britons were up to twice as likely as white Britons to die if they contracted coronavirus, they pointed to historical and systemic racism as potential root causes for this uneven risk. However, their reports have been heavily criticised by scientists over their omission of the unequal burden of air pollution. Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, a World Health Organization advocate for health and air quality remarked “air pollution is linked to diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, asthma attacks, and those with underlying health conditions are dying more from Covid-19.”
In the words of Lise Kingo, The United Nation’s sustainable business chief, there are “very, very clear connections” between COVID-19, the climate crisis, and the Black Lives matter movement – with the three intersecting to reveal “deep-seated and structural inequalities”.
So now we understand why we need intersectional environmentalism, and how our push for climate justice must also include a push for social justice. What now?
Earlier this year, Loughborough University signed the United Nations Sustainable Development Accord. In February’s edition of the Sustainability Newsletter, I explained a bit more about what the goals of the accord were, and what it would take to achieve them. I wrote:
“The SDGs recognise the interdependence of social, economic and environmental challenges; that ending poverty and hunger goes hand in hand with improving health and education, reducing inequalities, fostering peace, spurring economic growth, preserving our planets resources and tackling climate change. Furthermore, these goals can only be achieved through global solidarity and the participation of all countries, stakeholders, and people.”
The goals exist to recognise the intersectionality of environmental, social, political, and economic issues. Therefore, they highlight the need for countries, governments, organisations, and institutions to address social injustice and climate injustice as interlinked problems with interlinked solutions. And that these solutions must be supported through equity of responsibility, and not “business as usual” for developed nations.
SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities specifically sets out the need to “pay particular attention to the needs of disadvantaged and marginalised communities“. Why? As they are the most exposed to the numerous burdens of climate change – whether this is temperature rise in Haiti, flooding in Bangladesh, or asthma in the UK – that richer developed nations have historically caused.
The contentious nature of statues and monuments is nothing new, and neither is their downfall, as witnessed in Bristol with the statue of Edward Colston last week. A famous early toppling was in 1871 with the bringing down of the statue of Napoleon Bonaparte in the Place Vendôme, which like the falling of the Colston statue had a certain performative aspect and the images of Napoleon became artistic objects in their own right. The toppling of a statue is such a symbolic act that it is now something of a pre-requisite when it comes to regime change, whether that be the end of Lenin, Nazi Germany, the regime of Saddam Hussain or the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. Statues and monuments are invested with so much capital and so much meaning that history can, and often does, re-assess whether they deserve to be given a place within our public sphere. They have become a fascinating subject for art historians, anthropologists and artists and contemporary artists. Even Loughborough’s Sockman faced a wave of protest when it was first installed in 1997.
The issue of statues to individuals who were implicated in slavery is something that has been prevalent in the US for some time. In August 2017, violent clashes broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia, when extreme right-wing groups contested the city’s decision to remove a statue of Southern Confederate Commander Robert E Lee. The events started a major debate on the future of American Confederate monuments and there has been continuing tensions over these memorials to slavery. Some contemporary artists have been commissioned to create statues and artworks that provide alternative representations of slavery and race. In 1993 in Birmingham, Alabama, a series of sculptures were erected to commemorate the civil-rights movement. One of the most impactful was by the artist James Drake that was located in a park where you had to walk through a passageway of snarling dogs. Rebecca Solnit in her article The Monument Wars described it thus; ‘the sculpture suggests that to understand the violence people once met here, we need to experience at least a shadow of that violence ourselves. It’s a rare thing, an official memorial to institutional savagery on the site where it transpired’. The artist Theaster Gates has created work in response to this history of racist statues within his Dancing Minstrel sculptures and in works such as Shoe Shine Stands which he constructs and uses oversized representations of shoe shining stands as symbols of power and acquiescence. Before the toppling of the Colston statue the artist Hew Locke had turned his attention to the statue, and others, in a project called Restoration where he re-considered their role and status and gave them a ‘statue dressing’ subverting them and imbuing them with new meaning.
This interest in statues and how an artist might subvert or re-purpose them is something that is central to the work of Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi. I first came across his work at the Liverpool Biennial in 2002 where he built a functioning hotel room around the city’s statue of Queen Victoria. Villa Victoria operated as a hotel for the duration of Biennial with the statue in the middle of it. The statue, like many Victorian statues was on a high plinth but by constructing this room around its base visitors could have a direct engagement with the statue at the same floor level.
Tatzu has continued to build structures around statues across the world since with a range of memorable project such as Hotel Ghent. With such ambitious projects there is always a strong risk of failure and unfortunately one of these happened when we invited Tatzu to develop a work for the LU Arts and the Cultural Olympiad in 2012. After researching Loughborough’s history, he found that Thomas Cook’s first paid travel trip was from Leicester to Loughborough. There is a statue of Thomas Cook outside Leicester train station and his proposal was to recreate that first journey by Thomas Cook by removing the statue and taking it on the train to Loughborough and then to the locations that were part of that first journey. The train company and Leicester City Council both agreed to it and we were well advanced in our planning when at the 11th hour the City Council got cold feet, worrying about negative publicity, and pulled the plug on it. It is a shame as I think it would have been a memorable project!
Director, LU Arts
The year is 1989 and Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing has hit the cinema. Centring on the story of a pizza delivery guy named Mookie who lives and works in a neighbourhood in Brooklyn, eventually, the narrative leads to the police brutally murdering a young black man prompting the neighbourhood to riot and vandalise an Italian-American owned pizzeria.
Contextually, this narrative is parallel to 2020’s global protests against police brutality which was a catalytic reaction to the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Mapping Police Violence (a research and advocacy group) have compiled data from 2013-2019 indicating that a total of 7,666 lives have been taken by the United States police force. Disproportionately affecting African American populations with black Americans being 2 ½ times as likely as white Americans to be killed by the police (Aljazeera, 2020). As a result of global protesting against police brutality, social media has found itself nostalgically reflecting on Lee’s Do the Right Thing. The parallels can not only be drawn between the film and the current state of America but, how traditional media have failed to communicate and respond in both contexts.
Film critics at the time were divisive of Lee’s narrative with some indicating that it “accurately portrayed black America being pushed to the limit”… (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone, 1989). Yet, others branded it a “rancid fairy tale” (Stanley Crouch, The Village Voice, 1989), positioning Lee as sensationalising violence and rioting, and some critics determining that Lee’s depiction of racial tension is “his fiction; it’s not life” (David Denby, New York Magazine).
This divisive fumbling can be witnessed within the current state of news media coverage with traditional media platforms struggling to effectively portray the #Blacklivesmatter movement often providing a heightened focus on the destruction caused from the protesting, for instance, the focus on looting. This news rhetoric encourages and replicates traditional racialised imagery focussing on criminality and deviancy rather than an accurate portrayal of the peaceful protests. Arguably, this is reminiscent in the film critiques of Do the Right Thing providing prominence to the violence and destruction within the film.
There is an added relevance to Do the Right Thing in 2020; as a white man of the so-called ‘Free world’ I must be aware of my own privileges society has provided me and provide support in not only the black lives matter movement but, I must exercise my privilege to educate myself and others. While I will never truly understand or experience multiple oppressions due to my skin tone. I must exercise my right to actively engage in protest to achieve an egalitarian future. This movement should not be another dose of slacktivism with Gen Z’s using social protesting as a method of enhancing social gain, it should be the opportunity to re-learn key moments within black history and educating ourselves on racial inequalities and white privilege.
The film highlights the ‘sympathetic racist’ through the portrayal of Sal the pizzeria owner. The ‘sympathetic racist’ has resonated during the Black Lives Matter discussions of 2020, there has been a growing acknowledgement to re-educate themselves and become aware of the impact and benefits of white privilege. Yet, while there is a growing trend of ‘white guilt’ within current news reports it is integral that governments actively decolonise the education system on all levels from primary up to higher education. Racism manifests itself in numerous ways we shouldn’t view it as only an extreme action. Contemporary society has highlighted show racism operates covertly and is embedded within all levels of society (see diagram below).
However, we can all start by re-educating ourselves through consuming literature and media about racism taking one closer step to becoming an active ally of anti-racism. This is the start and it will not bring an end to institutional racism. Therefore, below is a list of 7 recommended films and documentaries to help better inform one another about racism:
Do the Right Thing (1989) – Available on Amazon Prime and iTunes
Pressure (1975) – Available on BFI Player
Blacks Britannica (1978) – Available on YouTube
Malcolm X (1992) – Available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and iTunes
City of God – (2002) – Available on Amazon Prime
Get Out (2017) – Available on Amazon Prime
Queen and Slim (2019) – Available on Amazon Prime
Racism is systemic, society must exercise the technological tools at our disposal to re-educate ourselves and others. Social media has played an integral role in positive activism for the black lives matter movement but, this shouldn’t be an excuse to simply like and share a post and say you’ve ‘done your part’. The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others only acknowledges that society has not achieved the post-racial bliss it thought it had. We have work to do!
By Tom Rowland
I am an ambitious writer and have previously contributed to LSU Label Magazine, always looking for an opportunity to expand my journalism portfolio! I’m a final year Loughborough Media and Communications student and I’m eager to be starting a masters at Goldsmiths University this September in Promotional Media: PR, Advertising and Marketing.
During my time in quarantine I have been using writing as a project of mine starting two online blogs featuring a diverse range of topics spanning technology, film and culture.
Simply, self-care is the practice of taking action to preserve and improve one’s own health. Self-care is fulfilled by you, for you!
This video exhibits a handful of my self-care practices which have been intentionally and carefully curated. While each of our lives is ever-evolving, I urge you to ensure that your self-care routine evolves with you! With gentle self-discipline and regular reflection, it is important that we take the time to notice what it is that works for us in this present moment.
What resonates with you?
Other forms of self-care may include:
- learning better financial management
- dancing to your favourite music
- drinking more water
- decluttering your space
- planting seeds
- handwriting a letter to a friend
- building something creative
This, however, is by no means an exhaustive list. It is so important to tailor your self-care routine to your lifestyle and interests! If you are feeling unbalanced or in need of time to recharge and be still, a gentle self-care routine will be helpful in keeping you grounded and well!
Most importantly, aim to be consistent with your self-care practices! Your routine will be revitalising and and re-energising, equipping you to move through your day with confidence, calmness and positivity!
By Yasmin Ijeoma
Alongside my Natural Sciences MSci degree, I enjoy navigating creative spaces, namely poetry, vlogging, cooking and the visual arts. I create videos on self-care, holistic health and wellbeing, science and creativity on my YouTube channel!
I aspire to build a holistic wellbeing platform and business, while also working in the field of Genetics!
Written by Annabel Evans (Doctoral Researcher)
I was in the throws of what seemed like the 10th rewrite of my literature review, trying to surmise decades of work on understanding the problematic differentiation between the public and private spheres in relation to home. It was a few weeks into the Covid-19 lockdown and I was doing so on a small laptop screen, trying to flip between multiple tabs and files, on a dining-table chair which was beginning to disagree with my back, with other family members chatting away on their work calls, while my nephew wandered in and plonked his lego creation down next to me announcing ‘I’m working too’. If the erosion of the private and public, which was being discussed in the literature I was trying to review, had been undergoing a great process of change, surely it had been absolutely obliterated by Covid-19.
As someone who is researching ideas about and experiences of home, it was of huge interest to be able to address some of my research themes to my own living arrangements and working experiences. While my own research is focused on home in relation to migration and diaspora contexts, it has opened up a huge appreciation for our understanding of what is a ‘home-space’ and what is a ‘work-space’ and how we differentiate between the two. This got me thinking about the role of home and work space in the PhD experience, and how this has been impacted by Covid-19.
Early on in my PhD I encountered the common problem of productivity. Going from a 9-5 job with set-out tasks and measurable achievements, a PhD seemed both wonderfully liberating and scarily overwhelming. To try and help me find some sort of productive motivation I found the differentiation of space really helping between my home being a place of non-work life and campus being a place to work. As this included a commute for me this also imposed a time-framing of my day to try and beat rush-hour traffic. This commute was also a really useful time in preparing me for the day ahead and then reflecting on it, which helped entrench the divide between home and work. I found that when I arrived home at the end of the day, 1/2 hour after leaving campus I was more switched off from my PhD work than moving straight from ‘work’ to ‘rest’.
And then Covid arrived and all these techniques or models I’d utilisation were no longer feasible. I knew I was fortunate enough that the inaccessibility to campus only affected working habits rather than access to labs or physical equipment which could have had a far bigger impact on my PhD. Yet these patterns I’d relied upon to keep me productive had gone and I was now confronted with a quite spectacular collision of my home and work spaces.
As a family we’d decided to come together during lock down to ease caring responsibilities, and as such my workspace was on the dining table where we also ate our meals. Any space I could call personal was also a nursery where calls where often interrupted for nappy changes. Sunnier days allowed for a few more options only to contend with the permanent ‘squint face’ to try and see the screen or frantically searching for a laptop cable.
I am sure episodes such as these have been common across many houses over these 3 months, this full-scale invasion of the ‘public’ (work) into the ‘private’ (home) being well documented and satired across social media. Nevertheless, for the PhD researcher I think there are particular ways in which Covid has impacted our ability to ‘do our job’. With much of our work being self-guided and dependent on self-discipline it can be difficult to motivate yourself. Often our research can also end up being highly personal projects, meaning they are constantly in our heads and with a lack of variety of spaces to be in and things to do, it can be hard to step away and get perspective. We also really benefit from the tangential meet-ups that happen in research spaces which can help spark ideas and remind us we’re not on our own. While more structured events are able to taken place online, these more informal meetings can be harder to re-create in a virtual format.
At this stage I would have loved to have been able to present my bullet-proof guide to over-coming these difficulties but doing so would be highly disingenuous. I like so many other PhD researchers generally muddle through most days. That said here are some of the ways I’ve tried to re-introduce those working patterns which helped me so much in my pre-Covid PhD life.
- Trying to find some sort of differentiated space for working and relaxing. This seems like quite a common one already, but I have found this one hard as space is not always possible. I do have one rule though which is not to do PhD work on the sofa. The sofa is for the hallowed activity of watching Netflix.
- Recreating some sort of commute between working and resting. This might sound a little bit strange but rather than going straight from work-time to rest-time I have actually found it quite helpful to do some sort of menial activity in between. This can be anything from emptying the dishwasher to taking in the washing, as long as it’s something which doesn’t require much brain power but equally isn’t truly relaxing just yet, so I can reflect on the work achieved that day and what might need doing tomorrow. I then find I am able to enjoy my evening much better.
- Finally, I have really enjoyed joining in the weekly ‘Heads Together’ sessions which runs every Tuesday from 12:00 – 14:00 as an informal research support space. This is a peer-to-peer support group where we discuss common difficulties as well as share achievements of our own PhD journeys as well as the commonalities found amongst us. I have found this a really great way to find perspective as well as support in doing a PhD during a pandemic! If you would like to join us for our next meeting drop me and email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll let you know the details.
Director of Student Services and the University’s Associate Chief Operating Officer Manuel Alonso reflects on both his professional and personal life since the COVID-19 pandemic began, acknowledging what’s helped him along the way and the things he has learnt in the process.
I think like most people, the experience of being in lockdown was a whirlwind. Initially I spent most of my time planning for how we would deal with lockdown at work, what it would mean for students and what it would mean for colleagues.
And then, maybe a few weeks into lockdown it occurred to me that I hadn’t actually stopped to think what it meant for me.
Those who know me perhaps won’t be surprised to hear that I’m an introvert at heart. So, several weeks at home seemed, initially, no problem. Spoiler; this was naïve – of course this wasn’t just ‘a few weeks at home.’
I didn’t appreciate how tired I was and what I’d missed by being constantly at home until I got to Easter week. It was the first time that I could (mostly) stop working and just focus on one (or two, or three) things.
It was also the time when I realised that no matter how introverted I might be, I missed people. I missed having contact with colleagues, talking to students and seeing their energy on campus. What I realised is that I hadn’t actually stopped to reflect on the situation; to recognise what I was missing and what I had gained by being able to spend more time with my family.
I can break my lockdown experience into these two parts: before Easter in which I was kind of just running along getting stuff done, and after Easter when I actually took the time to appreciate what had changed, what I’d lost and, importantly, what I’d gained. I appreciate when I say this that everyone’s lockdown experience has been different.
What’s helped me and what I’ve learnt about myself
Here’s what I think I’ve learnt so far. I hope that this might resonate with other people and help them too:
- It’s been said lots of times, but it bears repeating – this isn’t just working from home. You can’t do everything all the time; work, being a good parent, being a good partner, staying mentally and physically well, being a (very) part-time home-schooler. You need to pick what to do when and give yourself a break for needing to make that choice. (And you might find putting the phone away at the right moment helps on this front.)
- Now more than ever it’s important to keep reaching out to connect with people. Even for the introverted amongst us, contact with others outside of our household helps keep us connected into the wider world and empathetic to what others are experiencing.
- It’s normal to be anxious, but everyone’s anxieties will come in different shapes. Some will be anxious about being away from work, some will be anxious about coming back, and others will be worried about doing right by their loved ones, kids etc. This is why it’s important to stay in touch with people; in amongst our own anxieties, we need to make time to understand and show empathy for other people’s anxieties too.
- A day of MS Teams meetings is MORE tiring that a full day of actual meetings!
- And last but not least, the basics are hugely important; sleep, eat well, exercise and give yourself space and time for yourself and reflection (as much as you can – for parents this might involve locking a bathroom door!). They’re basics for a reason.
Alongside the things we can do to help ourselves, there is a range of help available from the University to support students and staff:
- The LU Wellbeing app – a digital toolkit for staff and students to aid your mental health using a holistic approach based on the NHS’s five ways to wellbeing.
- The Employee Assistance Programme – an external, confidential service which staff members can access 24/7, 365 days a year for support on their personal or professional life obstacles.
- Student Services – we can provide emotional and wellbeing support as well as advice on any financial or accommodation concerns you might have.
- University Chaplaincy – If you feel anxious, stressed or need someone to talk to, you can speak to one of the University’s Chaplains by calling 07961846905.
- How we work during lockdown: The remote working guide – a wellbeing guide created by Human Resources and Organisational Development to support staff members working remotely during lockdown and social distancing.
- The Yellow Book – an online platform inspired by creativity available in both written and audio format for staff and students, with resources such as breathing techniques, mindfulness and spoken affirmations.
How easy is it to live on £1 a day for food?
I wish I could say that all this extra time in isolation has been put to good use; that I now wake up every day at 6am to fit in an hour of yoga before tucking into a picture-perfect avocado toast for breakfast. Unfortunately, I think if you calculated my average wake up time for these past two months, I doubt the time would be anywhere before noon. Though my lack of productivity has somewhat saved my dwindling bank account, I have also quickly realised that I suddenly have little to no source of income. In fact, I would even go to say that I miss the spam of ‘Indeed’ and ‘Total Jobs’ hounding my email’s inbox.
On such a tight budget, I was relieved and blessed to have my parents incorporate me back into their shopping lists. Sadly, I know that some students can’t say the same, or have chosen to live independently during the lockdown. With jobs being lost and potential means of income lacking, I thought this would be an interesting time to test how far £1 can take me. I decided to set myself a challenge: for the next five days, I would live off a £1 a day food budget. First, I had to set myself some rules…
1). I can only spend £1 per 24 hours on food.
2). Any leftover money cannot be included in the budget the next day.
3). I can use leftover food the next day without taking it out of the next day’s budget, though I would have to take out the whole cost from the first day I used it (for example, if I use half a baguette on day 1 then ate the other half on day 2, I would take out the whole price of the baguette on day 1 but nothing on day 2 as it is already been paid for).
4). If my family tried to buy me food, I could not accept it.
This morning I felt good. I had an unshakeable level of confidence rooting from that time in second year when I survived the last two weeks of term with only £2 left in my overdraft.
Breakfast: Mini chocolate croissant (Lidl – 22p). Absolutely awful idea. Literally tiny. I felt hungrier after I’d eaten it! At this point, I worked out that each meal should average around 33p to fit within my £1 budget. I think the pastry was too small to be worth 22% of my daily budget.
