Heather Alberro 28 May 2021

 

When I volunteered for the position of PSA ECN Chair, I had just started the third year of my PhD, while also working as a student mentor at my institution’s library and as an hourly-paid lecturer at two different universities. Needless to say, I had a pretty full plate. Yet what attracted me to this role was the incredible opportunity it offered for being able to represent such a fantastic network of early career scholars within a major politics learned organisation. As an early career researcher and Cuban-American woman living and studying in the UK, I was especially familiar with some of the unique experiences as well as challenges faced by other early career researchers in similar positions- namely financial pressures from international student fees, an uncertain job sector with additional precariousness for non-UK nationals, and the ever-looming visa expiration date. As such, one of my key aims while serving as Chair of the PSA ECN has been to promote inclusivity and diversity therein, ensuring that the full spectrum of backgrounds and experiences of our diverse ECR membership is sufficiently represented. Now looking back on an eventful two-year tenure, I see an array of highlights, challenges, stellar team work, as well as areas where the next Chair might do even more with this exciting role.

 

 The official duties of the PSA ECN Chair include:

  • Introducing public events organised by the ECN
  • Chairing the monthly ECN committee meetings
  • Representing the ECN to and within the PSA
  • Acting as the first point of contact for high-profile external speakers at ECN events
  • Contributing to the general activities of the ECN and, especially, event organisation

 

The Chair is a high-profile role, so you'll be represening the ECN at PSA conferences and executive meetings!

 

However, there is a lot of scope for steering the role according to your unique abilities and endeavours, wherein you can be as proactive as you like. I ended up taking a more laid-back approach, serving more as a figurehead and acceding to suggestions for our many events and activities put forward by my incredible team- secretary Dr. Nick Kirsop-Taylor, treasurer Dr. Lawrence McKay, and communications officer Dr. Liam McLoughlin. At our very successful 2020 annual conference ‘Because the Internet’, one of my jobs as Chair was to record an introductory video welcoming delegates to the conference and giving a brief introduction to what the PSA ECN are all about. At the PSA’s annual international conferences, the PSA ECN always aims to have a notable presence by hosting various workshops, keynote talks and social events for politics ECR’s, and chairing other relevant sessions. At the PSA 2021 virtual conference hosted in partnership with Queen’s University Belfast, as Chair I led the ‘Welcome’ session for nee attendees, and chaired the ‘Meet the editors’ panel the day after. These are just some of the sorts of activities and responsibilities you can expect to take on as Chair of the PSA ECN.

Throughout my tenure, my incredible co-committee members truly did the lion’s share of the administrative and organisational work for the array of events that we put on for politics ECR’s over the last two years. In my view, this has perhaps been one of the most rewarding aspects of the role- getting to work and collaborate with such a stellar team. We were quite fortunate that our various skills, backgrounds and competencies meshed so well together.

However, my own and others’ personal and professional lives got rather shaken up by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. I along with many other ECR’s lost out on a vital source of income when the university I was teaching at decided to purge non-essential staff in the wake of the pandemic. Moreover, suddenly activities so central to academic life- attending and networking at conferences, meeting for a chat and a coffee- were no more. As Chair I’d have liked to more actively pursued collaborations such as co-hosting ECR events with sister organisations like the British Sociological Association’s Early Career Forum. Yet, here is where immense potential lies for the next PSA ECN Chair. There is much scope for collaborating and putting on events for ECR’s that span across disciplinary divides- the benefits of which could be especially significant amidst an era of continuously shifting boundaries and transformations. It is my hope that the subsequent PSA ECN committee wholeheartedly incorporates principles of diversity, inclusivity, and acute attention to the unique experiences as well as challenges faced by ECR’s in a post-COVID world. The PSA ECN Chair and committee are well placed to provide a crucial space for ECR’s to establish connections with one another so that they might navigate the uncertain terrain ahead in concert.