Cora Beth Knowles
"For my doctorate I studied Latin literature in the Classics Department of the University of Newcastle. I researched the Roman writer Tacitus and his use of visual description.
"I have just finished my two-year initial probationary period at the Open University (OU). I teach Roman history and Latin to adult learners. Technically it is a temporary job, but every few months more work seems to come my way. For example, I have been taken on as a history examiner, I have also been asked to write the assignment questions that will be sent to every OU Roman history student across the world, and I have even been booked to run a residential course in Plymouth. I jump at any and all opportunities because I love this job – it’s varied and interesting, and I never know what’s around the corner. I get to meet the most extraordinary people, some of whom have remained friends long after the end of their course.
"My doctorate led me here by a convoluted path. While I was a doctoral researcher, I was offered some undergraduate teaching work. No training was provided, and I was very nervous about jumping into teaching with no preparation, so I went looking for a distance-learning course which would give me some grounding in the theory and practice of teaching – and found the Open University. I took one education course, then another. By that time I was hooked. I took some courses in subjects relevant to my doctorate, and almost accidentally ended up with an OU masters degree in education. When I finished my doctorate, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to apply for work at the OU, particularly since lecturers get free courses!
"My doctorate has been very useful to me – and not just because of the authority conferred by a title! The subject knowledge I developed during my doctorate has given me both the qualifications necessary to get this job and the ability to do it well. My doctoral research gave me a grounding in research skills, which I now find invaluable. I have just published my first article in a classics journal, and hope to finish my first book very soon.
"My doctorate changed my life. It opened doors, and it also opened my mind. I take on challenges now, in my life and my career, because I have faith in my own abilities. I was the first person in my family to go to university, and I ended up with a doctorate in ancient languages – proof that anything is possible, if you want it strongly enough.
"I would not change much about my time as a doctoral student, but I do wish I’d made the most of the opportunities I was given. I wish I had taken the modern language courses on offer, done more IT training and presented more papers at conferences. My doctorate taught me a lot about Tacitus’ use of visual description, but that is a very narrow field, and of limited use to me now. The things I value most today are the skills I learned during my time as a doctoral student – if I had known that when I started, I would have developed my skills further."