Lunch: Half a mini baguette (Lidl – 22p) and a whole can of baked beans (Lidl – 22p). This was a big meal and a little bit too dry for my liking. I can’t believe how much I underestimated butter until it became a luxury I couldn’t afford.
Dinner: Instant curry flavoured noodles (Lidl – 22p). I have decided that noodles are an absolute scam. I felt like I was eating them forever but at the same time, I felt like I had eaten nothing. Nice flavour though.
Total Spend: 88p.
Last night I kept waking up in hunger but by morning I wasn’t feeling too bad. Determined not to make the same breakfast mistake as yesterday, I went for something a bit heavier.
Breakfast: Half a can of spaghetti hoops (Lidl – 13p) and the leftover baguette from yesterday’s lunch. What a bargain on those spaghetti hoops! I am still in shock at how cheap they are – highly recommend.
Lunch: Can of vegetable soup (Lidl – 35p). My first big spend of the challenge! And one of my five a day – I have never been happier to see a vegetable.
Dinner: Small cheese and tomato pizza (Lidl – 49p) and the rest of the spaghetti hoops. When I say small it’s no bigger than the palm of a hand. And when I say hand, I mean a very small hand. All in all, today was a very beige day, and by 8pm I was the hungriest I’ve felt in a long time. In between chugging pints of water to help fill me up, I ran what I’d eaten today through a calorie counter and discovered that I had only eaten 540 calories. Yikes.
Total Spend: 97p.
Seeing as I almost cracked last night, I felt surprisingly ok when I woke up. Usually in the morning, I make a smoothie using 4 fruits and vegetables, so my sudden exposure to carbs had my body feeling bloated and tired. I suppose the bloating could also have something to do with the fact that I have a wheat intolerance but hey, if you could name me one thing in the free from section I’ll give you all the money I saved from this challenge! Anyways, I digress…
Breakfast: Half a mini baguette (Lidl – 22p). After scanning the isles of Lidl, I was sad to have to return to my most frequented place during this challenge: Lidl’s bakery. Though the baguettes are a decent size and pretty cheap, I felt bored of eating them. But, in situations where you really do have a £1 a day budget for food, meal diversity is extremely limited.
Lunch: The other half of the baguette and half a can of baked beans (Lidl – 22p). Yawn. Please Aldi, I am begging you to have more fruit for under 20p.
Dinner: Tomato soup (Lidl – 35p) and a banana (Aldi – 11p). A piece of fruit at last! I was very happy. Some of my Instagram followers had suggested taking the free fruit that Tesco leave out for children. I felt too guilty taking it myself so naturally I asked my dad to take it for me, sadly he felt too bad to do it too. Clear conscious but with an equally clear (borderline empty) stomach.
Total Spend: 90p.
At this point, it was getting easier to go to bed whilst hungry. My water intake was definitely increasing too, and I think my body was getting used to the decreased calorie intake. I was easily agitated (or should I say more than I usually am), I felt heavy despite the lack of food, I was tired all the time, and all I could think about was food. As someone who is not a foodie at all, I was annoying myself.
Breakfast: A banana (Tesco – 11p) and the other half of the baked beans from yesterday’s lunch. A weird combination that most certainly did not work.
Lunch: Spaghetti hoops (Lidl – 13p) and half a mini baguette (Lidl – 22p). I miss butter so much. I can’t tell if all my meals resemble children’s food because of the £1 budget or because of my lack of cooking skills. Either way, I am sad, bored and bloated.
Dinner: Other half of the baguette and a can of vegetable soup (Lidl – 35p). I am so hungry. It’s currently 10:30pm and I’ve confined myself to my bedroom to down water and prevent myself from breaking the challenge on the penultimate day.
Total Spend: 81p.
Finally, it’s the last day! I am miserable. I think I actually hate food at this point (at least anything canned or from Lidl’s bakery section). This challenged has cemented in me the reality of poverty that isn’t funny or cool or trendy. I will definitely be donating to food banks once this challenge is over.
Breakfast: Half a mini baguette (Lidl – 22p) and half a can of baked beans (22p). A lovely plate of beige-ness. Is it possible for something to be both mushy and dry at the same time?
Lunch: The same as above (but the other half). Can you tell I’ve given up at this point?
Dinner: Another one of those small palm sized cheese and tomato pizzas (Lidl – 49p). Thought I’d go out on a bang with a pizza that costs nearly half my budget! I think my brain is struggling from the lack of food or vitamins. I’m trying to write this, but I can’t stop thinking about why Lidl call it a cheese and tomato pizza instead of a margherita pizza. Hm.
Total Spend: 93p.
Overall, this challenge was a lot harder than I thought it would be. My family ordered takeaway on the second day of the challenge and I felt absolutely betrayed. I spent a total of £4.49 over the 5 days, and though I was amazed I had only spent that much, it was heart breaking to know that many people have to live this way in order to survive. There’s not only a lack of vitamins in the foods available, but even with three meals a day I was still well below the healthy calorie intake guidelines. The challenge has opened my eyes to something I thought I knew about, but really, I had only ever touched the service. Following this challenge, I highly recommend that people review how much they spend on food shopping and realise how this money could be used to benefit others who are not as fortunate by donating non-perishable items or money to foodbanks.
I hope you enjoyed the challenge! I’m now off to stuff my face.
By Keelin Brooks
I love creative writing and write written poetry as a passion project! I’m a final year Loughborough English student and I’m excited to be starting a masters at Newcastle University this September in Media and Journalism. As an aspiring journalist, I have published pieces in music magazines, online student blogs, and most recently, I have co-founded a new online magazine The Angel Archives to pass the time in quarantine!
Hi, everyone! Today I will present some handmade accessories that I have made during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic and show you how to have a go at making them yourself.
This video shows you how to make two accessories: a rose ring and pearl earrings.
Here are some steps to accompany the video and help you.
The rose ring:
You will need: small pearls (or small round stone), 0.5mm gold line, scissors and shaping tools (or something round like a lipstick for shaping the ring on).
- measure your finger size and thread the right number of pearls with the 0.5 mm gold line
- Rotate the gold line to tie the knot. Now, one side of the gold line will be wound into a small circle.
- The other side of the gold line is wound down, and the two gold threads are wound up and down until the end of one side of the gold line
- The remaining long gold line surrounds the pearl in a circle to play a fixing role. When returning to the rose, it is finished by circling around a few times and cutting short with scissors.
The pearl earrings
You will need: one pearl, 0.5mm gold line, 0.8mm gold line, scissors and thin straw
- Use the 0.8 mm gold line to wrap around the straw eight times, take it off and distribute the eight turns evenly into a ring by hand.
- If you want to do more detailed work, first wrap the 0.5 mm gold line around the 0.8 gold line until the length can be wound into 8-9 small circles. Similarly, adjust the eight circles continuously by hand into one round shape
- Then, use the 0.5 mm gold line through a pearl (you can replace it with your favorite or existing material of similar size). The gold line is longer on one side. Use the longer one to continuously wrap around the shape until the whole shape is fixed and the excess gold line is cut short.
- Finally, use the short side of the gold line at the tail of the earring to detach and wrap the short end 2-3 times and cut it short. The rest is cut according to your preference and is completed with one transparent ear plug.
By Ting Xu
I am an optimistic, motivated and creative student, currently studying for an MSc in Entrepreneurial Design Management at Loughborough University London. For the past few years, I have gained experience and developed great skills in product design, while studying and doing internships.
Handmade accessories are one of my interests and I enjoy making them very much. During the special time of the Covid-19 pandemic, I have tried some different ways to make different styles of accessories in my free time. I hope in the future I could have my own personal accessories studio.
“Loughborough? I thought that was just sport?”
We’ve all heard it. More times than we’d care to admit, probably. In weaker moments we might wonder whether it would really be so bad if someone else won BUCS for a change.
Despite not picking up a ball in anger for a significant proportion of my life, I quite like Loughborough’s sportiness. Don’t tell my boss, but last summer I went off to check on some of our campus sculpture and ended up watching Australia’s women’s cricket team playing an Ashes warm-up match for a good twenty minutes. My patience was tested, mind you, when I had to park miles away from the office for a couple of weeks because the England Netball Team had bagseyd all the spaces for a training camp on campus.
Sport and art aren’t necessarily opposed. Over the years our contemporary arts programme Radar has commissioned a number of artists who’ve responded to the University’s sporting excellence, facilities and research. Back in 2007 the sound artist Janek Schafer performed a concert in the David Wallace Sports Hall. Framed by a handball goal he played ‘The Sporting Guide to the Speed of Sound’, a work that included the sound of various balls being bounced and rolling across the floor. You can hear the work here. In 2011, Radar commissioned a programme called ‘Human Condition/ing’, for which the artists Revital Cohen and Jacqueline Donachie drew on Sports Science research to create playful, subversive and gently humorous works. (You can hear Donachie talking about her arts practice as part of the University’s Arts Week on Monday 22nd June.)
The campus art collection shows the influence of sport too. Awaiting restoration in store is a large Bryan Organ oil painting abstractly depicting the motion of a horse race. Ian Tricker’s sculpture in Shirley Pearce Square shows the influence of the Olympic Torch, which passed through campus in 2010; while one of the Willi Soukop frieze panels on the Brockington Building depicts students running and swimming, testament to the importance of sport on campus back in 1952, when it was commissioned. Student works in the collection, meanwhile, have also engaged with sport: Alice Cox won the 2015 Edward Sharp Prize for her photographic essay on Loughborough student welfare campaigner and athlete Ella Gibbons (who went on to represent Scotland in the 2019 Netball World Cup).
It’s not just at Loughborough where artists have shown an interest in sport, of course. Sometimes these interests have even involved reimagining sports or developing new ones. Wu-Tang Clan fans will be familiar with the concept of chess boxing, a hybrid sport that’s developed out of a project by the performance artist Iepe Rubingh. In recent years a number of games of ‘three-sided football’ have been played. Proposed in 1962 by the artist Asger Jorn, this was first played in the 1990s by anarchist-inspired collectives looking to create situations which created new forms of social relation and, crucially, are fun. In 2013 the artist Gabrielle de Vietri applied the idea to Australian Rules Football.
These projects question the boundaries between art and sport and, by implication, between the way we divide up life more broadly. Although ‘art’ and ‘sport’ have existed across history and cultures, it’s only with the advent of modernity that they have become seen as separate spheres of social life. I’ve seen performance artworks which consist of a series of futile gestures made with the human body which have left me exquisitely bored and strangely invigorated. But that’s also a description I could apply to a lot of the cricket I’ve watched. Perhaps I was engaging with art when I watched that cricket match on campus after all…
Programme Co-Ordinator, LU Arts
Research and Enterprise Marketing Officer Paula works in the University’s Department of Marketing and Advancement, but she also teaches yoga and regularly contributes to the British Wheel of Yoga’s magazine, Spectrum.
Paula has shared an eight-step yoga practice which you can try in the comfort of your home and easily incorporate into your everyday routine.
If you enjoy the routine below, be sure to check out her Facebook page, Yama Yoga, where she is regularly posting yoga activity sheets for everyone to try.
I love yoga, and I’m not alone. Millions of people worldwide enjoy – and benefit from – the challenge of bending, stretching, twisting and balancing.
But, it’s not only about physical achievement. Yoga can help to settle the mind, hushing the busyness of your thoughts to bring focus and a sense of calm.
And, as BKS Iyengar said, “Yoga is for everyone” – not just the super fit, ridiculously flexible or thoroughly Zen. Anybody can do yoga, it’s just a question of working with your body, not forcing it. Yoga shouldn’t hurt.
Should you experience increased discomfort or pain in any of these positions, stop the exercise and seek a medical professional’s advice before continuing.
But, if you can sit, comfortable and still, whilst gently bringing your mind to focus – you can yoga.
Plus, these postures, or asana, can be adapted. The spine extension and flexion of Cat can be done in a chair. The long, tall arm stretches of Mountain, likewise.
Part of the fun for me is to try to build yoga into my routine so that if I’m pushed for time, I can at least do something. Starting the day by rolling over into the long stretch of Swan, cleaning my teeth in Half-forward Fold and brushing my hair in Forward Fold – that kind of thing. Have fun, play and explore.
As the old saying goes, “It’s not about being good at something. It’s about being good to yourself.”
So, by all means, work through the sequence or pick and choose to find things you can comfortably fit into your day.
Before you start:
- Wear comfy clothes (eg gym gear).
- Avoid a big meal beforehand, but don’t be hungry.
- Switch off all distractions: the telly, the phone, the family pet, your partner, the children…
- Work on a non-slip surface, barefoot – use a yoga mat, if you have one. You don’t want to accidentally find out that you can do Hanumanasana (the splits).
- Give yourself some time to settle and let go. Find and follow the rhythm of your breathing – that comforting wave of movement, in and out. Really focus on your breath: inhale, exhale – and give yourself permission to let go of the day, just for a while.
From kneeling, stretch your arms forward. Spread your fingers wide. Ease your bum back towards your heels, and your forehead towards the floor. Reach forward whilst easing back, and feel your body lengthen from your fingertips to your tailbone. S-t-r-e-t-c-h and breath comfortably: six rounds, in and out.
From Swan, bring yourself onto all-fours. Straight lines from your knees up to your hips; and from your shoulders through your elbows down to your wrists – a little pressure through the front of your feet into the floor will tone your lower legs. Tuck your tailbone under and busy up your belly, feel your spine flatten out. Look straight down towards the floor.
As you breathe out, tuck your chin towards your chest and arch your spine up towards the ceiling. As you breathe in, return smoothly to the flat-backed starting point. Repeat six times.
Next time you breathe in, go beyond flat back. Look forwards and let your tailbone lift, feel your spine dip and extend. Breathe out and arch your spine. Again, work six times.
- Pad your knees and wrists with a folded towel or yoga mat if they’re uncomfortable
- Avoid locking your elbows
Adho mukha svanasana
From Cat move back to Swan with your knees at hip width, this time tucking your toes under. S-t-r-e-t-c-h.
Lift your knees from the floor. Straighten your legs into Down Dog. Hold steady, breathing smoothly. Ease your heels towards the floor; head comfortable between your arms, looking back towards your feet; feel that you’re easing your chest back towards your thighs.
Now, walk your Dog. Lift your right heel; lower it towards the floor. Lift your left heel; lower it towards the floor. Keep walking your Dog – letting your hips smoothly swing and your spine sway. Finish by easing both heels towards the floor again for a long s-t-r-e-t-c-h.
- If you’re not a Dog person, return to Cat. Stretch your right leg back, toes tucked under on the floor – push your heel away. Then, work your left leg. Repeat three times, both legs.
From Down Dog, walk your hands back towards your feet into Forward Fold, feet hip width. Hang for a moment in Rag-doll. Knees bent, holding your elbows, your head in the loop of your arms. Sway, from your hips, left and right. Now, straighten out your legs. Bring your hands to rest on your legs or the floor – wherever you can reach. Hold steady for three breaths.
- Hands to floor is not essential, just see how far you can go.
- If the Forward Fold is not for you, try Half Forward Fold. Back parallel to the ceiling, palms to thighs. Legs straight. Looking straight down to the floor.
From Forward Fold, bend your knees. Place your palms either side of your spine in your lower back. Lead with your head to standing.
Hands at your sides and feet, hip width apart. Knees unlocked. Shoulders low, settling in the centre of your back. Look straight ahead or close your eyes. Six long comfortable breaths, standing steady as a mountain.
From Mountain, breathe out, bend your knees, ease your bum back, and busy up your belly. As you smooth your way down into Chair, sweep your arms forward and up, either side of your ears, palms parallel. Inhale, and return to Mountain. Work with your breath, in and out of Chair, a few times. Can you comfortably hold the last Chair for three breaths?
- If raising your arms is uncomfortable, bring your hands to your hips
- Try to keep your knees directly above your ankles as you drop into Chair – so really push that butt back!
Make your way, mindfully, to the floor. Inhale – stretch your arms overhead. Breathe out, bend your knees, hinge from your hips into half or full Forward Fold and hold for three breaths. Bring your knees to the floor into Cat and have a good s-t-r-e-t-c-h in Swan. Return to Cat and, then, sit yourself on the floor, in Staff. Sit tall and straight. Legs together. Toes pointing straight up to the ceiling. Hands resting lightly on the floor beside your hips. Now try drawing your toes back towards your shins, perhaps feeling your heels lift from the floor. Take three long steady breaths.
- If sitting in Staff is uncomfortable, bend your knees a little or perch on the front edge of a yoga block or firmly rolled towel.
…and finally, rest.
Savasana is a must at the end of every yoga session. It’s a firm favourite and the reason most people join my classes, I’m sure…
Settle yourself comfortably on your back. Draw your thighs to your belly and hug your legs to you. Tuck your chin, with your forehead towards your knees. Curl up small.
Return your head to the floor and roll the full width of your back, from left to right. Settle comfortably in Savasana, eyes closed.
Mindfulness – even the simple breathing exercise suggested here, is good for you. The NHS says that it can improve your mental wellbeing.
You can do this exercise at any time, not just lying down. Find yourself a quiet space, and make sure you’re comfortable.
As your body rests, return to where you started: find and follow the rhythm of your breathing, that comforting wave of movement, in and out. Really focus on your breath – inhale, exhale – and give yourself permission to let go of the day, just for a while.
After a few rounds, focus on your exhalation, and each time you breathe out, tell yourself to “relax”. Each time you breathe out, repeat the gentle instruction: “relax”.
Return to the day slowly, don’t rush to sit up. Roll onto your right-hand side, blink your eyes open, then smoothly push yourself to seated.
- Settle your head on a yoga block or firmly rolled towel, if that’s more comfortable.
- If your lower back is uncomfortable, bend your knees. Feet wide and knees together.
- I tend to set my alarm so that I know how long I’m resting. Try five minutes – longer if you need it…
The current COVID-19 crisis is a disruptive event that raises important questions regarding healthcare responsiveness during untenable events. Centre for Service Management (CSM) former PhD representative, SBE alumnus and CSM affiliate member, Dr Higor Leite, from Federal University of Technology Paraná in Brazil invited us to join him to investigate the impact of telemedicine and telehealth on flattening the COVID-19 infection curve.
The terminologies telemedicine and telehealth are often used to refer to the same phenomenon; however, telemedicine is specific to the use of technology to enable care at distance, between patient and medical staff. On the other hand, telehealth is broader, and it comprises the use of a variety of technologies in different areas of healthcare. These two technologies were addressed by us in two contemporary articles that were recently published.
In the new development article: “‘Healing at a distance’ – Telemedicine and COVID-19”, published by Public Money & Management, we discuss the challenges and opportunities to telemedicine practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 virus is considered by many as an ‘invisible enemy’, with high rates of contamination and growing death toll. Therefore, the use of telemedicine to access healthcare support becomes an effective frontline service to the citizenry and medical staff. The use of telemedicine helps to reduce the risk of cross-contamination, protect vulnerable groups of patients, as well as those working to provide care in medical facilities. Mental health is another area for which telemedicine works well, as during long periods of quarantine, some people experience physiological effects, such as anxiety, sleeping issues, and in some cases (e.g. frontline works), post-traumatic stress disorder. Due to this, some countries, such as Australia and Brazil, are providing mental health professional support through telemedicine during the pandemic, with positive results.
Regardless of the benefits from telemedicine to date, there are several structural and legal obstacles to widely implementing telemedicine in some countries. For instance, access to broadband is still a huge limitation, especially for those living in rural areas, or vulnerable groups that cannot afford this service. The lack of more comprehensive regulations is another barrier to telemedicine. There are countries where telemedicine is still not a regulated practice, and others where regulations do not cover issues related to the patient’s data privacy and protection. In order to raise awareness, we addressed such issues and urged policy-makers to take advantage of the telemedicine experiences reported during this outbreak to enable practices of telemedicine considering issues of inclusiveness, privacy and data protection.
In our second article, “Flattening the infection curve – understanding the role of telehealth in managing COVID-19”, published by the Leadership and Health Services journal, we discuss the strategic role of telehealth technologies in managing the pandemic. Using a 3 T’s model (Tracking, Testing and Treating), we report that using telehealth has proved to be an effective tool to ‘flatten the infection curve’.
