Dr Mary Kelly was recently appointed Academic Dean of Hibernia College. Dr Kelly joined the College in 2012 and has played a key role in the development of the School of Education (SOE) and the growth of the Professional Master of Education (PME) programmes. She is a member of the College’s Executive Management Team and is committed to further embedding research and innovation into the educational experiences of all Hibernia College students. We met with Dr Kelly to learn about her views on leadership and her vision for the College.
CAN YOU SHARE WITH US MORE ABOUT YOUR OWN EDUCATIONAL JOURNEY?
I began my career as a primary school teacher, having graduated from St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra with a Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree. I later attended University College Dublin where I studied for my Master’s in Education and, more recently, I completed my Doctor of Education (EdD) in Education and Leadership at Dublin City University. I’ve been very fortunate in my career to have taught both nationally and in the UK and to have worked for several years with the Primary Curriculum Support Programme supporting the implementation of the revised primary school curriculum 1999. All those experiences have given me such a rich and diverse outlook on education and I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENTS AT HIBERNIA COLLEGE?
I was privileged to lead the establishment of the SOE, providing academic leadership for its suite of programmes. I guided the direction of the PME in Primary Education, which is now the leading provider of primary school teachers in the country, as well as the PME in Post-Primary Education, BEd (Hons) in Early Childhood Education, the Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programmes and our newest programme, the MA/PG Dip (Arts) in Inclusive and Special Education.
YOU ARE THE FIRST FEMALE ACADEMIC DEAN OF HIBERNIA COLLEGE, AND AMONGST A SELECT FEW FEMALE DEANS IN HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS IN IRELAND AND ABROAD. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU?
I am very proud to be able to take on this public role in the College and look forward to strengthening the academic profile of the College, both nationally and internationally. We know that women in leadership roles can have a changing impact on organisations, whether it’s business or education. I hope to use my position to nurture and mentor those within my own organisation and to give them opportunities to develop their leadership skills.
WHAT DO YOU VIEW AS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES IN HIGHER EDUCATION TODAY?
With the general shift in higher education to online and blended learning, our biggest challenge is also our biggest opportunity. For many schools and institutions, this happened at an accelerated pace due to the pandemic. Fortunately, at Hibernia College, we were well prepared to move 100% online temporarily because our blended learning programmes were already rooted in educational technologies that facilitate the very best in teaching, learning and assessment. Today, we have the most advanced research tools at our fingertips, allowing us to find new and better ways to facilitate teaching and learning, to innovate and create new ways to engage students. We need to see technology as an enabler to learning…it’s an exciting time!
YOU SPEAK ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF RESEARCH AND HAVE WORKED TO MAKE THIS CENTRAL TO THE PME CURRICULUM. WHY DO YOU VIEW RESEARCH AS SO CRUCIAL?
I believe the systematic questioning of our own practice is the basis for growth and development and the way in which we apply theory to practice. We are committed in the College to building research capacity amongst students, faculty and staff and to promoting research activity. This is evidenced in our published volumes of the Education Papers, our research repository IASC, our annual Research Seminar Series and our collaborative research projects. Learning becomes active through experimentation and inquiry, as well as through dialogue and questioning. Research is the best way to continually update our knowledge base — it promotes reflective practice and informs our decision making.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR OWN RESEARCH INTERESTS?
I am passionate about practitioner research, teacher education, curriculum development and educational technology.
WHAT DOES A SUCCESSFUL LEADER LOOK LIKE TO YOU?
Leadership is about having a vision, being able to share that vision and being able to bring people on that journey with you. People need to trust in you as a leader and you can only gain that trust if you are authentic and true to your own values. In my view, a great leader creates the supports necessary for everyone to succeed. Clear decision making, effective communication, looking at the big picture and flexibility are also qualities I believe leaders can empower others with.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR HIBERNIA COLLEGE?
There is much ahead for us, including developing and launching two new postgraduate programmes. We have recently designed an innovative programme — the MA/PG Dip (Arts) in Inclusive and Special Education — in partnership with the Institute of Child Education and Psychology (ICEP) Europe. In partnership with Springboard+, our PG Dip in Science in Business Data Analytics will begin this autumn. As Academic Dean, I would like to see the growth of our academic portfolio through collaborations such as these.
I also want to look at establishing us as key players in the field of innovative pedagogy and blended learning. Our staff’s commitment to our students makes me very proud, and our faculty’s dedication and expertise in teaching and learning is unparalleled. I often remind our students to stay open to collaboration. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, learn from them and share your own knowledge freely with them. I have benefitted a great deal from this.
We welcome Dr Kelly to her new role. In the words of CEO David Carpenter, ‘Mary has been a wonderful ambassador for the College in recent times, particularly through her membership of The Teaching Council over the past number of years. Mary brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her new role and I have no doubt that she will play a key role in the future growth of the College, both in terms of the development of our new programme offerings and also in terms of fostering and building new partnership opportunities for the College with national and international academic bodies.’
We look forward to further growth with her guidance and leadership as Academic Dean.