Right, this is me, Gabriele Neher, the Art History academic leading and directing this peer mentoring initiative. I’ll include a short biography at the end, but thought it would be much more interesting to reflect on why I am developing this scheme.
First of all, I need to state very clearly at the outset that the Art History Buddy Scheme is the brainchild o a former student of the Art History Department, the very talented Rosie Burchell, who graduated in July 2012. Rosie spent several years at Nottingham serving as a student representative on the Art History Staff and Student Liaison Committee, and this is where the seeds of this project come from. Rosie and her fellow students articulated a very clear desire for a friendly but focused Induction to being a student at University that looked at practical issues to do with being a student. Where is the library? How does the photocopier work? How do I sign up for modules? What do I do in a lecture? Most students work out answers to these questions in the space of sometimes a few days, sometimes a few weeks, some dont always fully manage all aspects of student life, but the key issue identified by the students on the Committee is clear. Transition from being an A-Level student to being at University can be hard, and what is lacking more than anything else is a safe routine where study-related tasks are, well, just routine. These tasks need to become routine, but academic induction and teaching rarely, maybe even never, engage with these issues. So, this is where the peer mentoring scheme idea came from.
My interest in this is all to do with my pedagogical interests in student support, and also with my academic portfolio as Senior Tutor for the Department, as Direector of teaching and as convener for first year teaching, and once all of these factors are taken together, the Peer mentoring Scheme, to me at least, supplements and complements other aspects of what the Department does. I have therefore taken Rosie’s idea and have used my professional expertide to translate her idea into a scheme that can be implemented. I am using the summer to develop training materials for the mentors I have selected, and will then deliver the training as well as monitor what is going on. Of course, I am not doing this on my own but by drawing on expertise here at the University too!
This is as much of a learning curve for me as it will be for my mentors, and I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with you.
A short teaching biopgraphy:
My research focuses on all matters Renaissance, so the modules I am teaching look at different aspects of how people created art and used objects ca 1400-1600. In my first year module on The Courts of Northern Italy, for example, the focus is on princes and elites, and how their demand for ever more costly objects fuelled both the trade of luxury goods and also led to a revival of classical learning. I build on these ideas in my other modules that look at Venice in particular. Other areas I am interested in include the consumption of luxury goods from shoes to ear cleaners to sculpture, both in Italy and at the Tudor Court. My teaching interests in Renaissance Italy are complemented by an interest in issues of art and reform in Germany and England. First and foremost, I want to know why objects are important to people, why so much energy and money is spent on the acquisition and use of objects, and how these objects are then used, worn (where appropriate) and displayed in particular places at a particular time.
One of my other interests which feeds into my teaching is a curiosity about how technology can aid the art historian who may want to know about events and objects that no longer exist, so I draw on literature, maps and diaries as well as on images.
My teaching has been recognised through two Lord Dearing Awards (2009 and 2000), A Personal Tutor Oscar (2011) and a Chancellor Award (2012).