By Nathalie Sheridan
The moment that you had the idea and decided it was something you wanted to research (your Archimedes moment):
My husband saw an advertisement for a PhD scholarship at jobs.ac.uk — and this really was the moment. He told me that this project is tailor made for me. I had to read it several times because it seemed as if someone had known me very well and designed a scholarship place only for me. Strange experience. At that point, I had been looking for a scholarship for about five months because I could not have afforded to undertake a PhD without funding.
My PhD topic was creative learning processes of refugee children & their peers (and the impact of social capital).
How your background and experience may have led to your choice of PhD topic, no matter how tenuously?
I worked since I was 16 in the culture education sector and studied education. So somehow all my part-time jobs fell into place like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. It was not so much intention as a perfect conjunction of circumstances.
How your reading and research may have been shaped by things by extra-curricular or non-academic factors:
I remember one particular situation. I worked as a tour guide for a small museum of the National Trust of Scotland after my Masters. When I left and began my PhD, my boss contacted me and asked if I would be interested in developing an education strategy and school (family) programme for the museum.
As project manager, I had to manage and train a team of staff to take over education projects. So I initially approached the management in the typical “I make the strategy, develop the workshops—you learn how to do it” attitude. Well, this does not work when most of the staff are at least 15 years older than you. I had a major eureka and ‘slap my forehead’ moment after a dreadful staff training day.
My PhD reading at the time had focused on creative learning, which is about control, ownership and relevance of learning processes. I had to combine my reading with my management style.
I completely turned this around, brought in a volunteering drama lecturer from my department at the university who also brought along an actress. Both helped the staff to relax and get familiar with role play and costumes.
Then I continued opening up the project development so that the staff could take ownership, control of the projects and find relevance in what we were trying to achieve.
After the project, I came back half a year later. Two of the staff members, who were very reluctant and shy initially, had set up and developed their own Christmas event for children. Very happy me!
Dr Nathalie Sheridan has been a clown in a children’s circus, student worker at Roland Berger in Munich (HR department), business apprentice, team leader in community projects, museum guide, education officer, sold delicatessen at Peckhams Naturally, taught IT, English and pedagogic courses, managed databases for CA Content and worked for the Medical Research Council, all this alongside full-time undergraduate and postgraduate studies.
Her experiences and continuing quest for projects to manage and plot, staff to train and occasionally teach, combined with the black hole that is the job market in her field led her to start up the GECKO educational consultancy, a specialist consultancy for education, heritage and culture.
She describes it as an education consultancy developing education strategies (schools, families, life long learning) for companies & public sector and mediating between companies and public and third sector institutions to pull resources together to make projects sustainable. You can follow Dr Sheridan via her blog I, me and PhDZilla or on Twitter @ConsultaGecko.