The University of Newcastle, Australia

Scholarship brings ‘design thinking’ principles in focus at the School of Architecture and Built Environment

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Taona Afful - the Executive Officer from the School of Architecture and Built Environment (SABE) was one of four recipients of the 2018 International Development Scholarships for UON professional staff. She spent three weeks visiting the University of Calgary, University of Toronto and McMaster University meeting and exchanging ideas with staff from these universities, learning about their facilities, workshops and administrative processes.

Taona Afful

Taona took every opportunity to learn more about design thinking and was fortunate to attend a course by thought leaders in this field - The Rotman School of Management in Toronto.

“The Design Thinking course I attended was above my expectations. It gave me the confidence to directly approach complex problems, innovate collaboratively and create holistic, sustainable solutions with a human-centred focus. The learning from the course will assist me to lead some of the upcoming strategic priorities in SABE.”

Since returning, Taona has already implemented design thinking into a team project she is currently working on. The workshop and makerspace benchmarking she did was pivotal to ensure the UON Makerspace was ready for launch in September. In 2019, Taona hopes to collaborate beyond SABE utilising the tools learnt to solve specific strategic problems.

“My confidence as a leader has been enhanced. The biggest take home has been confirmation that it is alright to pursue strategy without knowing the end result. I will not shy away from problems just because they look impossible to solve.”

“I will apply the concepts I learnt and utilise my new network to benchmark against other institutions. My goal was to learn a different problem solving strategy and to increase my lateral thinking skills. I definitely achieved this,” she said.

Having the opportunity to meet with Executive Officers from the three Universities provided discussions focused on recruitment, financial management, student and staff support from a School/Faculty point of view, centralised and decentralised services and staff and student retention initiatives.

“The networking I did was so rich. Everyone I met with was keen to hear more about SABE’s Professional staff task and project responsibilities which I currently use. They shared some of their resources around staff on-boarding which is currently one of our high priorities. “

“I am motivated to maintain the new relationships developed with these Universities. I have already had further contact with some of the people I met, including a video conference with some of them,” she said.

Taona strongly encourages other UON professional staff to apply for the international scholarship.

“I almost did not submit my application due to high volume of work at the start of the year. I am so thankful to my supervisor who insisted I submit. The scholarship journey has been a pivotal experience in my career and personal life. I encourage other leaders to support their staff and encourage them to apply,” Taona said.

About the scholarships:

Launched in 2016 as part of the University’s NeW Futures commitment to increasing global engagement, professional staff scholarships of up to $10,000 support overseas travel for professional development. The experience will also benefit UON by growing our international networks for collaboration. The applications for the 2019 scholarships are open.

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