Tuesday, 20 December 2016

2016 - challenges met (Tseen Khoo)

Photo by Wu Yi | unsplash.com
It has been quite the year. And is still being quite the year!

In the tradition of RED Alert, I asked my colleagues for their input to this end-of-year post.

My brief to them this year was to reflect on the biggest challenge they've met this year.

This proved in itself to be quite a challenge because the team has implemented big changes and taken risks every year since it has existed!

Here are their responses:

Jeanette Fyffe (Manager, RED team)
2015 was a great year for us in many ways because it was the year when the GRS was being established, and enthusiasm, energy, and equanimity flowed! In this brave new world, with a just-unwrapped and shiny identity, there were many ways we made an immediate impact. 
Twelve months down the track, 2016 required a different tack. This has been a year of laying down roots and getting things going that will bear fruit later. To labour this gardening analogy a bit more, this means that this year there has been many rows to hoe, much sowing, and plenty of fertiliser involved. When you're involved in the nurturing of institutional research cultures, the results are never quick and you know you're in for a few seasons of careful pruning, more fertilising, and general anxiety about the weather you can't control.

So, what have I trounced this year? My inherent impatience! From little things, big things grow. And I look forward to a big harvest feast in the future.
Kelly Farrell
Never one to let us rest on our laurels, Tseen has asked us to come up with a challenge we’ve met this year. It’s not easy to choose, but my nomination for this is the challenge of connecting regional researchers with their local community and overcoming the notion that it’s only teaching that goes on at La Trobe’s regional campuses. 
Of course, our amazing regionally-based researchers are doing this all the time through their extensive local engagement activities but it was an fantastic experience to contribute in a small way to getting our graduate research ‘out there’ by running Head2Head: the Bendigo Research Challenge in July. Twelve of our graduate researchers presented their research to an audience of local community leaders and University staff and colleagues at the beautiful Ullumbara Theatre in the heart of Bendigo. The sheer quality of the presentations they delivered, the diversity of their fascinating topics, the way they rose to the seriously difficult task of capturing complex projects in just a few short minutes? Tick. Challenge more than met, thank you very much.
Head2Head's distinguished judges: (L to R) Dale Pearce [Principal, 
Bendigo Senior Secondary College]; Robyn Lindsay [Exec Director - 
Acute Health, Bendigo Health]; Rob Stephenson [Head of La Trobe Bendigo 
Campus]; and Dan Grant [La Trobe PVC - Industry Engagement]
Dan Bendrups (who joined the RED team in Sem 1, 2016)
This whole year has been a rewarding challenge for me, just getting into the groove of doing researcher development after 15 years as a musicologist and another decade before that as a musician. 
A specific highlight would be the great engagement we had with the roll-out of the university’s research planning scheme, which may sound a bit bureaucratic at first blush, but the scheme was really well designed as a way of getting researchers to think about their medium-term goals, looking beyond short-term targets and considering instead where they wanted to be with their research in 3-5 years' time. The thing that made the process really challenging and rewarding was that it attracted engagement from a really wide range of university researchers, including graduate researchers, sessional/casual staff, and people on fixed-term contracts. Some had not really thought much beyond the scope of the current project (a particular challenge for PhD candidates). I’m confident that many of the scheme participants will look back in a few years and be pleased with the plans they put in place, and it’s a real privilege to have had the opportunity to share that part of the journey with them.
For me (Tseen):
My biggest challenge met for 2016 was establishing the Early Career Researcher (ECR) and Mid Career Researcher (MCR) Intensives. They are the equivalent of convening four-day conferences, twice a year, so I was daunted at the prospect of rolling these out in June and November this year for the first time. There were some frenzied times, that's for sure! We've learned a lot from running them, and received insightful feedback and suggestions for the future. It has been very rewarding collaborating with so many units and researchers across the university to make these intensives happen. It's great to feel that we're all working towards the same ends. 
For me, the best thing about meeting this challenge is seeing researchers inspired by the intensives and empowered about what they are doing and why they're here. In the current higher education sector, that's gold. 
November ECR intensive - Day 1 - (L to R): Matt Meredith-Williams, Nerida Hyett,
Sarah Hayes | Photo by Karen O'Reilly-Briggs
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Just before we sign off for 2016 and get on with the serious business of relaxation and the eating of sweet things, we really wanted to say thank you to the faithful readers and supporters of RED Alert.

Without your contributions, recommendations, and word-of-mouth enthusiasm, we wouldn't be what we are today. With about 200 subscribers and other regular readers, the blog is an active, collegial space for La Trobe researchers to share their knowledge and experiences.

Happy holidays, and we'll see you in 2017!

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