Eva Lippold was mentored by Gillian Williamson during the 2020-21 scheme. Below, she reflects on her experience of the scheme and the support she received from her mentor. Eva’s blog post follows on from Gillian’s blog. Please click here to read it.
I really like the concept of a ‘next friend’ – especially as an academic at the beginning of her career, being able to go to someone for advice and feedback is invaluable. I have been lucky throughout my studies to have the support of kind and clever women, from Julia, who was the first to suggest I could go on to Postgraduate studies, to Carol, who helped me complete my PhD. Gillian’s offer to take on this role through the mentoring scheme has been incredibly helpful to me, especially considering the circumstances of the last year and a half.
It is difficult at any time to move on from PhD student status, with the support of a supervisor, other students, and an institutional affiliation, to being an ECR without any of those support structures. During the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the often isolating experience of trying to find your way around the job market, teaching contracts, and publications became even more difficult to navigate. At the beginning of the year, I was working on an article which was a slight departure from my previous research. I thought it was going in a good direction, but I could not be sure – I was working from home, so there was no discussion with colleagues, no casual chats over coffee at conferences. Gillian both listened to my ideas about the article, and gave me specific feedback on the draft, pointing out those things you can never spot in your own writing. This really helped me to refine my work, as well as providing some reassurance that I had not forgotten how to write since my PhD! Since then, we have regularly exchanged updates on work, research ideas, and interesting sources, and this continues to be a very helpful aspect of developing my work and academic ability. At the same time, this has always remained an informal and flexible conversation, so that rather than adding any extra work or deadlines, it has been an additional asset to my research.
While in-person meetings, chats, and conferences are now slowly becoming a possibility again, the mentoring scheme remains just as valuable; sometimes, especially when you are new to being an academic, all you need is sometime to listen to your ideas and say, ‘That sounds interesting!’. Having received some good advice through Gillian’s mentoring, I can now advise any ECRs who are thinking about applying for the mentoring scheme to go ahead, and hope that at some point, I can take on a mentoring role myself to be the ‘next friend’ to a future researcher.
Eva Lippold completed her PhD at Loughborough University in 2018, and also hold a BA and MA in English Literature from Anglia Ruskin University. Her PhD project, entitled “Most Women have no Character at all’: Female Playwrights and the London Stage, 1760-1800’, investigated the representation of women’s lives and works on the eighteenth-century stage. She now teaches at Coventry University, and is working on research into women’s travel and travel writing.