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School of Health & Human Performance
Fiona Murray
Facts and Figures

Fiona Murray

Current role: Director, Coaching and Education, Special Olympics International

Course: DProf Elite Performance (Sport)

Why did you choose the program?

I had been interested in looking at some further education and research opportunities for a number of years, but working full time, I really wasn’t able to find something that was feasible for me. This programme was of particular interest to me because it facilitated a progressive entry into the world of research (via the job stimulus programme) as well as allowing me to continue to work full time. Being able to shape a research programme that could blend with my work was vital. Having the opportunity to do the job stimulus programme was critical though – without the opportunity to “test the waters” through that programme – I don’t think I would have had the confidence to jump straight into the DProf.

How does the format of the program fit with your practice?

In a lot of ways, the programme has blended well with my professional work – although it would have to be said that this probably relates more to where I am in terms of my role and my own development. Logistically, the classes being more or less confined to two short windows during the week makes it very manageable – I am lucky to have a relatively flexible schedule.  Managing the associated reading and course work has been more of a challenge. Of course it's nearly 20 years since I studied, so there was and is still a learning curve. It has taken me a while to get the balance right and not certain I’m quite there yet, but getting there.

In terms of the focus of my work, it has been great to work with the team to uncover the root of a research question that really interests me – taking the time to explore different areas and feeling supported in doing that has been really important.

How would you describe the role and impact of your peers on your development?

Although we have been 99.9% virtual, they have really played an important role in the whole experience of the programme. Many of my peers are people I’ve met and interacted with but not worked directly with and to have the chance to talk through ideas, challenges, worries etc has been helpful. As time goes on, I think we are building the support network, which for me at least, has been very important.

How has it impacted your thinking?

I’m certainly more critical of the information I consume. In some ways, the programme has burst the safe little bubble I had operated in and led me to question why we do things as we do and really to see many potential challenges in the way in which my organisation operates.  I’m very much still developing in terms of understanding what to do with this newfound scepticism. In that sense, it has probably actually been quite disruptive – which is challenging but also energising.

How has it impacted your practice?

I find it quite difficult at this stage to determine how or if my practice has changed. As referenced above, I feel like I am much more critical in my consumption of information shared with me within my work and certainly I find myself more vocal in questioning and discussing our approaches to various aspects of my work. The past two years have been incredibly abnormal years anyway in terms of my job and professional practice, but I feel more confidence in engaging with and exploring contrasting opinions and perspectives and the idea that there’s not always going to be a clear right and wrong. I’m becoming more comfortable with that idea and that makes it easier to solicit other opinions, perspectives, ideas etc.

How has it developed your career?

To date, I’m not sure it has developed my career as such. I’m in the same role I was in previously, with many of the same responsibilities. However, what it is doing is opening my eyes and my mind to other opportunities and giving me the confidence to insert myself into discussions and projects where I feel the skills I have gained through the course can be of value. As an example, I have recently joined a working group which will help to shape the medium to long term research agenda for the Special Olympics. It has, however, also been a real challenge.  Like many people, I think, it has definitely prompted me to consider much more if I am where I want to be!

What is your favourite thing about the course?

I love to learn and just providing me with the structure and space to be exposed to a breadth of knowledge areas has been fantastic. The feeling when previously disparate or complex pieces of information suddenly connect or start to make sense, or tell a story I couldn’t previously understand is a great one. The opportunities to chat, discuss and question amongst the group is really valuable. It's often hard to get the time during lectures to do that and the journal clubs (we had more of them last year), were a really great way to do that, to get a snapshot of something you might not have thought of reading up on or exploring – and getting a sense of the kinds of questions others ask. For me I find that really helps to think about other ways of looking at something, that I wouldn’t have seen myself.

Can you summarise your experience to date?

It has been fantastic. Incredibly eye opening, incredibly challenging, daunting – definitely a real journey. There are lots of moments of floundering, wondering where you are going and what on earth you were thinking of taking this on, and then there are moments where it is so enjoyable, challenging and energising. I’m honestly still not really clear where I am going or what I want to get out of it – I’m not sure I ever will be, but I’m enjoying the journey.