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Monash University

  • 43% international / 57% domestic

Elliot Dolan-Evans

Sometimes it is extremely stressful, but you feel really satisfied when you can make some progress!

What's your name and job title (if applicable)? What did you study at the undergraduate level and when did you graduate? What are you studying now (if applicable)? Are you studying and working at the same time?

My name is Elliot Dolan-Evans, and I am currently a PhD candidate at Monash University in Melbourne! At the undergraduate level, I ended up studying quite a few things. I graduated from a Bachelor of Applied Science (Human Movements) at the University of Queensland with a Class One Honours (2010), from a Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery at Griffith University (2015), and from a Bachelor of Law at Queensland University of Technology (2016). I currently hold a few casual jobs in tutoring and research whilst completing my postgraduate studies.

Please list the most important stages of your life (school, education, experience abroad, jobs etc.)

I think all of these stages of my life, usually overlapping, have been extremely beneficial and important for me at a number of levels. Firstly, my education at the universities detailed above has been (most of the time!) very enriching. With the Bachelor of Applied Sciences, I felt I developed a confidence to interact with regular people and even work up courage to public speaking (I was very shy previously!); the Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery further developed my research and analytical skills, whilst also allowing me access to a range of leadership positions; and the Bachelor of Law significantly improved my writing and reading skills. Secondly, the work I have completed throughout the multitude of jobs I’ve held over the years has been exceedingly important. Recalling the jobs I’ve worked casually over the years whilst at school and university, I can list – garage driveway attendant, waiter, tutor (anatomy, biology, physiology, and private teaching), research assistant, football coach, GAMSAT tutor, analyst, and student support! I had to work frequently (sometimes holding 3 concurrent jobs) through university, as I had no financial support outside of the measly amount from Centrelink. All of these jobs, and particularly the waiter one (which I held over approximately 7 years with two different hotels), gave me a huge amount of life experience – dealing with conflict, working with people, and functioning at all hours to get work done! Then, I was lucky enough to work as an intern medical doctor, and a graduate lawyer. These two positions introduced me to the world of ‘formal’ work, and the complexities and challenges accompanying this. Finally, with regards to experience abroad, I think my two major trips overseas (to Jordan in 2015 and Iran 2016) were hugely eye-opening, exhilarating, and just introduced me to such a massive amount of the world that I have never seen nor conceptualised. These experiences were highly transformative, and completely changed my philosophical outlook on life. The strong sense of community, faith, and kindness in both Jordan and Iran was extremely positive, and I highly admired the wonderful people I was lucky enough to interact with. I think those two travel experiences, for learning Arabic and just travel, respectively, significantly shifted my political philosophy and outlook on life, and made me want to see more of an egalitarian communitarian society in my own sphere of life!   

How did you get to your current (or most recent) job position and for how long have you occupied it (if applicable)?

I think if we’re talking about a ‘technical’ job, I will discuss my graduate lawyer position at Corrs Chambers Westgarth in 2017, as I feel the PhD experience is more of a wonderful opportunity and exciting commitment rather than something that might be mundane enough to be classified as a ‘job’. Well, I was lucky enough to be accepted into a clerkship program at Corrs Chambers Westgarth between my second and third year of law school. Like most hopeful law students, I applied to all of the major commercial law firms for a clerkship position, as I was (mistakenly) led to believe that this was the correct path to enter into the legal profession. All of them rejected me, except Corrs, mainly because of my medical degree (I was currently finish off medical school at this time – and Corrs handled a lot of medico-legal casework). I had the opportunity to undertake a 3-week paid clerkship at the firm, and because I generally go with the mantra of accepting opportunities as they came up, I also agreed to enter their law graduate program in 2017. I was there for approximately 8 months or so, until I realised that working in commercial law really wasn’t for me – it didn’t work well with my outlook on life, and didn’t fit into my political philosophy or notion of justice and fairness at all, which was the main (and only) reason that I went into law.

What made you decide to progress with further study?

Again, I simply accepted opportunities as they opened up! I currently do post-graduate study in the general field of political economy and feminist studies… now, as you can probably see from my undergraduate background, I have completely no experience in these! However, during law school, I was completing a research project in these areas for an academic, and she asked if I was interested in post-graduate study. I told her that I was, though I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do (I have been involved extensively in research (voluntary and scholarship) through undergraduate degrees, publishing papers in neuroscience, cancer pathology, and medical/surgical education). The project that she discussed with me, was fascinating, and appealed to my desire to address the ‘big issue’ questions facing our society. I then thought that this opportunity wouldn’t come up again, and I accepted it after really only quite minimal discussion… and I have been working very hard on this PhD project since then, especially as I am constantly trying to catch up on readings and research! Finally, I also love study – I feel it is incumbent on all of us, who are lucky enough to be born into a position where you have the ability to study, to learn as much as possible in life. The opportunity to take on a scholarship to do so was a no-brainer for me.

How did you choose your particular further study course (compared to others)? / Were you weighing up any alternative degrees or career pathways before choosing this qualification?

Luckily for me, most of my work and study experiences are overlapping, which meant there have been no real periods (yet!) where I’ve had to actively search for further study or jobs because I didn’t have anything on the go. As you may have noticed from my list of study above, I began Law School whilst completing Medical School, and so once I graduated from Medicine and became a doctor, I was still finishing Law School. Then I went to be a graduate lawyer, and a post-graduate offer of study fell on top of me when I finished there. I didn’t really choose the post-graduate study, as the opportunity simply presented itself, and I took it! I obviously have a few pathways that I could go with my studies and careers, but I am currently enjoying the challenge of expanding my mind, challenging myself, and trying to help resolve unanswered questions that I hope will assist a lot of people throughout the world.

What was the process to get accepted into your course? What were the prerequisites?

