Meet HASS Honours Alumni

What can you do with an Honours degree from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences?

Our graduates end up all over the globe undertaking PhD's, working for governments, the private sector, non-for-profits, galleries, they go on to do teaching, researching, being project managers and undertaking many other roles! Having your Honours gives you a step up from the competition and opens you up to a world of opportunities. 

Check out some of our graduates and be inspired to undertake 'One year. One extraordinary research experience'. 

12. Dominic Bailey, BA (Hons) in International Relations

What was the best thing about your Honours program at UQ?

By far the best aspect of undertaking an Honours program is the opportunity it provides to undertake your first truly independent, large-scale research project. You’ll be making a novel contribution to your chosen field on a subject that interests you, and how you go about tackling this project is entirely up to you. This freedom of manoeuvre makes for an exciting experience, and at the end you will produce a polished contribution to your area of study that (without forgetting the input and guidance from your supervisor) you can call yours.

While this was also a bit daunting at times – the pride I felt over my completed project was completely worth it! I can assure you that there are few moments at university that can match the sense of elation, fulfilment and personal achievement gained from submitting a completed thesis. It’s also worth mentioning that while a thesis is, by its nature, an independent project, I was never overwhelmed thanks to the steadfast support and advice I received my supervisor and peers.

How did your study help you to get to your current role, and what does your current role involve?

I will be taking up a role as a policy graduate in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Graduate Program. As a graduate, I will undertake rotations through DFAT’s numerous portfolio areas, developing my knowledge of and ability to work across Australia’s foreign, trade, and aid policy priorities. This also involves consultation with a wide range of stakeholders including international partners, federal and state governments, public sector agencies and officials, and key industry and private sector actors.

The link between my studies in International Relations and the work performed by DFAT is a clear one, but it is the skills I gained through my Honours year that I believe made me a competitive applicant. If your undergraduate degree is where you build the foundations of your research abilities, then an Honours is where you refine and nuance those skills. I cannot overemphasise just how highly valued these skills are by employers – there are few better examples of an ability to conduct high-quality work independently, manage competing priorities, work collaboratively, and solve complex problems than the successful completion of a thesis.

What did your study lead to?

On a purely personal level, a greater knowledge of my chosen field. In turn, this knowledge helped to strengthen what was already a keen interest in International Relations and led to a greater personal curiosity in the workings of the international system. However, as I mentioned above, it also provided me with the analytical tools and academic curiosity to better question and understand complexities across a range of issues – and not just within the field of International Relations.

It was this curiosity and set of skills that, I believe, contributed to my drive to finding employment in this area and eventual acceptance into DFAT’s graduate program. There’s certainly a lot of emphasis placed upon how to best tailor resumes and respond to selection criteria (and this is certainly important information to look into), but a real passion for the field that you wish to work in is hard to fake! I believe that undertaking an Honours year is a fantastic way to hone one’s interest in their chosen field, and to help gain a clearer understanding of what one wishes to pursue after graduation.

What advice would you give to students in the same discipline you studied?

First and foremost, you have a wide range of resources, passionate peers, and highly skilled teachers available to you at UQ – use them! Never be afraid to collaborate or bounce ideas around with other members of your cohort, and don’t shy away from organising meetings with your lecturers and tutors to discuss ideas or hash out solutions to any problems you’re having! This is a lesson I learned later in my degree that I wish I’d known from the start.  

This is particularly important in an Honours program; your supervisor is the single greatest source of advice and support that you will have throughout the process, so never be afraid to seek out their thoughts on your project and the direction it is going in. As well as your supervisor, that there are a wide range of highly knowledgeable and experienced academics at UQ – often just down the hall. Take your ideas to them, gain their insight, and I guarantee both you and your project (whether it be a thesis or a 1,500-word essay) will gain from it.

This same strain of thought applies to your peers – take an active interest in their projects and talk to them about yours, you’ll be surprised what you can learn from one another. My Honours cohort included people with a wide range of academic backgrounds who represented an invaluable pool of knowledge to draw from. If you’re like me - a consummate humanities student with a fear of anything involving numbers - you may be relieved when you find a colleague with a background in economics who can help you out with that quantitative section of your thesis concerning GDP! 

What challenges did you came across in your degree, and how did you overcome them?

While completing my thesis, I found time management and balancing competing priorities (such as jobs, extra-curricular commitments or other coursework) to be a significant challenge. Anyone familiar with security or strategic studies will be aware of the maxim that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. No matter how well you plan, life has a habit of getting in the way and disrupting your meticulously calculated timeframe of key dates and goals.  

In regard to overcoming this challenge, I found communication to be key. As soon as you are feeling overwhelmed, speak to your supervisor or your lecturers and develop a plan. Don’t simply take it on faith that you’ll be able to just get it done at the last minute. The vast majority of the time, you’ll find a work-around and still complete your work to a quality that you are happy with. On those rare occasions where you cannot do this, prioritise what is important – if extra-curriculars are overwhelming you, then perhaps step back a bit from these roles for a while. Having a clear view of the weeks in front of you certainly helps in this regard, and something as simple as a calendar with key dates highlighted was a lifesaver for me (as someone who, up to that point, had never been very organised).

At the end of the day, remember that no matter how overwhelmed you are, your supervisor is there to support you and is just as keen for you to deliver a high-quality thesis as you are. If a particular period is looking busy, then there is nothing wrong with asking for an extra week to tidy up that chapter you’re working on.

Any final tips for Honours students?

When you’re starting out, don’t feel compelled to rush into writing – having a solid, well planned out foundation is better than rushing to complete your first chapter. On a similar note, don’t leave polishing up your references until the 11th hour – I can speak from experience when I tell you that this is a stressful experience! If you haven’t already, learn how to use the referencing software available at UQ, it will save you hours.

Take the time to ask other members of your cohort how they’re going with their projects when you’re in the Honours room together – you’re likely encountering the same problems, and one of you will likely have some helpful tips to get the other over an obstacle.

Finally, remember that despite all of the challenges you face in delivering a thesis, it is an experience that will deeply enhance your knowledge of your field and refine your skills in a truly invaluable way. You are eminently capable of overcoming any of the challenges you may face through the support systems available to you at UQ, so long as you seek it out. In the end, I promise you that it’s worth the work.