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Melanie Bashor is originally from Texas, USA. She completed her PhD in January 2017 and her thesis title is 'Engineering Tolerance: Evaluating the Origins of Multicultural Education Policies in the Atlantic World, 1944-1988'.
I first heard about Oxford Brookes University at a British history conference in Austin, Texas. Based on my conversations with the professor and student that were attending the conference, as well as others from their panel, I was inspired to not only look at the university as an option, but eventually apply.
I attribute my attraction to Brookes to the quality of the history researchers and their research publications. I felt that my project, which is admittedly on the fringe of several historical themes, would be well supported by my proposed academic supervisor as well as other members of the university. The proximity of Brookes to my archival sources was also a contributing factor and I have been supported in my archival research both within Brookes and at nearby external libraries.
Prior to starting my PhD, I was employed by two universities in Texas as Interim Faculty and a member of the lecturing pool.
My welcome to the university was very warm and coincidentally I started my PhD on the same day that the PhD student I had met previously completed his viva. So, I was made to feel like part of the family from day one. My supervisors fully supported me in what was a somewhat awkward transition. It felt strange, and still does, re-entering a 'student-mode' when I had previously worked as a lecturer full-time. However, it helped that due to my teaching experience I was accepted as an associate lecturer. Training events in both my department and the Graduate College enabled me to meet fellow research students as well as the Research Degrees staff.
By analysing both incremental and innovative changes to policies, my research has assessed multicultural education by searching for developmental similarities and linkages between policies in the UK, USA, Canada, and France.
The major find from my archival work has been the validation of my theory that the intentions of individual policymakers can be traced from their discussions, into their plans, and through the changes made in response to other policymakers and public outcry. This intentionality can be traced through the notes these individuals have made in the margins of policy papers and in their responses (often intricately planned and vetted by their superiors) to questions and concerns posed by constituents and the opposition. Taking these intentions as a serious portion of policy making will hopefully lead to an analysis of the development of these policies, and subsequent legislative reforms, as a more evolutionary progression than has been previously understood.
Overall, my research plans to determine whether education policy networks between the UK, the USA, Canada, and France were transnational and reciprocal rather than outward streams from one country. In this research, I focus on how these countries attempted to rationalise the complexities of their multicultural communities. This shift into an interconnected transnational framework should deepen and broaden the scale and scope of my work’s novelty and contribution to the field. In particular, seeking to prove a direct correlation between the United Kingdom as a locus for a greater transnational development of multicultural education policies will be an original contribution to the discipline.
There is an old US cartoon that my PhD work day resembles. At the end of every episode, one mouse would turn to the other and ask, 'What shall we do tomorrow night, Brain?' The other mouse would respond, 'Same thing we do every night Pinky, try to take over the World!'
I have taken to referencing this when I'm asked my plans for the day, because it feels so true. Once I entered the writing up stage every day began to look the same. One goal; one plan; one end looming just in sight. However, instead of hours in the same library every day, I choose to divide my day between libraries, coffee shops, home, and my office. I try to move venues at least once a day to get a new view, a fresh coffee, and to aid in blood circulation. PhDs are lonely work, so shifting where I work helps me to alleviate this problem. That said, there is a peace I find while working; time dilates and when I look up it seems that hours have just dissipated. So obviously, I love what I do.
I feel that attending the research training Brookes offers has not only given me a solid friendship network, but has also given me a strong connection to the department and the Graduate College to assist with networking in the future. The topics offered by the training sessions are often inspiring. For example, a session last year inspired quite a few of us to engage in social media (blogs, twitter, etc.) to increase our online presence and engagement with the public. While considering publication of our research, an important concern in the current research atmosphere is the impact of our work. At this session, the positives of having an existing online presence as a 'twitter historian' in determining impact was eye-opening.
Teaching and research are joys for me. I know that I would like to continue teaching within academia once I complete my PhD and will hopefully transition into a full-time position with a permanent contract.