Interview: Sophie Winkler

Sophie Winkler is a second-year PhD student at Örebro University, Sweden. During her last semester of master’s studies, she applied for the graduate school for Applied History of Education. Her supervisors are Prof. Christian Lundahl, Prof. Johannes Westberg, and Dr. Emma Vikström.

Interviewer: How did you find out about the graduate school?
Sophie: I was informed about the graduate school by Mette Buchardt, a Danish professor who visited our department in Vienna in the winter of 2020. She was giving me guest supervision for my master’s thesis, which I enjoyed and found very helpful. I then asked her about possible PhD positions at her department but she didn’t have any openings at the time. She instead recommended looking into the call for PEDASK and expressed the opinion that I could be a good candidate for this graduate school. This encouraged me to apply.

Interviewer: What is the topic of your research?
Sophie: The central question of my research is how statistical visualization informed gendered education debate in Sweden and Germany, ca. 1849-1960. My current hypothesis is that activists for female education adapted to statistical thinking, which I interpret as a masculinist style of reasoning, to present their concerns in a legitimate way.

Interviewer: So, (has) your topic changed since you started? What did your supervisors make of the change?
Sophie: My topic has not changed as much as it has evolved from what I set out to do. Compared to my application from winter 2020, I have restricted the number of national cases from three to two. Additionally, I have specified the time period I intend to investigate and made out four temporal sub-studies that will shed light on key developments in the expansion of female education in Sweden and Germany and how they relate to the use of statistical visualization. I decided to do this to make my work as feasible and as conclusive as possible given the limited amount of time I will be employed as a PhD fellow. Furthermore, I elaborated more on how I want to approach the geographical dimension, namely with a transnational approach. This perspective takes the nation-state into account as a realized entity but puts a major focus on flows and transfers of ideas, people, and material beyond and between national borders.

During the developments described above, my supervisors were immensely supportive – offering me guidance, reassurance, knowledge, encouragement, and advice on what my focal points should be. They have always been respectful of my interests and passions, and at no point did I feel pressured to go into a direction I did not care for. Instead they are never hesitant to support and help me, to cheer me on, and to inform me on opportunities to further develop my project (seminars, workshops, conferences, summer schools, networking etc.).

Interviewer: Aside from the research, what do you do as a member of the graduate school?
Sophie: We have a series of seminars and workshops that are offered to us. The four remote seminars were organized by each of the participating universities: Örebro, Uppsala, Umeå, and Stockholm. The workshops will be held in person on the campus of the organizing university. The graduate school also has resources to offer more courses that can cater to the wishes and needs of the participants in the future.

Interviewer: Have you participated in any other related activities?
Sophie: I am a research assistant to a project in history or education which is not related to the Graduate School. The project revolves around the personal archive of Swedish educator Torsten Husén. My tasks lie for one in administration, especially in minute taking, i.e. taking notes during the group’s meetings via zoom and formulating protocols of what was discussed and decided for later reference. I also do archival work for the researchers; I search material for relevant information and create compilations of content and timelines to facilitate the analysis of archival material and article writing. As a result of this work, I have been offered co-authorship for the articles that will come out of these analyses. Recently, me and another researcher, who has recently gained their doctorate, have been asked to write our own article based on the archival material with a focus on the role of data visualization in international comparative education research.

Interview by Brandon Graham, MA, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.

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