As Senior Research Fellow, Dr Alix Beeston, prepares for a new position as Lecturer in modern and contemporary literature at Cardiff University in Wales (starting in late October 2017), she shares how an ADM Fellowship paved the way for her to make a Kingdom impact as a Christian academic.
It was in the final weeks of winter last year when I first heard about ADM’s new Fellowships program, born of a dream to support the full contribution of Christian women to Australia’s intellectual, creative and cultural life. I was looking for a home for my work—a context in which I could settle into an academic career that I hoped would span a lifetime.
Ask anyone in the tertiary sector and they’ll tell you it’s increasingly difficult to carve out a space in the halls of academia. In universities in Australia and overseas, more and more of the work of teaching is being broken up into casual, short-term contracts, even as the oversupply of talented and dedicated people with PhDs has made the market for permanent jobs, as a friend said to me the other day, less a market than a lottery.
My area of research and teaching is the literature and film of the last century or so: those textual repositories for all our society’s hopes and anxieties, desires and fears. It’s a labour that fits me as well as any jeans I own; it’s the kind of daily worship that just feels right. If God’s act of creation was the overflow of his love and grace, then to seek to know and understand the world and all that is in it is to pursue God himself. All truth, in the end, is God’s truth. And I’ve seen firsthand how the university classroom can be a place in which new knowledge is forged, systems of social and political power are unveiled and ethical and humane ways of living are fostered.
So, after I received my doctorate in English in late 2015, I’d taken what work I could get, shuttling from one short-term teaching gig to another while keeping up no less than four other jobs on the side. It wasn’t sustainable, of course. What I needed was a quiet workspace, uninterrupted time and a supportive institution, so I could finish writing my first scholarly book and set myself up as well as I could for the long-term academic positions that are in such short supply.
ADM gave me all of this—as well as opportunities to grow in my theology and practical skills in public engagement—in the form of a Senior Research Fellowship. Working alongside the other Fellows this year, as they painted beautiful paintings and wrote important histories, I finished the final edits on my book, wrote a new journal article on a couple of contemporary novels, ran a workshop at the University of Sydney, and presented my research at a conference in Amsterdam.
At the same time, I kept an eye out for jobs. With ADM’s hugely generous support, I applied for a few positions in the UK in June and, in July, when I was shortlisted for two of them, I headed over to interview in person. The morning after I interviewed for a lectureship in English at Cardiff University in Wales, I got a call from the panel chair offering me the job. I got off the phone; I cried; I called my husband; I accepted the position.
It is no exaggeration to say that ADM has provided the conditions for me to be able to find my place in academia—a place that, to my surprise, happens to be halfway across the world. The Fellowship was just the right thing for me, at just the right time. I’m very sad to be resigning from ADM a few months early, as my husband and I pack up and move to Cardiff in October. But I’m deeply thankful to God for placing me in this amazing organisation this year. I can’t wait to see how he continues to use the Fellowship program to prepare and embolden women to use their many and varied gifts over the coming years.