Results Day (at last!)

Finally, FINALLY it is results day at Westminster! Many congratulations to all of our students who have completed their first or second years, and a special congratulations to those of you getting your final degree results today. You did it!

We know that this year, more than any other, you have done this under incredibly difficult circumstances, and your perseverance in the face of a global pandemic, exile from the library and emergency online teaching is to be applauded and celebrated. Really, well done. For those of you still completing work, we see you too and your time will come. Keep at it (and we’re still here to help if you need us).

We also know the pandemic has robbed you of some of the rituals and rites of passage usually enjoyed by students at the end of their degrees. We didn’t get that ‘last class ever’ moment when tutors get a bit dewy eyed and say things like “is it really three years since you were in my [insert Level 4 module title] class?”. When we asked you to submit your dissertations online we knew there would be no ‘handing-in-my-dissertation’ selfie moment for you (a screenshot of the Turnitin ‘submit’ button is not as Instagram-able, we get it).

We also know you’re having to wait for your graduation ceremony – that special day when we take over the Royal Festival Hall, wear ridiculous outfits, and when your tutors and loved ones, a) weirdly meet, and b) demand you pose for endless unflattering photos. Until that joyous day comes (and it will come), we thought we’d share with you some of our own end-of-degree moments – so, please enjoy this rogues’ gallery of blurry, in some cases pre-digital, snaps of the Sociology team at their proudest/most awkward.

Umit

 

Here’s Umit at his graduation from the Sociology degree at Westminster in 2008, see he’s been through what you have and survived!

Naomi

 

 

 

Naomi is the only one of us brave enough to admit to having had an official degree photo done! By the time of her PhD she’d embraced the more everyday snapshot format.

Adam

 

Adam: This was my PhD graduation. It absolutely bucketed down with rain, roads were flooded, there were serious traffic jams across Sydney and I, with lots of other people, turned up late and dripping wet. It was an early ceremony but was held on campus so we went back to the Gender and Cultural Studies offices afterwards to dry off and drink champagne in our damp robes. It was actually a fun day!!

Celia

Celia shows up at graduation every year to receive the many unwieldy floral tributes bestowed on her by grateful graduands. She says she was “too radical” to attend her undergrad ceremony, but then realised that as her parents had bankrolled her through university, she ought go to her MA and PhD graduation ceremonies for them.

Val

 

 

 

 

Val is another one of us who didn’t go to their graduation. In the long-term it does get you out of having to supply embarrassing photos for features like this when you’re a big shot professor (although mortar boards can be photoshopped on). Also, it is totally OK not to want to go to the ceremony. You still get your degree!

Hilde

 

Here’s Hilde at her PhD graduation back in 2012, feeling proud but also slightly star struck standing next to the famous Marxist economic geographer David Harvey.

David

 

 

 

 

David: As these are really rather strange times, I thought I’d share a strange picture on my graduation day receiving my PhD from the father of modern sociology Anthony Giddens in 2001 at the LSE. I cringe at the thought that I seem to have an audience with a seated king on his throne!!

FRW

 

Francis: I remember my gender studies lecturers (the very eminent Professors Jackie Stacey and Sarah Franklin) telling me that graduation robes were designed to be worn with a “man’s” shirt and tie (the hood hooks onto your shirt buttons and the tie covers it up), and I took this as an excuse to wear a suit and tie to my undergraduate graduation. There is, however, no excuse for not tucking in my shirt.

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Emily, currently on sabbatical/marooned in Spain and unable to access those graduation photos buried deep in a loft somewhere in the UK, did manage to find this photo from her brother’s graduation – she’s wearing his hat! It still as an air of summer celebration to it, and some fine sandstone in the background.

 

JenniferJennifer has been ‘in exile’ and without access to their full photographic back catalogue…or their full wardrobe, so they couldn’t even model this year’s graduation outfit for you. In lieu of a photo of their graduation (unobtainable despite much hassling of friends) here they are in the wilds of Scotland, practicing some serious social distancing.

