Quickfire questions for each of the six heads of school at UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture.

In celebration of ADAnow, we asked our six heads of schools about their great successes, aspirations and motivations for the future.

School of Art & Design – Professor Edward Scheer

How would you describe the spirit of your school in three words?
Inspire. Experiment. Challenge.

How does your school’s teaching and research work help to improve people’s lives?
Art inspires our souls and minds while design channels that inspiration into practical solutions.

What’s the most important attribute a student would take away from studying at your school? 
Understanding how to experiment to move forward and to create the person they want to become.

What does creativity mean to you?
The power of envisioning the shapes you want to see or sense in the world around you and giving them form.

What gets you up in the morning? 
Making sure that our school meets our current and future students where they need to be. (My daughters actually get me up…).

What's your top tip for managing stress? 
Make time to be immersed in nature. I was advised when I became a head of school to buy shares in a red wine company but I prefer to drink it, mostly in moderation.

What are you most excited about right now / what are you reading or watching?
Most excited about the new appointments of young staff we are making to the school. Reading short crime fiction by Don Winslow. Watching Scandi Noir with my daughters.


UNSW

School of the Arts & Media – Professor Michael Balfour

How would you describe the spirit of your school in three words?
Creative. Collaborative. Connected.

How does your school’s teaching and research work help to improve people’s lives?
The common imperative in teaching and research is to think more deeply about how the world is and the ways in which it functions, and how to make an active difference. In media, this might be a conceptual and practical exploration of the affordances of technology and how it structures communications in society; in theatre, it might be how artists critique and play with representing complex issues; in English, it might be how literature invents and sometimes foreshadows developments in AI. 

What’s the most important attribute a student would take away from studying at your school? 
An informed and insatiable curiosity that fuels students to constantly learn and unlearn everything we think we know.

What does creativity mean to you?
Understanding the governing principles of a discipline/subject/artform, and then deliberately and provocatively messing with them. 

What gets you up in the morning? 
Ideas.

What's your top tip for managing stress? 
Lists and going for long walks.

What are you most excited about right now / what are you reading or watching?
Writing! It’s a cruel sport and never gets easier, but I am fascinated and excited about synthesising ideas and connecting them to my own practice, research and reflections. 

What am I watching – I just finished Call My Agent, an addictive French series on Netflix about a Parisian-based casting agency. Pure guilty pleasure!


UNSW

School of Built Environment - Associate Professor Philip Oldfield

How would you describe the spirit of your school in three words?
Creating better cities.

How does your school’s teaching and research work help to improve people’s lives?
We spend so much of our time in buildings and constructed landscapes (perhaps even more so now!), meaning the built environment shapes our lives, our emotions, our safety, and our relationship with the natural environment. Our research and teaching looks at how can we make this experience better – for people and the planet! We explore how we can plan and design more inclusive cities, how we can keep people comfortable as our climate warms, and how we can create cities in a more efficient and sustainable way. 

What’s the most important attribute a student would take away from studying at your school? 
We seek to equip our students with the skills and knowledge to establish great careers, and to become agents of change in their chosen industry. Our students develop the professional expertise and the skills to collaborate across industries to improve the way people live, work and play. 

What does creativity mean to you?
To me, creativity is not just about a single ‘genius’ idea. It’s the ability to think about a problem from lots of different perspectives, to consider different people and ideas, and to collaborate for a better outcome.  This is vital in the built environment as there are many stakeholders in any project – the community, the environment, clients, consultants and more! 

What gets you up in the morning?
What gets me up in the morning (and keeps me awake at night!) is knowing we are building more than ever before – globally, the equivalent to a new New York City every month! Our challenge is to make these buildings and their surroundings more sustainable, more equitable and healthier for the benefit of all of society. 

What's your top tip for managing stress? 
While the vibrancy of our cities and urban spaces excites me, a great way of managing stress is engaging with nature – green spaces, urban parks, lush landscapes. 

What are you most excited about right now / what are you reading or watching?
I am currently reading Killing Sydney by Dr. Elizabeth Farrelly (who also teaches the ‘Writing the City’ course here at UNSW BE). The book explores our wonderful home city, Sydney, its past, and what its future could hold.


UNSW

School of Education – Professor Kim Beswick

How would you describe the spirit of your school in three words?
Collegiality. Excellence (teaching and research). Inclusion. 

How does your school’s teaching and research work help to improve people’s lives?
Education is key to improving the lives of individuals and society both nationally and internationally. Our research and teaching contribute directly to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

Our aspiration is for the School of Education to lead the study and practice of education nationally and internationally through academic excellence in learning, teaching and research; to influence public policy and improve community life through extensive social engagement and knowledge transfer, and to nurture global and ethical citizens who are passionately committed to the continuous improvement of education worldwide.

What’s the most important attribute a student would take away from studying at your school? 
Curiosity.

What does creativity mean to you?
Creativity encompasses novelty and value, both of which are contextual. School students, for example, are unlikely to come up with a mathematical insight of which professional mathematicians are unaware BUT they may well come up with ideas and methods that are both novel and valuable in their classroom. This is undoubtedly creative.

