“Indulging students as humans with dreams, feelings and aspirations” – Dr Helen McLaren

The winner of the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Higher Degree Research Supervision for 2019 is Dr Helen McLaren from the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work.

We asked Dr McLaren what winning this award means to her and what her supervisory philosophy is.

“I am humbled for being nominated and excited to keep doing what I want; that is, working with HDR students in their academic journeys and being part of their fulfilling of dreams,” Dr McLaren replied.

She describes her supervisory style as practical, responsive towards students’ feelings and respectful of the student – supervisor alliance in the wider context of life and multiplicity of people.

“My role as a supervisor is to indulge students as humans with dreams, feelings and aspirations, and melding the supervisory model and candidature plan uniquely for each. This coupled with acknowledging students’ lived experience and working through when it hinders or sometimes traumatises them along the way is my vision of an effective supervision.” She then continued: “I believe that staying attuned to what students hope to achieve upon candidature completion, hearing their post-doc dreams, illuminating career pathways and walking alongside while they increasingly take ownership over their own work is crucial.”

Dr McLaren has a systemic perspective on supervision which is sanctioned by the need to work at the strategic level. This perspective incorporates hands-on supervision in balance with Flinders University’s higher education strategic directions and business model.

“Be good to students, complete them in time, build a supply chain and meet the contemporary demands of neo-liberal university. Love all aspects of your job as a supervisor and as an academic” – this is Dr McLaren’s recipe for a success in supervision.

When asked how she enriches the HDR experience for her students, Dr McLaren responds: “Teambuilding, supportive networks, opportunities for interpersonal, professional and intellectual growth. Getting down to work and finding time to also have some fun.”

One of Dr McLaren’s students described her as “sensitive, compassionate, understanding, motivating, supportive and altruistic.” She said: “I would not have survived this journey without a positive working relationship with Dr Helen McLaren, her shoulder to cry on, her endless support for me. She brings students together to share their knowledge and build support networks. Dr McLaren has always regarded me as an individual, and acknowledged my emotions, feelings and intellectual journey and is most deserving of this Award.”

As part of the prize Dr Helen McLaren will deliver professional development to HDR Supervisors at Flinders University on the below topics:

  • Too close for comfort: Working with students re-traumatised by their thesis
  • Co-designing HDR journey: Back-to-front mapping to advance students’ dreams
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One thought on ““Indulging students as humans with dreams, feelings and aspirations” – Dr Helen McLaren

  1. Yay, she is my supervisor too. Congratulation Dr Helen McLaren! I am not surprised at all of this award, I (we) the supervisee, had experienced your award-winning supervision style long before you won this award. It is in your blood and congratulation the award found you, you deserve it. Thanks for so genuine with us, put yourself under our shoes to facilitate us in digging into our own aspirations, feelings, dream and experience our own growth, always remind us to work hard but have fun. Before you know it, I (we) will carry this experience with me in my open-world post-uni. It will influence how I interact with other people, especially how I address the power imbalance – as you do, go down to the person with less power’s level and go up together or take the person up to your level and move together.

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