Ben

Ben: I couldn’t find any graduation pictures (ok I could, but they are awful), and so I picked this one instead. This apparently serene springtime photo was taken a few hours after the final exam of my third year. I acutely remember the terrible state I’d got myself in that morning; the accumulating stress that led to me abandoning the second answer and walking out early, certain I’d messed it all up. I guess I’ve chosen it now as a token of solidarity with those of you who have struggled at some point along the way: I fucking hate exams.

 

 

Congratulations to you all again, and we’re looking forward to celebrating your successes in person as soon as that’s possible.

The Sociology Team

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Another successful year for Sociology Work Experience students at the Employability Awards

This has been another successful year for our Sociology Work Experience students at the Employability Awards, with Kyra-Lamar Arneta winning the LAS Short-term Placement Student of the Year Award and Sajida Khanom winning third place in the Explore Teaching Placement Student of the Year Award. The Level 5 Work Experience module offers students a chance to choose their own placement, which ideally is related to a possible career choice after graduating. The placement provides an opportunity to apply graduate level skills gained from doing their degree in Sociology or Combined Honours in real work situations. The students are encouraged to work independently but with support from the module leader, Engage officer at the University and their manager/mentors in the workplace. Increasingly, employers are favouring graduates who have completed work placements whilst at university and one of the ways that Westminster has promoted employability is through the Employability Awards Scheme which offers a number of awards to the placement students in several categories.

 

Kyra-Lamar Arneta, a Sociology student, completed her placement at the City of Westminster College as a teaching assistant via the University’s Explore Teaching Scheme. She said that she “learnt how to create and execute an effective lesson… and the importance of organisation, time-management and communication”. The experience has confirmed that she does want to go into teaching when she graduates. After receiving her prize money of £200, Kyra said

“I am very honoured. I am beyond grateful to be recognised for my work during my placement.”

 

Sajida Khanom, a Sociology student, completed her placement as a teaching assistant at a secondary school and her mentor nominated her for the award based on the quality of her work there. Sajida stated that:

 

The work experience module equipped me with more knowledge about all workplaces. I learned various ways to adapt my current skills and highlight the gaps missing within my skills set. Reflecting on my current skills at the time enabled me to develop new skills to add to my CV. The work experience module has prepared me for what to expect when applying for jobs and going for interviews. These are just some of the few things I learned in this module.

 

Sajida also expressed her amazement at winning the £100 prize and said:

I felt really proud of myself for winning this award […] This is a great achievement and I will hold onto it closely.

 

Both students offered advice to current students to make use of the university’s careers’ service, Engage and take advantage of this module and the Explore Teaching scheme and other opportunities to find out what you need to do when looking for work and filling your skills’ gaps. I am also proud of all the work experience students who learn so much from taking this module and I am especially proud of Kyra-Lamar and Sajida.

 

Umit Cetin

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Sociology under Lockdown

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Coronavirus has meant some big changes to how we work in Sociology at Westminster. We went under lockdown two thirds of the way through our second semester and made a rapid adjustment to online teaching. It was sad not to be able to see our students face to face, but we have lots of experience of using online technologies and were able to make good use of recorded lectures, online reading lists and teaching tools like Padlet and Prezi during those last four weeks of term. Now we’re facing the possibility of teaching entire modules online during the coming academic year, and are thinking especially hard about how to make sure our new students feel included in the valuable learning community we have in Sociology.

We’ve seen how important a sociological perspective is to understanding some of the contradictions at work in the current crisis. While in one sense we’re all in it together, in another sense the last couple of months have highlighted how existing race and class inequalities have significant impacts on our chances of surviving or dying from the disease. Political choices made in the name of scientific objectivity are reshaping how our societies operate, and many of the apparent certainties we were living with at the start of 2020 are now in flux. In our research and in our teaching, the Sociology team will be doing important critical work to make sense of this changing world.

In the meantime, we’re thinking a lot about all our current students, but particularly our third year students working hard to complete their dissertation projects. While the  summer graduation ceremony is postponed we really look forward to a time when we can celebrate your graduations with you properly, face to face.

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Event: Thinking about a Career in Social and Criminological Research?

