Bags of enthusiasm but short of time

April 7, 2006

Name : Mark Russell

Age : 40

Job : Lecturer in the School of Aerospace, Automotive and Design Engineering, Hertfordshire University. I am also part of our Blended Learning Unit, a Higher Education Funding Council for England-funded Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

Salary : Could be better.

Background : After an engineering apprenticeship and a BEng Hons, I started lecturing at Hertfordshire. I still have to complete my PhD studies in computational fluid dynamics.

Working hours/conditions : The variety of opportunity and flexibility provided by Hertfordshire means that I probably work more than a 9 to 5.

Number of students you teach/staff you manage : Classes of 150-plus are not unusual. These are taught in large group lectures or split into smaller groups for lab studies and tutorial sessions. I love the interaction with students and rely on this to support my belief that teaching and learning is a dialogic activity. I am fortunate to work with dedicated, enthusiastic individuals.

Biggest challenge : Curbing, or at least dampening, my own enthusiasm. I recently secured a National Teaching Fellowship, which has meant that others wish to hear of my activities and grab some of my time. I seem unable to say "no", which means I end up putting other people's priorities ahead of my own. Now back to that PhD...

How you plan to solve it : I will have to learn to manage my time better.

Worst moment in university life : I want our students' experience to be enriching both socially and academically, and it always upsets me when that is affected by external difficulties.

What university facilities do you use? Our campus is quite spacious and includes a bit of greenery, too. From time to time, to give my eyes a rest from the computer, I take some time to walk, look and think.

Do you socialise with people at the university? I commute from Essex, so I don't get much chance to socialise with my colleagues. Naturally, there are a few I consider friends.

Do you interact much with other parts of the university? I use our Learning Resources Centre fairly regularly. It seems to be a really vibrant social learning space where students can talk, share ideas and not be constrained by "shhh!" notices. My interests in teaching and learning take me to speak with other interested people across the university.

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