Guest post by Christiane Rudmann, 2014 PhD Seminar participant and organizing member of the PhD Seminar Alumni Network
When I received the email that I was accepted to ISTR’s PhD Seminar in Muenster in 2014, I couldn’t believe my luck! I had already been working for 2 years on my PhD at a smaller German university that did not have a nonprofit faculty. It will hardly come as a surprise to hear that I struggled to find the “right” literature, the appropriate conceptual frameworks, or like-minded researchers to discuss and eventually advance my project. The opportunity to attend ISTR’s PhD Seminar changed all of that.
We worked in groups of about 6 PhD students with our always-encouraging faculty members, discussed everyone’s project, asked and were asked many of the critical questions. And I believe we all received valuable advice on how to best proceed, solve a problem, rethink an approach, and just get it done.
What was striking to me is that never before had I had to chance to work with a group of fellow researchers – graduate students and senior faculty – in such a respectful, collegiate, and encouraging atmosphere. We came from many a different country and with that from, at times, very different academic backgrounds. Some PhD students had the chance to work on a daily basis with the leading scholars in the field whom others only knew from the books they were reading for their literature review, yet it was always an atmosphere of true peer support where no question was ever off limits or “too simple” to ask.
I had the chance to attend and present at a few other conferences in the field in recent years, including at ISTR in Stockholm, and have to say that, to me, ISTR provides the most welcoming and encouraging setting for researchers to come together, think critically, and leave inspired for future projects. Yet the most wonderful aspect is that some of those researchers have become some of my best friends.
It is in that spirit of friendship and collaborative research that we are working towards establishing the ISTR PhD Seminar Alumni Network. We hope to see many of the PhD Seminar alumni in Amsterdam and are thankful that ISTR made sure all the PhD Seminar students and alumni can stay at the same hotel for the duration of the seminar and the conference, with that, providing lots of opportunities to network and to get to know each other.