Our September Member showcase is… Associate Dean of Teaching and Undergraduate Studies at Brock University, Dr. Kirsty Spence
This month we learned about Dr. Spence’s path to her current role, her favourite thing about being a part of the Brock Community and some future plans she’s looking forward to.
My current role is the Associate Dean (AD) of Teaching and Undergraduate Studies for the Faculty of Applied Sciences (FAHS). I look at this position as encapsulating many of my strong interests, as through my work in this role, I focus on preserving the high quality of teaching across various programs within the five departments of the FAHS. As my home base is the Department of Sport Management, I continue to complete Sport Management research projects and teach SPMA students in addition to integrating many of my responsibilities while working in this administrative role.
In my Undergrad years, I studied within the Bachelor of Kinesiology program at McMaster University and while there, I fell in love with the sport administration field, which was an earlier name for sport management. Through that early passion, I honed my interest in management and administration and upon graduation, I entered the Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) program at the University of Toronto to become an elementary school teacher. After graduating, I taught for eight years, from 1991- 1999 in elementary schools in Canada, Russia and Taiwan. During that time, I also taught a variety of subjects and grades, from Kindergarten-aged children through to Grade 8 aged students. Aside from teaching, I volunteered a fair amount of time as a coach of many sports teams in these educational institutions. Those early years of my career certainly set the stage for a love of teaching and learning. In 1999, I returned from teaching in Taiwan, having decided to enrol in the Master of Human Kinetics (M.H.K.) program at the University of Windsor to deepen my studies in Sport Management. I have since seen the threads of teaching, management and leading through my sport management academic career in research, teaching and service activities. All of that has served to provide me with a rich career that started in the early 90s and allowed me to teach students from Kindergarten through to Ph.D. level contexts.
My specific academic work in leadership development speaks to helping people develop their capacity as leaders, whether through research projects, teaching students as future industry leaders, or coaching organizational leaders. So, joining the Centre for Sport Capacity (CSC) was an easy decision for me. When I first came to Brock in 2004, the Canada Sport Policy had already been developed in 2002 around four pillars including enhanced participation, enhanced excellence, enhanced capacity, and enhanced interaction. When I thought about my research area of leadership development and then later, my work as a certified leadership coach with Integral Coaching Canada®, I wanted to work with sport leaders to help them enhance their developmental capacity, a value I felt was implicitly encompassed in Canada’s Sport Policy. I feel that this is largely what we’re working with here at the CSC, helping people in sport organizations increase their capacity so that more effective outcomes are possible for them and their organizations.
I typically teach first year undergraduate students in SPMA 1P92 and graduate (M.A.) students in a Leadership and Organizational Behaviour course. For me, these two courses are bookended, as I get to see students experience both their first year in the undergraduate and then their first year in the M.A. program. What really excites me about teaching first-year students is at its simplest form, I can welcome and be a friendly face to students who are new to Brock University. When I think about teaching students representative of a large age spectrum as I have, I believe very similar qualities or principles of being an educator apply, regardless of students’ ages. Qualities such as trust and respect, as well as the educator’s actual love of teaching and learning are the same, regardless of age. What excites me the most is just the ability to be a part of that welcoming process in any way. I can be a piece of that greeting committee, to say, Hey, welcome to Brock! Welcome to sport management, you’re going to have a great experience here. I want to try to be as best as I can be so that students can be as best as they can be in starting the program. Beyond that first-year introduction, to see students’ growth through their journey in the program is monumentally exciting. I have very much enjoyed seeing students walk across the stage during graduation, it’s unbelievable to see how much they’ve developed as people and I am gratified knowing I was a part of that in a small way.
There are a couple of research projects happening, but one exciting research project is happening alongside Dr. Mike Van Bussel, also a CSC Member and an alumna of our Master’s program, Dina Bell-Laroche. We’re collaborating on a Canadian leadership development program for sport leaders, called the Sport Leaders Retreat, Virtual Edition; it’s a first of its kind in Canada. As the facilitator, Dina is a leader of leaders and we are tracking her leadership facilitation through the program and the impact of the leadership development program on both participants’ personal leadership and on their sport organizations. It’s really exciting to see somebody putting this kind of curriculum into action to help impact the development of Canadian sport leaders and their capacity. This project represents the work that I felt needs to be done within the sport management discipline. It’s really inspiring to me that we’ve come to a place in time where all conditions are right to make this project happen.
- What’s your favourite TV Show right now?
Well, I have to say, Ted Lasso. It’s an all-around awesome show, which is very funny and that in my opinion, demonstrates effective leadership and management in the context of a Premier League (European Football) sport organization. I enjoy seeing shows that have an organizational lean to them. I feel it’s an uplifting antidote to some of the darker news we are facing in today’s world.
- What is your favourite sport or sports team?
Do you have to even ask this? Of course, the Toronto Maple Leafs!!
I’ve been fortunate to receive several awards focused on University teaching and learning. Most recently, I received the Brock University Distinguished Teaching Award in 2019, where I was recognized for teaching excellence and educational leadership within the Brock community. I also very recently received a Best Reviewer Award from the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada, for my work as a reviewer for conference abstracts. I mention this award as I was happy to know that my review efforts, which were in service to another person’s research work, were recognized as strong and helpful. We are fortunate as academics to engage in interesting work and receive recognition occasionally in various ways and I have appreciated being recognized for my work in the past.
My future plans would include continuing my efforts to integrate areas of interests, for which I feel passion into my job, including equity, diversity, inclusion, leadership and human development interests. My desires are really centered upon serving other folks and helping them become better students, staff, or faculty, however they define “better.” That’s the great thing about working within the A.D. position, I can help serve other people and their development and I am happy to continue to be a part of that.