On the 12th November, Soc-Crim students were invited to a very useful event: Thinking about a Career in Social and Criminological Research, organised by Soc-Crim Course leaders Hilde Stephansen and Emily Falconer. Two external speakers, Graham Farrant, Chief Executive of the Social Research Association and Molly Mayer, researcher at National Centre for Social Research gave overviews of how to get into the sector, and what everyday life as a social researcher can look like. The second two speakers, PhD student Nayyar Hussain and Lecturer in Criminology, Jeane Gerad, provided insights into their own journeys and love of research- which brought them into academia. If you are a stduent thinking about your future career, these events are a great starting point for ideas.

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November Graduation for Sociology and Soc-Crim Students

A very proud Emily Falconer joined in the celebrations at the Royal Festival hall on the 11th November 2019 as another round of Sociology and Soc-Crim students graduated from the University of Westminster. A delighted Saemah Osmani and Alexia Yirenkyi (pictured) were part of the ceremony, along with Aisha Ahmed, Aisha Butt, Prabhleen Kaur, Mohammad Imtiyaaz Ahmed and Tanjia Sultana. Well done for your achievements, and we wish all our students a successful future.

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Sociology Anthology 2019

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At this year’s graduation ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall, the Sociology team presented graduating students with the fifth edition of the annual Westminster Sociology Dissertation Anthology, which showcases some of the outstanding and innovative research produced by final year Sociology and Sociology-Criminology students at the University of Westminster.

The aim of this anthology is to reward good dissertations, to provide an example of quality work for future dissertation students, and to promote more widely the achievements of our students in Sociology at Westminster.

The anthology includes work by Kate Salmon, who has produced an in-depth qualitative study on women’s perspectives of stranger harassment in public space, paying particular attention to intergenerational differences. Iqra Bi’s  research explores how South Asian women who are University graduates navigate their social realms and negotiate the dichotomy of modern and traditional ‘good Muslim women’ ideals. Sadia Haque asks ‘who gets labelled a “terrorist”’? in a discourse analysis of online news articles covering two terrorist attacks. Isabelle Jackson’s project explores the ways young heterosexual people in contemporary British society learn about sexual practices and pleasure through sex toys. Chloe Mead has conducted fascinating survey research on the drinking cultures of British University students. Finally, Sazkar Kaka Rhsh’s impressive project investigates the marital life experiences of Iraqi-Kurdish women in the UK.

While these five projects are incredibly diverse, they all have qualities that
 make them distinctive of the kind of work our students produce in Sociology
 at Westminster: they engage creatively and passionately with some of the
 urgent issues of our time, they use a finely tuned sociological imagination to
 challenge taken-for-granted assumptions, and they are motivated by a desire 
to understand and challenge social inequalities.

Kate, Iqra, Sadia, Isabelle, Chloe, and Sazkar are not alone in producing great dissertation projects. The Sociology team had the pleasure to read some really excellent work. In particular, we would like to commend Brooklyn Stevens who collected some amazing, rich and fabulous data on the gentrification of Brixton and how it affects everyday lives and communities. Well done to all our third year students – we are very proud of you all!

Dr Ben Pitcher, on behalf of the Sociology team, July 2019.

Click here to download a free pdf copy of this year’s Westminster Sociology Anthology.

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So, what do you do all summer?

When teaching is over and marking is finally finished, the Sociology team are often asked what they get up to between June and September. Well, besides writing and updating modules, clearing, admissions, and some well-earned time off, the summer provides a bit of time and space for our own writing and research. In this blog post, three members of the Sociology team write about their current research projects and their plans for the coming months.

 

Ben Pitcher

I have recently been thinking about how Brexit and the rise of right-wing populism has shaped the way we think and talk about race. I organized an international symposium on responding to right-wing populism earlier in the year and have an article forthcoming with the Journal of Ethnic and Racial Studies in which I try to understand how and why antiracism has become associated with political elites. In this academic year I have been lucky enough to be invited to Helsinki in Finland and Reykjavik in Iceland and I will spend some of the summer working with Nordic and European colleagues on a new book project that addresses these issues.

The main thing I’ll be working on over the summer is an ongoing research project (and subject of my next book) that explores how we are increasingly drawing on ideas about the prehistoric human past to make sense of our present and future. I’m speaking at a conference later this month about how contemporary human beings relate to Neanderthals, an extinct human species to which we are more closely related than we might at first imagine!

