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Giving heart and soul to students

This university was known as a teaching only institution until five years ago when the emphasis became more focussed on research.  This is good for me, because I love research in my subject area of applied mathematics, for which I … More...

This university was known as a teaching only institution until five years ago when the emphasis became more focussed on research.  This is good for me, because I love research in my subject area of applied mathematics, for which I am recognised internationally.  For academics centred on teaching, though, the shift has been quite stressful.  My research has helped me to teach mathematics in ways that are relevant to the students.  I use real world examples to explain complex problems and my students seem to like that.  They give me good feedback because they know I work hard and give my heart and soul to them.  I have learnt that if you cut corners, your students will discern it and give poor evaluations. To keep up I have to work on weekends but my family supports me, fortunately.

When I commenced here two years ago I inherited this unit from someone who had taught the subject for 20 years.  He did not leave any materials behind for me and, with just two weeks to prepare for the semester, I had a lot of chasing up to do.  Finding out what I needed to know in a tight deadline was one of the most stressful challenges I have experienced.  In my previous university I was a discipline leader and set up computer space to store unit materials for easy access.  I cannot do that here.  It would be helpful for all new coordinators to work with a unit’s predecessor and receive guidance for a semester at least.

Another challenge was the location of suitable sessional staff.  In the same time frame, I had to take a risk and appoint people without having any idea about their attitudes towards students.  I have learnt that we like to contract post-graduates who have completed a Masters degree, have excellent grades and are enrolled in a PhD.  They must also have good English language and communication skills, and be reliable.  It would be good to have a pool of people with these attributes from which we could select for our units.

I have encountered these types of challenges before and, while I am happy to explore issues with more senior colleagues, ultimately, a problem is mine to solve.  I use my initiative.  Regardless of the challenges, I like this role because there is a certain degree of freedom to express myself, to decide what I want to do and how I will do it.  For example, I can design a unit in a way that suits my teaching style and I apply my common sense to the administration components.  In a future role, though, I would like to focus more on my research.

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