Theme 3: Lived experiences of women in academia

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Theme 3: Lived experiences of women in academia


  • Promoting ideas, sharing stories, finding connection, collaboration and friendship
  • Creating meaning together, supporting and celebrating each other, lifting each other up

This third theme considers why it is important to shed light on women’s lived experiences, to talk about what it has felt like, and feels like, to be a female academic. We consider how women might – in deliberate, activist, celebratory and heartful ways – use research methodologies to unearth their individual and collective voices, to unveil their lived and embodied stories.

With this theme we make space for reflection about the complexity and uncertainty of our academic work. We sit together to listen to each other’s stories, to bear witness and to hold space. The value of responsive, personal, and aesthetic ways for communicating our stories of experiences – such as can be found in narrative, autoethnographic, arts-based, and contemplative research methods – are explored.

We use this theme to delve into the ways we can include our vulnerable selves, our hearts-spirits-minds-bodies-stories, in our academic work in evocative, reflexive, creative, thoughtful, meaningful and life-giving ways. And, we give time to stillness, contemplation, storytelling, art-making, experimentation and practice. In leaning in to these ways we are leaning into freedom, playfulness, friendship and hope.

(Aust/North America time zone friendly)

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Ruth Behar
Ruth Behar

Ruth Behar was born in Havana, Cuba and is an anthropology professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her acclaimed humanistic ethnographies include Translated Woman: Crossing the Border with Esperanza’s Story, The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart, An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba, and Traveling Heavy: A Memoir in between Journeys. She is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Also a creative writer, she is the author of a novel for young readers, Lucky Broken Girl, which won the 2018 Pura Belpré Author Award, and Everything I Kept/Todo lo que guardé, a bilingual collection of poetry. The shiFt she’d like to make happen is for all of us to find pleasure, meaning, and hope in the work we do.

Barbara Bickel
Barbara Bickel

Barbara Bickel, Ph.D.,  is an artist, researcher, writer, and educator, and Associate Professor of Art Education, Emerita at Southern Illinois University, USA. She co-founded Studio M*: A Collaborative Research Creation Lab Intersecting Arts, Culture and Healing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Her research interests include arts-based inquiry methods, a/r/tography, collaboration, socially-engaged art, connective aesthetics, matrixial theory, feminist art and pedagogy, and restorative & transformative learning. To view her art portfolio, writing and research creation visit and To assist shiFt to happen, Barbara's work strives to create pathways for a compassionate relational paradigm.

Susan Walsh
Susan Walsh

Susan Walsh, Ph.D., is a Professor of Education at Mount Saint Vincent University. She works with innovative research practices that involve the breath, contemplation, the arts, and writing as inquiry, particularly in relation to her research with female teachers. For more than a decade, Susan has been studying/practicing in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition; the latter has informed her new book, Contemplative and artful openings: Researching women and teaching (Routledge, 2018). Susan envisions and materializes shiFts in habit-formed ways of being and knowing through practices that invite spaces for compassion and gentleness, personally and collectively.

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