Cassie Curryer, University of Newcastle:
When I was 17, my father told me I would never go to university because we were too poor. It was to be many years before I took the chance to enrol as a mature age student and complete my Bachelor of Social Science (the first in my family to attend university). So, I am very thankful and excited to have received a 2016 TASA Postgraduate Scholarship, and for the opportunity to attend TASA and present my higher degree research. It has been a long journey to TASA 2016 in Melbourne, but very worth it.
A highlight of the conference was Postgraduate Day 2016. This was very entertaining and thought-provoking. Luke Gahan and Brady Robards planted the idea of finding your ‘tribe’, and the TASA conference provided the perfect avenue for this. As an off-campus postgraduate student, meeting other people in my research tribes (postgraduate, and the ageing, urban sociology, and risk thematic groups) and building strong networks of support and collaboration is especially important. Postgraduate Day also provided an excellent introduction to academic culture and practice. James Arvanitakis gave some brilliant examples of using anecdotes (such as family life and Greek BBQs) to enhance student learning, engagement and theoretical development. Peta Cook and Sara James provided very practical and creative tutorial examples and we were treated to interesting insights into academic and research culture, how to manage student/supervisor relationships, and the importance of carving out an adequate work/life balance.
Postgraduate students also benefited from personal mentoring by senior sociologists. While at TASA 2016 I was very lucky to meet Alphia Possamai-Inesedy (who provided some excellent pointers for my thesis research) and Professor Yoland Wadsworth, one of Australia’s pioneers in participatory social action and evaluation research. Yoland highlighted the importance of postgraduates creating and having our own repertoire by identifying what it is we are passionate about and how we can best position ourselves within various policy discourses and academic and research culture. Or in other words, finding our tribe! This brings me to the conference dinner, where people from all tribes came together to feast and dance. Some very interesting dance moves were shown on the dance floor (and mine were probably the worst). It was a great evening and lots of fun.
I also really enjoyed the Women’s Breakfast with Professor Sujatha Fernandes who gave a very stimulating talk about her experiences in academia and beyond, while Bryan Turner’s keynote address tackled the meaning of happiness. In reflecting on Sujatha’s and Bryan’s talks, I think that happiness is what happens when people feel connected and valued by their tribes and are supported to contribute meaningfully to whatever it is they passionate about. Receiving a TASA scholarship, for me, reaffirms my place within the TASA tribe. Congratulations to my fellow scholarship recipients, to all the presenters whose presentations I enjoyed, and to the conference committee for a fabulous TASA 2016.