Tuesday, 23 April 2013

campus? what campus?

Someone has commented, though not publicly, that for a blog entitled Campus Chronicler, I don't seem to spend much time on campus (see below)!  This is an excellent point.  I am a full-time, doctoral student but enrolled at a university 120 miles away. I visit about twice a month for supervisions and library raids. I spend the bulk of my PhD life in a small room overlooking my neighbours' gardens on the outskirts of a (quite funky) small town in the West Country.  My 'campus' (study space, cafes, bars, sports facilities, social life), is either downstairs, on my doorstep or within a 5 mile radius.  But my 'campus' is also the extensive virtual library facilities I enjoy and the whole network of people I connect with via email, blogging, facebook and twitter and, less often, conferences and seminars.  Some are new to me since I started my PhD studies, others have been built up over a long and pro-active working life in higher education and associated fields.  My 'campus' is also the organisations I play an active part in, notably UALL - The Universities Association of Lifelong Learning and UALL's national women's network Women in Lifelong Learning, which I convene, not to mention the news, issues and debates about higher education I try to keep track of.  
The relevance of all this (and therefore the reason I'm blogging about it) is that one element of my research is what 'belonging' means for part-time, mature students in higher education.  Because belonging has been highlighted as critical to retention, I am trying to uncover how the multi-faceted lives of part-time, mature students impact on way they negotiate, indeed need to 'belong' to their higher education institutions.  
I'm definitely mature, but I'm not part-time, nor undergraduate, but there are similarities with my research question and my own circumstances.  Even though I'm here and my university is there, I feel I belong enough to keep me going.  Admittedly, I've been well-trained through several years of Open University distance study but I also have a rich life and a rich history that I am weaving into my developing identity as a doctoral researcher.  I feel as though my campus - any campus, experienced by any student, is, as Doreen Massey (1997) would define it 'a particular constellation of social relations, meeting and weaving together at a particular locus...articulated moments in networks of social relations and understandings'. This implies that belonging can be something 'inbetween' rather than a finite state.  
So, I maintain I am a campus chronicler, despite appearances and the odd city break to the contrary!  In any case, I'm grateful for the comment which unwittingly, has connected me more closely to my research! 

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