About me: Studies, teaching, research and volleyball
I was born and lived in Scotland for the first 17 years of my life. I got my first degree at Glasgow University, had an exchange scholarship to Freiburg University and did a year abroad teaching English in a French school. I played volleyball for Glasgow University, won the first volleyball ‘Blue’ and played for Scotland. When I graduated in 1980, I went to Wilson College, Pennsylvania, to be a volleyball coach, and while I was there I applied to do a PhD in English at Penn State and enrolled in 1981. As a graduate student I taught Rhetoric and Composition, and this field of knowledge and research and the great scholars of Rhetoric who taught us how to teach Rhetoric and Composition, transformed my writing at that time and inform my work to this day – I thank Jack and Linda Selzer, Marie Secor, Davida Charney and Anne Herrington for teaching, coaching, supporting. Volleyball was a catalyst in my life, and it provided active distraction from pressures and stresses throughout my career. Playing volleyball brought many challenges and successes, and it minimised the risks of extended periods of sitting writing.
In 1984 I won a prestigious International Fellowship from the American Association of University Women, to whom I remain grateful for supporting my thesis research on George Mackay Brown, the subject of a book I later wrote with my father. I passed my viva/oral defense in 1985 and returned to the UK, where I taught writing and literature in UK universities and then Scottish Literature at Glasgow University, then moved to Strathclyde University to the Centre for Academic Practice and the School of Applied Social Sciences, where I was Associate Dean. My overseas appointments include Visiting Professor and Visiting Researcher, in S Africa, Ireland, Australia and Japan. I made great friends – thank you, Sarah Moore for introducing me to writing retreats – and found generous co-mentors. At the same time, I became a better volleyball player: we won the National League, Scottish Open and Scottish Cup many times and played in the European Cup. Over the years, I wrote chapters and books on academic writing, won research grants from the Nuffield Foundation, British Academy, Strathclyde University and the Carnegie Trust and published in journals. I combined concepts to create a repertoire of writing strategies, drawing on my experience at Penn State, adapting it for the UK and other settings and developing my approaches to writing in academic and professional settings. I created the Structured Writing Retreat and developed Social Writing Theory. For my last full-time post I was Professor in Education at the University of the West of Scotland. I returned to Strathclyde University as Head of Business Writing, working with researchers to develop Impact Case Studies.
Now, I’m freelance. I run courses: Rhetoric and Writing, Thesis Writing, Writing for Publication, Preparing for the PhD Viva and Training for Retreat Facilitators. I do workshops and retreats for groups and universities across the UK, Scotland and beyond. I aim to bring the benefits of social writing to doctoral students, early career researchers, academics, practitioners and professionals. Through my company I support projects and charities, like the Lochwinnoch Arts festival and St Vincent’s Hospice. Finally, I retired from volleyball some years ago and now do swimming, weight training, running, spin and fitness classes, badminton and cycle-commute. But I miss the volleyball, and if I still lived in the USA or Europe I’d probably still be playing.
Rowena Murray graduated MA (Hons) from Glasgow University and PhD from the Pennsylvania State University. Formerly Professor in Education at the University of the West of Scotland, Head of Business Writing at Strathclyde Business School and Honorary Visiting Scholar at Liverpool University, she is now Adjunct Professor at Strathclyde Business School. A Principal Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy, she was nominated for the Research Culture Award at Stirling University in 2021. She researches academic writing, the subject of her articles, books and chapters. She does online and in-person writing retreats, courses and 1-2-1 sessions with academics, researchers, doctoral students and others through her company, Anchorage Educational Services (anchorage-education.co.uk), on FB (Rowena Murray Writing Group) and Twitter (murray_rowena).