Inaugural Progress in English Studies Conference
The inaugural one-day Progress in English Studies Conference for lower sixth school students was held at Fitzwilliam on 14 March.
Twenty-one year 12 (lower sixth) students from maintained schools from across the country, and their teachers, attended the event.
Dr Paul Chirico, Senior Tutor, said: ‘Fitzwilliam has a history of pioneering access initiatives, and this event was designed to help students and their teachers from maintained-sector schools find out more about studying English at Cambridge and, in particular, at Fitzwilliam College. It also offered delegates considering reading English at degree level a sense of what it might be like to attend university lectures and supervisions.’
Admissions Tutor Dr Sara Owen welcomed the students to the College and gave an overview of the Cambridge admissions process, and then three Fitzwilliam English Fellows gave mini-lectures on topics showcasing some of the more recent, exciting developments in their research fields and in the teaching of English at Cambridge.
Dr Kasia Boddy, Director of Studies in English, specialises in Modern American fiction and cultural history and spoke on ‘Poetry and Painting: Interconnections’. Dr Hero Chalmers, Director of Studies and undergraduate tutor with a special interest in seventeenth-century literature, politics and women's writing spoke on: ‘Shakespeare’s Things: Renaissance Literature and Material Culture’. Dr Paul Chirico, Senior Tutor, whose area of expertise is literature of the eighteenth century and Romantic periods asked ‘Did Romanticism Happen?’.
Dr Chirico said: ‘Studying English at Cambridge is challenging. The mini-lecture part of the programme was designed to provide a stimulus to students wanting to extend their thinking beyond the core elements of their A-Level syllabus.’
Schools Liaison Officer Aemilia McDonnell said: ‘At the heart of the Cambridge way of teaching are small-group discussions - called supervisions. Our year 12 visitors also experienced this aspect of the Cambridge teaching and learning environment by taking part in small-group discussions centred on practical criticism with current Fitzwilliam English undergraduate students.’
While students were involved in discussions, teachers had an opportunity to ask further questions of the Senior Tutor and English Fellows.
Giving feedback, one teacher said: ‘The lectures were the part of the day that I most enjoyed - Fitzwilliam really stood out as being a friendly, egalitarian college.’
Fitz Fellow Dr Chalmers said: ‘It was such a pleasure to spend a day with the students and teachers who attended the conference. We were all enormously impressed by the level of engagement shown by the visiting students, especially in their questions after the mini-lectures and in their contributions to discussing an unseen poem with some of our own English students in small groups. Our students commented on how willing the participants were to take part in discussion and on the insightful nature of their contributions. We look forward to our hosting a similar event next year.’