Our first academic of the month is Tim Lewis Senior Lecturer in Languages and member of our steering group committee.
The main benefit I‘ve derived from being a member of OpenTEL is the intangible but important one of feeling part of an identifiable research community.
Two of the challenges I have faced in the time I have been an OpenTEL member have been the normal ones of obtaining external research funding and of trying to manage a complex project on top of a heavy workload. There’s comfort, support and encouragement in listening to colleagues who are dealing with similar dilemmas.
OpenTEL has helped, by putting me in contact with colleagues from outside my own faculty, who share my interests and have a similar vision of what a university should be: open, outward-looking and internationalist. A specific example: I was recently contacted by a Chinese academic who is interested in spending time researching at the OU. Reaction in my own faculty was negative. But I learned through OpenTEL that her university had a strategic partnership with STEM. Colleagues there provided a statement in support of her application, which is now going ahead. In due course, I hope that I or one of my colleagues will visit her university, because it’s that kind of exchange of ideas that is central to my view of what universities are about. It’s not simply routine everyday chores and concerns.
So it is clear that I have made new contacts through OpenTEL, both in other OU faculties and internationally. And I hope to carry on doing so.
My academic journey has been impacted by my relationship with OpenTEL in that it’s given me confidence in pursuing my own pathway and has put me in touch with colleagues who can offer me sound advice (and if necessary critique), which enhances that confidence.
Finally, my advice for PhD research students is this: there are few more difficult experiences than that of spending years as an isolated researcher. Happily you don’t need to go through that. So do lend your full support to OpenTEL, giving what you can to the group and getting what you can from belonging to it.