Ailish's background

My background is in electronic engineering but today I’m Deputy Provost of Beijing Dublin International College. BDIC, founded in 2012, is a joint international college established in collaboration between UCD and Beijing University of Technology (BJUT). Students at BDIC receive an international educational experience in an immersive English language environment with teaching from UCD academics and study periods at UCD’s campus in Dublin.

Why UCD Innovation Academy

After many years of thinking about it, this year I finally had an opportunity to participate in the Professional Certificate in Creativity and Innovation for Education. At the back of mind, I’ve had a feeling that there were opportunities I wasn’t seeing, both in my work and in myself. I needed the time and the techniques to dig deeper and to think beyond the next deadline; the programme gave me this, and more.

The experience

“I think there can be a misconception that what’s interesting can’t be useful and vice versa. This programme is both.”

From the first day, I was struck by the diversity of our group. There were educators from primary, secondary and university level, people from sports, music, museums and the business end of education. There were also international educators from Vietnam. I never anticipated I could learn so much from people across all levels of education.

A lot of my work is premised on intercultural awareness. The programme, through its content but also its delivery, gave me new tools and tactics that I’m excited to apply in my work. I was struck by the sense of community the facilitators created in our class so quickly and online as well. It inspired me to think about new ways I could create that same sense of community among our students.

Read more about the Innovation Academy experience

The Experience

New skills

Brainwriting, where participants write down their ideas for a few minutes without talking, is a fantastic technique for an intercultural group where English is not the first language for some. It will allow our Chinese students to get their points across more effectively than in a brainstorming exercise where you might be influenced by others or intimidated by the group dynamic.

Overall, the design thinking process allowed me a greater understanding of how I engage with other people and how I think. I recognised my tendency to jump towards a solution rather than truly understand the problem we are trying to address. I gained a lot from the focus on empathy in the design thinking process. Chinese culture and norms are complex; the programme gave me the confidence to try new approaches in fostering greater collaboration between our campuses in Dublin and Beijing.

My action learning project allows me to apply my insights from the programme in real time and with the support of a mentor to guide me through the process. Two other people in the group from university backgrounds have a similar focus for their project and we’re still in touch, sharing insights and feedback with each other. There was a great openness and willingness to help within the class.