As a professional staff member, I didn’t think that the Fellowship scheme was for me. As a director of a service delivery area, I didn’t think that I had time to write an application. As a non-binary queer person, with all the self-doubt that such an identity brings, I didn’t think that I would be good enough to achieve Fellowship status. Thankfully, my colleagues at The University of Queensland had more faith in me, my abilities, and my achievements than I did. I was also able to trust in the inclusive nature of Fellowship, and was able to bring my whole self to the application process.
Imposter syndrome has a lot to answer for, and the first thing that I needed to do was challenge four decades of self-doubt and really look at what I had achieved in my career.
Once I realised that I had a genuine story to tell (we all do), I needed to make the time. Time to articulate my journey, the impact that this has had on my approach to education, and the influence that this had not only on myself, but also all the people, organisations, and communities within which, and through whom, I work.
Storytelling as an epistemological practice is powerful: something that I have only truly realised recently through engagement with and appreciation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander histories, cultures, and identities. Once I had committed to making time to tell my story, I found that there was more to tell than I realised.
Often we don’t realise what we have done, how much we have learnt, or what kind of impact we have had until we start telling the story to ourselves. And once we tell the story to ourselves, it is surprising how empowering and affirming it can be sharing that story with others.
This is not to say that this is somehow easy to do, or that all that is required is time. Self-reflection is a challenging process in itself: being able to articulate the value of your experience takes effort, time, and contemplation.
I should know; this is the basis of the UQ Employability Framework that was the basis for my Principal Fellowship. This process of storytelling required me to enact that which I encouraged students to do: a performative act that brought me full circle back to my PhD research on the power of lived experience and politically contingent identity claims.
The realisations that I had through this storytelling process were profound, hilarious, and challenging in equal measure, and I encourage anyone who is thinking of applying for a Fellowship to undertake the journey. Regardless of whether you achieve the status to which you apply, the journey and your story is worth it.
There are now over 127,000 Fellows around the world. Find out more about Fellowship and the benefits it brings.
Thinking of applying for Senior or Principal Fellowship but struggling to find the time? Advance HE run a number of Writing Retreat events offering, via 1:1 peer coaching and expert analysis, the space and time to process your thoughts and craft your narrative for your Fellowship submission. Find out more and book your place.