#ThisBUCSGirlCan – Interview with Professor Deirdre Brennan
UUSU Sport spoke to Professor Deirdre Brennan – lecturer, founder of Ulster Sports Outreach, co-founder of Sport Changes life, and basketball enthusiast having coached both the men’s and women’s Ulster University Elks teams, and the Ulster Elks Juniors.
- Please tell me a little about the position you are in now; title, what the role entails, how long you have been in this role?
I am the Professor of PE and Sport in the School of Sport which involves leading Physical Education on our undergraduate courses. I lead in the development of the subject area and teaching of the subject to final year students. I am also the Director of Ulster Sports Outreach. The latter involves me strategically leading the use of sport as a tool for widening access to and community engagement for the university in communities that suffer disadvantage.
• Please provide me with some background on how you have come to be in this role?
I fell into this role! I was working as a physical education teacher and studying a Masters at Jordanstown part-time when the opportunity for a lecturing position arose. Some of my tutors encouraged me to apply; I applied never thinking I would get it. Here I am 24 years later!
• How has sport and physical activity impacted your life?
I wouldn’t be in the position I am in now without it. Sport is where I felt confident. I was very average at school but performed academically much better when I went to university because I was studying something I had great interest in. Sport has taken me all over the world as I was lucky enough to compete at international level. It has given me the opportunity to work with others in an area I am passionate about. I met my husband through sport and we set up a charity called ‘Sport Changes Life’ which he runs on a full time basis.
• Who inspired you to aspire for a leadership role in your field?
I have been lucky enough to have had a number of inspirational role models. I didn’t ever plan to be a leader in my field. It just happened to turn out that way given my interests and skills and the mentorship I was lucky enough receive. On a personal level my Dad was my first inspiration in sport. Professionally Walter Bleakley and Trish Mc Farland were my inspirations and now I am inspired by my three beautiful daughters and my husband.
• What is the best piece of advice you have received?
Always act with integrity.
• Define a leader: What are some traits you think great leaders possess?
I believe great leaders have integrity, are trustworthy and inspirational. They thrive on empowering others, will put ‘we’ before ‘me’, are reflective and always open to learning.
• What is one leadership lesson you have learnt during your career?
People need to know that you care before they care what you know.
• What advice do you have for female students aiming for positions of leadership?
You must want to be a leader for the right reasons. You should want to make a difference; a difference that makes things better for everyone, not just yourself. Be prepared to go the extra mile, take feedback, be reflective and be resilient.