Robyn Sneath

Tell us something about what you were doing before you came to Oxford

Before coming to Oxford, I did my Master’s at Harvard, taught high school Social Studies in Canada, was a history lecturer at universities in Manitoba, did research on Mennonites, did translating, waitressing, worked as a model and as a pastor (not at the same time)—basically a long and winding road that brought me to Oxford! It’s incredible the backgrounds that people bring to a DPhil in Education.

What do you like most about studying in the Department of Education?

I really like how welcoming the department is.  The atmosphere is quite relaxed, informal and surprisingly unpretentious; people are really nice here! Wednesday morning coffee contributes a lot to the collegiality.  I really appreciate that in the first year, I get to spend about half of my time on my own research and half on coursework; I have a great cohort and I’ve really enjoyed finding a group of smart engaged colleagues with whom I can discuss my research and ideas about education…

What attracted you to the programme of study here?

I was attracted to the ‘Religion, Philosophy, and Education forum’; it seemed like the perfect place for me to combine my seemingly disparate interests in education, religion, and history. I also wanted to work with Liam Gearon.

What qualities do you think an Education student at Oxford needs to have in order to be successful?

I think that to be successful in any doctoral programme you need to have a strong work ethic, to be self-motivated, and to be willing to make the experience work for you.

We hope that you would recommend the Department of Education as a place to come and study. What reasons would you give for this?

Yes. I think that the department (in particular David Mills—am I allowed to name names?) works very hard to make this a pleasant, meaningful experience.

What are your career ambitions after you complete the course?

Well, I intend to return to Canada where I’d like to join an education department in a university and maybe do some policy work.  I did love working in a school, though… I know university positions are really hard to come by, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that.  The great thing about a DPhil in education is that there are so many things you can do with it.

If I knew before I started the course what I know now, I would…

Hmm, well, I would try to read more broadly, some of the foundational thinkers of the disciplines, like Dewey and Geertz.  I would also recommend doing some research on the colleges—you want to make sure that where you end up is going to be a good fit.

What are three things that you might suggest to students coming after you to help them get the most out of their time here?

I started the programme with a one-month old, so I’ve found it challenging to balance being a new mom with starting a demanding program, but one goal I set early on was to try to attend one seminar/talk/workshop/conference per week.  Oxford has so much to offer and it can easily get overwhelming but I’ve found this to be an achievable goal. If you can manage it, try to get involved in something, either at your college or through the department.  And make sure to try to enjoy this experience—Oxford is beautiful, so don’t forget to be a tourist sometimes!