My Laidlaw Journey
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Hi, my name is Gwendoline and I am a 2020 Laidlaw Research and Leadership Scholar and a final year student at the University of St Andrews in Philosophy and German.
My Laidlaw journey began with the research component, which was what initially interested me in the scholarship. I was interested in furthering the different skills involved in self-directed research in in a more focused manner, where I had more creative control. I thoroughly enjoyed my time so much so that I did two separate essays and posters, on how colonialism is reflected in Weimar-era material culture, and in spatial layouts of museums.
I also gained a number of different research opportunities outside of Laidlaw thanks to my growing confidence and research output. Reflecting on this, I did find my research experience immensely useful. It cemented my interest in a postgraduate degree and potentially going in to academia. The first summer also taught me a lot about how I choose to work, how I think about concepts and about how I manage my time as well as my motivation, as well as learning when to take a step back from a project and not let it be all-consuming.
However, when I joined the program I was immediately struck by the range of people who were involved. We all came from such different backgrounds and had different interests as well as personalities, as our DiSC profiles showed in our first weekend at Hospitalfields. I think I speak for all of us, however, when I say that as I moved through the program, I became more and more appreciative of the leadership component.
I think my largest gain was on the personal development and leadership development side, in which I adjusted and worked on my own self concept, self-confidence and how I perceived myself. As I wrote in the essay, I went from someone very reluctant to take on leadership roles to realising that I did naturally gravitate towards them anyway, and learning the difference between leading from behind, leading from within a team among different leaders, and a more traditional Platonic-style autocratic leadership [type]. All of these elements were due to the leadership training and experiences which I had, such as presentations on leadership and anarchy, leadership and gender, and all sorts of different aspects such as toxic leadership, and leadership within the military. These were all experiences which I only could’ve got through the program. They forced me to challenge myself and see who I was in a different light when I was tested in new situations, such as the Makesense mobilisation structure, which was heavily reliant on a communicative style that involved your team members being treated as leaders as well, versus my leadership project this year, which was more delegation-based.
I think that the leadership training really pushed me to find a balance alongside research, to not get sucked into that one element. Also, I think that having the opportunity to meet other scholars through the Makesense program that I volunteered with and getting to know my own cohort better over these two years was incredibly invaluable, because having such a structured program in the middle of 2020 was not to be underestimated, because we had a group of scholars who were all doing the same thing together with a group of mentors in the form of our supervisors.
We had a very structured summer, which was very unusual given that coronavirus had just hit, and most people had suddenly lost all forms of structure and social communication, because everything went online with very little notice. However, we did have this structure to keep us motivated, a group to talk to, and motivation to actually do things during this very scary unknown period of time.
I am incredibly grateful that Lord Laidlaw, the Foundation, Alex, Kat and Hayley were able to fund and support me on this journey, and also to enable me to take on the various opportunities that I would have been otherwise unable to do and for me to test my fit for research. I think it’s really important to give back and encourage students who might be not be sure of whether this is the right fit for them. I'd like to encourage to just apply, because it is truly a very special opportunity. In keeping with that I have set up a website resource that will enable some potential applicants in St Andrews to find more information about the project and whether it is the right fit for them and whether it suits their needs. You can find this on the St Andrews website. Thank you.