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It is quite difficult to write an introductory blog, introducing yourself to new, current and Alumni Criminology students at UoN when you have been there for the past 8 years as either a student or member of staff. What is particularly difficult is figuring out where to start: how do I (re)introduce myself to students, both past and present? What do students want to know? What am I willing to share? What follows is a brief overview of my own journey as a student and with the UoN, as well as a some ‘fun’ (I use this term very lightly) facts about me.
I began my criminological journey in 2012 at the UON. I lived in halls, and had no previous knowledge of anything criminological (or so I thought). I had studied Philosophy and Ethics at A-level which proved helpful throughout my degree (and life in all honesty), but I had not studied psychology or sociology before. I don’t have the fondest memories of year 1; it was all quite overwhelming and A LOT of information to absorb and try to make sense of. And in all truthfulness my grades for the first year were not great (by my standards at least). I think I had feedback from every assessment throughout that first year telling me to check the Harvard Reference Guide! And thankfully in the summer between year 1 and 2, I did check the Guide, in fact I studied the full 100 odd page guide, and never looked back (well occasionally).
Year 2 I decided I was going to get serious about my studies, and serious I got! I didn’t miss a session, I read pretty much everything on the reading lists for my modules and found my voice in a number of seminars. I would say that in comparison to year 1, I really enjoyed my second year of Criminology, especially the placement (yes: even I have completed the placement report and presentation). And my grades reflected the commitment, passion and seriousness which I had applied.
Year 3 was pretty similar to year 2, although the stress levels were heightened. I loved my dissertation, which was an empirical piece on single parenthood and fears around juvenile delinquency. I also loved all the modules I took in year 3, which I cannot say the same for the previous years (sorry team)! Year 3 is when I realised that I would never be bored in Criminology. That is not to say that I do not find some topic areas less interesting than others, or that there are not some theories or perspectives that I do not agree with. But they are not boring (although some topics areas are pushing it). So in one way or another I had decided that my academic journey in Criminology would not end after graduation. And it didn’t.
I became an Associate Lecturer the September after I graduated, and have been on True Crime and Other Fictions and The Science of Crime and Criminals since that first year. I have also led seminars in Research Methods for Criminology, and taken lectures for Violence: From Domestic to Institutional. And basically I never left!
Alongside my AL role, I have completed my MSc in Criminology from the University of Leicester (would have done it at UON but they do not run one: cough cough). I had assumed I would continue my focus on juvenile offending in some capacity, but no I took an entirely different route to one I was familiar with and completed an empirical dissertation on The Prevalence of Rape Myths. Going forward I will hopefully do a PhD, and I currently envisage it being within the realm of Violence Against Women (VAW): but who knows?
In terms of ‘fun’ facts about me, you can know the following:
- I have two house rabbits who are both 6 years old, and have chewed every note book/pad I have ever owned. If the connection goes via online teaching, they might be responsible
- I adore pretty much all of the Disney animations, yes even the outright racist and misogynistic ones
- I eat chocolate every day without fail: pretty sure my body would just stop without it. The same goes for coffee
- And shocker: I love to read!
So to all new Criminology students, I look forward to meeting you (albeit virtually for the time being) and to all returning students (most of whom I shall have met in some capacity) I look forward to meeting you again! And finally I look forward to the next stage in my academic journey as a Lecturer in Criminology.
There are lots of blogs, articles, and Youtube videos which offer some useful tips for going to university, yet it always appears as though students haven’t watched/read them or in the excitement of coming to university they have forgotten what they were. So in the hope that new and existing students might read this, here are my 3 tips for studying at university, and they apply to all levels:
At various stages throughout your degree you will be told that you are reading for a degree, and that is the truth. Now reading may not be everybody’s cup of tea, however it is vital to attaining a degree. Lecturers will provide reading lists for your modules, and readings for seminars, however it is vital you go beyond these lists. In first year everything is new, and the likelihood of you being experienced in reading academic journals and textbooks is pretty slim, and therefore there is a good chance you’ll be reading things that don’t appear to make much sense. That is how I remember most of my first year at undergrad! However, perseverance is key: if you didn’t understand it the first time round, take a break and read it again! Still not making sense, then read it again. Variety in source selection and reading is also key, do not feel like you have to read everything off the reading lists, or that those are the only sources you should be engaging with: get creative, mix it up! To change a phrase from a certain, loveable but forgetful blue fish: ‘Just keep reading, just keep reading, just keep reading reading reading, what do we do, we read, read…’.
