Undertaking a PhD is an extremely rewarding experience, however there are inevitably times in the PhD journey that are challenging and affect both the student experience and wellbeing. These might relate to issues such as mental health, disability, financial concerns, interpersonal conflict or academic processes.

A range of pastoral support for Arts, Design & Media PhD students is availble through The PGR Studio that complements the roles of the supervisory team and Research Degree Coordinators. This provision is led by Dr Gregory Dunn, whose role as PGR Studio Research Assistant, is focused on enhancing PhD wellness and providing pastoral support. Greg is a qualified Mental Health First Aid champion, experienced mentor and trained to deal with a number of pastoral-related issues.

Pastoral support falls into the following areas:

1-2-1 pastoral appointments

Appointments are available in 30-minute slots and provide a safe and confidential space to discuss any areas of concern. These are normally available on a Wednesday, although alternative arrangements can be made. To book an appointment, please contact Greg directly on Gregory.Dunn@bcu.ac.uk.

Wellbeing-related events

A number of events aimed at enhancing PhD wellness are scheduled as part of The PGR Studio programme. Past events include Meditation and Mindfulness and PhD walks. We also run socially-oriented events such as regular Coffee & Chats, a winter social and summer PhD picnic as well as happenings that aim to foster a PhD community such as our Inside/Out festival and annual conference.

ADM mentoring scheme

Our mentoring scheme pairs Arts, Design & Media doctoral students at different stages of their PhD journey as well as with recently completed researchers. It facilitates a confidential and supportive space to discuss issues related to PhD study and is complemented by annual gatherings that bring together the mentoring community. You can find more about the mentoring scheme here.

Online resources

We are currently building a resources area on the PGR Studio website that provides links to relevant information and services available both within and beyond BCU. You can also see our Academics Anonymous blog posts here, which explore a range of issues experienced during the PhD journey.

A bit about Greg ...

 

I arrive in my role as PGR Studio Research Assistant, having studied at BCU for a MA fine art and then in a full-time collaborative PhD research project with the Wye Valley AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) Management Team to procure a deeper understanding in how contemporary humans encounter the Wye Valley. The location is infused with human narrative, abundant in natural beauty and as a result, has provided inspiration for artists and pleasure seekers for over two and a half centuries. Earlier this year, I successfully passed my Viva (see my 60-second viva interview) and am currently amending my thesis.

I previously taught art at an FE College in London, travelled extensively and worked for seven years as a 3D Technical Demonstrator at Hereford College of Arts, where I successfully established an artistic practice, developing a hands-on affinity with numerous materials and making processes. I am enamoured with the feel of things and I foster a haptically driven approach to being in landscape – I like to touch and be touched by topography. Walking has become central to my process and being moved by, and moving through, a location is something I particularly enjoy sharing with other people. I have conducted numerous walks, accompanied by family, friends, academics, artists, makers and land managers.

Although my time as a doctoral student was largely positive, I experienced several personal difficulties, exacerbated by the isolating nature of the role and not helped by the apparent “everything is fine” culture of academic life.  I experienced deep anxiety, partly due to my dyslexia (an official diagnosis I neglected to declare at neither interview or final assessment). I also experienced serious depression for the first time in my life and the feeling that I was out of my depth – an imposter. With the help of a compassionate PhD Supervisor, the PGR Studio mentoring scheme, an NHS CBT counsellor and BCU Student Affairs, I was able to work through my problems and submit my thesis before the four-year time limit. I am grateful to all the help I received and wanted to contribute to the continued wellbeing of other PhD students, offer my experience to the research community and reassure others that doing a PhD is a worthwhile and transformative endeavour.

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