Dr James Boys now works as an expert in US politics and international affairs and is a regular on-air political consultant to the BBC and Sky News.
I never wanted a straightforward career. I always sought to straddle remits. Today I run an MA programme, which involves recruiting potential students, working with faculty to ensure that the programmes delivered and I also maintain a teaching remit, delivering a course on US foreign policy. In addition I consult widely with the world’s media and am the ‘go to’ person for the BBC News, Al Jazeera English and Sky News on all matters relating to the United States and its political machinations. I also do work with various radio stations including LBC in London, The Voice of Russia, ITalk FM and Talk Radio Europe in Spain.
On the academic side, there is nothing more rewarding than working with students to enable them to fulfil their potential or to overcome a hurdle to succeed and to know that you are making a life altering, life improving contribution to someone’s life. On the media front, knowing that my analysis is being beamed around the globe instantaneously is a great thrill. The greatest challenge is seeking to do more and to achieve more than most would aspire to. Frustration is the side effect of ambition.
After graduating from the University of Northampton I took an MA at the Institute of United States Studies and then did a PhD at the University of Birmingham. I taught as part of this process and sought to get published whenever possible. I sought to do all that I could to emerge with more than a qualification and this put me in a strong place when I received my doctorate, having already taught at Leicester, de Montfort, Cheltenham and Birmingham. With regard to the media my work has come about through my willingness to take opportunities. Take what is offered and see where it goes is the potential route to success.
My time at the University of Northampton was the foundation for all that I have achieved subsequently. I simply could not have gone on to do what I am doing without my time there – it’s as simple as that. I took the opportunities that university afforded and ran with them. It took me from a BA to an MA to a PhD to my current position as an associate professor with extensive media experience. My plans for the future include securing fellowships with prestigious institutions around the globe, engaging in overseas engagements and widening my network of media contacts. The greatest hurdle I face is the lack of hours in the day.
My degree feeds directly into my on-going research so the data I gleaned was vital. I was one of a handful of students at Northampton to Intern in Washington DC and in the summer of 1995 I met President Clinton which was as close to a life changing event as I can imagine. I was a student warden and this has been of assistance in dealing with students as they approach me with their issues. I was also class representative and this helped me as it taught me to be a bridge between different groups with different aspirations and outlooks.
For a career in academia the best advice I can give is to be prepared to work hard and focus. Getting a PhD is not necessarily a test of intelligence, but of grit and determination and a commitment to complete something. Once that has been completed, getting a full time position can be tough, so be prepared to trek around the country gaining experience and network like crazy. The rewards are there to be had but it requires a lot of staying power and a commitment to the cause. In regards to the media side of things, it really is a question of perseverance. I got lucky and was spotted by the BBC very early. You need to know your area and be absolutely fearless.
I had a great time at the University of Northampton. There are lots of things that I would do differently if I could do it all over again, but I wouldn’t have changed when I went or the major I took. It was a great time to be at Northampton. The place was buzzing and there was plenty to do. School is often regarded the best days of your life, but for me, it was the time I spent at Northampton.