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A Professional Adventure: Destination SFHEA

19 Feb 2019 | Dr. Sweta Rout-Hoolash Dr. Sweta Rout-Hoolash, SFHEA, explores her journey to becoming the first Senior Fellow at Middlesex University's campus in Mauritius.

Dr. Sweta Rout-Hoolash, SFHEA is a Senior Lecturer in International Education at Middlesex University’s campus in Mauritius. She is the Campus Programme Coordinator for MA Education on the well-established Leadership and Management pathway and the recently-launched Higher Education pathway. In this blog she explores her journey to becoming the first Senior Fellow at Middlesex University's campus in Mauritius. 

I work on a branch campus of a British university, literally on the other side of the world: Middlesex University’s campus in Mauritius. I call this a professional adventure because I am the first on campus to become Senior Fellow.

Since joining the Mauritius campus of Middlesex University in 2012, I have been teaching and leading innovations in International Education at various levels. I gained Fellow status of the HEA in 2014 through an accreditation route having successfully completed the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education (PGCHE) from Middlesex University. This was part of a growing institutional commitment to address and prioritise the learning needs of a very diverse community of students, varying widely in age, background and preparedness for academic study. Indeed, I was not the first nor the only FHEA on our campus, since it is actually a part of the contractual obligation for all academic staff to achieve the PGCHE teaching qualification and thereby attain FHEA status within two years of joining Middlesex University Mauritius. However, in the year since joining Middlesex University my many responsibilities, roles and most importantly my many leadership opportunities significantly broadened the scope of my activities on campus and within broader teams across campuses. Over time, the excellent professional ties that I built with our other campuses, grounded in high-quality teaching practice exchanges, helped establish the professional authority of the Mauritius campus voice in the transnational programme teams of Middlesex University. Moreover, campus-wide strategic leadership in teaching and learning enabled me to influence colleagues both in my institution and nationally.

A reflective approach to my professional practice inspired me to aim higher. Seeking the status of Senior Fellowship aligned very neatly to my own ambitions for educational development. It enabled me to demonstrate a personal commitment to recognising the professionalisation of my teaching and learning practice. 

I have taught education theories from foundation level to masters level, and my students range from those embarking on a degree, or those teaching and influencing learners right from pre-primary school to university degree, or supervising doctoral candidates in Mauritius. I have taught hundreds of students, teachers and lecturers over the years. While working through my Senior Fellow Recognition Application I was able to recognise the impact and influence I have on colleagues in the Mauritius education landscape. The academia of education enables me to expose colleagues to a vast laboratory of practice, with the opportunity to examine and critique the theories and mechanics of teaching and learning in education. New ideas guide us to think about what students want from their studies, how the programme designs align to this and how a programme’s teaching team can effectively facilitate this. Together we foster a learning environment where our foremost driver is the student’s learning journey during the time they have with us. As a learner, I thrived in this environment. It was not lost on me that I wanted my own peers to feel this excited with their own learning or professional development. Time and time again I hear my teacher-students or colleagues tell me that this is the aspect of teaching that they cherish the most, to build a deep and meaningful relationship with their students. They are reminded of their beliefs and values that drew them in when they initiated their journeys as educators.

I am the first staff member on campus to have received Senior fellowship status of the HEA. Since this achievement, apart from congratulations messages, colleagues have asked me to share my experiences with them or they come to me for advice, which I find very uplifting. I have bought many cups of coffee for colleagues as I’ve talked them through my professional adventure “Destination SFHEA” and I’ve listened to their own stories. Some have said that they have tried to start the process in the past, or that they have now looked at the Advance HE website and the requirements for the application process – and that it seems quite an onerous process of putting together the evidence and case studies for the application. My reply to them all has been that I admittedly found the process demanding, but the power of the reflections was oftentimes transformational for me. This was a deeply personal journey, I had to dig deep sometimes to discover why I did things in a certain way, why I wanted to influence others in certain ways. Crucially, it confirmed many of my strong beliefs and my passion for educational development among teachers, educators and lecturers in Mauritius. I was able to look back and confirm that I was doing many things for the right reasons.

Gaining the SFHEA deepened my academic standing and made me feel even more strongly that I am on the right track. It is a journey that I have recommended to many others.

One or two colleagues have asked me whether I would email my application and supporting evidence to them …
My SFHEA application was almost like a diary. Reading back through it is intimately insightful and describes my positive growth. I have come to understand that I would mind emailing it around to colleagues. After all, my story will be so different to another’s.

I’d like to leave the readers of my blog with a question to ponder … would you email your Senior Fellow Recognition Application to your colleagues? Would you share it with some colleagues and not with others? Or would you keep your application for yourself and offer to be their mentor instead? If you are on twitter you can follow me @Sweta_PhD and use #ToShareOrNotToShare #SFHEA to discuss your thoughts to this question or to make other related comments.

Advance HE's new Fellowship Category Tool helps you discover which category of HEA Fellowship may be appropriate for you.

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