University is a new experience and it is very different from school! There are no teachers who will give you the answers, but rather lecturers who will help you harness the tools in order to pursue answers. Even returning students who are familiar with the university format of being vocal in seminars still feel uncomfortable the first few weeks back as they find their rhythm. Reading is key to acquire knowledge, but so is talking. Share your ideas and understandings with your friends, colleagues and lecturers. Answer the questions put to you by others. Ask questions when you are unsure or curious. Challenge views. Seminars run much smoother for everyone when discussion takes place, and discussion cannot happen without first reading and second talking. It can be uncomfortable and unnerving, even at MSc level when you’ve had 3 years of undergrad experience of talking in front of others and sharing ideas. It is not easy, and there is always fear of being wrong or sounding silly, but that is how we learn. I’m not saying you should go around talking to everyone and anyone about anything and everything, because I most certainly would not do that. But in seminars and lectures where knowledge is the goal, talking is key.
3) ENGAGE WITH FEEDBACK!
Finally, part of university life is assessments. Now if you are successful with reading and talking, then the assessment part of university should be less scary and more positive than if you otherwise have not read or asked questions/shared ideas. A large part of assessment is writing style, and there are various resources provided by the university at your disposal to help improve your writing, and to tailor your writing depending on the assessment. But a really crucial and essential tool is the feedback given to you by your lecturers. Whilst the feedback given to you on a piece of assessment is specific to that assessment in terms of content covered, it can also be applied to future assignments and therefore should be engaged with. We spend a large amount of time constructing feedback for students, in order to help improve their work and ultimately to help them succeed but very few students engage with it. If we have said you need to engage with more sources, the likelihood is that this needs to be done for all your assessments, similarly if there is a referencing issue or writing style concern. Engaging with your feedback is one of the quickest ways to improve your work, and if you do not understand the feedback, TALK to your lecturer about it.
Studying any level at university is very different to A-levels and college: it is ultimately independent learning where the lecturers will guide you and help you attain the skills required to complete your degree. It is an exciting and challenging time regardless of which stage you are at in your academic journey, and ultimately when you look back it should be something you are proud of. So to new students, welcome, to returning students, welcome back, and to you all: GOOD LUCK! 😊
In our society consumerism seems to rain supreme. We can buy stuff to make us feel better and we can buy more stuff to express our feeling to others and mark almost most events around us. Retail and especially all the shops have long been aware of this and so they have developed their seasonal material. These seasonal promotions may have become consumer events now although they do signify something incredibly important to culture and our collective consciousness. There is time for Christmas decorations and festive foods, Easter time and chocolate eggs, mother’s day and nauseating cards father’s day for equally grinchworthy cards. There is valentine’s day to say I love you in full fat chocolates, Halloween to give little kids rotten teeth and a red poppy to remember some of our dead. To those add the summer season with the disposable BBQs and of course the back to school season!
The back to school is one of the interesting ones. Geared to prepare pupils and parents for going back to school and plan ahead. From ordering the uniforms to getting all the stationery and books required. I remember this time of the year with some rather mixed emotions. It was the end of my summer holidays, but it was also the time to get back to school. Until one day I finished school and I went to university. Education is seen as part of a continuous process that we are actively involved from the first day at school to the last day in high school and more recently for more people also involve the first day of going to university. Every year is more challenging than the next, but we move up and continue. For those of us who enjoy education we continue the journey further to further or high education.
There is something to said about the preparation process coming to University; it is interesting seeing advertisements on education this time of the year on the tv and social media promoting stuff for this transition; from the got to have smartphone to the best laptop, the fastest printer scanner all in one thingy to the greatest sound system and many more stuff that would get you ready for the year ahead. Do they really help us out and if not, what do we got to do to prepare for coming to university?
Unfortunately, there is no standard formula here but there is a reason for that. Higher education is adult education. This is the first time in our educational journey that we are sitting firmly on the driving seat. We choose to study (or ought to) what we wish to study. It is an incredibly liberating process to have choice. This however is only the beginning. We make plans of our time. In higher education the bulk of the time required is independent study, and as such we got to negotiate how we will plan our time. We got to decide which reading we are going to do first which notes to read what seminar we shall prepare and what assignment we will make a draft of.
There will be days spent in the library looking for a book, days in a coffee shop talking to fellow students about the seminar reading, days in the learning hub working on an assignment. There are highs, lows and everything in between. But regardless of the emotion at every stage thee will be a sense of ownership of knowledge.
In the first couple of sessions, the bulk of the students keep quiet expecting the correct answer to be given. One interpretation or one truth that describes all. It takes a few times before the realisation emerges that the way we analyse, and project knowledge can be different provided we go through the same processes of scrutiny and analysis. Then conversation emerges and the more reading the better the quality of the ideas that shall emerge.
The first year at University is definitely a declaration of independence and the realisation that we all have a voice. Getting on to the road on empowerment. This is a long journey, and on occasions arduous but incredibly rewarding because it leads to an insight greater than before that removes ignorance and lifts the veil of the unfamiliar.
To our newest students – Welcome to the University and to our returning 2 and 3 years – Welcome back!
This time of the year, it always feels a bit, well odd! I prepare for the new academic year, in terms of the administrative tasks but most importantly for the academic material. For many years now, I have been returning to the same space, sit on the same chair and talk to the same old people. I am aware that this may demystify the role of the academic, but this is only the obvious side. What I left out from this annual ritual is the most important part of the process; the time used to contemplate content, to reflect on the pedagogies used and to explore new ideas; this is a process whose gestation will commence at the end of the last year and will mature just before the new academic year begins.
This year things are going to be slightly different; the last academic year I was on the old campus and now we have moved to a brand-new campus. Admittedly, this is a very interesting experience so far. In a way, it feels like I have changed employment although I still see the same recognisable faces around. Getting used to the new buildings will take a bit of time, so for those reading this blog, and coming to the campus, please bear with me and of course, if you see me going the wrong direction point me to the right one. This is a year the myself and my colleagues and our students will be discovering the new campus together. This will be a shared experience to remember.
The move to the new campus is also aligned to the way we have developed our institutional pedagogies, although our subject has long been involved in those, either espousing the changemaker ethos or getting involved with local organisations and engaging with the community. We have already been thinking of ways of working with our students to become more civic minded which will help in connecting the academic experience, with a different kind of social learning.
This is a year like all other years, in terms of preparation and planning but at the same time this is a year like no other. It is a year all students and staff will remember beyond their educational experience. Years ago, I told a group of students that the place of study becomes such an important point of reference because as people we combine experiences together. The new campus will shelter the dreams and aspirations of many generations of students and transfigure them into the level of academic maturity that lead our graduates to professional success. The process is so simple and at the same time so incredibly vital. The students who come will progress through their studies, master the importance of becoming independent learners with confidence, who will return to their communities, to enhance them with their knowledge and ability. This is an incredibly satisfying academic process that encouraged myself and many other colleagues to join academia in the first instance.
Let’s have a great new academic year. One of many
Every year in late autumn, all universities prepare to welcome new students onto their campuses. In the media, we know this as “Freshers week”, a period when new students become familiar with university life. Throughout the years this particular week has grown in importance for the students’ social life, activities and other out of classroom activities. Students can taste the nightlife of the campus and that of the nearby town, engage in group activities, join a society and of course have, in many cases, their first taste of independence away from home. For the University, it is the first opportunity to engage students and get them involved in societies, volunteering and other after hours activities.
Year by year, this week is becoming increasingly important for the student calendar.
Returning students participate and graduating students remember when they were involved. A clear watershed moment in the student diary, so much so that special wristbands are produced and different special events are organised, only for this week. There is clearly some attraction, into being part of “freshers” so strong, that is now recorded into our collective vernacular. Finally, the freshers apart from the commercial, cultural attractions, is even connected with health, the infamous “freshers flu” is presented as the scourge for many students who will suffer some ill-health in their first term at Uni/life.
For an academic welcome week is interpreted differently. It is definitely an important week because it signifies the start to another form of education. It is transitional in terms of age for those who just crossed the 18 year old threshold marking the first part of adult education. It is a declaration of independence for many students and the time to make one of the many transitions into the world of academia.
This is why, instead of wristbands, I was frantically preparing my plenary lecture last week. Every year, I dig deep inside to find something that will signal to our newest cohort why I feel so passionate about criminology. This year, using the 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality, I considered the importance of criminology, as a discipline. The main points focused on the multidisciplinary nature of criminology, the ability of criminology to holistically explore complex phenomena and the immense service, criminology offers to understanding crime from a dynamic/ever changing standpoint. The reason for going through the “pains” of delivering a plenary is clear to me: welcome week is the first week of the next three years of academic study. The start of a wider conversation that allows lay people to embrace those skills that will allow them to understand, evaluate, critique and argue with evidence and knowledge. Unfortunately there is no wristband for that, only a certificate at the end of the road, that will just about quell the thirst for knowledge. For many, this thirst will grow further and whilst the wristband may fade and the band attended may break-up, the knowledge that our students will acquire will be with them forever. This is the tool we offer and this is the beginning of how we do it.
To all of our new students, Welcome!
Welcome to the Criminology Team’s blog, live from Fawsley 1!
Over the forthcoming weeks and months we plan to write some short opinion pieces, as well as longer narratives, focused on all different facets of criminology, as well as wider social issues.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here belong to individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the team or the institution.
If you have any suggestions for subjects you might like to appear on the blog, please get in touch