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ACEPHE and the summertime

Thank you to everyone who has supported ACEPHE over the past 12 months! 

It has been a very busy year across Higher Education, for students and staff. We have been so lucky to re/connect with so many people with care-experience and real allies who are willing to volunteer their time and expertise to share with ACEPHE members. 

In the next two weeks we are lucky to be hosting two virtual events- we hope you can join us.

If you wish to join either of the sessions below please email: acephe2020@gmail.com. (Yes, we do have a brand new central email address! Please can you add us to your contacts as sometimes the emails end up being filtered into spam folders.):

27 July 2021Closed (CEP only)8.30am-10am UK: Shut Up and Write (last session until September) – Share your writing goals & Write.
31st July 2021Open to Everyone10am UK: Joanna Humphries talking on the Raising Expectations Program in Australia, a program to encourage Care Leavers into Higher Education.

These are the last two events before the ACPEHE Team take a brief break in August, to reflect, rest and recharge ourselves for the year ahead of us!  

We will be back in September, and we look forward to sharing some of the plans for Sept-Dec as soon as we can!

How to feel like you belong: Understanding and Navigating Imposter Syndrome

A huge THANK YOU to Dr Stephanie Carty, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, for joining us on 15th May 2021 and talking us through what Imposter Syndrome is and how we can learn to reduce its negative impact.

As one of our attendees said:

“I think it made a real difference that [Stephanie was] the presenter. I’m sure others can talk about imposter syndrome in general terms, but I doubt they could have generated such a powerful and positive response from those attending … We could all tell from the comments how rewarding everyone found it.”

We learnt, using the analogy of a cat cared for lovingly at home vs a cat on the streets, about how many of us will be often/continually in ‘survival mode’ which is core to Imposter Syndrome. And when we’re in survival mode, we won’t be attending to evidence that we’ve done well, but to old programming that we don’t fit in etc. This might cause us to ‘shut down’, as an attendee realised was common for her, or even give up or put in minimal effort, as another reflected.

It pays, said Stephanie, to step back a bit and think about what triggers Imposter Syndrome (eg public speaking) and use some grounding techniques to soothe our bodies (put feet on the floor, focus on breathing, bring shoulders down). This was particularly helpful advice to one participant who said “… tapping in to your own physical needs, never mind emotional needs, as we are always caring for someone else. I hadn’t thought it in this context before…”

Also very helpful was the idea of not giving over the driving of our bus through life to unhelpful, even demanding passengers (eg thoughts of being undeserving or incapable) but to keep on going without giving them much, if any, attention. This metaphor is courtesy of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy and can be found online here.

As one person said, thanks to Stephanie’s presentation “There is light at the end of the tunnel and fear can be conquered.” And for another, it was comforting to realise she is not alone, that Imposter Syndrome is quite common.

“…hearing those that are further down the line in education and academia was immensely reassuring and offered hope. 

Future Dates for your diaries:

15 June 2021Closed (CEP only)8.30am-10am UK: Shut Up and Write (fortnightly sessions) – Share your writing goals & Write.
26 June 2021Closed (CEP only)10am UK: Catch Up & Check In
29 June 2021Closed (CEP only)8.30am-10am UK: Shut Up and Write (fortnightly sessions) – Share your writing goals & Write.
31st July 2021Open to Everyone10am UK: Joanna Humphries talking on the Raising Expectations Program in Australia, a program to encourage Care Leavers into Higher Education.
TBC Closed (CEP only)Giving Effective Presentations

Shut Up And Write

‘Shut up and Write’ Sessions: 7th and 21st May 8.30- 9.30am (UK time)

ACEPHE are experimenting with running ‘Shut up and Write’ (SUAW) sessions. What we would like to try out with care experienced students and staff in is a very popular method called ‘Shut up and Write’. You can read about it here: https://thesiswhisperer.com/shut-up-and-write/

During this session, we will encourage you to do some writing, working in short ‘writing sprints’, that is, focused stretches of concentration. There will be an opportunity to share your writing goals and have a chat about how you are getting on so although you will be making progress with your individual writing, this will feel more like a social experience.

