Thursday, 9 September 2010

Becoming more 'academic'

I'm almost a year in to my PhD research but have felt for much of that time that I'm merely scratching the surface of academia. Being part-time with a fairly heavy day-job work load hasn't helped, but while I've been happy to plough my own furrow when it has come to research, I haven't - until recently - had the sense that I was really moving any further into the academic world.

Two issues have changed that in the last few weeks. First, I've picked up my first teaching assignment at Brunel, and second, I've had a paper accepted for an academic conference.

In less than three weeks' time, I'll be delivering my first lecture on a Level 2 American Foreign Policy module. I'm comfortable with the subject matter - it's either close to my main research or formed a part of my MA study. What's more daunting is the 'performance' element of teaching. There are around 90 undergrads signed up for the module - I've got plenty to say, but it's making it succinct; creating a logical flow and ensuring that the subject matter's interesting to them that's the key challenge.

With 20 years' experience in creating corporate speeches, events and presentations, I know I'll be fine once I get started. But I don't want my lecturing to either be too lame or too cheesy - and I have to say I go to bed thinking about Kennan's Long Telegram and wake with my head full of the Truman Doctrine at the moment. This is a first step for me in shifting my career focus from corporate communications to aspects of 20th Century History. I'll be assessed by a significantly more experienced lecturer, and don't want to stuff things up.

Just to add to the fun, I received a very pleasant email the other day stating that my abstract has been accepted for inclusion in the BAAS Postgraduate Conference - American Geographies - to be held at Oxford University's Rothermere Institute in November.

My abstract's at the top of this post - click on it if you want to read it: I have all the Eisenhower material and plenty from NASA's archives on the foundation of NASA - I now just need to nail down the audit trail of the primary source material on Kennedy's expediency......extra fun as I'll have no opportunity to get to Boston before the Conference!
Still, I'm just beginning to feel I'm getting a toenail through the door of academia - and it's both daunting and exhilarating.