A little introduction to Dr James Fenwick BA, MA, PhD
I’m Dr James Fenwick, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Media Arts and Communication at Sheffield Hallam University. I teach on the BA (Hons) Media degree and the MA Global Communications and Media degree. I also supervise several PhD students. As a university lecturer, I am also involved in a number of research projects, focusing on the management and business of film and media production companies. I completed my PhD at De Montfort University in 2017. My PhD was an archive and interview study into the production companies of filmmaker, Stanley Kubrick. It was during my PhD that I began part-time lecturing, first at De Montfort University, then at the University of Derby, UWE Bristol, and finally at Sheffield Hallam University.
What characteristics do you see in successful students?
It’s a hard question for two reasons: one, what does success look like and by whose standards? And two, students differ so much in terms of personality, background, experience etc. I think the key characteristics I like to imagine you need are enthusiasm, engagement, and curiosity. You have to be prepared to challenge yourself and realise that, as a university student, you are on a journey to confront perceived truths about the world, which can be difficult. I think there is also an element of confidence required. As a lecturer, I get to see the full journey students make, from that initial nervous first year to becoming fully independent adults by the time they graduate. However, along the way, there will always be lots of ups and downs, self-doubt, and anxiety.
What do professors hate/love students doing?
What I don’t like is if a student doesn’t turn up to any lectures or seminars and at the end of the module emails asking what the module and assessments are all about! It happens more often than you’d think. What I do like is when a student just says thank you or, in just some small way, lets you know you have helped them. It can make the difference between a rubbish day and someone brightening the day up for you with a simple acknowledgement. I don’t think students are aware of the world of difference it makes to lecturers.
What are your biggest pet peeves as a professor?
Admin. Admin. Admin. There’s too much of it, I don’t have the time for it, and it drives me mad. I also get frustrated that people think I’m off from April through to October when in reality my summers are spent still teaching or supervising postgraduates and research students, marking, writing up research articles/books…and doing admin.
What is your teaching style?
It’s a tricky one. I always like to imagine that I’m the “cool” lecturer, but in reality, I probably just come across as an idiot. However, I do like to get to know students and I like to get them talking and involved. So I usually spend ages at the start of a semester purposely asking everyone in the room how they are and what they’ve been up to. I also tend to get distracted quite easily from the subject at hand. In terms of giving lectures, I always remember someone once told me you have to become an actor for an hour. So that’s what I do. I’m naturally an introverted person, but during a lecture, I put on a performance that goes against my very personality.
Do you prefer a loud and conversational class or a quiet and focused class? Our Instagram poll guessed you prefer a loud class by 88%!
Certainly conversational. Who are those 12% who think I would want a quiet class? There is nothing worse as a lecturer than a stony silence when you ask a question. Though, over the years I’ve learned to ride those silences out. Not quite so sure about ‘loud’ though. Maybe conversational-chatter is the kind of noise level I like. I hate having to scream at the top of my lungs to get everyone to listen.