Sometimes sitting down to write, whether that’s a uni essay, report or academic paper can be challenging. There are so many reasons that we can find to avoid the inevitable. This year, the effect of covid has amplified this for some as they adjust to living through a global pandemic. One thing I’ve found over the last few months is how a regular writing space and practice can help ground and centre our concentration. It’s also a way of working with people virtually, remotely and as a group. The latter seems to provide some much-needed accountability!

We would love you to join us at our SUAW sessions. For the zoom invitation please email Rosie and she will send you the link:

rc11g14@soton.ac.uk

Reminder:

15th May 2021CEP onlyThe Psychology of Imposter Syndrome and How to Manage it
 
Dr Stephanie Carty will talk you through what Imposter Syndrome is, why you may be susceptible to it, and what to do to reduce its negative impact. You will learn about how the mind and body respond to threat and develop insights into regulating yourself for more positive outcomes.

 
with Dr Stephanie Carty, Consultant Clinical Psychologist

For zoom invitation, email; rc11g14@soton.ac.uk

April Social: Care Experienced History Month

Closed Social10th April 10-11.30am (GMT) 

We will be celebrating Care Experienced History Month!  

10.00am – Dr Dee Michell will open the session and talk about Care History Month. 

10.15am – Discussion on higher education and care history in the US and Australia led by Amy Gill

10.35am – Discussion on higher education and care history in the UK led by Dr Jim Goddard

11.55am – Break

11.05am – Questions & catch up with how people are? 

11.30am – Close

For the zoom invitation please email Rosie and she will send you the link:

Rc11g14@soton.ac.uk

‘Shut up and Write’ Sessions: 7th and 21st May 8.30- 9.30am (GMT)

ACEPHE are experimenting with running ‘Shut up and Write’ (SUAW) sessions. What we would like to try out with care experienced students and staff in is a very popular method called ‘Shut up and Write’. You can read about it here: https://thesiswhisperer.com/shut-up-and-write/

During this session, we will encourage you to do some writing, working in short ‘writing sprints’, that is, focused stretches of concentration. There will be an opportunity to share your writing goals and have a chat about how you are getting on so although you will be making progress with your individual writing, this will feel more like a social experience.

Sometimes sitting down to write, whether that’s a uni essay, report or academic paper can be challenging. There are so many reasons that we can find to avoid the inevitable. This year, the effect of covid has amplified this for some as they adjust to living through a global pandemic. One thing I’ve found over the last few months is how a regular writing space and practice can help ground and centre our concentration. It’s also a way of working with people virtually, remotely and as a group. The latter seems to provide some much-needed accountability!

We would love you to join us at our SUAW sessions. For the zoom invitation please email Rosie and she will send you the link:

Rc11g14@soton.ac.uk

Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

My (non)-traditional journey through higher education

by Amy Gill, The University of Sydney

My higher education journey began twenty years ago on the opposite side of the world to where I write this blog post for ACEPHE. Mountains of college brochures addressed to me arrived in the mailbox at my foster home during my senior year of high school. This placement was in a rural part of Ohio, so we had a backyard and tossed most of them into a bonfire. I knew where I wanted to go to college, which was a small, eccentric liberal arts college just a few hours away.  

School had always been my solace, especially after I was removed from my family. Placement moves forced me to change schools five times in the ninth grade before I went to live with a family that supported my education. Despite a rocky start to high school, I was graduating on time and had been offered a wealth of scholarships, big and small. It seemed that everyone wanted to help put a kid leaving foster care through college!

Living in the dorms gave me a sense of freedom unlike the strict conditions of being in care. Unlike most of the other students on campus, I was also well versed in roommate negotiations, shared bathrooms, and dining halls. But I was still grappling with childhood trauma and depression, so my transition to campus life did not come easy. I did make great friends, including a few others who had also been in care. It gave us a bond when we otherwise had little in common. 