Tracking the disease provides invaluable information that addresses demographic, geographic and symptomatic patterns of the virus. To do so, there are collaborative apps that report real-time data from self-reported information on the COVID-19 outbreak. This type of e-health technology is believed to slow the spread of the virus, for instance in Belgium, South Korea and the USA, mobile technology traces patients’ whereabouts. In Singapore, an app helps people to avoid areas with high cases of contamination, also called ‘hot-spots’. Despite the benefits, there is a concerning fear related to data privacy and government surveillance. In the paper, we make an important observation about this concern: “While in such unprecedented times this might be an unfortunate trade-off for citizens to accept this technology application”.
Testing is the next crucial step, according to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), “You can’t fight a fire blindfolded and we cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected”. To date, unfortunately, it is not possible to test the global population as test kits are scarce. Therefore, two telehealth practices are enabling a prioritization of testing by providing virtual triage. First, patients can make a self-assessment using an app based on artificial intelligence, and when symptoms are identified, the patient is referred to the nearest ‘drive-thru’ test. Second, virtual triage enables patients to access a video consultation, where a physician is able to determine if the patient should be tested or only self-isolate.
Treating is the final step and it is based on the results from both tracking and testing. Unfortunately, there is no current vaccine or effective medication for COVID-19, therefore, this phase follows the protocol suggested by the WHO. Telehealth technologies play a strategic role in treating, either by promoting access to a physician via apps or websites, or the possibility to track patient’s vital signs via wearables, producing data for general practitioners monitoring of the patient. By doing this, physicians can prescribe, monitor, and refer patients to hospitals if necessary. Amongst several benefits, these practices reduce the pressure on healthcare operations during the pandemic, and keep patient and medical staff safe.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be one of the greatest challenges of our generation, bringing social and economic implications. The use of telemedicine and telehealth is not the panacea for flattening the infection curve, but an important ally to track the virus, efficiently test people, and provide safe treatment. For healthcare organizations, such technologies provide the opportunity to manage demand and supply in a constrained situation. Finally, for medical staff, it is a support tool that enhance possibilities of virtual medicine, and keep frontline workers safe.
This blog post was written by Dr Higor Leite, SBE alumnus and Associate Professor at Federal University of Technology – Paraná, Professor Ian R. Hodgkinson, Deputy Director at CSM and Professor Thorsten Gruber, Director at CSM.
Read the full articles:
Leite, H., Hodgkinson, I.R. and Gruber, T. (2020), “New development: ‘healing at a distance’ – telemedicine and COVID-19”, Public Money and Management. Published online: 09 Apr 2020 https://doi.org/10.1080/09540962.2020.1748855
Leite, H., Gruber, T. and Hodgkinson, I.R. (2019), “Flattening the infection curve – understanding the role of telehealth in managing COVID-19”, Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 33 No. 2, pp. 221-226. https://doi.org/10.1108/LHS-05-2020-084
Embracing the Digital
It’s looking increasingly likely that for the foreseeable future arts centres, like universities, are going to have to continue to utilise technology in order to be able to deliver their programmes. Many arts organisations have been quick to adapt, delivering interviews, performances and screenings of past events across a variety of digital platforms. However, this type of content was never going to replace the live experience and it is now time to consider how we can deliver new and unique activity that is not just a substitute for the live but that is unique and engaging in its own right.
The Arts Institute at the University of Plymouth had been working on a digital arts project in advance of lockdown and were fortuitous in their timing that it was launched in the current period. They invited a host of well-known individuals including Hilary Mantel, Alan Bennett, Jeremy Irons and Iggy Pop to read sections from Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. Each reading was accompanied by a commissioned image by a range of artists including Cornelia Parker, Marina Abramovic and Gavin Turk and the poem serialised over 40 days. An amazing poem is brought to life by the readings and the project points us to how we can embrace the possibilities of the digital and deliver a rewarding arts experience.
Artists have always utilised the latest technology to try and deliver interesting and original artistic outputs. Since the birth of the internet artists have embraced its possibilities. British artists Thomson and Craighead have been using video and the web since 1998 to create pieces that reflect upon the digital age. They re-work material often found on the internet to create artworks that provoke us to consider our relationship to technology. Their work manifests itself in films, online works and in public art. The use of data or content that is held digitally is a consistent theme within their work. In 2018 they utilised data held within the Admissions Office of University College London to create a constantly changing public artwork called Here Not Here in which two large LED screens simultaneously show passers by the countries represented and not represented by the UCL student body at any given time. Both information streams update in real time in endless rotation, and are presented side by side in identical decorative grids; the left hand screen showing us who is “here” and the right hand screen showing us who is “not here.”
Another artist-cum-writer who investigates the role of technology in our lives both through artworks and his writing is James Bridle. Radar previously commissioned James to make a new digital artwork in 2014. Anti-Glacier was a live web-based visualisation of the rhythms of news, weather, and climate – and of the focus of our attention. He continued his interest in the weather in a commission for the Serpentine in 2016. Cloud Index involved the artist taking in all the available data he could find, from polling intentions to opinion polling to satellite images of weather and put them through a neural network to create a website that illustrates weather based on voting indications surrounding the EU Referendum.
Cécile B Evans was commissioned by Radar in 2014 to produce a new video work that was recently purchased by the Whitney Museum of American Art. However, my first encounter with her work was the web based commission AGNES who greets you with a little joke, asks you to click on the one of three videos that represents how you feel. The idea is that AGNES gets to know you based on the images you click and the questions you answer, guiding you towards ‘useful’ content. Cécile is also interested in our relationship to technology but in a different way to the other artists, focusing more on our emotions and vulnerabilities in an ever-changing digital world.
One of the most well-known artists working with ‘net’ art is Jon Rafman . Much of his work focuses on melancholy in modern social interactions, communities and virtual realities (primarily Google Earth, Google Street View and Second Life), while still bringing light to the beauty of them in a manner sometimes inspired by romanticism. Probably his best known project is 9 Eyes, an ongoing project begun in 2008 that considers the meaning of photography in an age of mass automated imaging. Rafman isolated specific images from Google Street View, publishing them on blogs, as PDFs, in books and as large photographs for gallery exhibition. The work is interested in the photographic image as taken by machine without any of the human considerations imposed on the image taking.
All these projects offer inspiration for how we might commission or produce new and interesting projects that don’t just use technology as a platform to present work, but engage with the digital in a more integrated and interesting way. Over the coming months LU Arts will be seeking to re-position our programme and seek to deliver innovative projects that directly engage with technology and embrace the ‘new normal’.
Director, LU Arts
How do you follow your dreams? It’s hard to say. I always heard since I was a child that I have to be brave, have courage, be strong, and many more “masculine” stereotypes. However, I do not consider myself as a very “masculine” model. I’m not strong, I’m a coward, I’m extremely sensitive and paranoiac about death. I also tend to overthink every small detail. Thus, how do I take risks?
Now with some perspective from these past years, I think if I had all the adventures I did, it’s because I’m unconscious, I don’t think much about the consequences, and I do not create many expectations. Explosive cocktail. Once, a friend told me: every dream you have; don’t over expect. I took this mantra with me before taking one of the most significant decisions of my life, going to Colombia for a year with almost no money. Just following my instincts.
The purpose was simple: going there, taking photos and coming back home. No more expectations than that. I delete from my mind any possible idea about taking the best photographs of my life, doing the best reportage which was going to help me publish a book or anything. Simple, press cmd+z or crtl+z depending on your mind software. Just go, and enjoy the ride. What can go wrong? Many things I promise you, but don’t worry. However, that’s not how I started the journey.
The start is always on my mind, I remember when I was on the plane, completely nervous and alone, on my way to Colombia. I had the random coincidence of sitting next to two friendly and talkative septuagenarian women who explained to me their adventures around the globe before departing. That’s another good story. Anyways. I checked my brand-new graduate banking account before boarding with only £350 and a one-way ticket. In my mind, I had all the evil thoughts. How am I going to survive one year with only that? Typically, in other countries, it’s easier to generate cash, but in Colombia, this is a challenge. Also, I owe £600 to my best friend who helped me to pay the pay ticket, but remember, only one way. How am I going to pay the return? Everything seemed against me. But, again, let’s start from the beginning. Why did I want to go to Colombia? What was the point? Aren’t there any other better countries closest to the UK? That was the question my parents had on their mind, but they couldn’t knock over my stubbornness to fulfil my dream.
However, my dreams were still hanging around my mind. Dreams never leave, they might hide, but they will always be there. As soon as I finished my Masters, I got a job in London. I did what I was supposed to do even if it wasn’t an amazing one. I started working but my dreams were pushing me to leave that job after the first day. That’s why I always say, do you listen to your dreams? Because they talk a lot. I came back after my first day at work looking for any opportunity in South America. It didn’t matter what job I wanted to be there at any cost. However, sometimes you have to find a good excuse to achieve your dreams. For me, it was to convince all my surroundings (family, friends, etc…) that I wasn’t crazy, I was going to be there to do something “productive”. Don’t confuse this with the magic word everyone is talking about.
After three weeks of working in that new fantastic position, I found an agency who help foreigners to find jobs in South America. I look for jobs, and I found one as a photography/advertising teacher in the university of a tiny city in Colombia. Almost in the middle of nowhere. Perfect. I was sure that from that small little city I can start realising my dream. I applied, I did a skype interview with the faculty director, pay the fee to the agency (a complete £400 robbery), look for the VISA requirements, and write my resignation letter after one and a half months at my job. My old boss still remembers me, and I will never forget his face.
I just need to call everyone to let them know I was going to finally realise my dream, but in other words, “I find something better”. At first, of course family and friends were in shock. No one understands, as one what your dreams are, because for some people dreams are synonymous for craziness. Or they don’t believe, they said it’s something related to the age. Typical questions came: how are you going to leave a proper job in London to go to Colombia? Makes no sense. From getting a master in the capital of the UK, in a prestigious university, finding a job straight away to pay the bill, to go to a developing country, getting an income five times less than in England, it makes no total sense. That’s why I always say, the most important thing is to have one or two friends who really know you and push you to follow your dreams. Also, don’t think too much that’s a terrible idea. That’s why I close my eyes on my room, I listened to my dreams, a swiss friend who is always there, and a sweet beauty future bestseller Colombia writer girl. These two people calm the other voices who didn’t allow me to dream. PLEASE, essential, FIND THOSE PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE. Their answer was clear as crystal, take the risk, if anything terrible happens borrow money, you come back to your parents’ home and stay a few months listening to them about how terrible your ideas are. Then, restart the game, you find a job and leave again. This is one of the most important aspects everyone must consider. Thanks to, whatever name your God has, we (people who live in a developed country) have the extremely luckiness to have second chances. There is no end of the world. If you make a mistake you can reset and start again. It’s not ideal, but it is a safeguard. No one wants to come back to their parents’ home, ask for money, or any of those uncomfortable situations but you can do it because in our countries there are opportunities to start again. It’s easier than you think. Look the other way round, if you are successful, your dreams will come true, sooner or later. If not, then, that’s the price you have to pay, which happens many times. GET USE TO IT ASAP! It happens to me many times, and I can promise you the feeling of coming back with my luggage full of shame and clothes through the door of my parents’ home is not sweet. But at least I can go through with no regrets as it happens because I listened to my dreams.
Are you listening to yours?
Above: Karolina and Angela, two septuagenarians from the Channel Islands, who travel around the globe because they told me “we don’t have much time left, so we have to enjoy”. Very inspiring before I took my first big adventure, and lovely they allowed me to take a selfie.
By Cesar Moreno Huerta
My name is Cesar Moreno Huerta. Fun fact: I have two surnames. I´m from Spain but I have been living in the UK for the past six years. However, during that time I spent one year in Colombia, working as a lecturer. I studied photojournalism at Southampton Solent University and an MSc Marketing at Brunel London University. Now, I´m doing a PhD in Business & Economics at Loughborough.
About my personal life, easy I love all types of art. I go to the cinema at least five-six times per month, visit museums, read intensely (especially Joel Dicker ones), and my main passion is photography. I have been taking pictures and doing exhibitions since I was twelve years old. You can find my work on Instagram: @cesarmhmedia. Also, football is my second passion, Real Madrid supporter since I was born.
Written by Dr Han Newman
I’m sure we are all very aware of the potentially all-consuming nature of a PhD. Even when we’re not directly working on it, it tends to be on our minds. Perhaps we’re thinking through decisions that need to be made regarding methodology, ethics, or data analysis. Or perhaps we’re thinking about all the tasks that need to be completed and worrying about the workload ahead of us. Whatever it is, I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that a PhD can be relentless in its knack of finding a way into your mind, even during time that you have dedicated to other things, or to taking time off. There is an intense ‘full-timeness’ to it and managing that is a challenge for all PhD students. But what specific challenges does that bring when you are doing your PhD part-time?
I began my PhD full-time, and stayed full-time for just over two years. I then switched to part-time registration to take on a two day per week research associate position in my department. This switch meant that I needed to adapt the way I handled the PhD process if I was to be able to successfully manage my new dual-role status. I could not let it consume me as I now had additional working commitments to fulfil, and it worked the other way too, I couldn’t let my new job role consume the time I needed to work towards completion of my PhD.
Both of my roles were in the same department. They were based out of the same building. I was in the same office, sat at the same desk, every day. This had its plus sides – everything I needed for both roles was in one place, I didn’t have the upheaval of switching and changing between desks/offices/buildings. It also meant I had flexibility over which two of my days were ‘job’ days and which three were PhD days, a flexibility that would have most likely been lacking if my other role had been with a different employer.
However, I soon learnt that this brought complications too. I started with the best intentions to keep very clear boundaries between the two roles and what time I spent on each. But it’s not always as simple as that – perhaps because of an upcoming deadline that means you need to spend more time on one of the roles than you had planned, or because you’re liaising with research participants and want to maintain communication throughout the week. Probably as to be expected, time management was by far the biggest challenge for me in being a part-time PhD student.
Two things that I found helpful in managing this challenge were:
1) Maintaining boundaries – There were inevitably times when it was necessary to break the boundaries I had put in place between the two roles. Overall though, having a clear distinction in my head of ‘job’ days versus PhD days was crucial to being able to manage both projects. Although it was often tempting to ‘just reply to that email’ or ‘just’ do other small tasks for my RA role that would take minor amounts of time from my PhD day, I soon realised that doing this meant that major PhD tasks, mainly writing, were often pushed towards the bottom of the pile. I underestimated how important it was to clear my head and time of all other concerns to fully immerse myself in a good, productive writing day.
2) Realising it’s okay to say ‘I haven’t had time’ – the nature of the PhD, particularly the write-up process, meant that there were not always the immediate time pressures like there were in my RA role. There were often longer-term, slow burning, continuous tasks to be working on, such as writing a chapter. Therefore, it was always tempting to put the more immediately time-pressured tasks of the RA role ahead of writing that chapter, even if I had already fulfilled my two working days that week. At times when I felt like I couldn’t get to everything I needed to do in those two days, I put pressure on myself to spend more time on it so that I didn’t have to say ‘I haven’t had time for this yet’ at my next check-in meeting. Coming to the point of realising that it is okay to say that was a game changer for me. I became much more comfortable in saying: ‘in my two days this week I’ve done this, this and this, but I haven’t been able to get to this yet’, and this meant I was less likely to eat into valuable PhD writing time.
Managing two roles that both required a lot of thinking time, as well as practical working time, was most definitely a tough challenge. But there was also something nice about being able to immerse myself in something different for a couple of days a week. It definitely helped with relieving some of the ‘full-timeness’ of a PhD and enabled me to better manage the feeling of being ‘all-consumed’ by it. Boundaries were key, but being in a dual-role ultimately meant that I could come back to the PhD writing process with a fresher, clearer head after spending two days on something else.
On Tuesday 10th March, Loughborough’s African-Caribbean Society (ACS) successfully put together their annual production ‘The Origin’ – a fusion of acting, modelling, singing and dancing. With weeks of strenuous rehearsals and expectations set high year after year, this year’s show was labelled as one of the best. This was confidently expressed by those that took part and those that came along to watch and support.
The Origin has been a memorable part of the Afro-Caribbean experience provided by the society, highlighting the importance of culture as well as drawing on the black experience as students. This year’s plot, written by ACS’ Liaison Officer and one of 2019’s main Origin actors Josh, specifically aimed to highlight the black experience at university. This included everything from the best moments of university to the hidden injustices that may be encountered by black students. Despite the seriousness of the message, the final performance sparked an undeniably enjoyable energy for everyone involved.
I spoke to a few important individuals, that worked hard to bring together an amazing performance, about their experience throughout the lead up towards this year’s showcase and their chosen highlights.
Peace: 2nd year student and Origin 2020’s Choir Director
How would you summarise your experience of Origin 2020?
It was an experience I am not usually exposed to, nonetheless a fulfilling one. Overwhelmed and amazed, I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s Origin as opposed to last year because I had the opportunity to lead the choir. Leading the choir gave me the chance to work with various singers of different skills and merge them together. This role allowed me to both lead but most importantly learn. Learning is such a pivotal part of life and one should never miss the opportunity to learn even from those they are teaching.
What did Origin represent for you as a student at Loughborough?
Origin represents change and the opportunity for us as students to show how far life has come. This is important for me as a student because this wouldn’t have been a possibility in the past. Origin gave us a platform which allowed us to showcase our culture and be proud.
Were there any moments that specifically stood out to you in the lead up to the final day?
The growth in people, especially the singers. The confidence levels totally changed, and everyone became more dedicated and focused. Also, just how everyone came together. You converse, meet and spend time with those from all different backgrounds and from different stages of life. Although we’re all from African and Caribbean decent we are all still very unique in our own ways, but Origin allowed us to bring us together.
Kofi: Final year student and Dance Choreographer
How would you summarise your experience of Origin 2020?
This year’s Origin was amazing. Coming from someone who has been involved in the showcase for 3 years running, this was the best one yet. Why? It’s because the energy we received from the crowd themselves was bar none. Don’t even get me started with all the performances from the acting to the singing to the modelling and dancers.
What did Origin represent for you as a student at Loughborough?
Origin represents joy. The joy the performers and audience showed when the showcase was done was special. But the most important thing about origin to me is family. I ended up looking after the dancers and the dances and what I witnessed on the weekend and the day before the showcase just filled me with joy. The family atmosphere that was created within us dancers was crazy. It’s astonishing how some of us went from strangers to close friends within that week. As a matter of fact, the group chat we have for the dancers is still going strong. We share and post videos of us dancing and we even tried a number of dance challenges.
Sean: 2nd year student and ACS President
What did Origin represent for you as a student at Loughborough?
It represented the pinnacle of the entire society’s teamwork, involvement, and support. We were successful at growing and expanding the society, and Origin was definitely a high point to finish on.
Were there any moments that specifically stood out in the lead up to the final day?
The strong support shown by Loughborough University and LU Arts to sponsor the event was definitely a highlight. The support received by local restaurant “Fork in Chips” also stood out to me a lot. I also found the dedication, determination, and resilience shown by specific committee members to be very inspiring.
Josh: 2nd year student, ACS Liaison Officer, Origin script writer, Acting leader and director
How would you summarise your experience of Origin 2020?
The Origin 2020 was a huge success. Every aspect of the production was superb. The singers were elite, the dancing was next level, the modelling was brilliant, and the poetry was immaculate. It’s not surprising though, that from my perspective, the actors were the best. I mean, I was the director.
What did Origin represent for you as a student at Loughborough?
Creativity really brings people together and to put on a show that tells our truth is what I believe sets ‘Origin’ apart from other productions. It’s written, directed, produced and performed by students in our community. It couldn’t be a more authentic representation of what and who we are.
Were there any moments that specifically stood out in the lead up to the final day?
The final rehearsal weekends are always tough, the production has to be completed in such a short amount of time and getting everyone on the same page isn’t easy at all. When the dancers first danced on the stage has to be the stand-out moment. Everyone realises the potential of the show at that moment and rehearsals begin to hit a higher gear.
