The following post was written by Ash Tierney, a Research Associate and Project Manager for Bristol Futures. Ash has been a BILT Associate since May 2019.
I’ve been working in curriculum development roles at the University of Bristol since 2012. My focus started with Education for Sustainable Development and saw me conduct curriculum reviews on this theme across all degree programmes. I represented higher education in the UK at the House of Commons discussions on “Enabling the future we want: Education for Sustainable Development in the UK”. Outside of the formal curriculum, our team collaborated with the Students Union, Bristol Hub, the National Union of Students and UWE. One of our biggest achievements in this time was the Bristol Green Capital project “Green Capital: Student Capital. The power of student sustainability engagement”. The effort resulted in over 100,000 hours of student volunteering for sustainability across both UoB and UWE.
I was delighted to be one of three academics who co-developed the “Bristol Futures: Sustainable Futures” open online blended course, hosted on FutureLearn. It was the first time I had collaborated pedagogically with such interdisciplinary peers, one from Chemistry, the other from Engineering. The result is a four-week course that is freely accessible to everyone globally and runs three times a year.
Since late 2017, I’ve become Project Manager for the University’s Bristol Futures project covering areas of the core and optional curriculum. In 2018/2019, we delivered four new interdisciplinary optional units. The units have challenged traditional teaching approaches, experimenting with new forms of assessment and blended learning delivery. This role includes typical project management responsibilities (budget, staffing, evaluation, etc.), but also encompasses dynamic elements of content development such as script-writing for documentaries.
While completing my PhD on Historical Archaeology, I ran public engagement activities within archaeological fieldwork. In the USA, I led engagement efforts for three seasons on “Embedding Sustainability Thinking into Fieldwork: placing student learning at the heart of community engagement”. This was divided into two foci: research-led outreach in the local high school; and co-produced research with the local community archaeology interest group. Within Bristol’s archaeology degree training fieldwork at Berkeley Castle, I led the engagement team to work with the community in novel ways, most notably “The Town Museum Project”. In this project, our Bristol students created displays of excavated material culture and placed them on display in the homes and businesses of Berkeley village. By bringing the archaeology into community-led temporary curatorship, we demonstrated trust in the community and allowed those unable to visit the excavations to feel more involved. My student-led public engagement efforts are noted by HEFCE as national best practice.
Following completion of my PhD in 2017, I have taken on the role of Project Director of Archaeology within Project Nivica, in the Kurvelesh mountains of Albania. The project sits within eco-tourism domestic initiatives, with the overall ambition to compile a detailed understanding of the history, archaeology and ecology of the village of Nivica and its environs. The aims of the project are: to understand how the inhabitants of Nivica shaped their identity in relation to Epirus, Illyria and Rome; and to situate heritage practice and participatory engagement within the principles of the Sustainable Development Goals. I am working in collaboration with the Municipality of Tepelenë, the National Coastline Agency, and the Institute of Archaeology.
Within my BiLT Associate role, I am looking to focus on outputs that cross both my interests in sustainability and heritage. Over the next two years, I will engage at sustainability conferences in the HE sector, disseminating our innovative work at Bristol, including the operational and logistic aspects that make pedagogic ambitions possible. I’d like to create podcasts with other educators on topics of professional practice and ethics within teaching, exploring methodological approaches, and how to embed the Sustainable Development Goals into student-led discussions and action. Given my Arts background and involvement in the Cadbury fiasco, I would also like to work with others to create a brief for international corporations on why Arts graduates are integral to their success.