SGSAH Welcome Event 2016/17

Hello all. John here from the SGSAH office to give an update on how things are going at the world’s first national graduate school for the arts & humanities.

As I’m sure you all saw from the deluge of promotion, we had our welcome event for 1st year PhD students last Friday. It was the first time we’ve done something like this and the first time we’ve done any kind of event on this scale. We had over 140 people converge on Edinburgh with all of our HEIs represented. Thankfully our fantastic team here at SGSAH were more than ready for such an undertaking and our hosts at the National Museum of Scotland were absolutely terrific on the day.

We wanted to get everyone together to talk about what SGSAH can do for them but also to hopefully inspire. The great joy of working with SGSAH is being able to enable extremely talented PhD researchers to go out, experience, create and grow as researchers. The opportunities we offer are carefully curated to ensure that they are as high quality as possible and we are proud of the impact these opportunities can have on our students. Whether it’s an internship or a residency or funding to host a conference or visit another country for training or a workshop allowing you to meet like-minded students.

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A packed house!

With this in mind we gave most of the day over to our students to talk about their experiences and what SGSAH enabled them to achieve. Our AHRC funded students arrived early to hear of the specific requirements they have to adhere to as funded students but also to hear of the Student Development Fund, a funding stream available only to them to support a range of training. What struck me as a new face around here was the range of experiences students discussed. Some found their experiences profoundly transformative whilst others spoke more about the logistics and practicalities of applying for funding and embarking on additional training. Yet all agreed it changed their research. Whether it changed on a deeper level or on a more practical level it changed nonetheless.

Once the entire cohort arrived the talks broadened into opportunities but also research as we hoped to give an insight into what lay ahead. So whilst had one of our students discussing leading a conference funded by the Cohort Development Fund we also had another discussing the impact a residency had on her research. We also had two “lightning papers” which emerged and evolved from the student’s research.  At lunch our doctoral showcase stands had examples of research along with a chance to talk to the researcher and learn more. The message we tried to get across was that this is where you will likely be in a year or two, so look forward to it.

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The benefits of hosting an event at the National Museum of Scotland, planes are included.

It being our biggest event it was also a chance for us to try some new things! We hosted our first livestream on Facebook Live which was certainly an experience. It was just a walkthrough of the showcase event but valuable to see how we could use technology like that in events but also to let people who couldn’t make it get an insight into what the day looked like. As SGSAH grows we are looking to leverage technology where possible to broaden who can interact with us. Being a national graduate school is a challenge as we have students based from Orkney to Dumfries and hopefully technology will open up events for people regardless of where they are.

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Now that the dust has settled we have a few things to do in the office. There is the dismantling of everything that was set up, bills have to be paid and we process any expense claims we receive from students. We are also collating all the feedback received as well as gathering our own thoughts on how the day went. The next step will be sitting down as a team and deciding how to implement the feedback received when planning future events. I’ve spoken to people before who believe that their feedback is gathered and ignored at events like this but at SGSAH the feedback received is of paramount importance to us. We want each event to be as useful and as well run as possible and we simply can’t do that without student feedback. Luckily for us everyone seemed to understand that on Friday and we have lots of great ideas for the future.

And after that it’ll be onto more events and planning for 2017. Which is terrifying to think of. So for now I will pass control back to Marianne and let you get on with your business. As always follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook and visit our website www.sgsah.ac.uk

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