A play on words brings career satisfaction

Dr Sarah Olive

A passion for Shakespeare and research has evolved into a fulfilling career in the United Kingdom for BA graduate Sarah Olive. The 31-year-old former Adelaide resident is combining her interest in the world’s most famous bard and her Bachelor of Arts degree in her current role – program leader for the BA English in Education at the University of York and a module leader with the Shakespeare Institute in Birmingham.

Name:  Dr Sarah Olive

University degree details:

Bachelor of Arts (Honours) 2003, University of Adelaide

Details of any scholarships awarded:

Summer Research Scholarship – English Department, University of Adelaide

Norman McCann Summer Scholarship – National Library of Australia

How did these scholarships assist you in your study?

These scholarships played a key role in developing my understanding of the research element of an academic career. They enabled me to learn about project design, organisation and budgeting by working alongside established scholars in the English department. They developed my ability to work independently for sustained periods of time but also to work in small research teams with project leaders, administrators and other research assistants.

What have you been doing since graduation?

Immediately after graduating I was hired as a Research Officer by Flinders University International Students’ Association, where I was responsible for research into the needs of the overseas student population and advocating for these needs on university committees.

I then undertook a Masters of Philosophy in Educational Research at Cambridge University. My training in social science research methods, combined with research interests developed at the National Library of Australia, led to my employment as a Research Associate on the Changing Families, Changing Foods programme at the University of Sheffield.

After this fixed-term project finished, I returned to study, completing a fully-funded PhD on Shakespeare in Education as part of an Arts and Humanities Research Council project at the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham in 2011, and working part time for the Open University.

My interests have always been interdisciplinary, drawing on the arts (English, Cultural Studies) and the social sciences (particularly Education), so my current position as a Lecturer in English in Education at the University of York is a perfect match for me.  I am the program leader for the BA English in Education. I also co-ordinate third year empirical dissertation workshops, teach a variety of undergraduate modules and supervise MA and PhD students.  I have also returned to the Shakespeare Institute as a module leader on the MA Shakespeare and Education, supervising some of the students I have taught through their dissertations.

Career highlights

Contracting with the publishers Intellect to produce a monograph Shakespeare Valued: policy, pedagogy and popular culture for publication in 2014.

Being appointed Editor of the British Shakespeare Association’s new magazine for educators in schools, the arts and heritages sectors, and universities Teaching Shakespeare in 2011.

Travelling on research exchanges to universities in Norway and New Zealand in 2012.

Presenting my work at conferences in the UK, Czech Republic, America and Canada.

Why choose University of Adelaide to study?

The University of Adelaide offers research-led teaching, which means that lecturers share their trailblazing knowledge and experience with students, giving you an edge in your discipline.

Lecturers make time to explore your interests in areas related to – but perhaps beyond – the limits of modules and support you in applying for scholarships and awards to develop your own career.

Apart from your academic qualification, how did your experience at the University of Adelaide shape you as a person?

I was able to extend my interest in European theatre through working on French Society drama productions at the Little Theatre and to build knowledge and experience of university management through acting as a student representative on faculty committees.

Advice to incoming students to gain the most from their time at university

Talk to lecturers whose area you are interested in – even if you’re not taking their module. Get involved in student representation – you’ll understand the workings of the university better and it’s attractive to future employers. Use the university’s website to find out about opportunities for travel grants, other funding and scholarships available for work in your discipline – it’s a great way to see the world, try out new ideas and build unique, first-hand knowledge of your area.

Any tips re finding work after graduation?

Keep track of all the non-academic activities you have taken part in through your degree with a CV that you update regularly – that way you won’t forget important experiences in a rush to complete job applications at the end of your program. It means you can also identify any potential gaps in your experience and act to fill them before you leave.



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