We spent the Halloween weekend together in Weimar for our first annual EIPCC Retreat. It was also our first fully analogue event since the creation of our graduate centre “Effective and Innovative Policymaking in Contested Contexts” at the beginning of 2021. The EIPCC Retreat is meant to bring together the EIPCC community in person, to provide a chance to get to know each other and to exchange ideas and individual experiences, both in terms of academic content and academic practice.
We kicked off the weekend with some coffee and cake and got to know each other better in an informal way before continuing with the more serious agenda points. For some, it was the very first time meeting their fellow collegiates in person, as not everybody is based in Erfurt. For example, Aye Aye Htun moved from Myanmar to Germany for her PhD only a few months ago. But even more senior PhD candidates like Karina Marzano and Silvia Weko, who are affiliated with the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, had not been back to Thuringia in a while due to the pandemic. Moreover, Evans Awuni had returned from his fieldwork in Ghana just in time to attend our retreat.
In the first session, we discussed what makes good academic writing. To find out, we critically reviewed sample chapters from our collegiates’ ongoing work. The takeaway: academic writing is a thin line to walk between strategic and aesthetic considerations, and we always need to consider what people will remember from our text based on our writing style.
After this first intense workshop and a joint dinner, we continued with a session on career planning and time management for academics. Having recently finished his PhD at the Fletcher School in the United States, our postdoctoral collegiate Dr. Bret McEvoy shared his key takeaways on things that worked well for him and things he could have done better. He recommended we follow our passion and conviction, and lean on faculty advisors and the research community, i.e. the EIPCC. On a related note, he pointed to the importance of choosing a supervisor based not only on their experience, but also on our relationship with them. For other members of the examination committee, it is useful to seek different concentrations or specialties to bring in to your research project. Bret also emphasised the importance of formulating a research question with a foreseeable endpoint rather than trying to explain the history of the whole world. To help us stay on track and motivated, he advised to get funding and not to engage in too many separate avenues at the same time (e.g. don’t have a baby), but also to retain a healthy work-life balance and not to forget about yourself and your family (e.g. have a baby). His input gave way to a fruitful and earnest group conversation on our individual experiences and mutual recommendations on how to draw boundaries and how to treat the PhD as a job and as a project for which to develop a project management plan. Because it was almost Halloween, we concluded the evening with a session on academic horror stories – spooky stuff to share indeed on reviewing and publishing.
The next day, we reconvened to plan the next year for the EIPCC and distribute responsibilities. As a young graduate centre, we rely on our collegiates getting involved and contributing to building a creative and nurturing research environment, and we encourage everyone to bring in their ideas on how to evolve as a research community. For the last formal agenda point, we headed out into nature for a brainstorming walk in the beautiful Ilm Park. After a joint lunch in a restaurant, we eventually had to part ways again, but we are already looking forward to the next EIPCC Retreat!
In the meantime, head over to our list of early career researchers currently affiliated with the Willy Brandt School, of which many are also collegiates at the EIPCC, and check out which research interests they are pursuing. If you are interested in the EIPCC graduate centre or have any questions, please get in touch with our collegiate representatives Almut Mohr and Stephanie Gast Zepeda or write directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.