Spotlight on... Emer Girling

Emer Girling

Emer Girling

This week we speak to Emer, Teaching and Learning Manager in the Department of Economics, about the challenges of working in a busy Department, being nominated for (and winning!) a One UCL Award, and her childhood in Northern Spain.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I work as Teaching and Learning Manager at the Department of Economics and I manage a team made up of twelve staff. In my view, Teaching and Learning is one of the most challenging teams to work in at UCL. We work in a highly regulated environment at the intersection of students, academics, Faculty, central UCL teams and the Office for Students. With so many competing priorities and deadlines, it takes dedication to skilfully navigate workloads whilst understanding the objectives of different teams and how they interrelate. As a department, Economics is both research and teaching intensive, so I get to experience the best of both worlds.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

Before UCL, my previous roles included working for the London Tourist Office of Spain and Iberia Airlines. Although I enjoyed travelling around Spain as part of both roles, I jumped at the chance to work at the Bartlett School of Architecture. This was the year 2000 so I’ve been at UCL for quite some time, first as an administrative assistant then PA to the Head of Department, Teaching and Learning Administrator and finally Teaching and Learning Manager.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

In my previous role as Teaching and Learning Manager in the School of Architecture, I made lots of improvements to the processes for organisation and management of the field trips, these numbered around sixty per year pre-COVID. Experiential learning is widely recognised to be essential to Architecture students but aside from the educational benefits, after a trip to Istanbul in my early days in post with 200 first year students, my priorities turned to safety. I worked with UCL central teams and found ways to ensure that students and staff were aware of risks and how to mitigate them. Building up a close working relationship with suppliers meant that costs were kept to a minimum without compromising on the students’ experience or the academic ambition.

As Teaching and Learning Manager in the Department of Economics, I was very proud to be awarded the 2021 Summer UCL One Award for Outstanding Individual Contribution to Achieving our Mission and not only that, the Economics Teaching and Learning Team being shortlisted for Outstanding Contribution at the same time! I joined Economics in COVID lockdown, it was a very challenging time for the department. Amongst other things, the changes to A level assessments in 2020 meant that Economics recruited almost 500 extra undergraduate students into its BSc programmes. Despite this increase in numbers, the Teaching and Learning Team have worked hard to alleviate academic staff workloads and have thrown themselves into giving the students the best possible experience. I’m lucky to manage such a diverse team, a mix of very knowledgeable and experienced staff, alongside new recruits who are just as dedicated.

Above all else, I am most proud of every brilliant member of staff that I’ve line managed at UCL over the years. I like to think that in some small way I have contributed to their successful careers at UCL and beyond.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

I am usually working on multiple projects at any one time and they’re all top of my to-do list, I enjoy the variety! As those in departments know, planning for next session starts early in the year. I am currently working on the induction for new students hoping that 2022-23 will bring together the best of digital and face to face teaching. It will be nice to welcome more students back on campus but we have to ensure that the start of session meets their expectations.

As another priority, I’m very excited by UCL’s new Strategic Plan and the way that everyone has been invited to contribute in an open and transparent manner. Obviously, I’m mostly interested in the Education Priorities and Programmes paper and look forward to seeing the feedback to this from across UCL and contributing to the Department of Economics’ input. I’m hoping the process will bring transformative changes to issues that are known to hinder the potential of Teaching and Learning Teams in managing the delivery of research and taught programmes.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

My favourite album is After the Gold Rush by Neil Young, film is anything by Studio Ghibli but probably Howl’s Moving Castle. I don’t read much fiction since having three children, I mostly only read self-help books now.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

My children always remind me of my favourite joke whenever I reach for their leftovers after dinner... I’m on the seafood diet, I see food and I eat it!

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Comedian Munya Chawawa, my local MP Jeremy Corbyn and the artist Eliza Southwood. I’ve been fortunate to meet all three of them in person so I know I’d be guaranteed a fabulous evening.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t neglect your pelvic floor muscles.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

Although I’ve happily lived in an inner-city borough of London most of my life, I actually grew up on farm in a remote area of Northern Spain where I learnt how to press apples which then turned into cider. I still love returning to help with the apple harvest (and to drink the cider of course!)

What is your favourite place?

I’m happiest at the top of a Lakeland fell with all my family after a long hike up. Closer to home, Hampstead Heath is my favourite place on a summer’s day in London.


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