Looking at 2021 (The RED team)

Image from the United Nations COVID-19 Response | unsplash.com

In so many ways, many of us are hoping that 2020 exits with a calm predictability and no more dramas. In the best scenario, we manage to have as stress-free a break as possible before facing the new year!

Given the year we've all had, and knowing the ongoing effects of much of it, what are good things to do or think about right now? 

The RED team wanted to take this opportunity to share their thoughts around looking into 2021. Will it be a change from the constant pivoting and frantic changes that we had to make this year? 

Jeanette Fyffe:

At years’ end, we try to write a wrap-up of the year for our final blogpost…I am sitting here staring at the flashing cursor wondering what to say. How can I sum up a year that contained such peculiar and creeping lows and such wonderful and surprising highs? 

The challenges of this pandemic, like everything else, have been distributed unevenly across the world and various segments of society. I know in the scheme of things my own challenges have been fairly modest (though home-schooling was pretty interesting) but there have been lots of things to contend with. 

Making it through  has meant learning new skills. I now know too much about how 6-year-olds are taught narrative structure but probably just the right amount about puggles (baby echidnas!). The big lessons for me, though, have been the ones about being human. In universities, it sometimes seems like we are all about ideas and thinking but this year has had to be a year of being fully human and feelings are a part of that. My weekly SUAW emails across this year ended up turning into my own little pandemic diary; they trace my experiences like a metronome. I just read back over some of them and can see I felt A LOT of things, tick (up), tock (worry), tick (down), tock (elated), tick (tired), tock (sad)…

Despite the isolation, the power of Zoom has enabled us to connect in new ways. This has been a year of being human together, a time when people said to one another “How are you?” and listened gently to the real response they got, then shared in turn. So, while the year has been hard, I have never been prouder of my team, my colleagues and you - my La Trobe researcher community - for bringing compassion, kindness, and grace to the deep insights, clear thinking, and creative innovations that have marked this year. Thank you, and go gently.

Dan Bendrups:

This year has been challenging, but a silver lining for me has been discovering the unexpected intimacy of Zoom-based workshops with supervisors. 

In these workshops, it is always my aim to enable supervisors to feel comfortable to lay bare their supervision practice - to verbalise and accept past challenges in order to learn from them as a collective, building consensus about our practice and enhancing the graduate research experience for all. I have found Zoom to be quite conducive to this aim, in some ways more so than a physical seminar room. Participants join from the comfort of their own spaces, often with pets and other paraphernalia, in a private discussion between peers this helps people to let down some of their professional guard, allowing us all to work towards self-improvement. Zoom has allowed many of us to dispense with obstructive formalities, yet without becoming too familiar. 

It has also erased the distance between city-based, regional and more remote (international) supervisors, who were able to all see eye-to-eye, literally, across the shared screenscape. Getting the delivery just right has been challenge – I know the format doesn’t necessarily suit everyone -  but I think I’ve reached a point where I’m comfortable enough to make others comfortable, and this bodes well for 2021 when I’ll continue to use the online space for supervision development, truly reaching across the whole La Trobe supervisor community.

Jamie Burford: 

All throughout 2020 when someone has asked me how I’ve been feeling, one word has routinely tumbled out of my mouth: wobbly. 

I think for many of us this year has felt a bit like jelly. Many of the habits and institutions that we build our lives around have felt noticeably unsteady. My own body also wobbles in a few extra places thanks to all the #WFH sitting and the elaborate toasted sandwiches that I have crafted all through lockdown.  

Despite all of the wobbliness, I have many things to celebrate. My workshops this year have been full of colleagues who have zoomed in from around Australia and around the world. Our greetings to each other reflect this, as good morning is accompanied by good afternoon and good evening. 

In the online spaces where we have gathered I have seen friendships blossom and researchers find their feet. We have met each other’s pets, noticed each other’s favourite tea cups, and exchanged recipes for chocolate cakes you can make in a mug. I have watched researchers turn up for each other: to learn about research and to improvise what it means to become a researcher in a time like this. I have seen extreme generosity as colleagues have listened patiently, held space open for others, and asked questions that have unlocked new ways of thinking. 

As I head into campus today to collect my mail and a stack of books that I will try (and most likely fail) to read over summer, I just want to express my gratitude: thank you to everyone who has wobbled alongside me this year. I look forward to seeing you again in 2021.

Tseen Khoo:

This year has made me think a lot more about the things we can do rather than what we can't. 

We've all been jostled in different ways by the restrictions, distancing, and shutdowns. Like Jamie, I have had wobbly times this year and continue to do so. My capacity to become teary at poignant advertisements is at an all-time high. 

In the midst of so many things out of our control, it was heartening to see so many thoughtful, generous projects take place (such as those convened by the awardees of the Intellectual Climate Fund and Research Culture Fund), and to have such empathetic engagement during our workshps and across various intensives where we spent concentrated time together (e.g. Careers, EMCR, Supervision, Communicating your research). It made me feel like our work made a difference to the researcher community and, in a year that is marked by bad and worse news, this was precious. 

Looking around more broadly, it has been a year where pulling together has renewed urgency and effect. Doing #Whisperfest with colleagues around the world brought home how much we have in common when it comes to striving for a humane, sustainable sector. We are indeed stronger together. 


This is the final post on the RED Alert for the year. We'll be taking a blog-break and return on Tuesday 2 Feb, 2021. 

Take care, folks! And we look forward to seeing you in the new year! 


Unknown said…
The Graduate Research School of La Trobe University offered to second and third year PhD students to sign up for the IMNIS program last year. So as a second-year PhD student signed up for the program last year, I was matched with a very experienced industry mentor based on my area of expertise and PhD research area. We have a regular meeting once a month for 12 months from June 2020 to June 2021. He provided very precious advice on how to find a job in the industry, how to customise a resume, how to introduce myself in conferences, how to deal with those who are difficult in a team, etc. Also, he introduced me to the C.E.O. of a few companies and they arranged a meeting with me. The best part is one of C.E.O. offered me that I can apply for an internship position. So I expressed my interest and they hired me as a casual research assistant for the next three months, working one-day per week. My mentorship is still ongoing for the next 4 months and I am very grateful to have priceless advice from my mentor. I do encourage all PhD students to apply to this program through GRS when they are in the second or third year of their journey.