Sep 18 2018

adrian-neu-cropped-300x298 (1)Dr Adrian Wallbank has recently started a new role convening academic writing and skills provisions for English, Classics, SMLLC and Law. We recently caught up with him to find out more about his new role and being on the judging panel for the Undergraduate Awards. 

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role?

I’ve been at Royal Holloway for just over three years, having previously worked and studied in the English department at the University of Warwick. I did my PhD in late eighteenth-century political, religious and philosophical dialogues and propaganda and I continue to have research interests and publications in Romantic-period literature, especially intellectual history, popular culture and ecocriticism. I also have research interests in academic writing and dyslexia, and my most recent book, Academic Writing and Dyslexia: A Visual Guide to Writing at University came out with Routledge earlier this year. My previous role within CeDAS was to lead the generic, centralised Academic Writing and Communication Programme but my new role (as of last week!) is to convene academic writing and skills provision for English, Classics, SMLLC and Law. I also teach on the CeDAS Contemporary Britain (arts) courses for visiting students, which sees me teaching arts, literature and film from end of the second world war to the present.

2. You have recently started in this role, how does it differ from your previous role?

This is still an evolving role so I guess I’ll find out as I go along! My previous work mainly centred around generic, open to all academic writing and communication teaching so I’d often have classes with a real mix of students, ranging from international students studying management through to home students from Psychology, Geography, English, Classics and everything in between. Although there are benefits to such provision, it’s not particularly bespoke and students find a more embedded, discipline-specific approach works better. That’s why a lot of the work CeDAS does is becoming more embedded into departments and much more collaborative, which really helps the students to see the applicability of what we teach and it’s fantastic to work alongside the subject lecturers to help the students achieve their full potential.

3. We hear that you’re on the judging panel for the Undergraduate Awards. Could you tell us a bit more about the awards, what they entail and when they take place?

The Undergraduate Awards is a yearly international competition open to undergraduates from any HEI in the world. The idea is to find the best example of undergraduate research and writing from 25 disciplines (that’s over 5,000 essays!). I’ve spent most of the summer beavering away in my own time on the English Literature panel alongside 29 other international experts. Our task was simple – select the very best essay from over 500 entries. We looked for a number of things, but essentially the criteria for success was originality, focus and argumentation, communication, and contribution to global issues. It might sound daunting but in the end there was a clear winner. The winner, alongside the regional winners and highly commended entrants get their essay published in the Undergraduate Journal. It’s a fantastic way for students to get their talent recognised on the international stage and for staff working on panels to read some truly impressive writing – I’d thoroughly recommend it to Royal Holloway students and staff alike. Full details of the scheme can be found here: https://www.undergraduateawards.com/

4. What do you enjoy most about working within CeDAS?

Helping the students achieve or realise their potential. Prior to moving into the field of academic writing I taught Romantic and Victorian poetry and literary theory at Warwick, but I always felt frustrated that I could see students desperately needing help with their writing and academic skills, but it wasn’t in my remit to do a great deal about it. I love English Literature, but get immense satisfaction from seeing things ‘click’ with students and them returning to us later saying how much their grades have improved as a result of our help. For me, this is what gets me out of bed in the morning.

5. What do you enjoy doing outside of your work life?

For me, there’s often very little separation between work and my personal life! For one thing, my wife works in Disability and Dyslexia Services as an Academic Adviser so we often end up talking about work and sharing ideas in the evenings. Secondly, as a Teaching Fellow in Professional Services I don’t get much time to do research, so I spend a lot of my spare time working. I’m currently working on two books on academic writing and dyslexia and a journal article on inclusive pedagogies for one-to-one writing tutorials, so in addition to my work for the Undergraduate Awards, this keeps me very busy! To relax, I go to the gym and restore steam locomotives. I’ve been a fully qualified steam engine fireman for over 15 years on the Severn Valley Railway so if ever you bump into me at a meeting and I still have black oily grime under my finger nails you’ll know why!