In the second installment of our newly-inaugurated series ‘Wilberforce Watch’, we interviewed Jun Pang, one of TWS’s Editors, discussing her involvement with the Society, tracing the timeline of a policy paper and what students gain from getting with this unique Society.
How extensive has your involvement with TWS been?
I joined TWS after attending the Freshers’ Squash last October. Since then, I have co-written a policy paper on the presence and effectiveness of sexual assault/harassment policies at the University of Cambridge, commissioned by End Rape on Campus UK (EROC), and become one of the Society’s Editors. Currently, I am leading a paper on common-pool resource management comparing local and top-down solutions to environmental degradation, set to be published at the beginning of Michaelmas 2016. I have also recruited writers for an upcoming policy paper on decolonizing academia, which will aim to propose concrete recommendations for implementing a liberatory pedagogy at Cambridge and other institutions of higher education.
Talk us through the lifeline of a policy paper – from the very beginning (its inception) to the very last edit stage.
A policy paper starts out either as a commission from within the Society or from an external organization (such as the aforementioned paper with EROC UK). Each paper is assigned to or taken up by an Editor, who then recruits and selects a team of writers from a pool of applicants. The writing process begins with the brainstorming phase, as the team works together to arrive at a research question as well as an outline for the paper, delegating responsibilities to one another based on individuals’ interests – the aim is to pinpoint an area of collective interest that will lend itself to real, feasible solutions. Each writer works on their section, producing high quality research and writing according to the demands of the question. At the same time, they brainstorm concrete recommendations that can be made to solve the issue at hand. Once the paper is finished, the team of writers will present their findings to a panel of experts on the topic as well as to interested members of the Cambridge community, in order to solicit their feedback; the paper subsequently undergoes a final round of edits, after which it is submitted for formatting and publication by TWS.
What have you enjoyed the most about being involved in the Society?
In promoting critical thinking about real policy-making, the Society provides opportunities for students to think beyond the more theoretical side of academia and to channel their knowledge into productive and constructive solutions to global issues. Being in TWS has allowed me to meet people who are incredibly passionate about using their skills and their expertise to make meaningful contributions to society, which is something that I personally want to do as well. I have learned so much from being a part of this active community, and hope to continue initiating, writing, and editing papers that align with my general interest in social justice.
How do you manage to integrate working with TWS within your busy schedule?
The turnaround for a policy paper is usually eight to ten weeks. Given that papers are research-intensive, this means that working with TWS can and does take up quite a bit of time! As with any other society or sport, you need to figure out what works for you in terms of time management. The key is to take on only what you can handle, and to not be afraid to reach out for help. If you are a prospective TWS writer, sign up for one paper at a time, ensure that you truly are interested in the subject, and commit to doing only as much as you can realistically achieve. Also feel free to reach out to the Editor in charge of your paper, or anyone else at TWS who has previous experience, if you’re stuck or in need of help.
How do you think working with TWS benefits students while they are at Cambridge and beyond?
Working with TWS gives students the opportunity to engage with the issues that matter most to them. Typically, research-based organizations tend to think in terms of the status quo, but TWS actively encourages students to participate in events and discussions and to collaborate with one another to come up with innovative and feasible solutions to pressing problems. When you’re in the thick of Cambridge coursework, it becomes easy to forget the world beyond the bubble – working with TWS empowers you to think about how you can use your position of privilege at Cambridge to create positive change, and moreover provides you with a community of like-minded academics, alumni, and students who are similarly dedicated to making effective policy decisions. It goes without saying that the opportunity to research and write a policy paper is fantastic experience for anyone who wants to pursue this field; beyond that, however, the critical thinking skills that you develop as a writer for TWS are extremely valuable in getting you to think more broadly about different contexts and different communities’ needs.