When her mother suggested that she should become a statistician because she was good at math, Bronwen Whiting, Associate Dean Education (ADE) at the ANU College of Business and Economics (CBE), quickly brushed off the idea… after all, she had “always hated statistics and never really liked math”. Instead, Bronwen went on to do a Bachelor of Science in agriculture at Sydney University to follow what she described as her calling “to feed the starving millions”. However, things didn’t go to plan: “Turns out I was kind of rubbish at the agriculture bit. But my lecturer there spotted my mathematical ability and directed me into a field called biometry, which is biological statistics and mathematics.” After doing Honours in biometry, Bronwen moved to ANU to do a PhD in statistics, and it was during that time that she fell in love with teaching. In 2015, Bronwen took on the role of ADE at CBE and, driven by her passion for teaching, has spent the last six years “discovering what the role involves and what I need to do.”
“Being an Associate Dean means trying to do a lot of things and be a lot of things that, ultimately, I think are about trying to make academics’ lives easier.”
“I think over the 14 years that I’ve been at ANU, the view of teaching has definitely changed. 20 years ago, academics could get away with just showing up for their classes and then leaving at the end of semester. Now it is expected that academics teach well, engage with their students and get good evaluations. So the idea that you can get away with just sitting in your room and scribbling away on your blackboard and getting your papers published I think has passed.” And so her message to her CBE colleagues is to not undervalue their contribution to the University’s success in doing this teaching work. “2,000 graduates every year, going out with qualifications to make the world a better place – it’s not a bad contribution. And my part in that big, important work, I hope, is to make sure that academics can pass on and assess knowledge as effectively as possible.”
When asked about the lessons she has learnt during 2020, she says that she is taking with her “the need for human connection and to build that into our student experience in a really concrete way for all students moving forward. Social connection is really key, and I think I underestimated its importance before COVID. That’s what I’m really trying to build into everything CBE does in student experience.”
Bronwen loves getting emails from students and academics. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr Bronwen Whiting is a Senior Lecturer in Statistics and the Associate Dean (Education) at the ANU College of Business and Economics.
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