An Interview with the Queen (of BCM)

“I love being able to think deeply about things that I love, and meet colleagues that share these interests”

Tasked with finding someone to interview in a career track that appeals to us, I immediately thought that Renee Middlemost would be perfect. Renee has been one of the faces that has represented the Communications and Media department since I started my degree in 2016. Upon having her as my tutor for BCM212 (the core second-year subject for the Comms and Media degree), I realised she really was as great as I’d hoped. As part of BCM313, we have been encouraged to pull words that we feel applicable to the narratives being told. Words to describe how their story may reflect on them, as a person.

Renee was generous in all the answers she gave me- from beginning to end. So, where did she begin? In hearing her speak of how she started her professional life, I learnt that she self-funded her entire tertiary education. This was done through working in retail and in jobs on campus throughout her undergraduate degree. Already, the word ‘strong’ definitely is present. She mentioned that these jobs were not particularly enjoyable, but they were able to “inform [her] professional practice in numerous ways”. To further this Renee stated, “I am most proud of my ability to engage with stakeholders from all walks of life”. This is probably something that resonates with many of us right now- working in jobs that we don’t particularly like because we need the income, and can see a better career in the future if we can just hold on for a few years. I think that is why it was nice to hear Renee say that she felt privileged to be working in her current job: she was living proof that working consistently hard would be worth it in the end.

“Working in (retail) jobs that I did not enjoy adds value to this job, where I can do what I love; and I recognise this privilege”

So where is Renee now? Her official job title is “Lecturer, Communication and Media Studies, in the School of the Arts, English and Media; Faculty of Law, Humanities and The Arts, at the University of Wollongong, Australia”. Definitely a lengthy title, and one that was an uphill battle to achieve. Her career starts with Renee’s undergraduate degree- a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) majoring in Communications and Cultural Studies. This was followed by a PhD (Communications and Media) which was a struggle for the several years it took for her to complete it. Up until she completed it, Renee said her PhD felt insurmountable, “I honestly did not know if I could finish it”. Naturally, a few words come to mind. Particularly, a sense of tenacity and perseverance for being able to finish that PhD even though Renee classes it as “one of the hardest times in my life”. Starting her position as a tutor at UOW came as she graduated her PhD in 2014, and she received her current position of lecturer in October 2017.

“[A highlight] that stands out was travelling by myself to my first international conference… …it was a feeling of ‘finding your people’, which at the time was incredible to me”

Renee is ambitious, and not in the perceived ‘shitty’ way that is often used against strong women. It is a term to reclaim, a term to appreciate and a term we should no longer shy away from because of its previous associations. I call Renee ambitious because she has worked consistently hard to get herself into a job she loves. She took the initiative to be a part of a team that brought the Fan Studies Network Conference to UOW (which was a first for the Australasian region) after seeing the potential of Fan Studies at a network overseas.

I am so incredibly lucky to have someone like Renee as part of my university career. She has helped me realise that there are opportunities in sections of academia like fan and fandom studies out there. I am truly grateful to have someone like Renee in my corner and I’m excited for where my future is headed thanks to her.

“…Taking the time, and remaining open to students – letting them know you are on their side and want them to succeed – so when they do, it’s wonderful”

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