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Arts & Humanities

Professor Evelyn Welch

Evelyn Welch

Job title

Provost / Senior Vice President
(Arts & Sciences)

Professor of Renaissance Studies

Department/Division

History

Date started at King’s

2013


Challenges and achievements

When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?

I have always been interested in academic overlaps and interdisciplinarity. My first degree was from Harvard where trips to Europe to learn Italian and Spanish led to a complete conversion to Renaissance History and Literature. Walking through buildings and looking at objects that were centuries old taught me that history was in the fabric of a city as well as in its archives.

What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area? 

I currently ask how things became fashionable in 16th and 17th century Europe. I am interested in understanding how and why men suddenly decided to shave their heads and wear someone else’s hair around 1660 and then why, almost a hundred years later, this practice disappeared. I was drawn to this area by working in museums and collections such as the Victoria & Albert Museum that have extraordinary holdings of textiles, clothing and other objects that document a fast-moving world of fads and novelties such as snuff boxes, ruffs, muffs and masks.

Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding. 

In 2005 I was elected a National Teaching Fellow and that same year I won the Wolfson Prize for History for my monograph,Shopping in the Renaissance. This was particularly gratifying as it was a clear demonstration that you could be both an innovative and devoted teacher and a committed researcher.  I strongly believe that the two parts of our academic lives are complimentary rather than competing enterprises.

Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?

I have been very inspired by women such as Dame Nancy Rothwell, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester, who has combined a distinguished scientific career with university leadership. Women such as Nancy retain an amazing sense of humour, clarity of purpose and a sense of responsibility for the wider community. She and others such as Glynnis Breakwell, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bath, make it look easy to do complex and difficult jobs.

What if any support has most benefited you in your career?

I have had enormous support from my colleagues in the many institutions in which I have worked over the years. I commuted for ten years to the University of Sussex from London and the tight-knit group of fellow early risers who took the 7.47am to Brighton provided me with nurturing interdisciplinary ideas, even at that time in the morning.

How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?

I have a patient spouse and grown-up children who can cook. They would tell you I don’t balance very well!

What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s? 

I am very privileged to lead a wide range of academic activities. Bringing people together and ensuring that we support our students and create astonishing new forms of research is very rewarding. I have been excited about our success in highlighting the important work that King’s is doing for gender equality.

How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?

I don't! I see them all as part of a continuum rather than in competition with each other. My research and teaching are very closely linked and the way I try to lead as Vice-Principal comes from my experiences of bringing researchers together during large European and research council funded projects.

What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?

Say yes to new experiences and challenges even when you think they will take time you can’t afford; but don’t get sucked into doing the same role year after year.

Make sure people know about the excellent work that you are doing – don’t expect them to notice by themselves.

Enjoy every day – life isn’t a dress rehearsal.

 

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