In practice, Anna Storm took on the role of professor already in 2019, and now, after a long pandemic, the Academic Ceremony could at last take place. Anna was inaugurated together with 14 other professors in Studenthuset on Campus Valla on Saturday 4 September.
“Well, of course, it was a special event – formal and full of atmosphere, but the greatest thing was when I was actually appointed professor”, says Anna Storm, professor in the Department of Thematic Studies – Technology and Social Change at Linköping University.
The low-key nature of the ceremony didn’t matter. Both Anna and her accompanying partner Anders Houltz found the ceremony to be extremely well organised. The ground floor of Studenthuset had been taken over for the festivities, and as guest at the vice-chancellor’s table during the subsequent dinner Anna was asked to hold the speech in which the guests express their gratitude. Something she was very happy to do.
“We need academic ceremonies. All the formal stuff might seem a bit laughable, but it is – even so – a great occasion”, says Anna. She appreciates the academic life that offers not only formal occasions, but also social events. It also has space to be on your own, with time to think, read, and write.
Cross-disciplinarity as a strength
The new professor in the Department of Thematic Studies took a doctorate in 2008 at the Royal Institute of Technology, and has worked at several institutions of higher education. She had not originally considered applying for professorship.
“But it seemed to me that the announcement was right on target for me and I decided to apply, even if I felt that I wasn’t really ready for it. It’s taken me a while to get used to the idea”, says Anna.
She points out that the manner in which the Department of Thematic Studies values cross-disciplinarity in the way it recruits is unusual. Her experience is that cross-disciplinarity is often seen as a strength when applying for external funds and forming new collaborations, but it is more difficult when it comes to competing for an academic position. When a university appoints someone to a position, and when organising teaching, a clear disciplinary identity is often central, and she has found it more difficult to fit in. At the Department of Thematic Studies and at LiU she is happy to have found her niche.
“In my speech of thanks during the inauguration, I said that it had been wonderful to be appointed as professor in 2019, and in the two years since then it’s turned out to be so much better than I had dared to hope. My workplace is permeated by a spirit of care and generosity”, said Anna.
She mentions in particular the well-functioning seminar series in the department. Discussion and discourse are the heart of the academic world, but are not found everywhere. It’s not here a case of showing off what you’ve already achieved, but helping each other to make progress. And the Department of Thematic Studies is a young environment with a majority of female professors, which Anna believes gives it a comfortable feeling of freedom.
“Since we are so many women, I only need to be myself, and not primarily act as a representative for my sex or my age group”, says Anna.
Responsibility for research and research education
“My role as professor means that I have a clear and established position, and it’s extremely easy to tell people about it, both in Sweden and abroad. The work involves more than anything else taking responsibility for other people, and having an idea about what you want to build. This may be a field of research that you want to develop and get more people involved in”, says Anna.
Anna is also deputy head of department at the Department of Thematic Studies.
“As deputy head of department with responsibility for research and research education, I can contribute to the full spectrum here. The co-workers at the department have successfully gained a lot of external funding, which is gratifying and very positive, but needs work. So it’s a case of finding a balance between developing new areas and making sure that everyone is faring well. This is a dilemma that is related to security of employment, which many people feel the lack of. All of us are here at work in different situations. It’s necessary to make time and plan our route, and find a way to make it sustainable for those who are to carry it out”, says Anna.
One of her goals is to increase collaboration between research education in the different divisions, and how they work with, for example, the range of courses offered. If more PhD students can take courses together, the demand will be more predictable and may not depend so heavily on how many PhD students are in a particular phase at each division
“It may be justified at departmental or faculty level to give certain doctoral courses more often, and I’m sure that both teachers and students would benefit. What’s needed is to find ways of creating more collaboration, and in this way more accurate advance planning in research education”, Anna concludes.