I’m very honoured and excited to be taking on the role as Director of CHASE, particularly as we embark on the second phase of the Consortium with our new partners, Birkbeck and SOAS. First of all, I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of my predecessor, Dr. Denise Decaires Narain, for steering CHASE so effectively over the last few years.
An awful lot has changed since the days when I did my own doctorate at the University of Liverpool (a feminist history of German radio as a new medium in a time of crisis and political transition), but I’ve been involved with doctoral researchers for many years at Sussex, as a supervisor, as Head of Department, and latterly as Director of Doctoral Studies in the School of Media, Film and Music. I’ve sat on CHASE selection panels, and was the academic lead for Sussex on the recent bid. I feel privileged to be in a position where I will get to work with such able and ambitious researchers working on such a genuinely exciting range of original projects. I’m also already realising how lucky I am to be working with such a great team in the shape of the central CHASE team: Rob, Steve and Clare.
In the short period I’ve been in this (part-time) post, I’ve begun discovering more about the impressive range of work going on across the consortium. One real strength that I’m keen to build on is the way in which CHASE is a training partnership that supports all doctoral students and supervisors in its member institutions. I’ve been particularly impressed by the student-led initiatives, and would like to encourage more students to get involved in different forms of networks and collaboration. I’m pleased to say we’ve already begun discussing how to implement some of the initiatives brought forward by the new CHASE Climate Action Group, and hope we can report progress on that front before too long. We’ll also continue to address the equality and diversity agenda, and to support initiatives to promote student wellbeing.
In the next few weeks I’m planning to visit all of the member institutions together with the CHASE manager, Rob Witts and our new Deputy Director, Prof. Jo Drugan (UEA), whose remit is to lead on the Training and Development agenda. We’re hoping to meet academic and administrative leads as well as doctoral students, supervisors and managers to find out more about what’s working well, and what could work better. In November we are also hosting a national meeting of all the AHRC DTP/CDT/CDP directors and managers.
There’s no doubt that this is an uncertain time for the higher education sector in general and that there are particular pressures in our subject areas. I’m convinced that the work that happens within the CHASE consortium is as strong a platform as any from which to defend the case for scholars in the arts and humanities as custodians of knowledges and cultures, and to provide spaces to think deeply about the most important aspects of the human condition, about life and death, creativity and community, and “the discovery of the self in the mirror of great minds”. (1)
I wish you all a happy new academic year, and look forward to working with you more closely in the months ahead.
(1) James Hankins (2017), ‘How not to defend the Humanities’ American Affairs Journal 1(4)