About me: Studies, 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 University ‘Blue’ in volleyball 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 transformed my own writing at the time and informs my work to this day.
Volleyball was therefore a catalyst in this part of my life. It was also a form of active distraction from pressures and minimised the risks of extended periods of sitting writing.
In 1984 I won a prestigious International Fellowship with 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 wrote with my father, Interrogation of Silence (2004). I passed my viva (or oral defense, as it is known in the USA) in 1985.
I returned to the UK and got a job as a Research Fellow in the Scottish Literature Department at Glasgow University (1987-89), then Lecturer, SL, Reader in the Centre for Academic Practice (1989-2005), then Reader in the School of Applied Social Sciences (2005-13) and Associate Dean (2008-10) at Strathclyde University.
Between 2002 and 2016 I held invited overseas appointments, as Visiting Professor or Visiting Researcher, in S Africa, Ireland, Australia and Japan.
At the same time, I became a better volleyball player with Adscreen Kyle. 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 research-based books on academic writing, won grants from the Nuffield Foundation, British Academy and Carnegie Trust and published my findings in journal articles.
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 own approaches and inventing the Structured Writing Retreat and Social Writing Theory.
Now I work half-time as Professor in Education at the University of the West of Scotland, where I was the first Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (now Advance HE).
The other half of my time I work for my company, Anchorage Educational Services. I run courses on Rhetoric and Writing, Thesis Writing, Writing for Publication, Supervising Doctoral Writing, Preparing for the PhD Viva and Training for Retreat Facilitators.
I run workshops and retreats for groups and universities across the UK, Scotland and beyond. I work to bring the benefits of social writing to doctoral students, early career researchers, academics, practitioners and professionals in all the disciplines.
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.