I originally planned to study creative writing, but I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. My teachers, caseworker and guidance counsellor were thrilled I had plans to go to college, but none had taken the time to discuss career pathways with me. My academic advisor suggested I take the maximum five years to complete a Bachelor of Arts, so I could learn a bit of everything, from political history and astronomy to pottery and fencing, and even spend a semester studying Spanish in Mexico.  

Shortly before graduation, I began planning a working holiday to the UK. With no deep attachments to anyone in the US and no real job prospects, it seemed like the perfect adventure. And it was, so much so that I decided to do it all again, but this time in Australia. I moved to Perth on a whim, and soon realised that my generalised BA degree was not attractive to many employers. I knew I wanted to work with children but had some inkling that social work would be retraumatising and stressful. So, I randomly chose a university near my house that offered a one year post-grad program to qualify as a primary school teacher.  

Once again, I wish I had someone who could have offered me career advice because there were far, far more qualified primary teachers than job vacancies at the time. I spent a few years taking intermittent relief teaching work and short-term contracts in farming and mining towns, remote Aboriginal communities, and as a music specialist in a leafy green suburb. Then I decided to do a Master of Education by research degree because it sounded like fun. That same year, I also won a scholarship to upgrade my teaching qualification to include high school Design and Technology, a subject with a teacher shortage at the time. It was very humbling to struggle so much in an educational setting. I managed to electrocute myself using an arc welder and couldn’t build a wooden stool that didn’t wobble.  

Educational research was equally challenging, but far more my style. Knowing firsthand how much educational support can make a difference to the lives of kids in care, I wrote a research proposal to explore collaboration between social workers and educators. The research took much longer than I expected, especially as I was also teaching in primary schools, tutoring, and volunteering.  

Back then I told myself I would never, ever study again. But here I am, halfway through a PhD program researching the support needs of young parents in and exiting care. I moved to Sydney and found some work as a research assistant. My supervisor encouraged me to apply for a PhD. Again, I wish someone had given me career advice because I picked the wrong program, the wrong supervisors, and was advised to address my topic from the wrong angle. That first year of my PhD was made all the more difficult by a cancer diagnosis. About a year I returned from maternity leave with a clean bill of health and decided to transfer to a new university to basically start a PhD all over again.  

It was well worth it, though. Now my research project has evolved to include additional types of data, and most importantly, the perspectives of care leavers. I feel very grateful to have met so many other care leavers in academia already. Among other things, I hope my involvement in ACEPHE might include exchanging the kinds of advice on navigating higher education and career planning that we care leavers often miss out on. 

Navigating the chaotic and confusing world of academic publishing

Thanks so much to Associate Professor Neil Harrison who came along on Saturday (morning in London, evening in Australia) to give us an informative and enjoyable induction into the “chaotic and confusing world of academic publishing”.

Neil is Senior Researcher and Deputy Director of the Rees Centre at Oxford University and is also an Executive Editor for Teaching in Higher Education. From his considerable reservoir of knowledge, Neil demystified the process, encouraged the group to begin publishing no matter where they are at in their university journey, and suggested PhD candidates become peer reviewers because they will learn much from the process.

Comments from attendees:

Thank you for organising! 
I think the important thing is around making aspects of academic life explicit through informative, knowledgable and collaborative means.

***

It was so lovely to meet you all, albeit virtually. I personally loved all of it, however, my favourite part is when we openly discussed topics. I really enjoyed chatting to others, sharing ideas and worries about academia and publishing. I thought Neil’s slides and talk slides were very clear and engaging. I felt I learned a lot about the process of publishing and some of the difficulties that come with it. I am looking forward to the next one!

***

Firstly, I thoroughly enjoyed the session, so much gratitude to Neil, for giving up his Saturday morning!

Neil broke down the topic, into manageable chunks, which was excellent.

For someone like me, who has always wondered about how to go about writing articles for journals and finding the subject bewildering, I found it extremely informative. It covered some of the topics I wondered about and much more. Neil giving  an account of how things work, behind the scenes, and other information as to how the system works overall, makes this topic much easier to navigate and not so fearful of approaching.

