Farewell (not goodbye) to DCU as I move to my next chapter
I’ve had an eclectic career to say the least and I’ve never been afraid of taking on something new.I started as a product development chemist in Proctor & Gamble in the 90’s, before working in a small elearning company providing elearning on 3.5 inch floppy disks, I then worked promoting science and doing PR for the pharmaceutical industry, from there I moved into lecturing chemistry before moving into the area now of staff development. I learned so much from each of those roles,I am who I am because of the experiences that I have had. Next Monday I start my next chapter working in Ernest & Young.
I learned so much from the people that I worked with. Each of the roles had one thing in common, the success that I achieved in each role was because of the people around me. You can have a wonderful strategy, loads of goals, mission statements and aspirations but as the saying goes culture eats strategy for breakfast and people make the culture, good people are the reason behind success
Everyday on campus I had a chat with Mary, the lady that cleaned the Bea Orpen building, a lovely lady; Declan in Helix, hundreds of people come in every week yet Declan knew that I drank peppermint tea and always put in a few ice cubes for me as a personal touch; Theresa in the canteen knew that I was a coeliac and at the various staff events that were on, she’d always give me a nod saying – “you can have that love”, or “that has wheat in it, I’ll be back in a minute with something for you” – right through to the former President of the University Prof Brian MaCraith who rang me when he found out that I was leaving. These personal touches made me feel like I belong in DCU.
Without a shadow of a doubt the best thing about DCU is the people. I’ve said it before DCU is like a big machine, like a car, there are bits that people see and bits they don’t, loads of moving parts underneath the bonnet that are needed to make it work – not many people see all these parts or even know what they do. But without these parts the car will not work properly. So my ask of you is to recognise your own importance , your own value and that of your colleagues because a spark plug may look small and insignificant when compared to the overall car but without it, the car will not work. So please bare with me for the next few minutes I want to celebrate the excellent work in DCU, the work that I’ve had the privilege to be involved in .
I had the privilege of running the Presidents Awards for Excellence in Teaching. When I first started we had 17 nominations. With the help of Madeleine Patton and the colleagues in the TEU we changed things around a little and for the last three years we had an average of more that 500 nominations. It is not that we have had more excellence, we’ve just had more celebration of excellence.
Declan Tuite and I were ahead of our time when in 2014, in partnership with his students we developed Augmented Reality (AR) teaching material. We went on to partner with Comms and Marketing and we embedded AR into the DCU brochures. Another example of being ahead of our time was our work with Kate Irving in Nursing with the development of the collaborative programme involving five other institutions from across Europe on the “Posadem” programme – students from DCU and these five institutions all logged into our VLE to do this amazing online programme helping to promote a positive approach to dementia – a superb example of innovation that also helps transform lives and societies. I also had the privilege of working with Finian Buckley & Co in the Business school to develop one of Enterprise Ireland’s most successful leadership programmes – GoGlobal. A superb collaboration between the TEU, the Business School and Enterprise Ireland to support the development of SME’s throughout Ireland.
I had the privilege of supporting the School of Biotechnology with rolling out an online module in Immunology, one of the first partnership initiatives with Arizona State university a strategic partner of the university. It is through this initiative that I managed to bring the amazing Clare Gormley into the team
Loop (local name for Moodle) – where do I start on Loop. When I first started Loop was on a server underneath a desk in our IT department and very few lecturers used it. Lecturers had to request to have a page created for their modules. The few staff that used it used to complain that it used to crash all the time. We’ve come a long way since then. Hardly anybody used it back then – last year we had 6 million visits to Loop . Rob and Motasem have done fantastic work in the last 18 months to bring Loop to the next level and I’m slightly jealous that I won’t be here to see the staff benefit from and embrace these new changes. With Henry and Salem providing support on the helpdesk I’ve no doubt that it will continue to go from strength to strength
Sticking with Loop I had the privilege of working with SS&D to roll out the first university wide online programme to support transitions in university. To my knowledge we remain the only institution to provide this programme as soon as students accepted their place in DCU.
There have been a lot of “I’s”, in this post, I did this and I had the privilege. But I can’t sit down without mentioning the biggest “I” word. Without a doubt the biggest project that I was involved in was the incorporation. The TEU were one of the first units to engage with incorporation. We provided Loop to all four institutions. We joined the T&L committee in St Pats with the wonderful Anita Prunty and started to support Teaching and Learning in whatever way we could. We worked with John Smith to bring over all of the staff and students onto Loop. We were a year ahead of everyone else. We now have to support 100’s more staff and 1000’s of additional students but the TEU got the better deal because we got to keep Suzanne Stone after incorporation was complete.
I have two professional highlights of my time in DCU, the first of which was being invited to give the keynote for SEDA annual conference in 2019.
For those of you that don’t know this is the professional body for people like me and my colleagues in the TEU. Getting such a keynote was huge. I was invited to talk about our work in Assessment and Academic Integrity. For our work in DCU to be recognised and held in such high esteem by this group was such an honour and is testament to all of the hard work my team have done in this area in the past few years. Spearheaded by Fiona O’Riordan the expertise, passion and enthusiasm that team bring to assessment unrivalled in my opinion.
The second career highlight was being awarded a Principal Fellowship of AdvanceHE. There are over 170,000 fellows worldwide but only roughly1500 of them are Principal Fellows. We have three of them in DCU, which speaks volumes about the standard of Teaching & Learning in the university, not forgetting the dozens of Fellows and Senior Fellows too.
I’m going to wrap up now by saying. I have been blessed with a wonderful team in the Teaching Enhancement Unit. When Covid hit we became a very popular unit. The team all stepped up to the mark giving 200%, all of the staff in DCU got a glimpse of what I see everyday, an amazing team. Supporting not only colleagues in every part of the university but graciously sharing their time and expertise with the entire sector. They are my work family, I cannot compliment them enough, they are unbelievable to work with.
We worked hard and we played hard – The TEU had our own band at one stage, with guitars, violins, even a harp. We spray painted walls with graffiti and I got to run my boss off the road while doing go kart racing. I also recorded a version of YMCA in Windmill lane studios. Somewhere there also is a video of me at a Christmas party attempting to do the floss with one of the students union sabbatical officers but the less said about that the better 🙂
I have never worked with a more cohesive, productive and supportive team and the biggest privilege that I had in DCU was to work with them.
Finally – They say if you enjoy your job you will never work a day in your life, well if that is true I never worked while I was here in DCU. I distinctly remember telling Prof Brian McCraith that I would buy shares in DCU if I could. I’m now leaving a place that I never thought that I would but I would still buy those shares if I could. As I say farewell to wonderful colleagues, DCU will always hold a special place in my heart. All that I ask of my former colleagues is that you please continue to do the amazing job of transforming lives and societies and regularly take the time to recognise the roll that everybody plays in “keeping the car moving”.