What do you look forward to seeing in next year’s show?
‘Origin 2020’ was the first year ACS collaborated with our friends ‘Your Sound’. Creatives within our community need to continue to share platforms like ‘Origin’ so that all the groups can grow and be recognised for their talent. I’d like to see the show next year incorporate even more creative societies into the production.
Sarah: 1st year student and one of Origin’s lead actors and singer
How would you summarise your experience of Origin 2020?
Origin 2020 was a lot of fun. I got to spend time with people that I hadn’t really met before. It felt amazing to be part of something so successful and to see how talented the ACS community is at Loughborough University.
What did Origin represent for you as a student at Loughborough?
Origin was definitely one of my highlights of the academic year. It allowed an expression of culture which is so important to me. For me personally, it was a way to express creativity through acting and singing. I think it represented the importance of cultural diversity at university too.
Were there any moments that specifically stood out in the lead up to the final day?
A moment that stood out for me was definitely the day before the show when rehearsals weren’t really going to plan and some of the committee members spoke to us about giving it 100% and having fun with it. I feel like this motivated everyone the next day to give an amazing show. Seeing everyone bring so much energy and enthusiasm was really motivating for me.
Monique: 2nd year student, ACS Cultural and Education Manager, Origin Director and Dance Choreographer
What did Origin represent for you as a student at Loughborough?
Origin was extremely important to me as it is the biggest ACS event held every year and being the cultural and educational events manager, it was my responsibility to ensure that the standard held from the previous year is kept and even so exceeded.
Were there any moments that specifically stood out in the lead up to the final day?
The rehearsal day just before the performance was much longer than we expected it to be. And although all of us were tired and wanted to go home, we all stayed to continue for a couple hours after. It showed me that the show was important to everyone and we were all dedicated to making it successful which I was very appreciative of.
What do you look forward to seeing in next year’s show?
I am excited to see how the new committee grow from us and compile a gripping story. The show should be exhilarating, intriguing and entertaining!
Henry: 2nd year student and Dance Choreographer
How would you summarise your experience of Origin 2020?
The Origin 2020 has been the highlight of my university experience so far, outdoing my experience of the showcase last year by a long shot. I met a whole bunch of great people that I now consider close friends. It was also a very fulfilling experience for myself as an individual because it allowed me to really push myself and utilise my talents. Through choreographing and teaching routines, which I had very minimal experience in doing before. Although stressful at times, the outcome of this was very beneficial through enhanced creativity and confidence in ways I did not expect at all. Overall, I’d 100% recommend taking part in Origin next year, you won’t regret it.
Were there any moments that specifically stood out in the lead up to the final day?
What stood out to me was everyone’s commitment to making sure the show banged. Attending lengthy rehearsals day after day in the run up to the show and sacrificing personal time just to make sure everything was on point. That commitment was well and truly worth it as the show turned out to be a great success.
If you missed The Origin 2020 then here are some clips to give you a flavour of what you missed!
By Laura Kharmis
Poetry: it’s either a word you love or fear – there is rarely an in between. Memories swarm of an overly enthusiastic English teacher looking as though they’re about to combust at the mere thought of iambic pentameter. Alternatively, you may’ve fallen in love with the raw creativity and complexity of poetry as a way to navigate yourself through episodes of joy, pain, grief or love. As creativity is blooming throughout this isolation period, it’s the perfect time to explore the expanding world of poetry, and maybe give it a go yourself!
I have curated examples of locally loved poets who are pushing the boundaries of “traditional” poetry, moving into the realms of social and political commentary, mental health issues and addiction. These poems detail anecdotal yet relatable subjects and reset the teenage mind’s construction that poetry is only written by boring rich people from the 1800s.
Sleep Paralysis by Keelin Brook
Withering stares fall upon the sheets,
A scratchy throat, dead arms, a quickening heartbeat.
Knocking is the wind upon glass window,
Eyes prick with tears as ears catch footsteps below.
Moonlight soothes pale sweaty skin,
Edging closer, the creaking settles within.
Uninvited faces form in the darkness of the room,
Paralysed, yet waiting for slumber to resume.
This written poem is my own quick piece of work inspired by my lockdown induced dreams, which are currently running a bit too wild for my liking! As much as I welcome inspirations for creativity, ones that disrupt my sleep are a little irritating, so I decided to voice my frustrations in poem form. In terms of the creative process, I knew that I wanted the first letter of each line to spell something if you read them in a downwards fashion, so I wrote ‘WAKE ME UP’ and formed the rest of the poem from there!
Spoken poet Millie-Jane regularly shares her poetry on stage in her home town of Oxford and has shared with us her favourite piece that she has written: a poem titled Bereavement Sticks. She explained the creative process for this poem to me:
“Bereavement Sticks came from a string of consciousness. All I knew when I started writing was that I wanted to write about smoking and how it was a structure to my day. Before I knew it, there was this jumbled messy story of cigarettes and the process of finding happiness on my page. I chopped it up and edited it a bit and then shared it at my next open mic. This random little piece about my craving for nicotine has become a favourite amongst my family, friends and the people who come to watch my sets. This piece was a breakthrough for me both personally and professionally. It has continued to grow and evolve over the years and I look forward to seeing where these jumble of words take me.”
Millie-Jane found solace in spoken poetry as an early teen, but realised she’d be practising the creative art for many years prior. The fluidity of her work is no surprise when we take this into account, understanding how naturally poetry came to her.
Loughborough alumni Aiz Hussain first discovered spoken poetry through Loughborough’s ‘Speech Bubble’ event, which he describes as an “incredible experience,” from which he has gone on to feature on BBC World News in 2018. His poem Death, that he first shared at Loughborough, went viral: he shares his excitement with me, stating in disbelief that “over 125,000 people witnessed my story on the BBC front page, as well as it being broadcast worldwide on the BBC World News TV channel, which reaches around 99 million viewers per week!”
His achievements also include facilitating his first workshop, turning 25 teenage students into “phenomenal Spoken Word performers earlier this year.” Branding this a “surreal experience,” Aiz describes how he provided students with “a safe space to share their truths since nearly all of them had never written about themselves, let alone performed in front of others!” With such a collection of poetry under his belt, I was excited to reach out to Aiz to learn more about his poetry ambitions and inspirations!
“The piece which resonates with me the most, is a poem I wrote called ‘Serotonin’, especially since it seems to resonate with every single person I’ve met on this journey of ours. From a young age, I’ve always been taught to keep my mouth shut and accept all the negativity that life throws at me. I’ve experienced many friends of mine who have been stabbed, raped and committed suicide, deteriorating my personal mental health to the point where I tried to take my own life a few times during Loughborough. Coming from both an Asian culture that disregards mental health as taboo and rough environments which expected me to bottle my emotions up as a boy, it’s crazy to think that poetry literally saved my life – now as a man, I’m able to share a piece like ‘Serotonin’ exploring the side of mental illness and treatment affecting my generation the most yet is never highlighted in mainstream media.”
He also speaks of his hopes for Loughborough’s relationship with poetry:
“I hope there’s more visibility of the Spoken Word Poetry art form in comparison to the usual written Page Poetry, being more easily accessible Open Mic events and safe spaces for students to express themselves. I would love Loughborough to uphold its family motto by giving more platforms for such poetic voices to be heard and allowing students to find the like-minded creatives they may or may not have been searching for.”
So, if you’re feeling inspired, pick up a pen and get writing! Special thank you to Millie-Jane Ayris and Aiz Hussain for sharing their stories!
I love creative writing and write written poetry as a passion project! I’m a final year Loughborough English student and I’m excited to be starting a masters at Newcastle university this September in Media and Journalism. As an aspiring journalist, I have published pieces in music magazines, online student blogs, and most recently, I have co-founded a new online magazine The Angel Archives to pass the time in quarantine!
More info on the featured poets
“As long as I can remember I’ve always been writing silly little poems in notebooks. English and drama were my favourite classes at school meaning I fell in love with performing at an early age. I remember being 8 years old and splitting poems into sections with my best friend and performing them to our parents in the living room. When I was 13 I stumbled upon a spoken word poem online (To This Day by Shane Koyczan) and I fell in love with it instantly, I listened to it on repeat and cried several times and ended up scrolling through video after video of people sharing their poetry. All of a sudden, this community of poets sharing their stories and opinions became my safe space. I started learning their poems and performing them at talent shows. When I was 15, I was asked to share an anti-bullying poem to the entire school, I chose To This Day as I thought it was fitting for what they wanted. Eventually I was being asked to perform at assemblies and open days. I went on to Oxford College to study Performing Arts which is where many of my poetry opportunities began to take off. I started sharing my writing online when I was 16 and eventually started performing at Open Mics when I was 19 from here I have been asked to perform at different places and worked together with a promoter to hold a local poetry night. I have also been asked to perform at Hammer & Tongue which is something I am very much looking forward to.
Sarah Kaye, Melissa Lozada and Blythe Baird are some of the incredible Poets that inspired me to share my experiences and understanding of the world. Growing up I always felt as though my voice was overlooked, my ideas were ignored, and my opinions were disregarded. Watching these powerful young women express themselves through poetry showed me that my words are important to, they showed me that I can make people listen to what I have to say, they made me realise that my voice could and should be valued. Poetry has been my outlet for many years and now it feels as though it’s my superpower. No matter who you are, where you are from, what you have been through, you have the power inside of you to show people how amazing you are. Believe in yourself and you can achieve anything.”
Check out Millie-Jane’s Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl2q-05LS-XvGlWz99Znqbw?view_as=subscriber
Aiz (@AizzzOfficial ) is an international BBC World News TV-featured spoken word artist, published poet, creative workshop facilitator and event host who has performed personal poetry around the world Born in South London as a British Pakistani second-generation immigrant, he is on a journey to turn his struggles with life, death and mental health into positive messages for the whole world to learn from. Aiz’s craft exposes many societal issues, misconceptions and feelings never explored in the mainstream, constantly fighting for cultural inclusion and being a voice for the voiceless. He has headlined events across the country, performed in poetry slam finals and been interviewed by the BBC Asian Network twice for live radio.
Aiz is always looking to spread love and honesty so if you want to get in touch, feel free to DM or email email@example.com and keep up to date on the latest projects as soon as they’re out:
Some of you will already be familiar with the Landscaping and Gardening Society (LAGS) at Loughborough University but if not you might have walked past their garden located next to the Estates Yard that is currently full of hardy geraniums, aquilegias, roses and many vegetables. This community garden has been tended by generations of students under the watchful eye of Martha Worsching whose passion and dedication to it has been a key part of its success. This week I had an email from Martha and Agnes Wojtusiak asking if I had some photos of when the land was first cultivated as they were planning to submit a video to Gardener’s World, showing its development since it first came about.
What might be even less well known is that the origins of the garden go back to when it was part of a Radar project in 2010 when we invited artist Amy Franceschini to develop a new work that engaged with issues around land, food production and sustainability. Amy leads up an internationally recognised collective of artists called FutureFarmers whose work often deconstructs existing systems through participatory actions that enable those involved to think about change in the places we live. Amy invited artist and interaction designer Myriel Milicevic to work with her on the project. The project they devised was called Beneath the Pavement: A Garden and Myriel described its aims as being ‘to consider biological forms in relation to political and social systems. It looks at the potential of a small plot of land on the Loughborough University campus to tell social and political stories, deconstructing systems, planting them and watching them grow’.
It was an ambitious project on a less than ambitious budget. I remember having to convince the University to let us have a plot of land for the activity to take place, to source something between a pavilion and a shed to house information and publications and to recruit a wide cross section of people to take part in the project. These included academics, environmentalists, artists and gardeners who all attended a three-day workshop where they collectively debated and then designed edible landscapes based on political systems. They were informed by contributions from political scientists and historians and the discussions informed how the plot has started to develop.
While the project was an interesting practical exploration of the politics of land, from historical examples to contemporary perspectives, perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the project was its legacy. Following the completion of the project the land was taken over by staff and students who took ownership of it and started to turn it into both a society and an active community garden. Over the years the beds and borders have expanded, a polytunnel has been added, and as well as lots of hard work there are also lots of social events that bring like-minded students together. The society has been particularly popular with PhD and international students, in part because they are still on campus over the summer. The commitment to the garden was recognised when the society won the East Midlands in Bloom ‘Its Neighbourhood Award’ from the Royal Horticultural Society for the fifth consecutive year.
If you are interested in gardening please do have a look at the LAGS LSU page. You will also be pleased to hear that regular volunteers are still managing to tend the garden and hopefully we might shortly hear its story on an upcoming episode of Gardeners World.
Director, LU Arts
Written by Dr Katryna Kalawsky
If you are experiencing difficulties at the moment (for whatever reason) please don’t face them alone. Help is never far away and there is absolutely no shame in reaching out to others for support and guidance – in fact, it shows courage. Sometimes we all need a little helping hand to manage the many challenges life can throw at us (no matter how big or small) and an important first step is to find out what’s available. Also, if some services require you to make an appointment or talking to someone, please don’t let this put you off. I know it might seem daunting, but trust me people want to help, will help, and definitely won’t judge.
During the Doctoral Wellbeing Week Twitter Chat held in March, I asked colleagues “What wellbeing support is available to doctoral researchers internal and external to Louhborough University and Loughborough University London?” and their answers are below.
“SO much! I’m envious of all the amazing ways we support our doctoral researchers in myriad ways. Both through our dedicated student support services and through the brilliant networks & events facilitated by the Doctoral College” – Dr Sophie Crouchman
“Lots! Beyond all the excellent professional services remember there are friends, other doctoral researchers, colleagues, supervisors, doctoral researcher tutors” – Dr John Harrison
“Lots! And we need to work hard to promote support and be creative in developing/improving support. And worth remembering support comes in many guises” – Professor Elizabeth Peel
“There’s lots available through Student Services; Wellbeing Support, Careers Network, Student Advice and Support Service, disability support, counselling & mental health… take a look at here” – Dr Manuel Alonso
“We have EXCELLENT Student Services Loughborough University such as Mental Health Support, Counselling, GP, Careers Network, Centre for Faith & Spirituality and MORE! There’s also Well-Being Advisers in our Schools – check out the my.Lboro app for more info!” – Dr Katryna Kalawsky
“LSU Advice; a confidential and non-judgemental service specifically to help students with any issues or problems they may have with the University.” – Dr Katryna Kalawsky
“Nightline is a national out-of-office hours, confidential and anonymous listening service providing support for students, by students via telephone and email”. – Dr Katryna Kalawsky
In addition to the above, take a look at the ‘Doctoral Wellbeing’ section of the Doctoral College’s Online Development Portal; we’ve pulled together a wide range of fantastic resources that we hope are useful such as the Employee Assistance Programme, LU Wellbeing App, The Wellbeing Thesis, The Yellow Book and SO much more including recordings of some of the Doctoral Wellbeing Week workshops.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and advice to our doctoral researchers on this topic via the blog comments box or via Twitter. After all, one of the many aspects of ‘kindness’ (the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020) is about taking time out for others.
Written by Dr Katryna Kalawsky
Looking for a motivational boost? Then look no further! Below are several encouraging, take home messages written specifically for doctoral researchers by staff at Loughborouh University with doctorates!
“You’re stronger than you think. What you’re doing is really, really hard – never forget that. Get as much help from those around you and from the campus community. *You CAN do it!!*” – Dr Sophie Crouchman
“Don’t do this on your own. Asking for help is not a weakness but a strength. Stopping work is not a negative but a positive. Remember those around you (both at home and in the office) as they having their own stresses and while they want you to do well, they need you too.” – Dr Ash Casey
“Stay curious, be open to change, and engage with your local doctoral community!”– Dr Ksenija Kuzmina
“Remember that you are not alone. Talk! Reflect! Don’t be afraid to not have an answer or to not find a solution that you want. And make sure that you have a life outside of your PhD- have hobbies, sleep, take breaks and go on holidays. Be YOU, love yourself.” – Dr Ksenia Chmutina
“We believe in you!” – Dr John Harrison
“You can do it!!” – Dr Janine Coates
“It may feel impossible until it’s done, to paraphrase Nelson Mandela” – Professor Elizabeth Peel
“Lower your expectations. A Doctorate is the highest level of academic degree. Yep just saying that might sound daunting, but the point is, a doctorate is not meant to be straightforward and easy (if it was EVERYONE would have a doctorate!) so don’t be hard on yourself if you find aspects challenging” – Dr Katryna Kalawsky
“Don’t spend too much time on Twitter etc ! Exit the social media forest!” – Professor Elizabeth Peel
“Think of your life as a sponge cake…your doctorate, in the grand scheme, is just a crumb” – Dr Katryna Kalawsky
Please feel free to share your thoughts and advice to our doctoral researchers on this topic via the blog comments box or via Twitter. After all, one of the many aspects of ‘kindness’ (the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020) is about taking time out for others.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on our lives and society globally. The pandemic has generated many problems and questions, of a personal, local and global nature. Simulation research can play a crucial role in helping governments, businesses and communities to understand the impact of the pandemic and to plan for the months and years to come.
This time last year, we could have not predicted the impact that an infectious disease, such as COVID-19 could have had in our lives and societies. COVID-19 looks set to be the worst infectious disease pandemic of a generation in terms of numbers infected and mortalities worldwide. To date (20 May 2020) according to WHO data more than 4.8m people globally have tested positive for the disease, out of which around 36% have recovered, while 7% have died. We have seen governments introduce extreme measures to manage the spread of the disease, such as social distancing and lockdown of the population.
The economic consequences from organisational shutdowns and other measures taken, such as school closures, have become real, with countries, including the UK, facing a severe recession. Furthermore, the pandemic has brought high health and wellbeing risks, for health care professional and the wider population, due to the loss of informal support networks because of social distancing. Almost 0.5 million people in the UK are believed to have suffered from anxiety and other mental health issues during the pandemic. The question is, how can communities spring back out from the dire outlook ahead of us?
While we cannot predict with 100% certainty what the future holds and if there will be a future pandemic, simulation modelling expertise can help governments, communities and organisations to understand the impact of the pandemic and to plan reduce its impact.
Simulation is generally considered a niche area of modelling expertise, which is often taught in top business schools, including here in Loughborough. Its impact and potential have now become evident. Here in the UK alone, each one of us has heard at least once the word “computer simulation model” mentioned in the media. Computer simulations provide a virtual representation of real-world systems as they progress over time. These models are used to test the outcome of different scenarios instead of experimenting with the real population. This is a key benefit of using simulation. Developing the models helps us to gain a better understanding of the system as a whole and to make better decisions.
For example, governments appear to have relied heavily on epidemiological computer simulations to determine the spread of COVID-19 and to decide on social distancing measures. The key aim has been to flatten the growth curve of the disease and to reduce the pressure on the healthcare systems. However, the pandemic raises many more economic and societal challenges that computer simulations could be equally useful in addressing.
A recent paper published in the Journal of Simulation (Currie et al 2020) identifies a set of problems raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly suited to simulation modelling. These problems require crucial decisions that need to be made as the epidemic progresses and diminishes. The paper splits these into three types: (1) decisions affecting disease transmission and interventions; (2) decisions regarding the management of organisational resources; and (3) decisions about population care. For each key decision, we describe the problem, how it might be modelled and any specific data requirements. The aim of this being to provide modellers and decision makers with some initial ideas where simulation modelling can be useful in addressing problems that have arisen during this pandemic and likely to arise in any future pandemic. For example, a computer simulation model can answer questions about how health care services can resume, how health and mental health services, in hospital and the community can be configured, how much medical staff and PPE are needed in a specific region given its demographics.
Aside from identifying problems the article also proposes a research agenda for the simulation modelling community. For example, as many services move to remote working, the article proposes that the simulation community should extend collaborative modelling practices in the virtual environment and build facilitation skills of future modellers to engage effectively with policy makers. Our research in the Simulation Practice Research Interest group here at Loughborough has focused on building simulations collaboratively with stakeholders to elicit information and to gain a better understanding of the possible options available. For example, collaborative simulations were developed to evaluate the design and development of Lightbulb, a community-based housing support service in the Leicestershire area, by involving the staff and patients (service users) in stakeholder workshops. This has led to developing a more effective service, benefiting not only the health and social care services and the frail and elderly people in Leicestershire as well as more widely the local economy.
