Meet our Head of Institute

Sarah Wood Head of School EnglishSarah Wood is the Head of the Birmingham Institute of Media and English. Learn more about her background, her interests and what she enjoys about working for the Institute and the University

What did you study at University?

My undergraduate degree was English with History; my MA is in Science Fiction and my PhD is on a contemporary African American writer of science fiction.

How did you become the Head of the Institute of Media and English?

The Birmingham Institute of Media and English was formed in January 2020. I’d previously been Head of the School of English at BCU and was fortunate enough to be appointed Head of the Institute. There has been a long tradition of the two Schools working together with joint courses in English and Media and English and Journalism and academics and students have often worked together on industry or research-related projects. What’s been really exciting for me is learning about the fantastic work taking place across the whole Institute and knowing that our students will be the ones influencing the creative industries of the future.

How would you describe the Institute?

The best place to work. The staff and students are amazing and completely committed to learning and finding out new knowledge, developing creative ideas and sharing them with others. What’s really inspiring is the range of work staff and students produce. I might start the week reading students’ creative writing and end it listening to students broadcasting from the industry-standard radio studios here in Parkside building or reading the latest news our journalists produce on Birmingham Eastside. The variety of work that staff and students produce means that every week is different and brings something exciting and new.

How would you describe your staff?

Outstanding. They’re really passionate about their subjects and that knowledge and enthusiasm is evident in their teaching. One of the great things about university is being taught by experts. So, whether you’re coming to study English Literature, Music Industries, linguistics, or Media Production (to name a few of our courses) you’ll be taught by industry professionals, leading researchers, and award-winning writers and broadcasters.

What does your job involve?

Something different every day but, ultimately, I’m responsible for making sure that our students’ experience is the best it can be: that your courses are stimulating and exciting; that you're challenged and pushed to do your very best work; that you’re taught in varied and innovative ways; that our staff produce excellent research and creative work and that the Institute is a vibrant and engaging community.

What’s your favourite thing about working for Institute of English and Media?

Easy – the people.

What have been your career highlights so far?

It’s a bit corny, but my highlights are the two days, every year, when I watch our students process across the stage at Symphony Hall during their graduation. It’s phenomenal to have been part of so many people’s journey and a real privilege to share that with them.

What are your specialist areas?

Science fiction, contemporary women’s writing, especially African American women’s writing but I also teach literary theory and children’s literature.

What are your research interests?

Contemporary speculative fiction. I like to think about the way writers use non-realist fiction to tell stories which make us think differently about our own world.

What can students look forward to the most when they join The Institute of English and Media?

It’s hard to distil this into one thing. Coming to university is one of the most exciting, challenging, mildly scary and intensely stimulating time. You’ll leave as a different person. That’s probably the best thing: finding out who you can be.

How can future students prepare for University now?

Do something different. Read something you wouldn’t usually read. Watch or listen to something you wouldn’t usually watch or listen to. Think about these things critically. Try to extend your knowledge of your subject. More generally, be aware of the world you live in. Read, watch or listen to the news. Pay attention to how our views are shaped and informed.

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