I was very lucky with my PhD application – I was invited to apply for it, so it was outside of the normal PhD application process. However, I have assisted a few prospective PhD students in applying for their studies, so I have a good idea of the process. At my university, you generally need to have a graded thesis, which has achieved a high level of standing, to be considered for entry into a PhD program. This means you need a Class One Honours in a graded research thesis project (not course-based Honours) or a Masters thesis. This is the major prerequisite of PhD study, which is a significant departure from times past, where you might be able to apply based on publications you’ve completed, or a high standard of non-research related achievement in your undergraduate studies. It is certainly harder to get into PhD programs than they once were, and there is a massive focus on a previous thesis – at my university anyway!

What does your study involve? Can you describe a typical day? (if it’s difficult to describe a typical day, tell us about the last thing you worked on?)

Well, I’d say that a typical day for me involves getting into my office at university, and starting with some Arabic study and a coffee (قهوه in Arabic!). Following this, I’ll then usually do my reading in the morning, which might be reading about (and I’m looking at books on my desk here) the international financial system, world history, imperialism and colonisation, feminist in international relations, Marxist analyses of value, political philosophy, feminist economics, state theory, and communitarian anarchism… so it’s a big range! However, the readings will certainly relate to what I want to do in the afternoon. I will then start writing either my chapters or upcoming conference papers. In the mid-afternoon, I will complete some Russian language learning, and then do any administration tasks at the end of the day. The current item I am working on is a research paper to be presented that looks at the gendered impacts of the economic reforms of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in post-conflict areas, specifically Ukraine!

What characteristics or skills do you hope to gain by completing your course?

I hope to, by the time I complete my course, have a moderate-advanced grasp of Arabic and a moderate grasp of Russian (this language study is extra-curricular, however), I also hope to have a really strong understanding of feminist analysis, economics, international relations, and global political economy. I really want to be able to expand my expertise in my PhD area, and have the ability to contribute to addressing world-wide problems in economic redistribution and resource issues.

Will this course be beneficial in your career? Where could you or others in your position go from here? Please explain your answer.

I think definitely! A PhD can offer up a huge amount of the world to you as a scholar, researcher, practitioner, or in really anything you want to do. I believe it really demonstrates you have a strong set of transferable skills in research and analysis, and that you have a determination and passion to get through the gruelling process! For me, I’m not totally set on what I want to do following my post-graduate studies, and I’m very fortunate to have a lot of opportunities and options open to me. I think the ‘typical’ career path would be accepting a post-doctorate position at a university or a research institute, and many of my colleagues are looking to do this, so that you can continue your research in your PhD topic, improve on your analysis, and expand your interests into new areas. I like the idea of being somewhat of a polymath, and I have a diverse range of interests, so I really want to go somewhere where I can utilise this in a rewarding career.

What do you love the most about your course?

I really love the challenge of the course, as well as the demanding environment. Sometimes it is extremely stressful, but you feel really satisfied when you can make some progress! Even though there are so many times I am knocked back by supervisors with respect to my writing, and feel very limited, it is such a rewarding experience. I also really love the ability to open my eyes up to a whole new way of thinking and conceptualising the world, and looking for solutions. Previously I have been grounded in quantitative ways of analysing the world, whilst this PhD is completely qualitative – which means I have completely altered my way of understanding life around me, in a highly beneficial manner.

What are the limitations of your course?

Comparing my PhD experience to that of my friends in continental Europe, I think PhD programs in Australia miss out on a number of experiences. For example, my colleagues in Europe also must teach, learn a language, publish a certain number of papers, and pass exams in philosophy. My particular university have none of these requirements, and I actually don’t have any of these opportunities through my PhD study, which is quite devastating. I’m trying to correct this by supplementing my study with a number of interests, as I’ve outlined above.

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current undergraduate student? They don’t necessarily have to be related to your studies, or even to one’s professional life.

  • Keep an open mind. My political philosophy has changed massively, from being quite egotistic and liberal, to being highly involved in my local community and engaging in socialist thought. I think we need to always strive for bettering ourselves and especially those around us, and we often forget that we live in a community, where a lot of people are trying to live their lives – current Western ways of living and thinking exclude a lot of these notions, and focus on the individual, which I now believe is totally wrong and will inherently be the cause of our downfall. My political philosophy has matured and grown so much over the past few years in universities and in life, and I council all to have an open mind to new ideas.
  • Take opportunities! I think the only reason I have gotten to where I am, and have had so many opportunities, is that I have taken basically everything that has come to me – no matter how big or small. I was something of a drop-kick in high school (I failed grade 10 and got on all of my teacher’s nerves!), and I was only really mildly improving in my first undergraduate degree – I really turned it around at the end of this first degree, by interacting more with my university community and meeting people who truly inspired me to take my studies seriously. Then, going to medicine, I was committed to become even more involved – and literally accepted everything people asked of me! I volunteered, did heaps of things for free, and created opportunities to help my community – this ultimately allowed me to take advantage of even more challenging opportunities as they came up! So never discount any opportunities that come your way, no matter how small, as they will all benefit you intrinsically or extrinsically.
  • Keep engaged in other things! It’s really important to maintain a strong connection with friends, family and the community whilst you study or work. Again, a lot of people find themselves in an individualistic bubble, consuming for themselves, and thinking only of their path – this is a serious mistake. Keep engaged in hobbies, sport, life, and making sure you set aside time to do the things you enjoy – even when I was studying full time in medicine and law concurrently, whilst holding down three jobs, I did everything I could to see friends, go to the gym, and play piano (though it did mean a bit less sleep at the time!). Having support is invaluable, and keeping a strong connection with doing the things you love will help you throughout your life – and especially if it is reading you love! This is my quickly inserted fourth tip – read a lot, read widely, and read for improvement!