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Stepping into a challenging role

As Director of a student support centre, this academic highlights the challenges he initially faced in the role. While his varied responsibilities sometimes hamper his research goals he manages to maintain a research profile. More...

When I took up the Acting Directorship two years ago I had many years of experience in academia. Initially I joined the team to work in student support and I observed the frequent turnover of staff. In my first three months here as Director half of the staff moved away. A previous Director managed staff changes with assistance from a corporate psychologist, the union and the Dean. I saw that he was burnt out after coping with the challenges of dealing with difficult people and was unsurprised when he stepped aside from the role. I was invited to take on the Acting role in addition to my other duties.

My Unit has four major responsibilities: academic development, student learning support, multi-media development and research. Our staff of thirteen has reduced to eleven since taking over so we deal with an increasing workload with fewer people and a smaller budget. Fortunately the team now comprises good people who are on side, easy to work with and professional in their approach to work. This was achieved by requiring staff to deliver a presentation to the team before appointment and with careful handling of the team.

Four of the centre staff are academics and two are casual appointments. All have special interests with technical expertise of value to our work. Under the academic development banner we assist academics to enhance their teaching skills and align their curriculum with university priorities; our student support strategy is to target students prior to their arrival; a large part of our multi-media energy focuses on developing software tools; and we research in our different areas of expertise. Personally I aim to publish one or two papers in highly rated peer reviewed journals annually but this objective is sometimes at odds with the running of the centre.

My current focus is working with colleagues developing bridging courses to strengthen students’ English language skills and to introduce a new unit in writing and publishing.

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