After my rant last week I’ve finally found the time to write a short reflection on the first Being a Public Intellectual session, which took place on October 25. It being the first event of a seminar series, I was excited to meet the people I was about to spend several days with over the next few months. Obviously a programme about outreach, impact and engagement will attract the kind of person which is keen to meet new people and talk about his/her work. But you can never be sure to what extent 25 of these people will actually match.
I’m happy to report, though, that the day was a welcome distraction from my solitary days spent in the library. I’m working on my transfer document, to be submitted next week, and my social circle is quite small at the moment. It was a real joy to meet a large group of passionate people who were more than happy to roll up their sleeves and get stuff done. Many academics I know are insecure about setting up new projects which are not directly related to their main project. It was great to meet people who couldn’t wait to get started.
The day took place at the Open University’s London premises. The morning programme consisted of, among other things, a talk by UEA academic Sarah Churchwell about the joys and issues of public engagement. During the afternoon we were encouraged to have discussions about public intellectuals we knew and admired. We also discussed our aims for the programme and things we hoped to learn from it.
The next event will take place at the end of November and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been asked to share my experiences regarding extra-curricular work with first-year PhD-students and this programme will certainly be addressed. So many people I know wouldn’t apply for it because they don’t see the merits or think they’re not good enough. But sometimes giving it a go can lead to great results.