My SDF story with Louise Rees

by Rossana Espinoza 0

My SDF story with Louise Rees



Where do you work and what is your role?

I work as a Senior Academic Developer in the Swansea Academy of Learning and Teaching (SALT) at Swansea University. I’ve been working in SALT since March 2015.  The main purpose of my role is to implement our internal recognition scheme for HEA Fellowship for experienced staff. I also contribute to broader CPD offerings for staff and teach a module on our PG Cert in HE. SALT primarily supports the CPD for academic staff or those involved in teaching or supporting student learning and each year host a learning and teaching conference.

When did you join the SDF?

Can’t recall the specific ‘moment’, it appears mostly by stealth, and largely due to the fabulous efforts of #CoachingHE leads to reach out and engage across the HE sector.  I was involved in an online mentoring course for teachers in 2017 and they made contact with me.  I’ve been involved in the #CoachingHE #SDFcoaching monthly tweetchat since May 2017, so I guess since then.

Why did you want to join the SDF?

I got involved mainly through the focus on coaching and mentoring, topics close to my heart both personally and professionally.  Since that initial engagement, I find the SDF Jiscmail forum to be a wealth of knowledge sharing, enhancement of practice and opportunities to STOP reinventing the wheel. It has a much broader scope than my role (we have a separate department involved in staff development more generally), so I dip in when the topic is relevant to me. There are lots of queries posted and usually someone has an answer.

What’s the best thing about the SDF?

The supportive nature of colleagues and learning from them.  My other facilitators on the #coachingHe chat are brilliant…they have such great experiences to share. I’m looking forward to the conference in November at Bournemouth and learning more (come to our workshop and learn about Tweetchats!), plus actually seeing some in person for the first time.

What are you working on at the moment?

Our HEA Fellowship programme at Swansea was recently ‘reaccredited’ following the initial 3 years of running it.  So I’m implementing a new round of Information Sessions explaining to staff how to apply through our revised route and also training new assessors. I’m contributing to developing a learning object to support staff through the initial information gathering stages (helps address multi campus support too plus ‘just in time’ support for those who can’t attend in-person sessions).  I’m also enhancing the module I teach on by introducing the exploration of metaphor for teaching and learning…and also for leading for those considering HEA Senior Fellowship recognition! This is based on learning from other institutions who run accredited programmes on behalf of the HEA…I love my CPD opportunities!

What does a typical day look like?

Usually, I’m based at the Singleton Park campus. I lead a very small, and perfectly formed, committed team and we might review what’s coming up for us, perhaps plan for forthcoming support sessions for those applying for Fellowship. I’ll probably liaise with current applicants, respond to queries about what HEA Fellowship is, does it apply to them?, look at the arrangements for assessment of applications.  It’s very varied.  And it may include a bit of teaching (or facilitating learning as I like to put it).  SALT also maintains the University’s VLE to support student learning so my day may also involve providing support to queries on using it. Since starting with SALT, I’ve moved from very firmly in the middle of the technophobe/technophile continuum to a greater appreciation of how technology can support learning. My Twitter experience being a case in point. Plus I can explain load balancing in a way that non teccies understand.

Tell us about an event that altered the course of your life/and or career

Writing to my now husband about what life was like to study in Canada.  He had been in the year above me at University, studying Geography (like me) but we’d never met. He was in Vancouver, BC  just starting his Masters but despite his best efforts to sell his University,  I ended up going to Calgary, AB to pursue my studies. I met him on a visit to Vancouver almost 2 years after that initial letter.  I had intended to return to the UK  later that year, but ended up moving to Vancouver and living there for another 5 and a half years while he went on to a PhD.  Studying and working overseas was an amazing experience and I’d strongly recommend the chance if you have it – plus I got to meet my lovely husband!

The person who has influenced you the most is

Oohh, a toughie and I’ve thought long and hard about who not to offend by not mentioning them.  There have been many key influences, in particular since moving into SALT – I have some very inspirational colleagues who’ve impacted my practice and we have a very open door, supportive environment.

My parents of course in how they supported, encouraged and guided me.

But probably the most influential was person facilitating the Coaching Course I undertook in my previous role at the University.  Following a 360 degree review, he coached me, challenging me and my future career aspirations – which resulted in me then leaving my job of 15 years  (heading the Quality Office) and taking a leap of faith in applying for the role in SALT and acquiring HEA Fellowship and a whole range of new skills. What a significant coaching session that was! My professional learning since then has been exponential.

Work life balance – what leisure activity you enjoy the most?

I love taking my dog for long walks, preferably along the beach or in Singleton Park which the University campus is located within. Either way, I have access to an amazing outside environment.  I really enjoy reading too and am nominally part of a book club, but I often go for the conversation catch up rather than literary critique.

Something about you people would find surprising

I’d like to say I hold the Guinness World Record for eating Jaffa Cakes (I can eat a lot, believe me!)  I also have no amazing hidden talent.  But as a final year undergraduate, I did pass the GCHQ entrance exam.  Who knows, could I have been the next ‘Jamie Bond’?  (No says Barbara Broccoli).

What’s your greatest fear?

Being trapped underwater, e.g under ice. My heart is racing thinking about it.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

A good chef to cook the meal  – Jamie Oliver.

Someone funny – Tim Vine – love his one liners;

A good singer – Loren Aldred’s rendition of ‘Never Enough’ from the Greatest Showman is amazing and I belt it out in the car.

If I’m allowed to pick people who are no longer alive and bring them back to my party,

An author – C.S.Lewis as I love his Narnia series in particular.

An actor – Judy Dench with a wide range of experience, I’m sure she’s have lots of conversation.

Oh and Dobby the house elf from Harry Potter – to do the washing up! With that many guests, there’ll be  a lot of dishes!

What would your super-power be? 

I’d become Doctor Who and be the master of time and space travel.  Tom Baker was my generation’s  doctor and I haven’t watched the TV show in years. But I’m liking Jodie Whittaker as the new doctor very much. I think having a tardis to ferry the kids around would be fantastic.

What’s your favourite/least favourite food?

I LOVE Chilean sea bass – had it in Vancouver, but not seen it in the UK – so have monkfish instead.  I refuse tea of any kind.  Its evil.

What’s the worst job you ever had?

Cleaning my local pub as a teenager and student when on holidays from University.  The stench of stale beer and toilet cleaning are delightful tasks on a Sunday morning, especially if you’ve also been serving behind the bar the night before. But learnt loads to improve my employability plus the importance of a good work ethic.

What thing would improve the quality of your life?

A daily shoulder, neck and Indian head massage. But I probably wouldn’t get much work done!

What’s coming next for you?

CPD for professional learning is what we actively promote at SALT and I love the opportunities my role brings – informal and formal.  In 2019, I’m planning to complete the Learning Performance Institute’s Course as a Certified Online Facilitator to help me specifically in supporting learning across multiple campuses and my department more generally in implementing the University’s exciting Digital Strategy.


Louise Rees Twitter @LJ_Rees


Swansea Academy of Learning and Teaching: