Posted on July 17, 2013
I don’t think I even knew what a PhD was until I was in my final year of university. I studied a Bachelor of Arts (Professional Writing) with majors in philosophy and editing. I got great scores throughout university and by third year all my lecturers were dutifully encouraging me to pursue Honours, which I did because my Bachelor of Arts didn’t make me feel employable, and the prospect of becoming an assistant manager at The Dirty Bird wasn’t particularly desirable. My Honours supervisor quickly became a kind of mentor — a good start for further studies. I worked closely with her to get my practical training as an editor, and together we knocked out an idea for a thesis that drew together my interest in literary magazines and cultural change in Australia in the 1960s and 70s. There was loads of interesting material to work with here, and it sustained my interest long enough for me to write a first class thesis.
I guess that when you’ve always strived to achieve it’s very difficult to decline an opportunity. I also had practical reasons for accepting the PhD scholarship — I had recently started a relationship and wanted to stay in Hobart, but I had no job. Here was an offer of tax-free income doing something considered prestigious.
When I asked if I could take a six-month break to recharge my mental energies before starting doctoral studies I was told that I had to commence immediately if I wanted the scholarship. At this stage I had been in education non-stop for nineteen years. I just forged ahead.
I was really lucky to be able to handpick the supervisors I wanted to work with. I conceived a project under the title of ‘Visual Art, Environment & the Development of Values: investigating the confluence of art practice and environmental engagement’. I loved the fields I was exploring, but as this title indicates I lacked a strong focus for my research. As time went on and I tried harder to pin down my project I only felt increasingly lost.