Profile with Annie Haight

Dr Annie Haight (Montana & Somerville 1978) is a senior lecturer and postgraduate research tutor in the School of Education at Oxford Brookes University, focusing on gifted and talented education programs. Annie has remained in England (mostly in Oxford) since receiving the Rhodes Scholarship, holding positions at the Open University, St Catherine’s College, Oxford and in academic publishing. She holds a DPhil in Modern History from the University of Oxford, a PGCert in Teaching in Higher Education from Oxford Brookes University, and a BA(Hons) in History from the University of Montana.

Rhodes Project: Where do you call home?

Annie Haight: I have lived in Oxford for the past 35 years, so I call Oxford home. I’m from Montana originally.

Rhodes Project: Who’s your favourite author?

Annie Haight: It depends on what I'm reading. Right now I’m reading some of the stuff that Margaret Archer has written as a theorist in critical realism. Among novelists, I suppose, too many to mention. I love Marilynne Robinson’s novel Housekeeping; apart from the fact that it’s an extraordinarily subtle and beautiful and tragic piece of writing, it’s set in the Pacific Northwest, where I’m from, so I know the landscape.

Rhodes Project:  Please tell us about what you do and what an average work day looks like.

Annie Haight: I am now an academic at Oxford Brookes University. On most days, the work is quite varied but as a post graduate research tutor, I have a lot of administration related work like reading admissions applications for doctoral students, progress reports and that kind of thing. I supervise doctoral students and participate in the “taught” element of the programmes. I also teach courses in education, film and literature and philosophy of education to undergraduates. I teach a Year 1 course called “Exploring Learning” that attempts to get first year undergraduates to step back a bit from their careers as “learners” in compulsory education and critique what may be happening. Education is a very fraught and interesting and politicised area. In some ways, it encapsulates the big issues in society. What do we owe from one generation to another? How do we enculturate our young people? What are our duties towards them? All these kinds of issues come to the fore in education.

Rhodes Project: What is an interesting thing you’ve learnt from your students lately?

Annie Haight: I’m always dismayed at how difficult the undergraduates find writing and I’m always a bit dismayed at how only a few of them seem to be avid readers like I was. I think that there is something that is happening digitally which means that people may not devour books in the same way that my generation did, and I think something is definitely being lost there.

Rhodes Project: What would you say is the best part of your job?

Annie Haight: I have absolutely lovely colleagues and very nice students- they’re the richest part. That and being able to work with ideas. Yesterday, I was at an academic seminar on critical realism where I was hearing a scholar from the Bristol Business School give a wonderful lucid explanation about the fundamentals of critical realism in a very broad Liverpudlian accent. That really pleased me! It also pleased me that we were in the former music room of Robert Maxwell, in Headington Hill Hall which is now in my University. It’s those kinds of things that are an absolute privilege and joy - because it sure isn’t the pay!

Rhodes Project: If you weren’t working at Oxford Brookes, what would you be doing?

Annie Haight: I would absolutely love to just have the time to write. To be able to research and write in a freer way that one might have if one wasn’t judged based on the production of peer-reviewed academic journal articles.

Rhodes Project: If you could change one thing in your life what would it be?

Annie Haight: Well, people my age would love more time and more energy.

Rhodes Project: What surprised you most about Oxford?

Annie Haight: This takes me back to 1978! What surprised me most was the inability to get a decent breakfast in a cafe. I went down to St. Giles to what was then called Pepe’s Cafe and I had the greasiest, most horrible breakfast! It was such a disappointment! That’s about Oxford the city – as for experience of the university, the structures were very different, the expectations were very different from what I had encountered in the US. Martha Nussbaum, the American philosopher, has written a book called Not for Profit which is an argument in favour of the humanities as a force for good and democracy at a time when they seem to be endangered in terms of funding and status. She emphasises the difference between the liberal arts universities in the United States and what happens in other countries in the Western tradition. Britain, like other countries, focuses on a very narrow, subject-based, strict academic curriculum whereas the curriculum is much wider in the US so the expectations and the structures are very different even now.

Rhodes Project: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Annie Haight: My son has just returned from travelling in Central Asia which includes countries like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Mongolia. I would like to visit some of these places. I am particularly interested in the geography and the beauty of the landscape in Southern Siberia where the wooded climate meets the grassy climate. I think Lake Baikal in Siberia would be a pretty cool place to see.

Rhodes Project: What’s something that you’re looking forward to?

Annie Haight: I’m looking forward to getting some time to get back to my own research and writing. Other tasks in my working life have pulled me away from that in the last few years and I am keen to go back to my writing. I’d like to be able to just write playfully and I have a number of projects in mind - including memoirs, radio scripts and fiction – to be playful with.

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