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Adam Eldridge

Two years ago I hosted a conference on ‘tourism and the night’ with colleagues from the Marylebone campus. Andrew Smith (a reader in Tourism) and I are now editing a special journal issue featuring some of the papers from the conference. My own paper in the collection is about the tourist/ resident binary and the ways it’s challenged by recent mobilities and ways of belonging in big diverse cities like London. In the paper I argue that belonging at night is shaped by gender, class, and religion, as well our cultural capital and investment in leisure and leisure spaces. The issue includes other interesting papers on pilgrimage and light festivals in France, conflict between British tourists and local residents in Madrid, and how hospitality workers get home late at night in Brussels.

I’m then going to be working with our former colleague Dorrie Chetty on a project we started last year called Routes to Roots. The project is about hair salons open late at night and we’re looking at the ways they function as important community spaces.  Dorrie’s work on migration and migrant spaces and my work on the night come together here and we’re finding lots of interesting things about time-use patterns, configurations of here and home, and the ways communities are formed through local and international connections. The goal is to finish all our primary research in August before working on a couple of journal articles to be finished by the end of the year.

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Emily Falconer

Emily (who also moonlights as a human geographer as well as a sociologist) will be spending a lot of the summer thinking about Rhythm and Rhythmanalysis.

Rhythmanalysis is a collection of essays by French sociologist and Philosopher Henri Lefebvre, who believes that the concept of rhythm is crucial for understanding how we inhabit time and space in urban society. Think about your daily commute on the tube- how does your body fit into space at crowded times, avoid others as we step off the escalator, queue, shuffle and stop, queue, shuffle and stop. How are these rhythms interrupted and disturbed by deviant behaviour? Why is any of this important to us as sociologists?

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I recently attended a methods training workshop at the University of Kent on ‘Doing Rhythmanalysis’, which got me thinking about how daily rhythms and disruptions are crucial to understanding social moments of connection, disconnection and belonging. I will be meeting with a  group of international scholars to think about future research projects that can use Rhythmanalysis to think about these points of connection- especially in my ongoing work on men and loneliness (and choir singing!). I hope to present some of these initial ideas at the Royal Geographical Conference in August 2019 in London.

Meanwhile, I will also hopefully be attending a walking conference run by the Sociological Review and Goldsmiths University: Thinking on the Move: The Possibilities and Problems of Walking Sociologically so watch this space for more sociological walking tours coming to you soon!

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Level 5 Emotional Life Students visit London’s Foundling Museum

Dr Emily Falconer and Level 5 Students on the Emotional Life module visited the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury this afternoon, as part of the module’s fieldtrip scheduled to celebrate the end of term (Week 12). We were given a guided tour of the museum, which tracks the bleak and harrowing history of London’s many ‘abandoned’ children. Babies under two months old were brought to the Foundling hospital to be ‘given up’ by mothers who were living in wretched poverty, where infant mortality rates were rife. These were terrible times; our guide explained that since gin was understood to be an appetite suppressor, desperate mothers rubbed it on their starving infants gums to stop them crying, after their milk had dried up through lack of nutrition. But what was also striking was the amount of babies who had to be abandoned by unmarried mothers due to their illegitimacy, and it was useful to reflect on the deep rooted shame inherent in children born out of wedlock. As always, the study of emotional life can reveal how emotions are shaped by, and in turn reshape society and societal change.

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Soho Food Tour

The rain stopped just in time this afternoon for the annual Soho Food walking tour. The guided tour, run by Dr Emily Falconer, is part of the Level 6 module Food, Taste and Consumption, but is open to anyone in the School of Social Sciences at Westminster. Students gathered in the Regent Street foyer before embarking on seven tops around Chinatown, Greek street, Old Compton Street, Brewer Street and Berwick street. Soho is rich with historical and complex stories of migration, ‘glocalisation’ gentrification and changing patterns of taste and consumption, and everyone got a Pastel de Nata cake to keep them going.

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Soc-Crim Pizza Party

DELICIOUS Pizza and brilliant talks from student reps from DEN and the Student Union at the Soc-Crim Pizza Party this afternoon (It’s left-over pizza for breakfast everyday this week)

 

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