With simulation models often applied to organisational problems in a variety of industries, collaborative simulation can offer a fertile environment for engagement with local and global businesses in the COVID-19 environment. Therefore, the role of simulation research could be crucial in developing the global modelling and simulation capacity needed to support mitigation efforts as well as to address the vast number of challenges during the response and recovery phases of a pandemic.
This blog post was written by Dr Antuela Anthi Tako, Reader in Operational Research and a leader of the Simulation Practice Research Interest Group (SP-RIG).
Read the full article: Christine S.M. Currie, John W. Fowler, Kathy Kotiadis, Thomas Monks, Bhakti Stephan Onggo, Duncan A. Robertson & Antuela A. Tako (2020) How simulation modelling can help reduce the impact of COVID-19, Journal of Simulation, DOI: 10.1080/17477778.2020.1751570
Written by Dr Katryna Kalawsky
I’ve never been that savvy when it comes to fixing appliances. Usually, if something I own isn’t working properly, i’ll often resort to turning it off and on again and most of the time it does the trick. It’s the same with my brain. If i’m finding that i’m not being productive or having a hard time focusing, it’s probably because I need to switch off my mind and recharge. But, sometimes doing that is far easier said than done and I know i’m not alone in this. Some of you reading this blog post may be longing for a break but thoughts about work (amongst other things) are never far away and preventing you from taking time out. Alternatively some of you may decide to take a break from your work but when you’re suppose to be relaxing, you can’t because you start feeling guilty about all the time you could be spending towards your research (I get it, i’ve been there!). Reasons for these thoughts can vary from person to person and of course there’s the added complication for many of having other responsibilities/challenges alongside their doctorate to manage. But if you don’t pause, even just for a little bit, you run the risk of burning out which not only hinders your productivity but your overall wellbeing too.
Everyone’s idea of leisure time will be different. For me during my doctorate, I would really enjoy going to the cinema as films transported my busy mind somewhere else. These days I’m particularly drawn to international films (the subtitles force me to put down my laptop and phone so that I don’t miss anything important – please get in touch if anyone has any film recommendations!), podcasts and audio books (closing my eyes and listening to something before I go to sleep is really relaxing (again I have to ‘switch off’ my mind to pay attention to what’s being said!).
During the Doctoral College’s Wellbeing Week Twitter Chat, I asked those that took part what they did to take time out during their doctorates. Here are the responses:
“Who remembers Blast Billiards?! This definitely got me they definitely got me through my PhD.”– Dr John Harrison
“I like travel/an adventure very much, and did then.” – Professor Elizabeth Peel
“Running, cycling and music (not always at the same time)” – Dr Manuel Alonso
“Having regular breaks. Pretty much every day many of us would meet for a coffee at about 10.30am, then for lunch at about 1pm, no matter what. If someone wasn’t there, others would go and get them.” – Dr Ksenia Chmutina
“Baking!! I once created both Photosystem II and the absorption spectrum of chlorophyll through the medium of cake! (My actual thesis rather pales into comparison.” – Dr Sophie Crouchman
“I joined @LandscapingLSU. We are so lucky @lborouniversity to have this incredible society that brings students, staff & local community together, having fun growing local food & learning about nature!” – Dr Ksenija Kuzmina
So next time you feel like your running out of steam, it’s probably because you are! Listen to your body and mind and take a pit stop (and don’t feel guilty for doing so!); you’ll feel much better for it and your work will improve too!
Please feel free to share your thoughts and advice to our doctoral researchers on this topic via the blog comments box or via Twitter. After all, one of the many aspects of ‘kindness’ (the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020) is about taking time out for others.
Written by Dr Katryna Kalawsky
Hindsight is a great thing…and so is foresight! Drawing both together, I thought it would be useful to our current doctoral researchers to share what some members of staff at Loughborough University considered to be the best piece of advice that they received during their doctorate:
“Just get writing” – Dr Manuel Alonso
“I can’t remember specific piece of advice as such but I do remember the feeling of being listened to/heard then by colleagues I hold dear today such as @rolsi_journal” – Professor Elizabeth Peel
“Get writing from the start. Even if what you write doesn’t make the final cut, just the process of writing helps to refine your thinking and direction. It’s also good for helping you realise you’re making progress when you feel like you’re not.” – Dr Janine Coates
“Can’t remember one specific piece of advice, just constant support and guidance. Though @Tweed_Heley saying “Are you going the pub later?” always came in handy!!” – Dr John Harrison
“Don’t spend time making the thesis ‘perfect’. PhD is not the peak of the academic (or any other) career, it’s just the first step. The thesis has to be good – but don’t months changing words, tweaking colours of figures, and adjusting formatting. Also treating my PhD as a job worked really well for me. I tried working 8 to 5 (ish), taking time off, having hobbies. It often didn’t work but it helped me to learn to manage my time better!” – Dr Ksenia Chmutina
“Work with a live thesis draft from the start. This really helped me to structure my work and keep me focused. Having a live draft throughout my #PhD also meant I was not overwhelmed by the prospect of having to write it all at the end.” – Dr Ksenija Kuzmina
“I guess that I can do it and I’m not a fraud. Over the last decade I’ve heard SO many fantastic and eminent colleagues confess they they didn’t do well at school or didn’t think they were that bright…don’t underestimate yourself. Work hard (90% perspiration/10% inspiration).”– Dr Ash Casey
“Set yourself achievable goals!! (Something which I should still follow to this day….) There’s no point setting yourself up for failure by trying to do too much. Take it step by step.”– Dr Sophie Croachman
“Expect phases of trial and error; sometimes you learn the most when things don’t go according to plan!”. I didn’t always believe this at the time (let’s be honest we want things to go as smoothly as possible!), but now, post doctorate, I TOTALLY get it! Reflection is powerful. When things don’t go according to plan, IT’S OK! Think it through (but don’t dwell), be honest, and feed forward what you learnt onto the next challenge!” – Dr Katryna Kalawsky
It’s lockdown day…I’ve stopped counting, and I’m feeling a little lost because I’ve come to the end of my three-day binge of the BBC adaption of Sally Rooney’s bestselling Normal People. The snowflakes, as some people fondly refer to us as, are on Twitter and Instagram proclaiming their adoration for and identification with the show that has been termed the ‘first great millennial love story’.
Immersing ourselves in literature, film and TV has become a popular pastime of lockdown, and I hope this enjoyment of the arts is something that lasts beyond the end, whatever and whenever the end is. Revisiting favourite novels and virtually taking part in book swaps are not strenuous activities, yet they can be enriching and rewarding. Whilst I am trying to get my hands on Sally Rooney’s other acclaimed novel Conversations with Friends, which like Normal People, has been swept off the shelves, I thought I would get in touch with the Loughborough University community to gather some film and literary intel. I asked an array of university staff members, to see what was influencing them at my age. 20’s the magic number!
Starting perhaps most appropriately with University librarian Matt Cunningham:
‘I guess my favourite film was Star Wars- I’m a child of that generation (born in 73) so seeing that for the first time as a child was the most fantastic thing I’ve ever seen- I still go to the midnight showings of the new ones- perk of being a kid in a grown-up body!‘
As for books, Matt is a big fantasy fan and recalls C.S. Lewis classic The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe leaving a lasting impression. He also discusses the strong impact of David Gemmell’s Druss the Legend:
‘There’s a quote “Never violate a woman, nor harm a child. Do not lie, cheat or steal. These things are for lesser men. Protect the weak against the evil strong. And never allow thoughts of gain to lead you into the pursuit of evil.” It’s not quite on the 10 Commandments scale and obviously is based in a fantasy world but I guess I’m saying I try and be good and don’t judge or hold grudges to others. I hope anyone who knows me would recognise those qualities.’
Next up, it’s Director of LU Arts, Nick Slater, who’s favourite film at 20 was Blue Velvet, which he says still remains one of his all-time favourites. Directed by David Lynch, IMDb summarises the plot as: ‘The discovery of a severed human ear found in a field, leads a young man on an investigation related to a beautiful, mysterious nightclub singer and a group of psychopathic criminals who have kidnapped her child.’ Released in 1986, the film delves under the surface of a small American town; a troubling and turbulent narrative characterised by stylised dark visuals. From the cinematography to the soundtrack, this dark daydream-like film might be one to watch on a rainy lockdown afternoon.
Nick’s favourite book at 20 was Martin Amis’s Money, which was included in the 2005 Times Magazine ‘100 best English-language novels from 1923-present’. Money was also adapted for TV by the BBC in 2010. It is based on Amis’s experience as a scriptwriter.
We also have the Vice-Chancellor himself, who, influenced by the location of his PhD field sites down in Dorchester, decided to read The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. The novel fictionalises Dorchester, where the author grew up, as Casterbridge. Bob was then drawn into Hardy’s world and decided to read more of his works. Professor Nick Clifford, former Dean of the School of Social Sciences and Humanities, also clearly recalls entering into the world of Thomas Hardy. Nick recollects a boxed set of his novels including The Woodlanders, The Trumpet Major, Jude the Obscure, and The Mayor of Casterbridge, which like Bob, he revisited the most.
The VC’s favourite film was Gandhi, an iconic early-80s film:
‘What I remember particularly was how it captured India as a country through the focus on someone who became known throughout the world.’
As for his favourite TV drama, Bob thinks back to Alan Bleasdale’s gritty 1982 series, Boys from the Blackstuff. A revolutionary drama that truly resonated with the desperate unemployment rates characterising the Thatcher era. The iconic early ’80s commentary, VC Bob says:
‘was both symbolic of the time, full of messages about social/class division’ finished with elements of relatable humour; ‘There was something about it ‘being of the time’ in the late Thatcher era.’
The BAFTA-winning series coined the term ‘Gissa job’ as it observed the narrative journeys of five unemployed tarmac gang workers struggling to find a job against their harsh societal backdrop.
Now, we go to Dr Anne-Marie Beller, senior lecturer in Victorian Literature and Culture and my personal tutor! It was all things film for her at 20. She recalls a rare trip to the cinema that year to see Thelma and Louise; with two women in starring roles, it’s the epitome of #GirlPower and ‘the iconic ending is still familiar as a cultural reference, even to people who haven’t seen the film.’
Another 1991 first-release film that Dr Anne-Marie saw, was Silence of the Lambs, starring Anthony Hopkins ‘as the mesmerising Hannibal Lector.’
‘Psychopaths have clearly always held an interest for me, as one of my current favourite TV shows is Killing Eve, and I’ve actually just finished an article on representations of the female psychopath in literary and visual culture.’
The film that gave her the most joy in 1991 however, was The Commitments:
‘a realist and extremely funny film about a group of working-class kids in Dublin who try to form a band. Adapted from Roddy Doyle’s novel, it’s full of integrity, humour, and has an absolutely banging soundtrack!’
A similar film perhaps being Golden Globe-nominated Sing Street (2016), which follows the story of schoolboy Conor, who sets out to form an A-ha inspired rock band to impress a girl amidst the hard-hitting recession of 1980s Dublin. Sing Street also impresses with a banging soundtrack.
Anne-Marie also managed to dig up a disposable of her at 20…I don’t know about you but I still prefer a disposable camera over a phone; a fun surprise at the end and far less dangerous on a night out.
Next up, we have Dr Barbara Cooke who has taught me several times over three years…from when I was a clueless first-year unable to reference an academic essay, to a slightly less clueless finalist on the third-year creative writing module.
She says that Brokeback Mountain springs to mind when she reflects on the film of her early 20s. Ang Lee’s Academy Award-winning film is set in 1960s mid-Western America.
‘It’s a love story between two cowboys who are far, far away from being able to own their sexuality: Jack, the more openly queer partner, is murdered as a result of it. It’s made all the more poignant now because it stars Heath Ledger, who gives an amazing performance as Jack’s love Ennis and who died very young…The film destroyed me in the cinema…It’s not that queerness was taboo in 2005, but the usual gay or queer man you saw in films was effeminate, catty, and the subject of comedy rather than tragedy. When I was in school, Section 28 was still in force, so it was a different world. This film opened a lot of eyes.’
Section 28, introduced by Thatcher’s government in 1988, prohibited the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality by local authorities and in the schools of Britain. I find it extraordinary that this was still in action during my lifetime, only having been revoked in 2003.
Professor Cees de Bont, our Dean of the School of Design and Creative Arts, shares a memorable theatre experience. In the year 1984, Cees attended The Caucasian Chalk Circle, a play by Bertolt Brecht, a German modernist playwright.
‘I had the unforgettable pleasure of attending The Caucasian Chalk Circle in the Bertolt Brecht theatre. I went through Checkpoint Charlie with my friend and spent 24 hours in East-Berlin. It was amazing. Fortunately, my command of the German language was good enough to fully enjoy the play.’
Berlin is somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit, especially after enjoying the immense buzz of a trip to Rome last summer, exploring a city rich in history. Berlin, known as ‘the city of ideology’, has cropped up multiple times in my studies and it’s definitely a top destination for my post-pandemic travels. For now, travel seems a while off, but that doesn’t mean we can’t explore works of film, theatre, and literature from our favourite places or those we’ve always wanted to visit.
And last but certainly not least, Alan Bairner, Professor of Sport and Social Theory at Loughborough University, shares a book and a film that he recalls as significantly influential and culturally revering during his time at university. Alan has taught me on some of my favourite modules throughout my time at university, so I was keen to see what he was reading at my age:
‘Now that I have entered my seventieth year, I find it hard to remember with any degree of certainty what novels I read and what films I watched during my time as an undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh.’
Alan ended up choosing Lewis Grassic Gibson’s (pseudonym for James Leslie Mitchell) Sunset Song, the first of the author’s Scots Quair trilogy, ‘which introduces us to Chris Guthrie, a young woman suffering the material and cultural deprivations of life in rural Scotland in the years before the First World War but sustained by dreams of books and learning.’ Central themes of ‘politics, sex, the impact of modernisation, and the coming of the war’ characterise the novel, and the authenticity of Chris’s voice caused many readers to think the novel was written by a woman.
‘It was a period in my life when I first began to reflect on my political and cultural identity. Chris Guthrie is just one woman but, in her, Grassic Gibson had succeeded in embodying my nation, my class and my opposition to social injustice.’
Alan’s chosen film is Easyrider, starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson, directed by Hopper. His roommate, an American exchange theology student called Seth Eisenberg, insisted they go to the Cameo cinema in Edinburgh’s Tollcross area to go and watch the film. Their first-year landlady assumed that Seth was ‘training to be a minister’, but Alan suggests that ‘his appetite for cannabis would’ve almost certainly precluded him from being welcomed into a Church of Scotland parish.’
‘Easyrider is essentially a road film with a cataclysmic ending. Wyatt (Fonda) and Billy (Hopper) set off on motorcycles in search of America and utopia. On the way, they befriend a civil liberties lawyer, George Hanson, played by Nicholson… Watching the film with Seth, who had taken part the previous year in the anti-Vietnam War protests outside the Democratic Party Convention in his native Chicago, made me realise that I had also been exposed to another set of influences so distinct from the Scotland that Grassic Gibbon had represented but one which also signalled opposition to discrimination, prejudice and injustice. In the autumn of 1969, two cultures had become aligned.’
My name is Hannah and I am currently in my final year at Loughborough, studying English and Sport Science; so basically, studying Shakespeare or screenwriting one moment, and sport psychology the next. I am hoping to stay on at Loughborough next year to undertake the MA programme Media and Cultural Analysis. You will usually find me picking apart the latest BBC drama, obsessing over new shoes that I don’t need, or making a coffee. Most likely, all of the above.
In Octavia Butler’s 1993 novel Parable of the Sower, set in 2020s California, climate change has resulted in regular droughts, fires and floods; unemployment and homelessness is widespread; and those lucky enough to have a home resort to violence to defend what little they have. In its sequel, Parable of the Talents, society has broken down even further. A new President, Andrew Jarret, is elected. Ignoring the causes of the country’s problems, he blames migrants and sin, uniting his base around a trademark promise: that he will ‘Make America Great Again’.
Although we should not judge speculative fiction by how accurately it predicts the future, it’s difficult not to be chilled by Butler’s vision. But there’s cause for hope too. Both novels follow Lauren Oya Olamina, a black teenager who flees north after her community is destroyed and her parents murdered. Joining thousands of migrants on a dangerous journey, she begins to build a new community around ‘Earthseed’, a philosophy of change and mutual care she has developed.
The Earthseed community faces numerous difficulties and awful violence from Jarret-enabled white supremacists as they struggle to realise their new way of life. But the possibility they develop is never fully extinguished, leaving the reader to realise that our future is not predetermined but can be changed by collective actions.
It’s interesting to reflect on this hope at the moment. It’s often assumed that crises bring out the worst in people: that we will hoard what we have and use violence to get our hands on what we don’t. History shows that this isn’t necessarily the case, however, and the rise of mutual aid support groups to help those affected by Covid19 is living proof of this.
Mutual aid refers to a system where people contribute what they can and take what they need. It’s organised by the people themselves and those who contribute don’t expect a direct return, but know that the system will be there for them should they ever need it.
We can see glimpses of how such a society might work through Earthseed, but to experience it on a larger scale we could turn to another work of speculative fiction: Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, partly set in a world where mutual aid isn’t just something that emerges during crisis but is the dominant system. It’s not perfect, but it’s hard not to be inspired.
Such utopian visions give us permission to think about what we might be able to do in other forms of society. We’ve all heard stories during this lockdown of people taking the time to learn new skills and interests or develop old ones. But not everyone can do this: for those without space, equipment, time and money it’s simply not possible. The mutual sharing of responsibility could even this out, a possibility explored by the famous designer William Morris in his novel News From Nowhere, in which everyone has ample leisure time to develop their creative interests.
We won’t like everything about these utopian worlds. But by engaging with them we can see how we might do things differently. We can be encouraged to desire more, desire differently, and desire better. And when we connect them up with the positive aspects of our present, we might be able to think about how we get from here to there. This won’t be easy: William Morris describes his world coming about through violent revolution (not what you’d necessarily expect if you’d only seen his wallpapers!). Octavia Butler, meanwhile, portrays the risks taken by those looking to bring about a new world, and makes it clear that this work is disproportionately undertaken by women and people of colour.
We might not yet know what kind of world we could build together, but the best utopian and dystopian fiction lets us know that we could build one.
Want to think about what kind of world might be possible? Here’s some more utopian, dystopian and speculative fiction worth checking out!
Samuel Delany – Trouble on Triton
Trouble on Triton is set in a society where you can be whoever you want, whenever you want, with whoever you want. But it’s told through the eyes of a newcomer to the world who just can’t work out what he wants. Delany was heavily inspired by the queer social life of New York in the 1980s, so if you’ve seen Pose and ever wondered what it might be like if an entire planet (well, moon) was like the ballroom scene: this is the book for you.
Various – Octavia’s Brood
Inspired by Octavia Butler, this is a brilliant collection of short stories set in all kinds of worlds that draws on today’s social justice struggles. Other excellent short story collections include Accessing the Future, which considers disability in other worlds; Palestine+100, with twelve visions of Palestine in 2048; and Sisters of the Revolution, which explores feminist futures and feminism in the future.
Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain – Sultana’s Dream
Hossain was a Bengali Muslim feminist and social reformer who wrote this short utopian work in 1905. As much a satire on patriarchy as a serious proposal for what should be, it’s nonetheless set in a fascinating world with solar powered automated farming and flying cars.
Kim Stanley Robinson – Pacific Edge
Imagining a utopia is a lot easier if you start from scratch. Robinson avoids doing that in Pacific Edge, which is set in near-future California, meaning the result is a more ‘realistic’ utopia: buildings, infrastructure and many problems persist from our present, but the world is still recognisably preferable to ours. Robinson is one of the most prolific writers of utopias in recent years, but this early work remains one of his most intriguing
And perhaps you’ve got your own visions of possible worlds? The Limit would love to hear from you if so!
