“An exceptional opportunity”: Rachael Alexander on the role of BAAS Postgraduate Representative

Video: Jonathan Bell (Chair of HOTCUS), Tom Bishop (HOTCUS Postgraduate Secretary), Sue Currell (Chair of BAAS) and Rachael Alexander (BAAS Postgraduate Representative) discuss their respective organisations, the joint postgraduate event, and the value of academic collaboration.


As advertised, there are numerous upcoming available positions on the BAAS Executive Committee. Among these is my own position as postgraduate representative. Looking back, I felt incredibly under-qualified when I took up the post; being prone, as so many of us are, to “impostor syndrome”. I didn’t think I had anywhere near enough experience to stand, and it was only after considerable encouragement from the previous postgraduate representative that I nervously agreed. The position has proven an exceptional opportunity, in terms of both personal and professional development. So, in case there is anyone in a similar position this time around, I thought I’d give a very brief overview of what’s expected from the postgraduate representative, some of the things I’ve done, and some of the benefits of the post.

BAAS takes its commitment to postgraduates seriously, and one of the core purposes of the postgraduate representative is to express the concerns and interests of the postgraduate community. At the first stage, this involves communicating and connecting with the postgraduate community; both in person at American studies events and through other channels, such as social media and U.S. Studies Online. Articulation of postgraduate interests then occurs through participation in committee meetings, where pertinent issues can be raised and addressed. Assistance in the organisation of the annual BAAS postgraduate conference also falls within the remit of the postgraduate representative.

The conference was a particular area of interest for me. As I’ve commented elsewhere, academia is increasingly collaborative when compared to the largely solitary PhD experience. Yet, postgraduates are relatively underprepared for this aspect of academic life. Perhaps one of the best things about the role is that you are very much encouraged to make it your own. I consider this to be a significant issue for postgraduates, and so it became the focus of the most recent BAAS postgraduate conference. Working with HOTCUS, we coordinated a two-day event with the intention of increasing training, considering collaboration, and providing a supportive environment for postgraduates and early career researchers.

Perhaps one of the best aspects of the role is that you can really make it your own; interact with the community, identify a core issue, and work to improve it. The issues facing PGRs are many and varied, and can seem incredibly daunting. Yet, anyone serving as postgraduate representative faces these challenges with an exceptional level of support from the committee, whose generosity and encouragement have been unfaltering. It is an exceptional opportunity which I would recommend unreservedly. Details on the nomination process can be found here: https://usso.uk/event/elections-for-baas-executive-committee-2016/

About Rachael Alexander

Rachael Alexander recently completed her PhD project, ‘Imagined Women: Nationalism, Consumerism, and Gender in the Ladies’ Home Journal and Canadian Home Journal of the 1920s’. Her current research interests include twentieth-century American and Canadian magazines, periodical networks, and wider media ecologies. She teaches in the English Department at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, and was previously the BAAS Postgraduate Representative.
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