PhD student Martin Heneghan discusses his time as visiting scholar at UPenn in new blog post
Sociological Studies PhD student Martin Heneghan has written a blog post about his time working as a visiting scholar with a leading social policy professor at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn).
Martin, currently researching pension provision after the global economic crisis, traveled to America in April 2017 to spend three months working with Professor Mitchell Orenstein in exploring pension policy at a global level.
Martin's blog post, below, first appeared in the White Rose Social Science Doctoral Training Centre's (DTC) July 2017 newsletter, DTC Matters.
Right from the very beginning of my PhD, it was an ambition of mine to apply for funding for an ESRC Overseas Institutional Visit (OIV). I had always planned to visit the University of Pennsylvania, to work alongside a leading scholar in my area, Professor Mitchell Orenstein. He made a substantial impact in the field of global social policy and the influence of international organisations. His scholarship showed how the World Bank led a coalition, which campaigned for countries to part-privatise their pension system. The campaign was successful, with 28 countries following the World Bank’s advice. However, after the global economic crisis, many countries reversed these reforms. My thesis is investigating this process, essentially writing the sequel to Orenstein’s work, investigating why the reforms went wrong. It had always made perfect sense that we should one day meet to discuss ideas and collaborate on a paper. The ESRC funded OIV scheme made this happen and I could not be happier with how the visit went.
Upon arriving at the University of Pennsylvania, or ‘Penn’ as it’s simply referred to in America, I was allocated my own office to work from for the duration of my visit. It was exciting to be based at an ‘Ivy League’ university, the campus grounds were beautiful and the library resources were outstanding. It was fascinating to witness the academic culture in one of America’s most prestigious institutions. Most exciting, (and daunting), however, was the prospect of meeting a scholar whose work I knew inside out. We immediately set about discussing ideas for a joint-authored article. I was extremely fortunate that the university is based within commutable distance to the World Bank. I was able to visit the Bank, sharing ideas of my research to date and conduct some interviews with senior staff. Before the trip to the World Bank, I felt like I was stepping inside the lion’s den, but it was an exhilarating experience and the staff were very helpful and friendly. The visit also enabled me to meet several times with other policy makers in the field of global pensions, who were based in the region. It felt like everything came together perfectly for the visit.
I really feel the Overseas Institutional Visit Scheme started my transition from PhD student to early career researcher. It gave me the chance to build international collaborations and discuss my research as a scholar in my own right.
Penn is situated in the heart of West Philadelphia. I spent nine weeks living there, which gave me plenty of time at weekends to explore the city where American independence was born. The US really knows how to do museums well. My personal favourite experience was a visit to Eastern State Penitentiary, America’s first prison, now a museum. Not only do Mitchell Orenstein and I share research interests, we’re also both sports mad. I had the pleasure of accompanying him to a soccer game and a baseball game to see how Americans do sport. I also ate enough Philly cheesesteaks to last a life time. Philadelphia also happens to be situated two hours away from New York. Since my birthday fell during my trip, it only made sense that I should visit and make it a birthday to remember.
I had the time of my life during my OIV. More importantly, I really feel it started my transition from PhD student to early career researcher. It gave me the chance to build international collaborations and discuss my research as a scholar in my own right. We are so lucky the ESRC values these opportunities enough to invest large sums into the scheme. I would highly recommend it to anyone.
For more information
Overseas Institutional Visits Scheme 2017/18
If you are a full-time ESRC funded Doctoral Researcher you are eligible to apply for financial support for overseas institutional visits (OIVs) during the period of your award. The allocation of funds is at the White Rose DTC’s (WRDTC) discretion and the Academic Quality Committee (AQC) will oversee the process.