I also actually found that it boosted my confidence, as I always thought it was unachievable. I was always given the impression that it was for people of high esteem, but Neil dispelled this myth. 

***

I found it particularly useful as I am new to academia and the whole process seems daunting at this stage. It’s also been difficult starting a PhD remotely and I’ve found it significantly harder to access relevant information than during previous years at the university so again this was invaluable. I found particularly useful the tips for getting published and the discussion around not taking it personally when articles are rejected – I think I would have taken this much more to heart than if I hadn’t been made aware of this.

***

Top tips were: know the “aims and scopes” of the journal before submitting a manuscript, contribute to an ongoing conversation within the journal (eg by citing journal contributors), follow the rules regarding wordcount and referencing system, and don’t take rejection personally. Neil said his most cited article was rejected three times before it was published, so if you think what you have to say is important, and you’ve done good research, keep plugging away. Oh, and watch out for the abundance of fake journals wanting you to publish with them; if they say they are wonderful, they probably aren’t. 

The PhD question…

Back in November 2020, we held The Challenges and Pleasure of Being a Care Experienced Person Working and Studying in a University. Rosie Canning spoke about doing a PhD:

  • When did you first consider doing a PhD?

I first thought about doing a PhD some years ago. After I finished a MA Writing, I knew at some stage I would do a PhD. (Only 2% of care leavers attended university when I did my degree back in the 90s) Almost from the beginning of the PhD journey, I knew it would be something about care leavers in fiction, this was my subject, something I could write about. I spent hours in the British Library, looking through journals and books. There did not appear to be any criticism about care leavers in literature, though they had begun to appear both in novels and more worryingly were often negatively represented in real life and particularly crime drama. Fiction represents our mirror of the world and one of the questions I was interested in was, why was the ordinary care leaver almost invisible?

  • What attracted you to doing a PhD

The good thing about doing a PhD is that you can spend time on something that you are interested in rather than having to complete various modules that you might not necessarily want to do. It can be your lifetimes knowledge, something that you are passionate about. If you’re going to spend 3-4 years or 7 years part-time being immersed in that world, it’s best to choose something you want to also learn more about. I definitely wanted to push myself academically, to face some of my fears – speaking in front of people being one! There is also something really satisfying about becoming a doctor – a sort of ‘up yours’ to the past!

  • Who are your role models?

There weren’t any in my field. Zachari Duncalf, was somebody I contacted. Zachari’s thesis is Social Sciences, so although she was a role model, i.e. care experienced and doing a PhD – our topics are very different. However, some years after I had completed an MA Writing, I attended Lemn Sissay’s ‘From Pip to Potter’, at Southbank in February, 2012. This event highlighted the stark differences in the way literature presents cared-for children and orphans, compared to the experiences of children in those circumstances in the real world. At the event I met Josie Pearse who was adopted and in the process of completing her PhD at Cardiff University and was also looking at orphans in literature. I was so inspired by both these people, I decided I would investigate further and pursue a PhD myself. 

From that day Josie became a role model. Her support has been invaluable and she has become a cherished friend. Also my sister is a role model, she’s a career specialist and has worked in HE, we often have chats about academia. Along the PhD journey I have met others who have become role models…Cat and Dee to name two. 

  • What are your favourite aspects of doing a PhD?

My world has opened up – I have met so many interesting people through researching this subject. Attending conferences, learning, access to resources and intellectuals. It’s been a wonderful experience.

  • What are the most challenging aspects of doing a PhD?

Procrastination is my worse thing. Staying focused. Being disciplined. There is nobody to say where is that piece of writing you were supposed to finish? We are adults and have to care about ourselves. Supervisors are there to supervise us but not to mother or nanny us. If you don’t produce the work they are not going to chase you. The other thing is my age – I get tired now.

