Susan Grant, Assistant Director of Organizational & Human Development, is a recipient of the annual Staff International Experience Fund (SIEF). The award allows staff members to travel and engage in collaborative work with international partners and institutions.

Susan writes about her experience travelling and working with her new Australian colleagues:

What was the purpose of your trip?

The purpose of this trip was to build on the learning and development initiatives of the University of Waterloo’s Organizational & Human Development (OHD) unit and support the priorities within the Robust Employer-Employee Relationship theme of the strategic plan which includes:

Since my return in December 2015, I’ve had Skype meetings and exchanged information by phone and email.

Where did you go?

I chose three schools (the University of Melbourne, University of Tasmania, and Macquarie University) because of their high prestige and alignment with Waterloo’s values:

  • Growing Esteem is the University of Melbourne’s 2015-2020 plan. The “People” of the university are an important component of their plan. They use a Triple Helix metaphor to describe the character of the university. These three strands of the helix are supported and enabled by leadership, people, infrastructure, polices, planning, administration, and resources.
  • Open to Talent is the University of Tasmania’s strategic plan and its Statement of Values includes a commitment to "working from the strength diversity brings."
  • Macquarie University has seven strategic priorities within its plan. The seventh is a priority of ensuring systems and processes will adequately prepare Macquarie University to meet future challenges.

What are your counterparts in Australia doing?

At the University of Melbourne, I outlined Waterloo’s leadership, participation in HeforShe, and was introduced to Australia’s Male Champions of Change initiative. The vision for the Male Champions of Change is that individual and collective leadership will elevate gender equality as an issue of national and international social and economic importance.

I met with participants of the University of Tasmania’s Women in Leadership program, the university’s flagship career development initiative that supports emerging female leaders through a 10-month learning program.

Just before I arrived at Macquarie University, they hosted a White Ribbon Program event which is part of United Nations International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

My colleagues at Macquarie University also shared their involvement in Athena Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE). SAGE is an initiative of the Australian Academy of Science in partnership with the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering that addresses gender equity in the STEM sector.

I shared Waterloo’s promotion of workplace wellness, and psychological health and safety including the early adoption of The 13 Factors of a Psychologically Safe Workplace. These factors impact employees’ psychological responses to work and work conditions, potentially causing psychological health problems.

Some of the programs my counterparts in Australia participate in include:

  • The University of Melbourne promotes Beyond Blue which helps everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health,
  • The University of Tasmania developed a Future Leader program with the Australian Group of Eight that supports research management and learning for future research leaders,
  • Macquarie University’s Business Process Improvement Initiative empowers staff and students to strive at decision making and implementing process improvement.

Was your trip personally rewarding?

The universities in Australia were very receptive to my areas of interest. I was able to meet many people with complementary goals and interest, who have now become my key contacts in Australia. Being back in Waterloo, I am able to connect my colleagues with those I met with in Australia.

Working and interacting in Australia was unique. The work was out of my comfort zone, which helped me develop new perspectives. I have a better understanding of my work and goals since talking with others as an ambassador for Waterloo allowed me to develop communication skills and build relationships. It was an experience that I’m very thankful for and will never forget.

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