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With the upcoming student graduations, it is always exciting to hear of the journeys of PhD scholars who are on the cusp of graduation. We had a chat with Jodie Trembath about her research.
Jodie was an Anthropology student at the School of Culture, History and Language. Jodie’s supervisor was Inger Mewburn.
Her PhD topic was on how the forces of globalisation are intersecting with neoliberal logics on university campuses and changing the nature of academic work. She conducted her fieldwork at an international university branch campus in Vietnam, which made her the perfect fit for the College of Asia and the Pacific.
Jodie told us about the advantages she had before starting her research. “I’d been working for 13 years before starting my PhD; I had both research and project management experience; I had a supportive family; I won an Endeavour Scholarship, so money wasn’t as tight as it otherwise would have been - I was really lucky, and also really well-prepared.”
But in saying that, it seems she still faced many challenges on her journey. “The PhD process absolutely pummelled my confidence and I suffered from intense imposter syndrome. Even now that I’m about to graduate, I keep waiting for someone to jump out and yell, ‘Aha! We’ve finally realised you were never meant to be here in the first place! No PhD for you!’” It is always inspiring to hear how PhD scholars progress through their journey.
An interesting aspect of her research journey was the creation of an anthropology blog and podcast with a group of my fellow PhD colleagues. “I get to meet people I would never have been brave enough to approach if I hadn’t had the excuse of ‘hey, can I interview you for my podcast?’ I’ve been so grateful to CAP for helping us get the project off the ground and keep it afloat for the last 2 years. We particularly couldn’t have done this without support from Nich Farrelly; he’s been amazing.”
“I can’t wait to walk across that stage in my floppy hat, get my piece of paper, and know that this is really real. That said she said the feeling of ‘imposter syndrome’ was reiterated to her by many of her podcast guests and it was often said “that feeling never really goes away”.
A major part of her research methodology was the (consented) shadowing of people. A funny story of hers was on her second day of fieldwork, in which she had an accident which meant that she had to be on crutches for the rest of the year. Jodie found this amusing as she had to keep up with “long-legged, busy people” who were mostly male professors. This was made worse by the fact it was Vietnamese wet season, and Ho Chi Minh City was mostly made up of slippery tiles.
She turned this into a success for her research; “It made for a great icebreaker for recruiting new participants; EVERYONE seemed to have their own injury or illness story to tell about their first few months in Vietnam, and that was actually an important finding of my thesis.”
Jodie mentioned that a major aspect of being a part of CAP and CHL was the support network for students.
“I knew both my Anthropology cohort from across multiple schools really well, and I knew the cohort of students who started in the different CHL disciplines at the same time that I did. The School makes a real effort to make sure new students know their peers, and that later-year students pull their weight in bringing new students into the fold… I think that’s very different to other universities. In my research I interviewed a lot of academics, so I've heard a lot of stories about how isolating people found their PhD process, or how hyper-competitive it was at their university. ANU isn’t like that in my experience, and I've loved that supportive environment.”
After graduating, Jodie is working as the Communications Manager for the ANU College of Health and Medicine. She is also preparing a DECRA application for a new research project on the anthropology of the medical and health professions, particularly related to practitioners working with chronic pain.
You can hear some of Jodie’s interesting guests and hear more of her stories at the Familiar Strange Podcast.