When I was at school the 11+ plus was used to decide who would go to grammar school and who would go to the secondary modern. I was not supported or encouraged at all and this was in addition to the gender bias that was around in the 70s. Not once in all my years at school did anybody attend parents evening. What I’m saying is that if there had been someone who recognised my potential back then, maybe I would have done a PhD much earlier on.

  • Would you recommend doing a PhD for other CEP?

I would definitely recommend doing a PhD but try and get funding and really research your subject beforehand. It’s a hard slog and you spend much of the time not knowing what you are doing.

  • Was there extra support you would have liked to receive on your way through HE?

Definitely financial – I’ve supported myself financially and it’s been hard. I sold my flat and moved out of London to get access to extra money… For other support, there is usually a community of PhD students that you can tap into – attend the get-togethers / also make contact with widening participation – find out what they know that will help you. I think doing a PhD means that firstly you believe in yourself, secondly somewhere in amongst all the negative conversations we all have with ourselves, you know you are capable of doing the work. In many ways the Masters dissertation prepares you for the initial aspects of doing a PhD. I also gave myself extra support – the novel I’m working on and the psychological research I have to do for the thesis means I am dealing with old traumas – I have a counsellor through a scheme run by the NHS which means you pay what you can afford. It’s a place for me to discuss stuff that comes up. If you want to improve your life you have to do the work.

  • What difference do you think it makes to the wider CEP community to have CEP doing PhDs?

If I think back to meeting Josie I was completely bowled over, I couldn’t wait to find out how she had got into doing a PhD AND researching the very subject I was interested in – what were the chances of that happening? But, believe these things will happen – you will meet people that will have your back and then you in turn can do the same for other care exp PhD students. Many of us don’t have families – supporting each other is very important.

  • During your time studying, what changes have you seen toward including/supporting CEP in HE?

I think the widening participation departments are much more aware of the issues that cep’s face and are there to try and support them. Undergraduates particularly.

  • What further changes would you like to see?

Well there have been changes re finances since I started. There is a postgraduate loan £26,445, if your course starts on or after 1 August 2020 so I guess that’s sorted really – you must be under 60 so I missed out on this. So, I’d like to see more support for unfunded care exp PhD students over 60! Also I’d like to see some sort of coming together once or twice a year, like ACEPHE, so that CEP can make connections and know they have other CEPs to talk to.

Rosie’s PhD website: Orphans and Care Experience in Literature

Find Rosie on Twitter: @rosie_canning

Welcoming the New Year with ACEPHE

The Great ACEPHE Christmas Gathering was an opportunity for all those people with care-experience working and/or studying in Higher Education to meet up. We enjoyed mince pies and a quiz, a discussion about the pleasures & challenges of being a CEP student at Xmas and the structure for Steering Committee which would include care experienced, undergraduate, masters, doctoral and non care experienced roles.

  • Steering Committee: once a month, via Zoom
  • Meetings for care experienced in HE: every two months
  • Meetings including non care experienced: every six months
  • Workshops: as appropriate
  • Annual Conference/event

Exciting future dates for your diaries:

Date Closed or Open Details
6th February 2021 Closed  Navigating the chaotic and confusing world of academic publishing with Dr Neil Harrison, Deputy Director of the Rees Centre, Senior Researcher and Associate Professor
10th April 2021 Closed Social
15th May 2021 Closed How to feel like you belong: Understanding and Navigating Imposter Syndrome with Dr Stephanie Carty, Consultant Clinical Psychologist
TBC (July/ Aug 2021) Open Showcasing great work in Australia: Joanna Humphries ‘Raising Expectations”

To register your interest for any event please email Rosie: rc11g14@soton.ac.uk for the Zoom invitation.

