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Lucy Cavendish Special Supervisor, Isabelle Higgins, reflects on her time as an undergraduate student at the College and her work since. 

I am currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge. My research focuses on how intersectional inequalities are reproduced in digital environments. I focus particularly on social media content that represents adoption in the USA, though my research asks broader questions about inequality and ethical methodological approaches. During 2022 I hold a British Research Council Fellowship at the John W. Kluge Center, Library of Congress, and will also be travelling to New York in a few weeks as a Fellow at the New School’s Institute for Critical Social Enquiry 2022.

My role in the Lucy community is as a special supervisor for HSPS, which means that I have the privilege of working with first year students in Sociology. It has been incredibly rewarding to see their academic development over the course of the year.

I began my research on the same topic I study now when I was an undergraduate at Lucy Cavendish studying Human, Social and Political Sciences. I was fortunate enough to receive teaching and mentorship from a number of brilliant academics who recommended that I continue my research at the postgraduate level. I therefore applied for an MPhil in the Sociology of Marginality and Exclusion in the Department of Sociology and was offered funding by the Economic and Social Research Council and Pembroke College to undertake an MPhil and PhD.

I have many motivations for pursuing a career in academia. In the first instance, I really enjoy thinking, reading, writing and teaching, and am fortunate enough to be able to do all of these things during my PhD. 

Another set of my motivations are grounded in decolonial thought and anti-racist social justice. This commitment is shaped by my own background – as a mixed-race White British and Afro-Caribbean woman I am motivated and inspired by my grandmother, who travelled from Barbados to England in the 1950s to work as a nurse for the NHS. She has shown me the power of working hard and identifying and challenging injustice where we find it.

Academia offers me the opportunities to explore these commitments and interests in a number of different ways. In May of this year, for example, I co-convened a conference, titled ‘The Post-Windrush Generation: Black British Voices of Resistance’ – a truly pathbreaking event which brought together a group of leading Black artists and academics and an incredible group of conference attendees. My other main project this year is creative writing – I am currently receiving mentorship for my first novel through Escalator - the National Centre for Writing’s annual talent development programme. My novel draws on my experiences growing up mixed-race in rural Derbyshire in the 1990s, as well as wider experiences of my Afro-Caribbean family over three generations. So I feel very fortunate that my academic training and interests have opened up a number of other doors and avenues that I’m currently exploring.