Programme Co-Ordinator, LU Arts
As the Producer of the Radar programme, it is my job to support artists and Loughborough University academics in developing collaborative artistic projects. The idea behind this is that many artists are deeply engaged in academic ideas, though they tend to approach exploring them in different ways to those employed by academics. Artists often conduct research as part of the process of developing a new body of work or exhibition, and through making new work they often contribute to the understanding of particular ideas. Artists use ‘traditional’ research tools such as books and archives, but they also conduct research through making or working with others – through doing as well as by reflecting.
An example of this kind of collaboration is a current Radar project, Bodies of Knowledge. This project involves artists, academics and practitioners including wrestlers and dancers. As part of the project, PhD researcher Julia Giese* worked with artist Tara Fatehi Irani and Kathak dancer Kesha Raithatha on a series of workshops exploring migration, memory and movement. Julia said later of working with Kesha:
“I think it was really important because, coming from a very theoretical background, talking about the body it was always just theory and concepts and I think I needed to collaborate to get another perspective…working together with a dancer I got to know the body in a different way and it gave me the tools to understand my own research in a different way.”
Similarly, artist Tara Fatehi Irani remarked on collaborating with academic researchers:
“I got introduced to a lot of the history and cultural context, which I had not worked with before and how that can shape the things that I would [otherwise] do on my own, is really interesting.”
Cultural commentators have commented on how collaboration has been important to how arts organisations have responded to the Lockdown. This has ranged from organisations getting together to share resources to artists collaborating on platforms for sharing and selling their work. Increased use of online platforms such as Zoom enable people geographically dispersed to access artistic programmes they wouldn’t otherwise be able to. Though collaboration in our more traditional ways might be difficult at the moment, these actions might reveal ways in which collaboration might take new and exciting forms in the future. Tara Fatehi Irani commented more broadly on how collaboration enriched her artistic practice:
“For me, collaboration is usually about making together to create something that couldn’t be done by the individual collaborators alone. So, if I was alone in a room, would I do the same thing that I would if I was in the room with the other collaborators?”
Collaboration enables new creative possibilities to emerge, bringing about results that, in the case of the Bodies of Knowledge project, neither academic nor artist could have realised alone. For us at Radar, it’s exciting to think that a new focus on collaboration could emerge from this period defined by social distance.
Radar Producer, LU Arts
* Julia’s PhD is part of the Leverhulme funded Migrant Memory and the Postcolonial Imagination project which engages with the cultural memory of the Partition of India
Written by Dr Katryna Kalawsky
Undertaking a doctorate is a unique experience for each and every doctoral researcher; no one else is doing the same project and everyone has different academic and personal circumstances. Although I don’t want to appear hypocritical because my last blog post ‘What do people enjoy most about their doctoral experience?’ focused on the importance of taking stock and considering the many positive aspects of a doctorate, I believe its crucial that potential/actual doctoral challenges are acknowledged. I don’t mean in a doom and gloom/’mood hoover’ kinda way (goodness, if we did that no one would want to even contemplate doing a doctorate!) but I mean in a pragmatic way that includes signposting to relevant advice and support. .
Since commencing my doctorate, I always had a strong interest in doctoral wellbeing; something founded by my experiences as a doctoral researcher and the experiences of some of my friends who also undertook a doctorate. Even after graduating my interest in doctoral wellbeing never diminished but instead heightened when I became a researcher developer. This is because researchers often confide in me and share their work ups and downs – many things shared I can relate to even though its nearly 10 years since I passed my viva! (wow, it felt odd writing that!).
Now some of you reading this blog post may already know what I’ve done so far to investigate and try to enhance doctoral wellbeing (i.e. the Doctoral Wellbeing Survey and spearheading Loughborough’s Institutional Doctoral Wellbeing Action Plan) so I won’t elaborate on that now (feel free to get in touch if you’d like to know more though!). But one thing that I’ve realised is that sharing potential/actual challenges can offer some degree of comfort/reassurance to those currently undertaking their doctorates. That is, they don’t feel alone in their experiences, it’s not just them! This is especially important in light of Covid-19 as some challenges may be exacerbated.
So will all that said, during the Doctoral Wellbeing Week Twitter Chat, I and several colleagues at Loughborough University answered the following two questions:
A: “Reflecting on your experiences, what was the most challenging aspect of your doctorate and why?”
B: “How did you overcome this challenge / what would you differently to deal with this challenge if you could go back in time?”
Our answers are shown below – I hope you find them helpful!
Dr Janine Coates:
A: “Feeling like a fraud. I worried someone would realise I wasn’t good enough and ask me to leave.“
B: “It took a while to realise I was good enough… better… I was the expert in my own area and needed to own that. My supervisor helped a lot with that!”
Dr John Harrison:
A: “Motivation for 3 years. There were peaks and troughs, esp halfway through. Data collected but felt I hadn’t found anything worthwhile after 2 years . Also I got a paper rejection saying my writing was “tortured and verbose” … true but painful”
B: “Did not put-off writing: kept going and it all started to come together. Support of supervisor. Do differently? Not beat myself up as much. All days are productive. Hindsight tells you what feels a bad day is actually a good research day – necessary step towards the solution.
Dr Manuel Alonso:
A: Being honest, just the size of it. It’s a daunting prospect at the outset, and at Easter of the 2nd year I thought there’d be no way I could retain enough energy to get it done. But my supervisor was brilliant at just getting me to produce small pieces of writing regularly.”
B: My supervisor was brilliant at helping break it down – he made me produce my first bit of writing after 8 weeks! From then on it was just a case of chipping away at it. What would I do differently – have a healthier writing schedule and not end up writing into the night!“
Professor Elizabeth Peel:
A: “I found lots of aspects challenging. I didn’t do a Masters so the UG to PGR jump was harder than it might have been. I was fortunate to have ESRC funding but the money did run out. The ‘final push’ working at Edinburgh University as a Research Fellow also challenging.”
B: “In terms of the ‘final push’ I paired back life to everything bar the thesis and work. Neither ‘healthy’ or ‘sustainable’, but it enabled me to get the job done. I say to my students now the thesis needs to be ‘good enough’.”
Dr Ash Casey:
A: “Holding down a full-time job and doing a PhD in the gaps between things. I always said if I got travel sick I would’ve taken twice as long as some of my PhD was written the bus to school fixtures. One year I took a trip skiing to Italy and working on the bus there and back.”
B: “I learnt to work in 5 minutes slots. I didn’t finish sentences if I was writing and I left notes for myself about what I was thinking. I took absolutely every opportunity I got to work. I never turned up to a meeting/appointment without something to do just in case the person was late. If a meeting finished early I’d stay in the room and work (I still do that and often get a little bit extra done uninterrupted) – to me it’s like getting time for free!.”
Dr Ksenia Chmutina:
A: “Two things: 1) Managing my supervisors. I didn’t really know what PhD was about & how to do it – so I didn’t know what their – and my – expectations were. 2) Knowing when I have enough data – I spent 6 months in China collecting data in 4 different cities, but I could’ve probably spent 6 years. Luckily my visa ran out and I had to come back!”
B: “I should’ve talked to my supervisors (or other academics) more. I now realise how many academics are actually willing to help & to guide – but you’ve got to ask for that guidance! Don’t be afraid to ask for help & to have honest chats with your supervisors!”
Dr Sophie Crouchman:
A: “Going from having a lot of supervision as an undergraduate to bring much more independent threw me initially. I also suffered some pretty major mental health problems, but luckily with support from my supervisor & GP I was able to continue my doctorate.”
B: “My GP was really supportive in managing my condition with the help of medication, which I took for 2 years. My supervisor was also really helpful & my partner at the time (who’s still my partner!) was a source of great strength to me.”
Dr Ksenija Kuzmina:
A: “Writing. It was both challenging and fulfilling at the same time, it still is! Having trained as designer, I prefer to communicate visually. So it took me some time to develop my writing practice, not without tears!”
B: “I wrote a lot. It was a sense making exercise, for me & for my supervisors who had to grasp & contribute to my thinking & development of my ideas. I would have loved to be able to go on an academic writing retreat with my fellow PhD colleagues!“
Dr Katryna Kalawsky:
A: “Commuting! Each week I used A LOT of public transport (bus>train>tram>bus>bus>tram>train>bus) to visit the hospital where I was undertaking my data collection. I would often travel approx. 3hrs/day which was tiring – especially after a full day at the hospital (at times these visits were emotionally difficult) and needing to spend evenings analysing data and writing up!”
B: “As a non-driver I didn’t overcome this challenge. But the purpose of my study and seeing the ladies who took part in my study always spurred me on! Sometimes during research, you need to take a step back and remind yourself of the outcomes of your work.”
Just remember no matter where you are in your doctoral journey you are never alone. If you are finding things difficult (for whatever reason) please reach out for support. For advice and guidance, visit Student Services and take a peek at the Doctoral College webpages and handbook.
Written by Dr Katryna Kalawsky
As someone who has a keen interest in Doctoral Wellbeing, when I’ve read the literature in this important area, I’ve noticed that whilst it’s now common to learn about potential/actual challenges that doctoral researchers may face/have faced, it’s less common for papers and reports to showcase the positive aspects of undertaking a doctorate. This inadvertently negatively skewed viewpoint is not always helpful. I mean, yes it’s important to know and acknowledge what potential/actual challenges doctoral researchers can face so that they can be avoided/remedied, but it’s equally as important to highlight all the MANY enjoyable aspects of undertaking a doctorate. So with all that being said I thought it would be uplifting to share the responses received during the Doctoral Wellbeing Week Twitter Chat to the question “What did you enjoy most about your doctoral experience?”. Some responses may resonate with you, some may have no parallels at all, but either way, the point of this blog post is to encourage you all to occasionally take time out to take stock and reflect on all the positive aspects of your doctoral journey so far – no matter how big or small!
“I enjoyed the amazing colleagues I worked with in Sheffield, the travel I got to do and being the most skilled isolator of chloroplasts in the lab!” – Dr Sophie Crouchman
“I was lucky to be able to have time and space to focus on researching one thing whilst feeling part of a learning community, meeting people who are part of my life now who are doing some incredible things” – Dr Ksenija Kuzmina
“My friends! It would’ve been so much harder without them (although on reflection, we sometimes wonder how any of us have actually managed to complete our PhDs, as we spent a lot of time chatting/having coffee/going for walks).” – Dr Ksenia Chmutina
“My PhD was undertaken part-time and from a distance so I didn’t have any friends also doing their PhDs. This could have been isolating but my supervisors kept in touch with me when I needed help. Coming to Uni was a great way of feeling like a researcher.” – Dr Ash Casey
“Being with fellow PhD students, learning about their research, bouncing ideas off them. I also really enjoyed the challenge of getting so deep into a topic and exploring it. Lastly, being able to teach alongside doing my PhD was a brilliant experience” – Dr Manuel Alonso
“I had the most inspiring and wonderful supervisor who really helped me through the more challenging times. The kids who took part in my research though, really made it all worthwhile. I loved hearing their stories. Children are both hilarious and insightful in equal measure”. – Dr Janine Coates
“Probably should say it’s where I met my wife! but being in the most supportive department possible – best supervisor and staff (both academic and professional services ) and place (@AberUni)” – Dr John Harrison
“I enjoyed being with the ladies with breast cancer who took part in my study. These ladies gave their time willingly and freely when feeling vulnerable and sometimes very poorly. Their experiences were a great source of inspiration both academically and personally. I also thoroughly enjoyed learning from healthcare professionals.” Dr Katryna Kalawsky
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing! Being part of a vibrant Loughborough research culture. The enthusiasm/dynamism/support of supervisor. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway”– Professor Elizabeth Peel
So what do you/did you enjoy most about your doctorate? Please feel free to share your thoughts on this topic via the blog comments box or via Twitter. After all, one of the many aspects of ‘kindness’ (the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020) is about taking time out for others.
Written by Dr Katryna Kalawsky
It should come to no surprise to those that know me, even just fractionally, that I
think KNOW doctoral researchers are awesome and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to work with and support such inspiring people – not just in my Doctoral College role but also as a Hall Warden! However, sometimes our doctoral community may not realise how valuable they are which is such a shame! So this blog post is an unashamedly public display of affection and something our researchers should read when they need a ‘pick me up’ because they are truly brilliant!
In March 2020, several colleagues and I took part of the Doctoral Wellbeing Week Twitter chat and were asked from @LboroDocCollege “Why are doctoral researchers important to @lborolondon @lborouniversity?”. Here are our responses…enjoy!
“Doctoral students are the heart of our research endeavours, as well as being our future researchers, lecturers and Professors! They bring such a richness of skills & experience to our community” – Dr Sophie Crouchman
“I learn so much from working with doctoral students and I remember what it means to be inquisitive, apprehensive, excited, relieved in the span of five minutes. They ensure I stay focused on the current problems and don’t take anything (least of all them) for granted. Doctoral students are thinking new thoughts and driving the field forwards but they need sympathetic and supportive guidance and that’s where I try and come in (with other colleagues)…but they support me too…” – Dr Ash Casey
“Our doctoral researchers are such an integral and enriching part of our research community” – Dr Ksenija Kuzmina
“Doctoral researchers are the most inspiring and curious and brave – and this makes my job so much more rewarding! They push the boundaries & bring new perspectives, and without this our research would stagnate. I sometimes feel that we don’t acknowledge the contributions of our doctoral researchers enough – but they are an important part of any academic environment because of their enthusiasm and willingness to learn & to share & to explore, even when it’s really hard!” – Dr Ksenia Chmutina
“They’re a crucial part of the research environment at Loughborough University and from the perspective of my role they do and amazing and valuable job as sub-wardens in our Halls of Residence, contributing to the outstanding student experience” – Dr Manuel Alonso
“Where to start?! Folks may have heard me talk about the 3Vs – Vitality, Visibility and Value re doctoral researchers. DRs are individually and collectively valuable to our research, teaching, enterprise and sport, and more besides!” – Professor Elizabeth Peel
“One PGR has the same hours as three RTE staff to undertake research. Doctoral research is an (might say, the?) indicator of the research strength/culture of a dept. Relies on attracting high-calibre doctoral researchers, excellent supervision/support etc. etc” – Dr John Harrison
“Working with doctoral students is one of my favourite parts of my job. They are the ones who keep me updated with the latest developments in research and they inspire my curiosity. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to work with the doctoral students I do” – Dr Janine Coates
“Doctoral researchers are SO important! They might be a ‘minority’ student cohort but the contribution they make to the university and society is immeasurable! Not only do doctoral researchers form a massive part of our research powerhouse, they contribute towards teaching, enterprise and pastoral support (amongst MANY other things!). Put simply, Loughborough University would not be as successful as it is without doctoral researchers! We NEED them and we MUST help them to look after themselves so they can flourish” – Dr Katryna Kalawsky
So there you go, if you didn’t know it before, you know it now! Doctoral researchers are hugely important for MANY reasons!
Thank you to ALL our doctoral researchers for ALL that you do! Keep being awesome!
Applications are now open for passionate and talented Loughborough University graduates and Part B students to join our award-winning Marketing and Advancement Team.
Successful candidates will gain valuable experience working in a fast-paced, motivated team who go above and beyond to deliver stand-out marketing for a top UK University.
Does this sound like you? Well, before you start putting together your application, we asked a few of our current interns to give you their top tips for applying for a role, a brief overview of what they’ve enjoyed most about their year, and a few lessons that they’ve learnt along the way!
Web & Digital Marketing Intern
Ella is a recent Loughborough Graduate, completing her degree in Politics and International Relations (BA) in 2019.
“During my internship I’ve gained invaluable skills in a variety of different roles within digital marketing. From creating engaging content for all the University’s social media channels, developing and redeveloping websites and working with the video production team.”
Top tips for applying
Talk about how you’ve contributed to the University during your time as a student, whether that be a committee role, raising money for RAG or partaking in sports – prove that you have the passion!
Most memorable moment
I loved being a part of the Open Day in September. Taking a lead in social media coverage but also helping visitors with directions and advice across campus enforced the feeling of being part of the Lboro Family.
How will your internship benefit you in the future?
Being able to work in such a variety of roles has enabled me to discover which areas of digital marketing I enjoy the most. It’s hugely helped narrow my choice for my future career.
Student Recruitment Marketing Intern
Emily is a recent Loughborough Graduate, completing her degree in Sports Science with Management (BSc) in 2019.
“Within my role I get the opportunity to do so many different activities and projects. Every day I look forward to going into work to complete my current project or get stuck into something new.“
Most memorable moment
Seeing my Women in Engineering project go live as this was my first large project I was trusted to lead. Also, working on the Loughborough London 2019 Graduation Ceremony doing the social media takeover and helping with the event in general.
What have you gained from your internship?
Confidence 100%. I’m no longer nervous to put forward ideas in meetings, always ask for feedback and am keen to input on projects that are often outside my comfort zone.
A lesson you will take away from this year?
Ask to be involved in as much as you can manage as the experience and skills you gain will make you a more rounded employee and individual.
Marketing Intern for the School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Lucia is a current Loughborough student on her placement year, studying International Relations (BA).
“I love my role as I get to learn a lot about the University and the different subject areas within my school, I have gained so many skills I never thought I would learn or need, and I do something different and interesting every day.”
Most memorable moment
One of the great things about this role is the fact that there are several memorable moments. I feel extremely lucky to have this role as it enables me to meet really interesting people. I have met a Lord, an expert in climate change, a visiting space expert from the Royal Air Force Air Warfare Centre, and a member of the team that installed the highest weather stations in the world in Mount Everest! I also filmed a video with an academic from Politics and International Relations which got 1.4k views!
What have you gained from your internship?
The ability to respond to problems under pressure and learn how to work in a professional environment. This has helped me feel more capable and gain confidence.
How will your internship benefit you in the future?
It will give me valuable experience and skills that can be applied to different jobs, and it has given me a head start for when I apply to post-graduate jobs.
Marketing Intern for the School of Business and Economics
Amber is a recent Loughborough Graduate, completing her degree in Communication and Media (BSc) in 2019.
“My role includes managing the school’s social media channels and implementing social media campaigns in line with our social media content plan, managing the school’s website as well as a marketing team email and contributing to organising and helping with events.”
Top tips for applying
Give yourself enough time to complete the application! Look through the requirements and essential criteria and address it in your application. When preparing for the interview, think about your experience in the field and prepare to give specific examples of how you meet the criteria. And most importantly, stay calm and be yourself!
What have you gained from your internship?
My internship has taught me many useful skills: I deepened my knowledge in social media and paid advertising, I’ve learned how to lead on projects as well as work independently and within a team. I’ve also had a chance to learn what is student recruitment marketing and how it works.
A lesson you will take away from this year
As an intern you have to make sure to show initiative – the opportunities are endless! Really think about what you truly enjoy doing and try to get as much experience in that field as possible!
Alumni Engagement Intern
Georgia is a Loughborough Graduate, completing her degree in History and International Relations (BA) in 2018.
“My role has been really varied and I’ve constantly learnt new things throughout. It’s also been a great way to ease me into the world of work following my degree.”
Top tips for applying
Focus on the specific internship you’re applying for and emphasise why that role interests you the most. Showing your willingness to learn new skills and highlighting your enthusiasm for Loughborough is also important!
Most memorable moment
I’ve really enjoyed meeting with alumni at various events and campus reunions, but a standout memory has to be attending the Hall of Fame dinner alongside lots of Loughborough sporting legends.
A lesson you’ll take away from this year
One lesson I’ll take away from this year is to step out of my comfort zone and to put myself out there more!
Student Recruitment Intern
Mia is a current Loughborough student on her placement year, studying Retailing, Marketing and Management (BSc).
“I’ve helped in recruitment, even getting to lead an interview panel, managed budgets and developed my own sessions. I enjoy the role because it’s so varied – I also get to travel a lot and meet lots of people which is fun.”
Top tips for applying
My top tip for applying would be to make sure you really sell yourself by checking off each point on the job description, and making sure you have an example to demonstrate why you’d be a great fit for the role .
What have you gained from your internship?
I’ve gained a lot from the internship – lots of skills, especially project management and managing my time properly, but also lots of friends because my team are really great! I know so much more about marketing because of the job so I’ll benefit in the future as I can apply it to the final year of my degree, as well as taking the skills I’ve gained into any future roles. It’s interesting to see how your team fits into a bigger organisation, and how your role can impact other areas of a business!