We also discussed OUR AIMS

Advocacy:

  • Seek to increase the visibility of the care-experienced community with all levels and areas of work in Higher Education
  • To challenge negative perceptions of people with care experience through enhancing public visibility of care-experienced people in HE
  • To establish a collective voice that can influence policy strategically to ensure that the needs of care-experienced people of all ages in HE are able to access financial, social and emotional support to support their success

Outreach:

  • To develop opportunities for care-experienced people in Higher Education to get to know each other
  • Provide spaces for networking and supportive peer relationships to assist in supporting each other, offering personal experiences and insight into University processes, study and finance
  • To develop relationships internationally between people with care experience working and/or studying in Higher Education

Scholarship:

  • To provide a platform to promote the academic contributions made by people with care experience in a broad range of disciplines
  • To showcase the important contributions made by care experienced people to the understanding and insight into what it means to spend time growing up in care and the challenges and strengths of CEP across the life course
  • To promote the use of scholarship on the care-experience within our teaching to challenges negative expectations, reduce stigma and increase awareness of the need to listen to the voices of people with care-experience.

We’d like to take this chance to say we look forward to meeting you in 2021 and wish everyone a very Healthy and Happy New Year.

Rosie, Cat, Dee and Jim

The Great ACEPHE Christmas Gathering: 19th December 10am (UK time)

The Great ACEPHE Christmas Gathering is an opportunity for all those people with care-experience working and/or studying in Higher Education. This is a ‘closed’ space specifically for those with lived experience of growing up in ‘care’.

What can you expect?

  1. A Christmas Quiz. Rounds include: ‘Bah Humbug’ and ‘Care-leavers and Orphans in Fiction’
  2. Discussion about Christmas and space to reflect on the challenges and pleasures of Christmas time.
  3. The future of the ACEPHE: we want to hear your thoughts about what you want.

To register your interest in the event please email Rosie: rc11g14@soton.ac.uk for the Zoom invitation.

If you know anybody who is a care-leaver/care-experienced person studying or working in Higher Education, please pass this on.

We will update the blog shortly with dates of our ‘open’ and ‘closed’ events for 2021!

Cat, Rosie, Dee and Jim

Reflections on ‘The Challenges And Pleasure Of Being A Care Experienced Person Working And Studying In A University’

On Saturday the 14th November we held the first virtual event of the Alliance of care Experienced People in Higher Education. It was a great session involving people with care-experience working and studying in higher education (HE) at all levels, from undergraduate to academic staff. We were also joined by allies in research, whose specialisms include care-leavers in HE, and professional HE staff who are working to increase participation of care-leavers and/or supporting people with care-experienced backgrounds in HE. What was particularly astounding was how, through the technology we were able to connect internationally.

The conversations that went on were rich with depth, connection, empathy and insight. A special thank you must go to everybody who joined the discussion, there is so much to capture from this first event! I guess that is what happens when you get a group of people together with shared interests. In the words of one of the team, “it was heart warming”.

The Team met this morning and reviewed the notes we took from the session. What came up were a number of interconnected themes that we want to share with you here. These are:

  • Imposter Syndrome
  • Financial support & age boundaries for support
  • Stigma & Discriminations
  • Pros & Cons of declaring CEP status
  • Trauma being triggered while studying/doing research
  • No-one to help with proof-reading etc.
  • Benefits of this group – especially not feeling so alone.

A part of our agenda for the day was understanding from people with care experience work and studying in HE was what they thought ACEPHE could do to support them. 

  1. There was a focus on the group providing future opportunities for mutual support, from undergraduates through to academics. 
  2. There was a consensus on the benefits of having ‘closed’ (care leaver only) meetings and ‘open’ (including anyone sympathetic to our aims, such as those allies who joined us on Saturday).
  3. Value of a face-to-face conference in the future. 

The Team have reflected on this and want to make sure CEP working and studying in HE have an opportunity to connect together again before Christmas. We are planning a Care Leaver/ Care Experienced Social closed group for Saturday 19th December at 10am (UK time)- so save the date! If you know anybody who is a care-leaver studying or working in Higher Education, please pass this on. We will have a chance to pick up and discuss these themes together and have a bit of fun with a quiz!

In the meantime, the Team will continue to work behind the scenes to set dates for further ‘open’ and ‘closed’ groups…  So watch this space for more updates!