“I wanted to find that spark within again”

Posted by | August 26, 2021 | Arts, Research | No Comments

Many unforeseen circumstances can lead you to a study journey, in the case of current Master of Philosophy student Naomi Alexander it was a combination of burn out from her work at the time and finding ways to pursue knowledge while recovering from a serious road accident.

“I wanted to find that spark within again”, said Naomi thinking back on making the decision to come to UNE. Knowing that commuting to her local university campus might be difficult, Naomi followed her intuition and applied to UNE. This was in 2017, and since then Naomi has completed a Bachelor of Arts and is now part way through her Master of Philosophy.

Naomi Alexander, Master of Philosophy student

This isn’t the first time Naomi has undertaken a learning journey either. Originally studying a BA at a different university earlier in her life, her undergrad with UNE was a chance to explore some of the topics that she had always been curious about in her first degree, as her first degree was more of a “vocationally oriented Business Communications degree”. Here is what she had to say about her choice in study options this time around:

“I sought to take advantage of the number of electives in the Bachelor of Arts to study the widest range of introductory subjects as possible across politics, philosophy, religion, peace studies, medieval and modern history, writing, and English literature. I realised a passion to further explore the topics touched on in my studies of religion units through an inter-disciplinary framework offered by practice-led research in the writing department, rather than via the path of a traditional research dissertation.”

After completing her bachelor, Naomi was excited to take the motivations she had gained and mould them into Masters study. Tracking Naomi’s inspiration that led her to a Masters project topic, Naomi explained that it was born from her fascination with “the women theosophists of the Victorian era”. This was a topic that she discovered through her favourite subject during her Bachelor of Arts at UNE, RELS184 -The magic and supernatural in history and culture with Dr Lesley McLean.

“I reached out to Dr Ariella Van Luyn and Dr Lesley Mclean,” said Naomi when describing her Masters project, “together we came up with the idea of an inter-disciplinary Master of Philosophy project which would be fuelled by my research passion in new religious movements but also allow the scope to further refine my creative writing skills. The proposed project will be a novella and exegesis that will explore the life of Minna Cook (1851-1927), a Spiritualist, Theosophist, and Suffragette, who published forty-six novels and esoteric texts under the penname Mabel Collins.”

This rather curious project is a creative work, but it will also build upon Naomi’s learning journey thus far, and will require a combination of research and creative practice. Discussing the challenges and exciting aspects of her Masters study further Naomi explained how her project will attempt to relay the emotional and visceral aspects of experimental religiosity in an empathetic and imaginative way.

“I feel applying creative rather than purely academic methods to the development of this project offers me an opportunity as a writer-researcher to embody the emotional, spiritual, and meta-cognitive aspects of the research process most often expunged in the presentation of the results of academic research in traditional dissertations and scholarly research articles.

As part of my creative practice-led approach, I am researching and writing a novella as well as a supporting academic exegesis that draws on Neo-Victorian literary theory, bio-fiction creative practice, and the phenomenological study of new religious movements.”

With passion and learning often comes wisdom. Naomi as someone who has returned to study and gained new insights and passions, has a rather unique perspective with which to share advice with other students. Here is what Naomi shared when asked if she had any advice for her fellow students:

“Sometimes you need to go backward to go forwards. I choose to do a second undergraduate degree rather than a Coursework Master’s as the subjects were more affordable and it qualified me to access Austudy to support myself. I also had the freedom to take risks and enjoy what I learned without the pressure of being assessed initially at a Master’s level.”

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