Why become a BISA trustee?

This article was published on

Do you see our call for trustees each year and wonder what it entails? Should you apply? Nominations have just opened for the 2023 BISA trustee elections, so we spoke to some past trustees about their experiences, and whether they’d encourage others to nominate themselves.


  • Martin Coward (University of Manchester)
  • Vicki Squire (University of Warwick)
  • Hassan Elbahtimy (King's College London)
  • Julia Welland (University of Warwick)
  • Roland Dannreuther (University of Westminster)
  • Danielle Beswick (University of Birmingham)

When were you a trustee and did you have any particular responsibilities?

Danielle Beswick: I was elected as an ordinary trustee in 2017. I was subsequently elected Treasurer in 2018, one of the officer level positions, and served in this role until 2022. As Treasurer I had particular responsibility for oversight of BISA finances and for keeping the rest of the trustees informed on our financial position at our quarterly meetings. I have also been a member of the thesis and book prize panels, as well as chairing the early career research grant committee in 2021/2.

Martin Coward: 2012-2016. I was the exec member responsible for working groups so I revised working group guidelines, improved funding, and managed the annual funding round. I was also on the research subcommittee and part of the teaching and early career funding/grant committees.

Roland Dannreuther: I was a trustee from about 2012-18. I was an Executive member for some years and then was Honorary Treasurer.

Hassan Elbahtimy: 2020-2022. I was chair of the prize committee for the L.H.M. Ling Outstanding First Book Prize twice, a member of the Research Committee, and supported BISA's Postgraduate Network during its leadership transition.

Vicki Squire: I served as a general trustee for two terms with a period of maternity leave (2016-21). As a general trustee I participated on several committees, which meant I reviewed materials in these designated areas. For example, I reviewed the progress of BISA journal performance, specific committee areas, and I was responsible for awarding the thesis prize, amongst others.

Julia Welland: I was a trustee from 2017 to 2021. I organised the first L.H.M. Ling First Book Prize and convened the 2021 annual BISA Conference (fully virtual due to Covid restrictions).

What did you enjoy about being a BISA trustee?

Danielle: As a PhD student and early-career researcher I found a real sense of community within BISA, particularly through the working groups. This led me to later co-convene the Africa and International Studies Working Group and, after two terms in that role, to apply to be a trustee and later Treasurer. I have always found BISA to be welcoming and inclusive, particularly for early-career scholars searching for that core group of people with whom to share and develop their research in a supportive environment. Being a trustee helped me to appreciate the breadth of ways that a professional association can support and nurture researchers, and seek to shape a positive research environment and culture for international studies - from small research grants to celebrating success through prizes, to the annual conference and PGN, and the support for working groups.

Martin: Being a trustee is an opportunity to learn about the breadth of the discipline and to see the excellent research and outreach being done by colleagues in international politics. It is an opportunity to contribute to conversations about how the discipline can be represented and supported.

Roland: I enjoyed the sense of camaraderie meeting regularly with other IR colleagues and working collaboratively to promote the discipline within the UK and beyond. It gave me a sense of the importance of BISA for the life of IR, and the satisfaction that I was contributing to its development and sustainability. I also got to know and like Birmingham, as that was our regular meeting point.

Hassan: Getting more engaged with BISA activities across a wider range from publications to working groups to prizes among others. This got me to work closely with amazing colleagues and also exposed me to the impressive range of scholars working within our discipline.

Vicki: It was great to be part of a team of scholars beyond my own university and specific research area, and to contribute to the shaping of activities supporting IR scholars in the UK.

Julia: Thinking about the discipline from a national perspective; working with colleagues from across numerous institutions and at different career levels; and thinking about how to make the discipline a more welcoming and compassionate space than it has historically been.

Becoming a trustee is a great way to learn about the big debates shaping the discipline and the sector, as well as about how professional associations work and the roles they play in supporting our discipline. These are live conversations, and they affect all of us.
Danielle Beswick (University of Birmingham)
A photo of former trustee Danielle Beswick

Did you learn any new skills that could be put to use in your career?

Danielle: I learned a huge amount from my fellow trustees and officers. Being a trustee means being part of big conversations, including about the state of the discipline and the sector, including on ED&I challenges, as well as on the Research Excellence Framework and the impact of Open Access on academic publishing. In the role of Treasurer, I developed my skills in engaging with, interpreting and presenting financial data. I was also a panel member for the re-tendering process for the BISA journals, refined my skills in chairing committees, and gained experience in co-ordinating a funding competition. These are all skills I use in my role as School Head of Postgraduate research, which involves chairing PGR committees, running internal funding competitions and leading discussions on PGR issues in the sector and discipline.

Martin: I learned how to coordinate with colleagues in the working groups. I learned how to communicate effectively. And I learned a lot about how we identify strategic priorities at a discipline level.

Roland: As Treasurer, I learnt a lot about how to evaluate and take measures against financial risk. It was a source of personal satisfaction that BISA was financially secure enough to manage the challenges of the Pandemic - this confirmed to me that you have to consider every eventuality. These are maybe not your typical academic skills but are still valuable for academic life.

Hassan: To always look at the big picture.

Vicki: I learnt a lot from the different leadership styles and agendas of the various chairs and vice chairs, about different institutional practices (e.g. in areas such as teaching and EDI), as well as about specific issues (e.g. open access journal publishing).

Julia: Putting together the conference was a huge learning curve in terms of managing time, people and the different expectations of those within the discipline and attending the conference. More generally, I learnt so much from fellow BISA trustees about administration, the working of the discipline, and collegiality.

Would you encourage others to become a trustee?

Danielle: Becoming a trustee is a great way to learn about the big debates shaping the discipline and the sector, as well as about how professional associations work and the roles they play in supporting our discipline. These are live conversations, and they affect all of us. At a basic level, being a trustee can also provide opportunities to develop concrete skills that will benefit your CV. Most of all, though, for me, it has been about the people. I’ve met a wonderful range of colleagues through the trustees’ meetings. They are academically inspiring, committed to supporting scholars at all career stages, and some have also become close friends whose advice and support I really value. We work in a sector that relies too much on voluntary academic service, but if you are thinking about where to put your energy in order to make a real difference, then I can’t recommend BISA trusteeship highly enough.

Martin: It is an excellent opportunity to shape strategic conversations about the research and teaching of international politics in the UK. You meet a broad range of colleagues and learn a lot about the breadth of the discipline. You learn key skills as well.

Roland: I strongly recommend people to become trustees. It is not only a valuable experience that helps you in your academic career; it is also a great way to develop a network of colleagues and friends. You will also be sustaining a great tradition and organisation of British IR.

Hassan: It is a great opportunity to deeply engage with some of the bigger issues facing our discipline and profession, and to tackle with others how an impressive community of scholars can continue to thrive into the future.

Vicki: Being part of BISA is a great learning experience and an opportunity to meet colleagues from different institutions. It was a friendly and supportive space, and a great opportunity to contribute to the discipline more broadly.

Julia: If you care about who gets included and who gets marginalised within the discipline, being a trustee offers one way of shaping and impacting how the discipline of international studies is practiced at a national level.