Speaking at Autumn Conference | AUA Blog

Katie Allan MAUA
Faculty Education Manager, University of Bristol

As I waited for a taxi in the pitch black and driving rain of a late November early morning in Bristol I wondered, not for the first time, why I’d chosen to run a session at the AUA’s Autumn Conference in London.  My mood wasn’t improved by the desire of my taxi-driver to discuss politics with me at 6.30am.  So, why was I doing this and what did I hope to gain from the experience?

In the spring of 2018 I took up a new post at the University of Bristol and re-located from the north-east of Scotland where I’d worked at the University of St Andrews since 2000.  This felt like a momentous change for many reasons—not least because I’d never even been to Bristol until the interview and had no pre-existing connections with the West Country.

Prior to the move, however, I’d spent a few years preparing to re-enter the job market for the first time in nearly two decades.  Part of my strategy had been to make the most of the opportunities available within AUA, including gaining experience as a co-presenter at the annual conference.  I therefore felt that I was now ready to make the step up to designing and delivering sessions on my own.  I was also encouraged by the theme of this year’s winter conference—“Rising to the Challenges of Change”—and felt that I’d probably got something useful to offer after my own very recent experience of change.

My train duly got me to the Royal Society just in time to grab a coffee and head into the opening session delivered by Professor Mary Stuart of the University of Lincoln.  What an inspiring opening but also what a hard act to follow!  I was definitely pleased to be speaking in the first round of working sessions immediately after Mary as this meant that I could then relax a little and enjoy the rest of the day.

When shown into the room where I’d be speaking I was thrilled—and a little intimidated—to find the most beautiful library complete with a painted ceiling and chandeliers.  I looked out of the

window at the autumn leaves whirling in the wind blowing down The Mall and reflected briefly on the distinguished intellectual history of this place while also gathering my thoughts ahead of the arrival of my audience.

They turned out to be from right across the sector and at very different stages in their careers.  What emerged during the subsequent group discussions and in the Q&A phase was that many were either going through a similar transition to me or were considering starting out on a similar journey or had at least begun to recognise the tell-tale signs that I had had that the time was approaching to make a change.

The initial feedback afterwards was extremely positive.  Many of the people in my audience spoke to me privately during the rest of the day, sharing their own stories and concerns with me and asking for my advice.

This underlined to me that I’ve learnt so much myself through my engagement with the AUA and through the guidance and support I’ve received over the years from colleagues at other universities. This is also why it feels like such an honour to have had the chance to give something back and to contribute to helping other members think about developing their own careers.

If anyone reading this is considering submitting a proposal for an AUA conference session in the future then I’d simply encourage them to go for it!  Like me you’d find it an invaluable learning opportunity for yourself as well as a great way to meet and help colleagues beyond your own institution.

To view the PowerPoint presentation from Katie’s session, click here.


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