I haven't mentioned this before now, partly because it seemed so far off and a little unreal. Exactly one month from today, I will become a lecturer in modern European history in the School of Humanities at the University of New England (UNE), Armidale, New South Wales. Which is both very exciting and ever-so-slightly scary!
UNE is an interesting place for a number of reasons. It's one of the smaller Australian universities, but it's not really small: it has something like 17,000 students, though more than 80% are taught by distance education (and UNE has a strong reputation in online education). It's a regional university: Armidale is located up (elevation 982m) in the Northern Tablelands of NSW, about equidistant from Sydney and Brisbane. (New England is another name for the area — hence UNE — because it is supposedly like the American New England in that it has four distinct seasons, though winter seems to be the most distinctive…) With a population of around 20,000, even the relatively small on-campus student body in combination with the staff means that UNE makes up a big proportion of the town; it's the closest Australia comes to the American phenomenon of the college town. I haven't actually been to Armidale yet (my interview was by video), and it's not a part of the country I know very well (though some of my forebears came from up around there, and I once spent a summer at Coonabarabran, only a few hours' drive to the southwest). But by all accounts it's a beautiful area.
The humanities are strongly supported at UNE, from archaeology to peace studies. One of the School's strengths is in history. There are twelve historians currently listed on its staff page, and another six in classics and ancient history. And that's not including me, or two other positions which were advertised shortly after mine. So that's a decent size. The School offers everything from bachelor degrees (including one in historical inquiry and practice) to PhDs, and the units taught range from the Vikings to Cold War popular culture. I'll be teaching 19th and 20th (and even 21st) century European history: next year this will include the long 19th century and the First World War. First up, though, I'll be running a methodology unit and also working on adding some digital humanities to the curriculum.
I think this is a good first academic job. It's full-time, as opposed to part-time or casual, so I can devote my full energies to it. It's equal parts teaching and research, so I'll still be able to write and publish. I don't have much full-on lecturing to do (as opposed to coordination, marking, and curriculum development, as well as research and writing) until next year, so I'll have plenty of time to settle in and get used to being an academic. Admittedly, the position is only for 2.5 years, until the end of 2015, and is not tenure-track. So I'll be looking for work again in 2016. But a couple of years' worth of lecturing and academic experience on my CV (plus a few more publications) should make me more employable.
After more than three frustrating years on the job market and nearly three dozen job applications before this one without getting an interview, I'm conscious that I haven't made it… but at least I've made it this far!
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