A Lancaster University academic who founded a global writing community has been honoured for his work.
Professor of Creative Writing and Transcultural Literature Graham Mort, who established the University’s Centre for Transcultural Writing and Research, has been awarded a National Teaching Fellowship for excellence in higher education teaching and support for learning.
Professor Mort, from the Department of English and Creative Writing, becomes the 12th member of staff at Lancaster University to receive the award which is recognised by the Higher Education Academy.
Professor Mort is an eLearning expert and has pioneered postgraduate programmes using this method at MA and PhD level. This has led to the development of an international community of students at Lancaster.
MA Student and ‘Crossing Borders’ participant Beverley Nambozo said: “ Professor Mort is far-sighted and a particular example is the initiation of the Crossing Borders Writing scheme in Uganda which opened up-coming writers to new creative experiences. As a distance-learning mentor, his ability to comprehend and interpret poems on the spot, translating them aptly to an international class, was remarkable and inspiring.”
A prizewinning poet and short story writer, Professor Mort’s academic career was preceded by training as a secondary school and special needs teacher and work as a freelance writer in education specialising in multilingual and multi-arts projects.
He has worked extensively in sub-Saharan Africa for the British Council, designing and directing mentoring projects in creative writing for print-media and radio broadcast.
His approach to teaching is student-centred rather than following the orthodoxy of a prescribed curriculum.
As one of his MA students, Janet Lees, testifies: “I count Graham as one of the most inspirational teachers I’ve come across. As a postgraduate tutor he very quickly establishes trust and then strikes the right balance between being challenging and being supportive.
“It was in Graham’s workshops that I had more ‘lightbulb’ moments than in any others. I think this is partly because of his appetite for and engagement with new ideas, techniques and initiatives in creative writing, as well as his skill and eloquence in expressing how these relate back to traditional approaches.”
Professor Mort has written extensively about eLearning pedagogy. He is currently helping to develop a research project with the University of Soran, recording the narratives of older women who survived Saddam Hussein’s Al Anfal campaign against the Kurdish people.
“I had a huge amount of support in achieving this award. That came from colleagues across the university and from the fantastic students I’ve been privileged to teach over the years –in the UK, Africa and beyond,” said Professor Mort.
Lancaster University had, he said, offered him a platform to develop international teaching projects and he recruited a team of very talented tutors who shared a vision of wider social inclusion through education.
“I’m from a working class background and I know the transformative power of education from first-hand,” he added. “We don’t always find enough time to talk about teaching in Higher Education, even though it’s fundamental to the notion of a University.
“For me, teaching is a form of creative practice that engages with uncertainty; a means of participatory research where we formulate, test and refine ideas together. More importantly, it’s a means of creating a sense of liberty that frees us from narrowed expectations and opportunities. I hope to use this Fellowship to continue that work.”
Professor Stephanie Marshall, Chief Executive of the HEA, said: “The National Teaching Fellowship Scheme celebrates outstanding achievement in learning and teaching in higher education.
“Receiving a National Teaching Fellowship is just the beginning. They are an active community of passionate and enthusiastic professionals, working to enhance learning and teaching in their institutions and the sector.
Professor Mort is one of a total of 55 successful National Teaching Fellows chosen from 184 nominations from higher education institutions across England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
The awards was presented at a celebration event at Liverpool Cathedral in October.
Graham Mort's new book of short fiction, Terroir, was launched at a Litfest event at Lancaster Library. Graham has won the Bridport and Short Fiction international short story prizes, whilst his first book of stories, Touch, won the Edge Hill Prize for the best book of short fiction published in the UK in 2010.