Fran Trust

Background

The Fran Trust was established in 2012 by Dr. Roona Simpson. Roona was, until 2015, a lecturer in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow and a committed, engaging teacher of research methods, feminist theory and practice and the sociology of family and relationships. She was herself a graduate of the University of Glasgow, having been awarded a first class honours degree in sociology and philosophy in 1997. She went on to complete a PhD at the London School of Economics’ Gender Institute in 2005 and following that worked as a researcher in London and in Edinburgh at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, where she remained an active associate. Outside her work Roona was a committed supporter of gender equality through her involvement with Engender and more recently, the Glasgow Women’s Library.

Roona didn’t have any financial barriers to education but knew how lucky she was in this respect and she generously set up the Fran Trust to help support the next generation of scholars. Sadly Roona passed away in 2017, aged just 53, after a short illness. She is greatly missed by all of us who had the pleasure of knowing her.

The Fran Trust focused on giving support to academic researchers at a crucial time of career development, when doctoral students were nearing completion of their thesis. The aim of the small grants being offered was to allow students to present papers at key conferences in their field. In many cases, this would result in publications, and also facilitate communication and networking with scholars in the field – both steps being essential stages in the development of academic careers. This is a time of transition for students, often a difficult one, with the pressure to move forward to getting material published coming hot on the heels of the arduous process of producing a doctoral thesis, and can prove a difficult hurdle for many. Roona was also sensitive to the needs and pressures which some women students faced, offering support for childcare where this was needed.

The Trust funded work in feminism, women’s or gender studies, and support was given for gender-related topics in many disciplinary areas. These included not only Roona’s own field of Sociology, but also Social Policy, Politics, History, Literature, Public Health, Architecture, Law, and Film Studies. Topics included approaches to gender-based violence by international agencies such as the UN and NATO; domestic abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder; Female Genital Mutilation; political participation and identities of women; literary women and representations of women in literature; intersections of gender with race, class, and disability; sexual identities; experiences and representations of motherhood; histories of women’s movements; and analyses of the role of IT in constructions and narratives of women’s experiences. Research papers were often rich, thought-provoking, and breaking new ground.

 

Making A Difference

Funding was for students at UK universities, but students from many different backgrounds, and often attending international conferences, were beneficiaries of awards. The range of research interests represented was truly international – from Scotland to the Nordic countries, South Africa to Turkey, Mexico to Nepal. In total 137 people were supported, mostly women, but also several men working in gender-related fields.

Roona’s own experience of the challenges and hurdles of academic life informed the setting up of the Trust and the criteria by which it operated. The enthusiastic feedback which the Trustees received from many of those receiving awards has been a warm endorsement of her judgment of the need and importance of such forms of support. Attending conferences helped build confidence and support networks, and often led to publications, as well as meetings with leading academics, and making contact with potential collaborators in future research. The Fran Trust has successfully achieved Roona’s objectives over the years of its existence, and made a positive contribution to contemporary feminist scholarship as she would have wished.

Feedback from successful applicants:

"The conference exposed me to a wide range of highly renowned authors and theorists in the academic field of gender and work. I met numerous authors whose work I have been reading and using since my undergraduate years."

"I would like to say a huge thank you to the Fran Trust for funding my attendance at this conference. It has led to two international connections for my future work, one in Australia and one in Sweden, which would not have been possible without my attending this conference."

"I simply can't express the benefit of spending two whole days immersed in the eighteenth century and engaging with people who are working on similar topics to me. It is inspiring, energising and thrilling!"

"As a result of my conference paper presentation, I received three offers of publication in peer reviewed academic journals."

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