Hello! I’m Joanna Rodgers and I’m absolutely delighted to be looking after the SGSAH Blog over the next six months. If I’m honest, it’s a daunting task to take over from Lucie, whose blog posts have been so wide-ranging and imaginative. I’ve personally found the monthly round-up posts particularly useful. I’ll be continuing these during my time as SGSAH blogger, so please do get in touch if you’d like to recommend a blog article, podcast, conference, event or anything else that you think other PhD students might find helpful. Equally, if you have suggestions for blog topics or additional ‘themed’ posts such as the round-up, I’d really like to hear from you!

I am acutely aware that my experience as a PhD student is somewhat different from the ‘typical’ PhD trajectory. I’m in the first year of my PhD, based at the University of the Highlands & Islands (UHI). For those of you unfamiliar with the newest University in Scotland – UHI has 13 campuses across the Highlands & Islands and offers vocational as well as University-level courses. I’m based at the campus in Fort William alongside one other PhD student.

daily commute

A view from my daily commute, looking across to Ben Nevis

Obviously, this makes my PhD experience rather different from those based in larger, more established Universities or departments! My previous academic life was at the University of St Andrews which is (in stark contrast) Scotland’s oldest University and handily concentrated in four streets. It’s been fascinating to experience such a dramatic change though – it’s made me consider the things I took for granted at an older, established University; but it has also opened my eyes to the possibility of doing things in very different ways.

One of the innovative elements of UHI’s approach is its widespread use of digital technology to deliver distance-learning courses and research seminars. It’s fantastic to be able to video-conference in and listen to a paper being given in Orkney or Stornoway, or catch up with the recorded presentation on YouTube. That said, there are of course also challenges which accompany being based so far outside the Central Belt. I’ll write more about using digital technology and the experience of being based in the Highlands in later blog posts.

Highland exercise

Jogging on paths around my house occasionally yields unexpected company these days!

My PhD research explores the relationship between Scottish heritage and ancestral tourism. Essentially, I am seeking to understand the experiences of tourists who are motivated to visit Scotland because they have (often distant) family connections to the country. I’m particularly interested in how these visitors interact with local communities and how perceptions of heritage and history are shaped by these interactions – for both residents and visitors.

I’m unashamedly in love with my PhD topic, an enthusiasm which has been sustained throughout my first year at a level which surprises even me. Every single week without fail I have encountered a concept, fact or way of approaching research which challenges and genuinely inspires me. And that’s without even mentioning the incredible people I’ve had the good fortune to meet over the past 10 months!

Tiree Sunrise

Inspiring – I caught this incredible sunrise during fieldwork on Tiree in April

So, what can you expect from this corner of the internet over the coming months? I will be sharing some of my initial research and thoughts as I progress from my first year into the (infinitely scarier) second year. I will also be ruminating over other related topics – my first experiences at academic conferences; the challenges and opportunities which accompany being based outwith the Central Belt; the joys and difficulties of a project which spans many different disciplines; and of course, the much-explored imposter syndrome (in my opinion there can never be too much written about how disorienting and distressing it is to periodically lose all faith in yourself, your topic and your ability to do your PhD!).

There will also be pictures of mountains, islands, lochs and of course a PhD dog – an apparent must-have for any SGSAH Blogger!


Riley, the newest SGSAH Blogger Dog!

For regular news, updates and opportunities follow SGSAH on both Twitter and Facebook.

Contact Joanna via email at, or find her on Twitter

4 thoughts on “Introductions

  1. Nichola Mackenzie says:

    Hi Joanna, what a positive and inspirational introduction you have posted here. I am about to return to studies myself this September with UHI, I hope to complete my fourth year Scottish History degree after a gap of seven years. The technology side of things I find quite daunting so I will be most interested to discover how you cope with this aspect of your own studies. Good Luck.


    • uhijo says:

      Hi Nichola! Thanks so much for the comment, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I’ve found UHI to be so accommodating and flexible for people who are returning to their studies or have other commitments outside of studying – all the best with your fourth year! Joanna


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