A lesson you’ll take away from this year
A lesson I will take away from this year is to just go for it – at the start of the year I would second-guess myself and my ability to do certain tasks that I don’t even think twice about now! If you want to get involved in a project or shadow somebody, just ask, because the chances are they’ll say yes and you can learn so much from it.
Student Recruitment Intern
Eleanor is a current Loughborough student on her placement year, studying Sports Science with Management (BSc).
“My main role this year has been to represent the University at School/Colleges HE Fairs as well as at UCAS fairs. I like that this role has so much variety and that I got the opportunity to visit new places.”
Most memorable moment
I organised a Creative Community Day for the local community with a Colleague. It was great to see the local community coming together and enjoying the activities we’d planned.
What have you gained from your internship?
I have gained key presentation skills. During this internship I have had the opportunity to create and deliver presentations to different audiences. This will really benefit me, when I go into my final year studying at Loughborough and in the future world of work.
Graphic Design Intern
Emily is a recent Loughborough Graduate, completing her degree in Graphic Communication and Illustration (BA) in 2019.
“My role is to assist the other designers in the team with various print and web-based tasks which is anything from creating artwork for bus shelters to social media assets. I love the variety of the work I get to do each day and it’s great to be able see my designs pop-up all over campus.”
What have you gained from your internship?
I definitely feel more confident in terms of designing for clients now than I did at the start of the internship. This was a great opportunity to work alongside an amazing design team who were always happy to help me develop my design skills and show me tips and pointers along the way. I had this nervousness of ‘what to expect in my first design role’ before I started, but the team made it incredibly easy for me to fit right in and apply my skills from my degree and put them into a studio setting
How will your internship benefit you in the future?
I am really pleased I applied for this role because I feel it’s been so beneficial in terms of getting on the industry ladder and I feel very lucky to have been offered the opportunity to work with the Creative and Print design team this year, before moving on to the next step in my career. A lot of junior design roles ask for at least a years’ experience, which I now have and therefore I’m more employable!
A lesson you will take away from this year
Always be up for trying new experiences and if you have an idea- share it! Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and make the most of any training/courses that you can enrol on as part of your internship year.
The application deadline is the 28th June.
Written by Dr Katryna Kalawsky
“Is undertaking a doctorate beneficial?” – that’s a question I occasionally asked myself before and sometimes during my doctorate and it’s often a question i’m asked during postgraduate open evenings or when i’m chatting with a doctoral researcher experiencing the ‘2nd year blues’… Being honest, when I experienced my research lulls (you know, those notorious dips in the doctoral roller coaster journey) I did wonder “Is all this hard work going to be worth it?” especially when I realised during the course of my doctorate that becoming an ‘academic’ in the traditional sense of the word (i.e. lecturer etc) wasn’t for me. But now post doctorate (hindsight is a wonderful thing!), I can clearly see how hugely beneficial undertaking and receiving a doctoral was! Even now when I reflect on my doctoral ‘dips’ i’m glad I experienced them because it was during those times that I learnt the most both academically and personally (if only I could do a Marty McFly and go back in time and tell myself that!).
OK, ok, now some of you may well be thinking “Well of course she’ll be promoting a doctorate! – she works in the Doctoral College!” – and yes you’re right (I wouldn’t work in a role/service that I did not believe in) BUT its not just me that can see clear benefits of this endeavour…
During the Doctoral College’s Wellbeing Week in March 2020, I organised a Twitter Chat with several colleagues with doctorates at Loughborough University (academics and non-academics) and asked “Reflecting on your career journey to date, has undertaking a doctorate been beneficial?” and this is what we said:
“Absolutely! I’m still researching the same topic – regions. Still teaching the same topic – regions. Last paper accepted was on the same topic – regions, Northwest England. To be fair, I’m just obsessed with regions, which was my PhD.” – Dr John Harrison
“I simply couldn’t have had the career I’ve had to date or fulfil my role without a PhD. It’s foundational for academic life & *many* other professions.” – Professor Elizabeth Peel
“Yes, but in ways that are sometimes really subtle. What it taught me to do was: 1. preserve, 2. deal with lots of info (sometimes quickly), 3. analyse and synthesise ideas (hopefully some new ones), and 4. be curious about stuff” – Dr Manuel Alonso
“Definitely! In all aspects of my life, not just my career. It’s particularly important to me as I work in a University (even though I’m not an academic). Data analysis was a particularly useful skill!” – Dr Sophie Crouchman
“Yes, absolutely! Moving from being a design practitioner to a design academic would not be possible without undertaking a doctorate!” – Dr Ksenija Kuzmina
“Without a doubt. I qualified to teach in 1996 and taught for 15 years. In the last five years I undertook my PhD part time and learnt more about my field and myself than across the whole of career otherwise (huge thanks to my mum who funded my PhD)” – Dr Ash Casey
“Absolutely! I wouldn’t have been where I am now without the PhD, I wouldn’t have met the amazing people I get to work & be friends with from all over the world, & most importantly I wouldn’t have known that PhD is just a first step in becoming a researcher” – Dr Ksenia Chmutina
“I frequently draw on the vast amount of skills I acquired and developed during my doctorate – whether that be for research-focused tasks or otherwise! For example, my problem-solving skills, personal effectiveness and ability to work and communicate with others (in writing and in person) developed significantly as a result of undertaking a doctorate. Also, for my current role as Doctoral Researcher Development Officer (DR-DO – got to love that acronym!) which is not part of the ‘academic’ job family, having a doctorate was part of the essential job spec criteria. This is because in the role that I have, its important for me to understand the challenges that researchers may encounter during their doctorate and without undertaking a doctoral myself, I would not be able to share candid real-life experiences and relevant guidance to the doctoral researchers that I support and train. But that said, even if I applied for a role that didn’t require a doctorate, I know that everything I learnt during my doctoral journey would be put to good use! Put simply, never underestimate the power of a PhD/EngD qualification! – Dr Katryna Kalawsky
So, next time someone asks you (or even if you ask yourself) “Is undertaking a doctorate beneficial?” the short but clear answer is ‘YES!’ or even better, ‘ABSOLUTELY!’ as many people proclaimed in the Twitter Chat!
It’s understandable if you experience doubts; three years plus (depending on your mode of study) is a big commitment, but I hope you feel reassured by this blog post. Whether or not you decide to continue working in academia, having a doctorate is a highly desired qualification, world-wide, by a wide range of employers (just ask the Career’s Network!) in Higher Education and beyond. Also, you’ll acquire skills that you can apply outside of work too. So keep going, it IS totally worth it!…Trust me, i’m a Doctor ; )
Written by Dr Katryna Kalawsky
Today (May 18th 2020) is the start of Mental Health Awareness Week; a national campaign hosted by the Mental Health Foundation. To mark the occasion, we thought it would be helpful to our online doctoral community to revisit some of the fantastic advice and guidance shared during the Twitter Chat that took place during the Doctoral Wellbeing Week back in March 2020 (goodness how long ago does that seem now with everything that has happened since?!).
The Doctoral Wellbeing Week Twitter Chat involved @LboroDocCollege (follow us on Twitter!) asking those with doctorates at Loughborough University in various Schools and Professional Services* the following questions:
- Reflecting on your career journey to date, has undertaking a doctorate been beneficial?
- Why are doctoral researchers important to Loughborough University?
- What did you enjoy most about your doctoral experience?
- Reflecting on your experiences, what was the most challenging aspect of your doctorate and why?
- How did you overcome this challenge / what would you differently to deal with this challenge if you could go back in time?
- What was the best piece of advice that you received during your doctorate?
- What was your favourite/most effective way of taking time out during your doctorate?
- What wellbeing support is available to doctoral researchers internal and external to Loughborough University?
- What motivational/take home message(s) can you share with our doctoral researchers?
The Twitter Chat had several aims that related to the Doctoral College’s 3 V strategy (value, vitality and visibility):
- To highlight the importance of doctoral researchers to Loughborough and beyond
- To raise awareness of (and normalise – i.e. ‘it’s not just me’) common challenges faced by researchers during their doctorate
- To raise awareness of internal and external support available to doctoral researchers at Loughborough
Ultimately and importantly, the Twitter Chat had a positive focus. That is, it focused on providing advice to enable our researchers to thrive during the doctoral journey and not survive!
Responses to each question will be shared via blog posts throughout Mental Health Awareness Week. To follow the actual conversation on Twitter, search #LboroDRWellbeing (the Twitter Chat took place on 5th March 2020). Please feel free to share your thoughts and advice to our doctoral researchers via the blog comments box or via Twitter.
*Those who took part in the Twitter Chat included the following (thank you all!):
- Dr Manuel Alonso – Associate Chief Operating Officer // Director of Student Services
- Dr Ash Casey – Senior Lecturer in Pedagogy (School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences)
- Dr Ksenia Chmutina – Senior Lecturer in Sustainable and Resilient Urbanism (School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering)
- Dr Janine Coates – Lecturer in Qualitative Research Methods (School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences)
- Dr Sophie Crouchman – Senior Planning Officer (Planning Office)
- Dr John Harrison – Reader in Geography (School of Social Sciences and Humanities)
- Dr Katryna Kalawsky – Doctoral Researcher Development Officer (Loughborough Doctoral College and Centre of Academic Practice)
- Professor Elizabeth Peel – Professor of Communication and Social Interaction (School of Social Sciences and Humanities) // Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (Loughborough Doctoral College)
- Dr Ksenija Kuzmina – Lecturer Institute for Design Innovation (Loughborough University London)
For some of us, it has almost been a month since we packed up our desks and set up shop at home as a result of the global health pandemic.
It’s no secret that working from home is tough and it’s hard to be in ‘work mode’ when you’re operating from the kitchen table.
The novelty of working remotely is definitely wearing off and the end isn’t in sight for many of us.
In a bid to help us maintain and even boost productivity, Dr Olga Kombeiz and Dr Erik Dietl, experts in human resource management and organisational behaviour, have shared practical recommendations for creating workspaces at home.
The School of Business and Economic academics’ tips are based on research they and their colleagues have conducted around the design of workspaces plus findings from broader scientific literature.
Their tips look at how spaces can be tailored to help with different types of tasks, with a particular focus on how lighting can be better used.
Dr Kombeiz and Dr Dietl say as well as helping those working remotely, the tips are also useful for students studying for exams at home and those wanting to focus on creative activities, such as painting or drawing, to keep them occupied during the lockdown.
Read what they had to say below…
Be aware of the nature of task you are working on
First of all, you need to identify what the nature of the work is, writes Dr Kombeiz and Dr Dietl. Is it a task that requires creativity? Examples are creating writing or problem solving, plus drawing and painting.
Or is it a task that requires high concentration where making errors should be avoided as far as possible? This could include work that involves calculations and maths, and working with others to solve problems.
Tasks that involve joint problem solving also present additional challenges, as they require a successful virtual collaboration with others (and we will share ways to boost collaborations).
Once you have assessed your type of task, you can try to create a working space at home that boosts your performance.
The home environment might be suitable for creative work, because in the first place we need a cosy and relaxing room atmosphere.
A cosy ambience evokes a desire for the achievement of positive outcomes because we feel free, relaxed and feel no boundaries in our thinking.
There are several ways to design a cosy room atmosphere – using warm colours such as yellow, orange, red or using plants – but our key tip is to look at your lighting.
In one of our studies, we used lamps with red, blue coloured and white light. We projected the light onto a wall and let 146 students work on tasks requiring creative problem solving.
Students who were in a cosy room atmosphere, that is blue and red coloured accent light, showed higher creative performance than students who worked on the creative tasks in a room with white light.
Interestingly, previous research has also shown that darkness or dim light can boost creative performance.
These results can also be translated to employees and people working on creative tasks at home.
Perhaps swap your white bulbs for warmer alternatives and dim lights where possible to get the creative juices flowing.
Tasks that require high concentration
Previous research has shown that workplace features that help us to stay awake and provide less distraction are helpful. Such features are bright light and no noise or quiet music.
So, for those undertaking high concentration tasks at home, we advise choosing a room with bright lighting to do such work.
As subjective preferences are crucial, it may make sense for people to experiment and find what feels right for them, e.g. level of lighting brightness, using earplugs, or listening to music can be down to personal preferences.
Tasks become more complex when more than one person is involved.
In order to collaborate successfully, people need to feel interconnected with others, to feel intimate with them rather than distant.
Our research found that lighting can also be used to create a social atmosphere; dim warm light creates a friendly, intimate, and less tense room atmosphere than bright light.
Interestingly, these findings did only hold for people who are generally less cooperative. So, if you are someone who struggles to collaborate, then it is worth looking to do such tasks in a room with dim warm lighting.
Taking breaks is not to be overlooked
Our research shows that even a 15-minute break can help to recover from exhaustion and restore energy levels.
In general, getting out into nature has been found to be one of the best restoration strategies. However, it is sometimes not possible to head outdoors.
We suggest creating break rooms at home featuring nature and/or cosy aspects.
In one of our studies we found that rooms with these aspects can actually help to replenish energy.
Break rooms having congruent auditory input and/or pleasant scents were also found to be best for recovering from exhaustion.
So perhaps during your lunch break or after a day’s work listen to pleasant music or relaxing bird sounds to help you recover.
In starting my Fine Art degree at university, I, like everyone else in my cohort, was faced with the scary and exciting opportunity to create artwork about absolutely anything we liked at all. Immediately, I knew I wanted to create work about the body.
Exploring corporeality and ‘the meat of the body’ is something that artists have forever been tied to. Whether the works are heavily representational and realistic (or ‘mimetic’) as seen in early Renaissance and Baroque paintings by artists such as Tiziano Vicelli and Caravaggio, or more performative, interactive and sensual performances as seen in art by Marina Abramović and Bruce Nauman, the common denominator across eras seems to be that artists are ceaselessly inspired to examine their own – and others’ – bodies.
For my degree practice, I made a somewhat wobbly start to approaching the body. Merely focussing on the visual, I had created odd sculptures and paintings that I loved but did not quite have the critical means to justify. Truthfully, all I could say was I examined the body’s form for the sole reason that I found it visually interesting (sadly, however, I came to discover that that level of reasoning doesn’t quite cut it when you’re in higher education).
In later trying to get to the core of why I was so fascinated with studying the body in my practice, I didn’t necessarily clarify my need to engage with it (and in fact, I’m not sure I really ever will), but this process of questioning myself and my creative pursuits opened up a number of ways which I could explore the topic more specifically.
For example, as a female artist, it can somewhat feel a rite of passage to make work on what it is like ‘to be a woman’, especially when starting out at a professional level. I had not quite set out with the intention for any of my work to exist as ‘feminist commentary’ initially, howeverI soon came to realise that when you create pieces on the female form, disentangling it from such discourse is near impossible (nor would I want to do so, might I add).
Therefore, I was guided rather naturally to exploring the female body in art as possessing the potential to be both liberating and limiting, empowering and degrading.
I firstly experimented with approaching the body in a tactile and playful manner. I practiced drawing it with my eyes closed and relying on touch to create pieces inspired by Robert Morris’ ‘blind time drawings’ (1973-2009); I painted it black and pressed it against surfaces to create prints reminiscent of Yves Klein’s somewhat questionable ‘human paintbrush’ performances of the 60s (titled Anthropometries). I also explored different methods of censoring the nude body during both the shooting and editing processes in photography. I used physical methods (such as covering the body or camera lens partially) and digital methods (altering levels of contrast and clarity). These experiments led to my most proud pieces involving multiple latex ‘skins’ which I had created to cover the body in both photoshoots and filmed performances (finally manifesting in ripping the latex off as inspired by both Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece (1965) and the works of Carolee Schneemann).
As much as I found these exercises exciting, they were also inspired by a certain criticality of the ways in which the female body is often monitored, restricted and controlled in society at large. Friends of mine in my cohort have come to create work which also speaks of such concerns.
For example, artist Gemma Shrimpton (@gemma.shrimpton) uses the medium of digital drawing to create works which scrutinise the ways popular advertisements and mass media represents the female body. By depicting women in typically sexual yet ‘awkward’ positions, she challenges the ways in which female bodies are often used in derogatory, banal and objectifying ways (taking great inspiration from the liberating illustrations of Instagram account @moan_zine). To emphasise this visual ambiguity between what could be empowering or degrading, she partially censors the bodies and identities of the individuals in her pieces.
Similarly, artist Sara Osman (@sara.kew) found herself inspired by the work of performance artist Adrian Piper to provide social commentary through her photography. By proudly posting images of female body hair via social media, Sara aims to incite social change and question rigid social norms attributed to women’s bodies which deem what is natural as undesirable (successfully having had women engage with the project and participate by sending images of themselves).
Personally, after enjoying employing the material latex in my art practice, I went on to use it for my following project. My focus, however, shifted from maintaining a feminist body of work, to reading up on general understandings of the body and more specifically the skin (continuing to use latex as it’s a fantastic material for assimilating the feeling and appearance of the skin effectively!). I found myself most interested in understanding the skin as a border or boundary, which I wanted to suggest can be traversed through touch and permit connection between individuals.
I found that interestingly, where the aesthetics of creative practice are usually deemed most important, the sense of touch and its potential in artwork is often largely overlooked. Therefore, I wanted to incorporate it within my practice as a sense which can impart the most significant effects on our lives in its potential for intimacy, pain and sensitivity. Through this exploration, I came to firmly believe that studying the body is not always as plain as drawing it, photographing it, or otherwise depicting it in a 2D, visual format.
What I truly think could be considered one of the most meticulous and informed modes of studying the body in particular is the work of designers and garment-makers, whose job it is to create pieces that fit – hug –and interact with a user/wearer in a multitude of complimentary ways.
In reading academic Llewellyn-Negrin’s statement that fashion is “the most embodied art form”, I came to recognise that those studying fashion and textiles alike come to ascertain such an informed knowledge of the body in understanding its proportions and form, to considering its movements and need for comfort in regard for how items of clothing are worn and experienced by the individual every day.
These aspects inspired me to create a (somewhat crude) jacket out of latex casts of my body. Where you can see the shapes of my feet and arms replace a collar and sleeves, it allows for both a visual representation of the body in its jumbling up of extremities, as well as the embodied experience to be worn and felt by others.
Likewise, artist and Textiles student Naomi Branch (@twiggytextiles) handcrafts a number of garments and pieces incorporating the imagery and essence of nature as inspired by Dior’s 2020 Spring/Summer collection. Her upcycling of materials led to her production of trims and clothes made of original 1920s gloves which give a bodily element to her pieces, reminding the wearer of not only the artist’s hand at work, but also of their own body in interaction with the piece (and what almost appear to be others’ hands!)10.
Overall, through my playing with the body in my art practice and experimenting with its possibilities, I have come to these two succinct – but what I believe are important – realisations:
- It’s safe to say that there are rarely circumstances where bodies are politically neutral and so ultimately, they should always be approached and discussed with respect (both in the arts and otherwise).
- Without fail, the body will ceaselessly exist as one of the most exciting platforms for creatives to experiment with and upon, whether this is due to a never-ending, inward fascination in our own bodies and a desire for self-discovery, ownership and introspection, or a naïve curiosity and desire to understand and embody the experiences of others.
…You’ve got this far – here are some short performances I recommend you check out:
- Marina Abramović’s The Artist is Present (2010) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OS0Tg0IjCp4
- Wafaa Bilal’s …and Counting (2010) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5ghcDsPaTE
- Rebecca Horn’s Finger Gloves (1974) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0uNnmAudmk
- Adrian Piper’s Mythic Being (1973) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVcXb8En_Tw
- Bruce Nauman’s Pinch Neck (1968) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzFlC-zuq5I
- Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece (1965) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYJ3dPwa2tI
- Yves Klein’s Anthropometries – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gj9nHa7FtQQ&t=69s
Amy Conti is a Fine Art undergraduate at Loughborough. You can check out Amy’s work on her Instagram page @aconti.art.
The instagram handles of the other Loughborough art students referenced in this article are given in brackets within the article, when their name is mentioned for the first time. Please do have a look at their work.
