This one’s in English, otherwise some of the people I talk about won’t know what I’m talking about. And it is really nothing more than a shameless plug for a brilliant initiative. An initiative that I am thrilled to be part of: Umeå University’s Industrial Doctoral School or Företagsforskarskolan as most of us know it. Although linking the academe with non-academic organisations (the IDS is not only about industry even though the name implies that) isn’t exactly new, doing it this way is very innovative for us, the research students involved. And I’ll leave the plug about the academe/industry/public sector relations to our fine Director or Co-ordinator because I want to tell you how this research school is nothing short of genius for us PhD students.
First of all, the academy is by nature a fiercely competitive environment. It is also hierarchical and can be discriminatory. Even though this kind of environment can be conducive to a few, for most of us it is quite daunting when we start out as fresh PhD students. The IDS gives us a safe environment, void of competition, in which to grow. Heck, most of us struggle to understand each other when we talk about our respective research projects. We all come from different disciplines, or at least different subject areas and this is a good thing. This environment fosters a supportive dynamic, one where we learn to appreciate each others’ work but more importantly where we learn to appreciate each other as people. We are so different that we sort of fit, like a puzzle.
Part of the IDS is a course package, designed to prepare us for working outside of the academy. I assume that some of us might get stuck where we are but the courses that we take with the IDS does give us the opportunity to venture outside of our own little environments and sometimes even venture into each others’. We have so far come up with some killer ideas on how to merge our research topics, but that’s a different story. We have been drilled in public speaking, group dynamics, how to write funding applications, how to start a business and how to understand statistics. It might seem random but it is actually quite brilliant. I learned, through my very first meetings with our former Director, Petter Gustafsson, and Co-ordinator Benkt Wiklund, that the secret lies in learning to appreciate all of it. To see the value of diversity and to try and figure out how it might relate to my project. It was also Petter who told me that I was not to leave a seminar until I had asked at least two questions.
Another aspect of the IDS is that we get to visit each other’s mentor organisations to gain a better and broader understanding of each others’ projects. For me, this is really important. Through the IDS I have been given a rare opportunity to conduct a research project, relating to Indigenous peoples, with an Indigenous organisation as a project owner and mentor. In too many cases research relating to Indigenous peoples is not conducted in collaboration with the peoples that the research will impact. Having the National Association of the Swedish Sami People as my mentor enables me to use methodological frameworks conducive to Indigenous peoples. Furthermore, together with my mentor I have an opportunity to share information and knowledge about Sápmi to a broad scientific audience. Shortly, if we do this right we can debunk some myths and gain some ambassadors.
Apart from all the other perks the IDS brings, I can also rest assured that if I would have a problem or if someone was to give me grief, some rather excellent people have my back. Apart from the support that I gain from my cohort, we have a great leadership in new Director Anna Linusson Jonsson and Co-ordinator Benkt Wiklund who has been with us from the start.
Finally, our group, the IDS12, is pure genius – I have had some of the best laughs in years with this crew and I’m missing them sorely. I also have them to thank for teaching me the importance of torrefaction, the ability to light a fire with a gun and red pants, among many other things.