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Stefanie Allum

Career Path: Doctoral Researcher, Northumbria University
Location: Newcastle, UK

My degree in History of Modern Art, Design & Film provided me with the critical skills necessary to pursue academic research at postgraduate level as the variety of disciplines it covered facilitated a broad understanding of the relationship between art and society. After graduating I taught English as a foreign language in Spain for a couple of years, but my interest in the arts never disappeared.

I became interested in learning more about the relationship between Catalan cinema and Catalan society, so I returned to Northumbria University to complete a MA in Research on the topic of National Identity in Catalan Cinema. Whilst completing the Masters thesis, it became clear that Catalan cinema would actually make a good case study for research from a film studies perspective, and so I embarked upon a PhD in this discipline.

What are you doing now?

I am currently completing a PhD in Film Studies at Northumbria University.

What was it about Northumbria that made you decide to study here?

The course; it had a reputation for being quite ground-breaking in its approach to studying art history, so I'm glad to see that it is being resurrected.

What was it like studying at Northumbria?

The range of formats and assignments was great. It was a long time ago now, but I seem to remember that the first year was mostly a mix of exams and essays on introductory topics which prepared us for more specialised and/or personal projects in years 2 and 3. There was a professional practice aspect, a live research project, and an emphasis on presentation skills in most modules, which has been invaluable. There was space within the course for everyone to follow their interests, whilst all developing the same basic skills, which made group projects very interesting.

What impressed you most about our academic staff?

The subject expertise in lectures, seminars and individual tutorials, as well as support and encouragement, enabled us to develop the skills necessary to pursue our own ideas and develop as independent critical thinkers.

How connected was your course with industry?

On the professional practice module we were supported to create our own interaction with industry. I remember that I contacted the Tyneside Cinema to find out more about the issues involved in creating a programme for a cinema on the Europa Cinemas Network. It was a great way of gaining insight on such issues. I think I created a hypothetical 3 month programme for submission along with a job application for a real position in the arts sector.

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals/give your career an edge?

I never would have thought that I'd be able to do a PhD. In fact, I remember feeling nervous about doing such an academic degree before it started, as I wasn't hugely academic at school. However, I was very interested in the role of art, so I think studying here enabled me to learn the skills necessary to pursue this interest in an academic context.

What was the best thing about your course?

Apart from making great friends, I realised that through art, in its various forms, I could understand history, society and politics on a much deeper level than just by studying those topics outright.

Which skills/knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now throughout your career?

Well, there was a module called 'Art and the State' that is very relevant to my current research topic, as were all of the film modules. In design we had a live research project that was invaluable in learning the basics of primary research, and all of the first year modules on theories, methods and visual analysis are still relevant. In those days were were able to take a language class as an extra module, and I learned Spanish, which has, for obvious reasons, been invaluable!

What did you enjoy most about your time at Northumbria University? 

The course!

What advice would you give somebody who is thinking of studying at Northumbria? 

The same advice I would give to somebody thinking of studying anywhere: You only get out what you put in, so be active in your own learning!

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in three words? 

Interesting, challenging, and satisfying.

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