BAMS Elections 2020: A Postgraduate Dialogue

7 December 2020

Josh: It’s that time of year again, when we’re here to discuss the upcoming election for new Postgraduate Representatives for BAMS. Bryony, shall we start by talking about why we decided to run back in 2019? 

Bryony: Before New Work in Modernist Studies 2019 I had heard that BAMS was running an election for new PG Reps, but it didn’t occur to me that I could apply – I felt so new to my PhD and out of the loop with everything, and somehow thought that successful PG Reps would need to be more “established” on the modernist scene. I met Polly and Cécile at NWiMS (after turning up very nervous and feeling like quite a stranger), and Polly messaged me afterwards encouraging me to apply. She and Cécile were so willing to help with my application. I still don’t know how Polly managed to reassure me through my hesitation at first, but she assured me that I didn’t need to have some sort of network of modernist buddies and a crowded CV behind me to run – just enthusiasm for BAMS, a bit of savvy for editing and a willingness to get stuck in. 

JP: I’d like to echo Bryony in saying a very big thank you to Polly and Cécile for all their encouragement to apply and all the support they offered me to help write my application. My first BAMS event was NWiMS 2018 which, as luck would have it, was held at my home institution. At the time I was only a few months into my PhD and was delighted to meet such a warm and welcoming community. I didn’t really think about applying to be a PG Rep until after NWiMS 2019, though – I had pretty similar concerns to Bryony before applying for the post, and Polly and Cécile reassured me that you don’t have to be a modernist superhero to run. 

BA: Exactly – there’s no set mould of what a new PG Rep would look like. In terms of what’s involved, a lot of it centres around the Modernist Review (how very meta…), so I came into it knowing that I would be editing a lot, and writing. I had always enjoyed reading TMR’s editorials, so it has been really cool to be in the writer’s seat. As PhD students, we don’t often get the chance to do “fun” writing (puns, jokes, informality), and we’re usually soldiering on alone apart from input from our supervisor. I’ve loved getting onto a shared Google doc every month with the others and scrabbling away at our piece as a team.

JP: It’s always such a pleasure to work on those shared Google docs! One of my biggest concerns before applying was the workload I thought I’d be taking on – I wasn’t sure how there would be enough hours in the day to work as a PG Rep as well as do my PhD, teach, and do extracurriculars. The PG Rep team does an awful lot – we edit the Modernist Review as well as running BAMS’s social media, going to BAMS exec meetings and helping with events like the training and networking days (which didn’t happen this year because of the pandemic). But, crucially, it’s a collaborative effort between the four of us – all our Google docs speak to that – and it’s never felt like too much work. I think part of that is how the PG Rep terms are structured: there are four of us each doing a two year term, but those terms are staggered so that there are always two reps who’ve been doing the job for longer, which means that there’s some continuity and it doesn’t feel like the new reps are being thrown in at the deep end. Polly and Cécile have always been wonderfully supportive to Bryony and me, and the BAMS exec are incredibly helpful and supportive to the four of us. 

BA: I know it was brought up in last year’s rep dialogue, but I was amazed to learn from Polly and Cécile just how quickly ideas can be turned into a reality. In March, for example, when lockdown went from a distant prospect to our actual existence, we were simultaneously planning our pedagogies issue, and someone came up with the idea to do a ‘teaching online’ dialogue series. I assumed that this kind of thing would take a while to source and plan, but it was all done so quickly and efficiently that the dialogue was up and running within a matter of weeks. In July, too, when Polly had an idea to start a virtual writing session for everyone working from home (aptly dubbed ‘A Zoom of One’s Own’ by Josh, King of Woolf puns), it took some emails, an event announcement and some publicising on Twitter, and suddenly we had a weekly event attended by modernists from literally all over the world. There’s a lot of freedom to come up with something that would serve the modernist community, and see it materialised. 

JP: Yes, that’s entirely true, especially seeing as much of academia seems like it moves at a glacial pace. The pace at which we can make things happen is pretty amazing, and it’s also incredible to see just how enthusiastic the modernist community is more broadly, and how we can help publish scholarship that really resonates with and responds to world events. I’m thinking of the October Black Lives Matter issue, which we started to plan in May or June – we released the CFP in early September and published the issue at the end of October. Our Pedagogies issue did a bit of an about-face, as well. Polly and Cécile had been planning it for ages along with Gareth and Séan, but in what seemed like the blink of an eye, lockdown necessitated a mass shift to teaching online and we rejigged our issue. In both cases it was really gratifying to see just what we could do both as editors of the Modernist Review and as part of the modernist community to respond to events.

BA: So what have you gained from the role so far, Josh? I am finding it so hard to pick just one thing, but speaking of the modernist community, I think for me it has been the opportunity to connect with so many other people! (The word networking doesn’t feel quite right here…) The BAMS Executive Committee have been so welcoming and I have had a glimpse into what it takes to organise something like a BAMS Conference (both the big bi-annual one and NWiMS); at the Modernist Review we get to email with people every day from undergraduates to independent scholars to professors, and nerd out together about whatever it is they’ve written; and at ModZoom we’ve been touching base every week with people who we would never even get to share a library with usually. And, obviously, we’ve had the team of the four of us! New PhD students are often warned that doing a doctorate can be isolating, but being a PG Rep has meant that I can always chat to people who “get it” (chapter-stress and new-TA-worries, anyone?). Polly and Cécile are going to be sorely missed on this team, but I can’t wait to welcome two more people and see what we’ll get up to next year.

JP: Absolutely! One of the best things about the role is finding out just how wide and engaging the modernist community is. We’ve met colleagues from around the world at ModZoom, and #ModWrite on a Monday afternoon provides wonderful little snapshots of what’s going on in the world of modernism. As well as that, editing the Modernist Review is so rewarding – it’s incredibly exciting to read through abstracts and to help turn them into articles. As Bryony said, the work we do is an antidote to PhD isolation, and we cannot wait to welcome two new PG Reps. There’s details about the role and the election process below, and if you’re at all interested or have any questions or queries please get in touch with Bryony or me. We’d be delighted to help you with your application in any way that we can, and can’t wait to hear from you! 


How to apply:

Applications for 2 two-year postgraduate representative positions are sought from registered doctoral students in their first or second year of study (or PT equivalent). The elected representatives will join Bryony Armstrong and Joshua Phillips, who are a year into their own two-year term as PG Reps for BAMS.

Responsibilities include attending two Exec meetings a year and helping out with PG events and workshops (travel expenses paid). Responsibilities shared between the four PG reps include editing The Modernist Review, running BAMS social media, answering info@BAMS.ac.uk emails and sending welcome emails to new members. There are also opportunities to launch new initiatives such as the BAMS networking day organised by our current PG reps.

Candidates are asked to submit a brief biography as well as a 250-word proposal outlining their vision for the future of BAMS, their suitability for the role, and their envisaged contribution to the association. BAMS especially welcomes applications from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) postgraduate members, and we are firm and unflinching in our commitment to a vision of an inclusive and diverse Exec.

Candidates for the Postgraduate Representative positions do not require a nomination from an existing member of BAMS. They must themselves be members of the association. Instructions for joining BAMS can be found on the website:https://bams.ac.uk/membership/ The final selection will be made through an online election process open to all BAMS members.

Applications should be emailed to the BAMS Chair, Dan Moore (d.t.moore@bham.ac.uk) no later than 15th Jan 2021. If you would like some more information about the roles before applying, please do write to Dan.

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