Creativity occurs across all disciplines. Creativity can be fostered by imposing the right constraints (enabling constraints), facilitating the interaction of ideas, ensuring diversity of ideas/perspectives along with adequate redundancy among understandings so that meaningful communication is possible, and allowing sufficient autonomy for individuals in terms of the ways they work and think.

What gets you up in the morning? 
I am passionate to see my colleagues succeed and our work make a difference.

What's your top tip for managing stress? 
Maintaining perspective: the worst that could possibly happen rarely does. Looking after the fundamentals: sleep, diet, exercise, non-work mental stimulation (e.g. music, reading, conversations with family and friends).

What are you most excited about right now / what are you reading or watching?
At this minute – a new ARC grant, lots of other ideas to further point 2, above. Currently reading Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, enjoying listening to Beethoven’s 7th symphony, 2nd movement, and rediscovering Pink Floyd.


UNSW

School of Humanities & Languages – Professor Timothy O’Leary

How would you describe the spirit of your school in three words? 
Critical. Diverse. Interdisciplinary.

How does your school’s teaching and research work help to improve people’s lives?
We help to educate future professionals, teachers, diplomats, scientists, and environmental leaders, who bring their multi-lingual, inter-cultural, diverse knowledge to bear on problems from the everyday to the global. 

Our researchers enrich public knowledge of crucial areas of the human experience, from history and philosophy to linguistic diversity and the natural world. We engage directly with community and professional partners, from local governments to community organisations and businesses, working to promote justice, equity, and positive change in all our projects.

What’s the most important attribute a student would take away from studying at your School?
A sense of wonder and modesty in a world of startling complexity and diversity, combined with the passion and ability to make positive contributions to addressing the many challenges facing humanity. 

What does creativity mean to you?
Sometimes, it is the simplest possible act of reframing that shifts a perspective and opens up a whole new range of possibilities. For example, creating a concept such as “structural racism”.

What gets you up in the morning? 
I have calculated that I am already at least two-thirds of the way through my life. That works. 

What's your top tip for managing stress? 
Make sure you get outside and do some exercise every day. Use a daily or weekly To-Do List and make sure to include one or two easy to achieve items on the list. Talk to a trusted friend or colleague about the pressures and worries that cause you stress. Just talking can really help. 
 
What are you most excited about right now / what are you reading or watching?
I am excited about seeing some of the positive and lasting changes that may come out of the Covid pandemic. Hopefully, we will see: less carbon-generating international travel; paper-free offices; flexible work practices; increased awareness that we really are ‘all in this together’, locally and globally.

I am reading Marcel Proust’s early twentieth-century novel In Search of Lost Time. It is six volumes, totalling about 3,000 pages, so there’s never been a better time to read it.


UNSW

School of Social Sciences – Professor Jan Breckenridge

How would you describe the spirit of your school in three words
Innovative. Energetic. Engaged.

How does your school’s teaching and research work help to improve people’s lives?
Our school contributes to real-world and impactful social, political and cultural change by leveraging our engagement with government, industry and community partners. Our engagement underpins our excellent national and global research across the range of social science disciplines and staff ensure that our teaching programs reflect our individual and collective engagement and are informed by world-class research.

Our school has contributed to addressing gendered violence with a comprehensive research agenda and engagement with industry, workers and clients.  For example, providing innovative programs for corporate, third sector and government organisations to respond to clients and customers experiences of domestic and family violence and to ensure workplaces are safe and respectful. Scholars have contributed knowledge and practice responses to refugee groups in camps overseas and displaced peoples within Australia and have contributed to the management of humanitarian crises. We have provided expert advice to government and global non-government stakeholders about key political concerns such as environment, sustainability of resources and economy as well as international relations. Our staff have provided public and social policy advice and offer a world-class social work program featuring significant opportunities for work-integrated learning.

What’s the most important attribute a student would take away from studying at your school? 
Our students are ‘graduates of choice’ who are highly employable with a strong skills base and capacity to critically analyse social issues and contribute to meaningful real-world responses. They are able to focus on disciplinary specialities that are employment-related as well as receiving a broader social sciences education that enhances their capacity to critically analyse and think about social issues of current concern. 

What does creativity mean to you?
Being open to diverse views and experiences and being prepared to consider issues and possible responses to social issues outside of the usual conventional thinking. Being excited by the unexpected and unusual. 

What gets you up in the morning? 
My awesome family, fantastic friends and great colleagues. Our school is incredibly supportive and generous.  We have a stupid motto that we all laugh at  - ‘SOSS Rocks!”

What's your top tip for managing stress? 
Talk to others and seek support about the issues affecting you. Identify mentors, those people that inspire you and can share their experiences of how to manage work, life and the tensions in between. I also think it is critical to realise that work is only one part of who we are - albeit important and that the world won’t end if we make a mistake or are struggling.

What are you most excited about right now / what are you reading or watching?
It is hard to be overly excited about anything while in lockdown. I have been staying up watching endless sporting events for the last 6 weeks which is enjoyable, mindless and totally distracting from endless COVID conversations.