As I enter my first year as Early Career Representative for BAAS, a priority of my agenda is to help members combat the isolation, demoralisation, and demotivation that can sometimes plague this stage of the academic career, writes Rachel Williams. Following on from the launch of the Adam Matthew Digital essay prize and BAAS Survey pioneered by my predecessor Ben Offiler, I plan to support the early career community through a series of events that will help ECRs maintain momentum and enthusiasm in their research, and build a sense of community and solidarity among young scholars of American Studies in this country.
I’m delighted to have been elected Early Career Representative for BAAS. My thanks in particular to Sarah Daw and Rebecca Stone for also standing in the election. Our platforms touched on some common themes: we all emphasised BAAS’ commitment to diversity and inclusivity, and expressed concerns at the march of casualisation and continuing uncertainty about TEF – all issues of grave import to ECRs.
I’d also like to express my thanks to Ben Offiler, who has done sterling work in the post of ECR Representative in the past two years, and who will no doubt continue in the same vein as Ordinary Member on the Executive Committee. Ben has pioneered some excellent ECR-centric schemes since taking office in 2015, and his work in designing and disseminating the BAAS members’ survey, as well as securing funding for the Adam Matthew Digital Essay Prize,
has been tireless and invaluable. I will be working to maintain that essay prize in the future, as it’s an excellent opportunity to showcase fresh and exciting new scholarship.
My aim as ECR representative is to help members combat the isolation, demoralisation, and demotivation that can sometimes plague this stage of the academic career. In particular, I’d like to set up a series of peer-review workshops to encourage ECRs to maintain momentum and enthusiasm in their research (which may fall by the wayside when confronted with heavy teaching loads or lack of formal institutional affiliation). I want to create an accessible and supportive forum providing not only constructive criticism on written work but also a sense of community and solidarity among young scholars of American Studies in this country. I’d value your input and suggestions on the best way of organising these workshops – whether by discipline, by time period, or even by geographic location (I’m based in Hull myself, and so I’m aware that potential participants might be dissuaded from attending by long journeys).
Making the ECR experience a positive, rewarding one means making it positive and rewarding for everyone, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, socio-economic background, disability, educational history and so on. I welcome the frank and respectful discussions about accessibility, diversity, and inclusivity that took place at the Women’s Network event in Canterbury – this is a fantastic springboard for encouraging open, destigmatised consideration of these issues at all future BAAS events. I look forward to the results and analysis of the members’ survey, which will hopefully tell us more about our diverse academic community, and how the current state of HE and FE supports (or, indeed, fails) the constituency. It would be great to devote workshops and panels at future BAAS conferences to discussion of accessibility, and to matters of concern for ECRs, such as TEF, job interviews, academic publishing, and impact.
I left the annual conference in Canterbury last month feeling invigorated, motivated, and positive, after some excellent discussions (and excellent pastries) with old friends and new contacts – and I’m sure many of you felt the same. This is indicative not only of the hard work and commitment of the team at Canterbury Christ Church, but also of the wonderful community BAAS provides for academics at every stage of their career. I’m looking forward to being a part of maintaining that community and making sure it’s open and welcoming to all.
Finally I want to encourage ECRs to keep applying for the wide range of awards and fellowships offered by BAAS, and to keep writing for US Studies Online, a fantastic platform for new writing – which also welcomes reflective pieces about pedagogy, the job market, research practise, and other aspects of academic life and professional development.
If you have any thoughts or suggestions about how BAAS can best support ECRs working in American Studies, please do get in touch via email (R.Williams3@hull.ac.uk) or Twitter (@RachWilliams87). Looking forward to representing you all!
Rachel Williams is Lecturer in American History at the University of Hull. Her research interests include antebellum reform, the social and cultural impact of evangelicalism, and the social history of American medicine. She is currently completing a monograph on civilian relief agencies during the American Civil War, exploring the role of philanthropy, evangelical postmillennialism, and bureaucratisation in the Union war effort. She is also developing new modules on slavery and civil rights and the Civil War in history and culture.