As many of us are choosing to walk regularly as part of our daily lockdown exercise I thought I would touch upon the important role walking has played in artists thinking and practice, and how they have considered its meanings and concepts. Many philosophers have regarded walking as an essential tool for thinking. Friedrich Nietzsche asserted that: “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking”, while Jean-Jacques Rousseau declared about himself that: “I can only meditate when I am walking. When I stop, I cease to think; my mind works only with my legs”. This intimate relationship between thinking and walking is also underlined by contemporary theorist Rebecca Solnit, who wrote “Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned’.
The meditative aspects of walking and its relationship to environment have led to artists and writers developing specific terms and practices in response. The idea of the ‘flâneur’ arose in 19th century France and originally meant ‘to wander with no purpose’. It was taken up in the poetry of Charles Baudelaire and then later in the writings of Walter Benjamin where the flaneur became an observer of modern urban life. This interest in the relationship to the urban environment through walking was again taken up by the Situationists who termed the idea of walking in landscape as a dérive “drift” which was put forward as a revolutionary strategy. This involved a study of the terrain of the city (psychogeography) and emotional disorientation, both of which lead to the potential creation of situations.
More recently the concept of the walking artist came to prominence in the 1960s through the practice of artists such as Richard Long, Hamish Fulton and Gilbert and George. They did not see art as the production of objects but rather something that began with a direct physical engagement with the landscape to which they would respond in different ways. Richard Long made a number of significant works involving walking such as A Line Made from Walking . Equally Hamish Fulton has devoted his artistic career to making work as a result of his extensive walks. Historically, the artists who have taken prominence in the history of walking art have been male but artist Alison Lloyd, has recently sought to address this both through her own practice and via recently completing a PHD at Loughborough looking at ‘Walking, Women and Art’.
I had the pleasure of meeting Hamish Fulton in 2007 when he was a guest speaker at a symposium we organised looking at the relationship between walking and ethnography. This was part of ‘A Weekend of Walking’ whereby we invited a mix of artists and poets whose practice involved walking to deliver new walking artworks across Loughborough. It showcased the different ways contemporary artists are engaging with walking from those that use the digital technology as part of their practice, to those that use a choreographed engagement with the environment to those that engage with the history and stories as part of an alternative guided tour. In one of the projects artist Tim Brennan researched Loughborough’s relationship to the Luddites and led one of his ‘manoeuvres’ (tactical walks) following the route that the Luddites took through the town just prior to their notorious night of machine wrecking.
The history of ‘art walks’ is about the contemplative aspects and the observational response to the environment. This is not something that needs be exclusive to artists, as an increased awareness of our walks and of our environment is something we can all practice in our daily lives.
Director, LU Arts
Written by Ursula Davis – Doctoral Researcher
March 2nd – 5th 2020, saw the first (of many more, hopefully!) Doctoral Researcher Wellbeing Weeks. Organised by the Doctoral College, the purpose of this week was to not only promote doctoral wellbeing but to also deliver pragmatic sessions on how we could all elevate our wellbeing. A variety of sessions were put on across the week, some sessions for research students, some for supervisors and many for both.
Needless to say, I made little traditional progress, on my PhD research that week. Simply because I took full advantage of this week, I attended so many great sessions it’s hard to pick my favourite. From learning Macramé, to listening to Dr Andy Cope discuss how we can all be a little bit more brilliant, there was something for everyone across the sessions.
As doctoral researchers we all hear about how lonely and isolating this process can be, but this week enabled us to get together with other students and start to learn how to take better care of ourselves. My week began by making a Macramé plant hanger, getting creative and using my hands was a welcome break from sitting around all day reading and writing, and plus I have a beautiful handmade plant hanger to showcase at home! Being a brilliant researcher was another of my favourite sessions where Dr Andy Cope introduced us to positive psychology and showed us how our thoughts create our feelings and that we can all be a bit nice to ourselves. There was nothing drab about this session, Dr Happy really invited us to evaluate our own internal dialogue. Another hands-on session, LEGO serious play, asked participants to be a little creative, and to explore how LEGO can be used to model our own sense of wellbeing. It was wonderful to see how a simple ‘toy’ could bring out someone’s creativity whilst also providing a critical evaluation of their wellbeing.
As the week went on, I was more and more excited to promote my own wellbeing as well as encourage others to take stock of their own. We live in such a fast-paced society and we easily forgo the necessity to stop and check in with ourselves. Self-care and wellbeing have become my personal buzzwords, and now I am armed with a toolkit to make sure I am actually caring for my wellbeing. The final sessions of the week I attended were mindfulness for study and how to be assertive. The former explored several mindfulness techniques that can be applied to tasks such as reading and writing. The thing I love about mindfulness is that it is such a simple tool that draws you in to the present moment and asks you to focus on that moment rather than the past, or the future, or the distractions around you. Assertiveness is not a trait I lack, but it is a trait I wish to display more of in during my PhD journey. In this session we were introduced to what is assertiveness and how important it can be for shaping our daily lives.
And that was only the session I attended! There were so many more great sessions I wish I could’ve attended covering nutrition and financial management, getting creative through illustration and more. This week I shared many laughs with colleagues, I learnt a lot about my own internal self, and I expressed my creativity. Everyone I engaged with was keen to see wellbeing of all a top priority and I can only hope this is the first of many wellbeing weeks to come.
A little reflection on my wellbeing learnings during the pandemic.
Now, more than ever it’s important to look after our wellbeing. For me this has meant practising mindfulness that little bit more. Whether I’m taking note of my feelings in my daily log, or stopping to appreciate the little moments of calm on my daily walks, I’m paying attention to the moment. That’s not to say I haven’t struggled in this time, but with some of the tools I gained from wellbeing week I’m able to recognise when I need to stop, reset, and restart. I have loved keeping my gratitude journal and I would highly encourage anyone to start, you won’t believe how much of a difference writing three things you’re grateful for every day can lift your spirit and perspective.
If you attended the Doctoral Wellbeing Week and would like to write a blog post about your experience please get in touch with Dr Katryna Kalawsky in the Doctoral College.
Also, some recorded sessions from the week are available on the Doctoral College’s Online Developmental Portal.
From independent artists to well-known galleries, creatives all over the world have come together to ensure that art keeps going. The V&A are one of many who have been reaching out to creative individuals through their podcasts. Tate have also got involved with something similar, for example, their ‘Sunday Sculpture’ activity, influenced by the work of Erwin Wurm. While as part of Channel 4’s ‘Creative Plan’, Grayson Perry’s “Grayson’s Art Club” has also launched, which aims to encourage creativity at home, in an artistic documentary of quarantine life.
Demonstrating the incredible networking possibilities going on around the world amid the global pandemic, @socialdistancegallery has set up a platform for BFA and MFA students to exhibit their work in an online Instagram gallery. This has been done to provide students with the opportunity to have a degree show exhibition, who under the current circumstances would not this year.
As a way of supporting each other and practicing togetherness when we are apart, I have been looking to Loughborough art students, who have been abruptly uprooted from their creative and well-equipped school of art. From temporary home studios, to taken over kitchen tables, our students have been utilising any available space they have within their isolation restrictions. Garage spaces, bedrooms, sheds and gardens are just some to name, that have been host to creativity, anxiety and triumph over the last few weeks. Students have also taken to the internet with their practice, using the web to promote their work and formulate an online studio presence. From vlogs on daily quarantine life and artist tutorials to community projects.
In a step to looking even closer at our Loughborough family, we can turn to our very own ABF fellowship student, Emily Hett. I have been catching up with Emily to see how she has been finding working in isolation. Currently she is working on constructing a series of papier-mâché sculptures for a graduate commission she recently got awarded, for the Atmosphere Festival. She said that this has kept her focus and allowed her to keep being creative while at home. Emily has been working out of a spare room studio space while in isolation. She has noticed a rise in the online presence and opportunities for artists during this period, and she, herself is planning to take part in ArtistTakeOver for Artcore, where she’ll have the opportunity to discuss her work online.
To accompany her practice, Emily has also launched a project to distribute free daily drawings to keep people busy and creative while in isolation. Emily told us that this project stemmed from her work at Milton Keynes Arts for Health. “Hetty’s Home Art is a place where you can download free daily drawings and creative activities designed by myself and other artists. Colouring and creativity are thought to bring many benefits such as stress and anxiety relief, focusing on the present, achieving a meditative mind and most of all enables anyone to be creative, not just artists. With people currently having to stay home and possibly having a lot of spare time, I thought it would be a great way for people to be creative and provide a moment of fun distraction.”
In some final advice, Emily told me that she felt that it is important for artists to be open to change during this period and to keep connecting with fellow artists for support.
Turning to my own practice and experience of being an artist in isolation, I have used this time to broaden my skills. Making an achievable weekly plan has allowed me to remain focused. This new way of working is something to be positive about. Still being in contact with my cohort has been important. Sharing stories of our day-to-day goings on, lack of motivation, creative block, advice on practice and sharing our disappointment of our university experience together being over.
Despite this, there is optimism. I believe the biggest disappointment amongst most is the loss of our Degree Show. However, all hope is not lost, the fantastic staff at Loughborough University have worked hard to ensure that we still have the opportunity to exhibit our work, only this time we will be a part of a new online exhibition, details of which will be advertised soon.
Lastly, with the intention of promoting social distancing and creativity during this period of isolation, I am inviting people to take part in my “Community Digital Patchwork”. The project requires people to make their own patch or patchwork. There are no set rules or requirements for the activity, you can be as creative as you like. Once finished I am asking that the work is photographed and sent to me via Instagram @megh_art_ or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will stop taking entries later in May.
Once I have collected everyone’s patchwork images, I will digitally connect them together to form the community patchwork. I want to thank everyone in advance who participates. I hope this activity is something people will enjoy and take pride in being a part of during their isolation.
My name is Megan, I’m a final year Fine Art Undergraduate at Loughborough.
My current art practice challenges the disparity between traditional and contemporary patchwork quilting. I am hugely passionate about my work, more specifically about using my art to engage with a wider community
During these unprecedented times, it is important to look after yourself both physically and psychologically. Below are some tips for ensuring you keep both your mind and body healthy.
Get into a routine
Sticking to your normal routine as much as possible can help to create a sense of familiarity. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time you usually would and plan activities or take up a hobby if you find yourself with extra time without your commute. It may be helpful to write out your plan for each day to help you focus and add structure.
Of course, some may find they have additional care responsibilities, so try not to put extra pressure on yourself to do something with your time. It’s essential to do what will benefit your mental health the most.
Exercise is beneficial for both the body and the mind. Taking a break from work to exercise can help to reduce stress and anxiety and provides an opportunity to get fitter and feel healthier. There are many free resources available including the Loughborough Sport Lockdown online classes that they are providing every day for staff, students and the local community.
Celebrities are also running free online classes that all the family can get involved with, including Joe Wicks’ P.E lessons.
Connecting with nature and exercising are both recommended for improving your mental health. Under current government advice people can go for a walk, run or cycle near their house, alone or with members of their household.
You can also listen to the Yellow Book whilst exercising. This is a great resource full of techniques to manage difficult emotions, and it even has a section specifically for morning runs.
Technology has provided us with countless options for staying connected to family, friends and colleagues.
The University provides access to Microsoft Teams as part of the Office 365 package. Not only is it a great way to move meetings online but also it offers an opportunity to check in on each other.
Take a moment to schedule in video and phone calls with colleagues, family and friends to help you stay connected.
Managing your news intake
It is natural to check social media and news outlets more regularly at the moment. However, with all this information at our fingertips it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Try to limit how often you check the news and your social media channels. Slowing the constant stream of new information can help to quiet your mind and manage overwhelming emotions.
Resources available to you as staff members and students
There are a number of free resources available for those who work and study at the University.
Student Services have put together a series of videos to help support you at this time with further advice on how to keep your mind and body healthy.
One of the more visible aspects of lockdown has been the rise in popularity of the social media app TikTok.
Whilst students will no doubt have already been very familiar with this, its popularity has increased in lockdown with a plethora of short dance moves being released, and widely shared, often involving family members. The popularity of the app (it has now surpassed 2 billion downloads) shows both the need to connect with each other and the popularity of learning dance moves and lip syncing! If you are new to Tik Tok dance routines, Peter Keefe, Chair of Rawkus Street Dance society, has kindly submitted a ‘tutting’ routine to our new online magazine, The Limit, that anyone can have a go at.
Dance Societies are more popular than ever at Loughborough. In recent years there has been a rise in social dance societies (rather than the more competitive Athletics Union affiliated ones) with Irish Dance Society and Urban Formation being new additions to add to the diversity of dance societies that also includes Rawkus, Bhangra, Bellydancing and Salsa. The quality, commitment and professionalism of all these societies is really great to see. Dance often combines athleticism and artistry and in many ways is the perfect artform for Loughborough.
Our first dance scholar, Aidan Kilby recognised that Loughborough had so many athletes and was very keen to try and convince male students, who might focus on sport, to give dance a go. Aidan made it his mission during his year as scholar to try and get more boys dancing. He thought the best way to achieve this was to engage them in a more ‘physical theatre’ type of dance and invited the fantastic Alexander Whitely Dance Company to come and do a workshop at the University. Aidan also did another workshop with the equally good Frantic Assembly company. Both companies tour regularly, often stopping at the Curve in Leicester, and I would highly recommend both to you. For now, you could take a look at some of the digital content on their websites.
This year’s dance scholar is Yaprak Cakin who is studying for am MA in Integrated Industrial Design. She has been dancing professionally and has taught contemporary, modern and hip hop courses in her native Turkey as well as appearing in many dance shows. Unfortunately, one of the many events that we have had to cancel this term was a workshop with James Wilton company, who was identified by Yaprak as one that she would like to learn from. We very much see LU Arts role as supporting the ambition of the many dance societies, enabling them to engage with professional dance companies, as well as supporting individual students with a passion for dance.
I wanted to finish this danced themed digest, with a project that we worked on a few years ago with artist Serena Korda. She became interested in some images from the University archive which showed students involved in ‘mass movement’, something that had been developed in the 1930s in Germany by Rudolf Laban. The invented folk dance at the heart of the work was developed with the help of its participants, a mix of students and local amateur dance enthusiasts, who all contributed ideas from their own daily rituals to the final choreographed work. The processional performance moved from campus to town culminating in a dance outside the carillon in Queens Park.
Director, LU Art
Foreword from Dr Katryna Kalawsky
With the change in working practices at the moment, many of our doctoral researchers are facing the prospect of conducting their viva examinations online; something that might by hard to imagine especially after spending time over the last few years envisaging what your face-to-face viva will be like. But it will be OK and there are lots of benefits that you may not have considered about conducting your viva at home AND there are a few things that you can put in place to help you prepare and ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible. Don’t believe me? Then hopefully the following two blog posts written by recently successful viva candidates Dr Thais Sarda and Dr Leila Wilmers (huge congratulations both!) will convince you 🙂
My online viva experience – by Dr Leila Wilmers
The circumstances of having an online viva during lockdown are similar for everyone in some ways, but also personal to each of us. Due to the fact that I moved to the US during the final year of my PhD, I had been looking forward to coming back to Loughborough for my viva not only for the experience and the occasion in itself, but as a chance to mark this milestone together with family, friends and colleagues who I had not seen for some time. In spite of the disappointment when I realised that the trip back was no longer going to be possible, I was glad at least for the chance to go ahead with my viva at the end of March. This was particularly important to me as I am due to have a baby in 2 months’ time. More generally, having worked hard to finish and submit the thesis, I was glad to be able to carry this momentum into the final stage.
The prospect of an online viva led me to wonder what the experience would be like. A practice run with my supervisors was immensely helpful. I liked the idea of this anyway as I wanted to have a feel for how it would go, but it was especially reassuring to know I could sit at my laptop at home, seeing myself on camera, and still answer challenging questions about my thesis on the spot. Other preparations I was glad I made nearer the time were to tidy my desk the night before so I could feel that the space was already prepared when I got up in the morning, and dressing up on the day! This helped me feel ready, but it’s a personal choice.
Technical glitches are a possible snag unique to the online viva experience. Anticipating this likelihood and understanding that the examiners did too meant that I was not put out by the few minor ones that came up in the course of the two hours. At one point the internet connection broke down as I was about to start answering a question, but we just restarted the call and carried on.
One thing I really appreciated was that my examiners acknowledged the unusual situation of the online viva but still emphasised the significance of this milestone in the PhD journey. It made me realise that for everyone involved it was a meaningful event, as every viva is. Although we didn’t have a more extended informal chat at the end that might have been possible in person, they made me feel comfortable and confident in my work, and I felt we had got to know each other through the process. In these and other ways, it remains the experience that I had hoped the viva would be.
The adrenaline rush and lots of celebratory video calls with family, friends and my supervisors afterwards all helped to make it a memorable day, not to mention a spectacular Russian cake baked by my husband (can you spot the ‘DR’?)!
My Zoom viva! – by Dr Thais Sarda
It is clear that the current situation is requiring most of us in Academia (and everywhere) to adapt and do things in new and different ways. As I always try to be a positive person, I see the current situation as an opportunity to learn new strategies as well as value things that for a long time we took for granted. Who knew that for so many weeks we would not be able to go to work everyday, have a coffee with friends or walk to a park without distancing restrictions and fear? When my supervisors confirmed that my Viva would be done via Zoom, I saw myself in one of these situations, and I tried to see the glass half full. But everything looked so weird. Then my supervisors reassured me saying that it would be weird not to feel weird. So, I embraced the weirdness of the situation and saw my Zoom-Viva as an opportunity. As many other PhD students are going through the same situation, I am sharing some strategies that worked for me and hopefully will help you to have the nice experience that you deserve.
- Have an online mock Viva: this was really important to me, because it gave me the experience of the Viva, of course, but in an online environment. As we get use to replying to questions about our research face-to-face in conferences and meetings, conducting an online mock-Viva helps to see what happens when this dynamic is screen-to-screen.
- Test the equipment beforehand: when I depend on technology for important things, like a job interview, I always want to make sure that everything is working and that I have a plan B. I tested my Zoom before the meeting to see if camera and audio were working properly. Additionally, I had a spare set of headphones at the table in case mine stopped working. And I also left my smartphone on charge in case the internet stopped working and I had to use the device as a hotspot.
- Take an advantage of the situation: at the end of the day, you will have your Viva at home, which is probably the place where you feel most comfortable in the whole world. So, use this in your favour: choose your favourite spot around the house, be seated on your favourite chair, prepare that perfect cup of tea.
- Relax, you are at home: another point is that you can just do whatever you want to relax before your Viva, you don’t need to drive to the university or be waiting in your office for a couple of hours. For instance, I was watching my favourite TV show until 15 minutes before my Viva so I could relax and laugh a bit.
- “Be comfortable” as a dress code was never so true: having a Zoom-Viva you don’t need to worry too much about the dress code, for instance. You basically need a professional top but this is all everyone can see. I actually had my Viva while wearing flip flops and no one would ever know if it wasn’t for my honesty in this post.
- Remember to have a celebration: before Covid-19, I had all this plan in my mind — having a bit of chit-chat with my supervisors to calm me down before the Viva; taking everyone for a celebratory lunch afterwards; gathering my friends for a coffee and cake; and ending the day with a family dinner. Well, I had to adapt my celebration: getting my favourite take-away for dinner and chatting to my family and friends on WhatsApp and Skype.
- Don’t forget that it’s okay not to be okay – there are a range of services internal and external to the university that offer support (visit the Student Services web pages and the ‘Doctoral Wellbeing’ section of the Doctoral College’s Online Development Hub for more information).
A viva is that final important moment of our academic lives, something that we wait three or four years (or longer if part-time) for, so it is already an stressful situation. As the circumstances change, like going through a pandemic, surely we can feel even more overwhelmed. So my general advice is to prepare yourself for this situation as well as you can but also be nice to yourself. Soon this will all be done.
If you are a final year doctoral researcher at Loughborough University who is close to submitting their thesis or who has their viva date scheduled, visit the Doctoral College’s Online Development Hub to access our ‘Preparing for the viva’ workshop.