Dr Nicola McNeil has been the Head of Department of Management, Sport & Tourism (MST) since earlier this year. Business Newsroom sat down with Nicola to ask her some questions about what her previous roles were at LTU, her new role and other interesting facts about her.
Where do you come from and what brought you to La Trobe University?
I always wanted to be a solicitor and loved studying law, but I ended up not enjoying practicing law. I was fortunate that one of my Professors who taught me in my undergrad degree took me on as a Research Assistant and later as a Research Fellow, so I sort of fell into academia by accident. I realised I had a passion for research and really enjoyed teaching. I worked at Monash and Deakin before coming to La Trobe University. I have been here now for eleven years.
So how did you transition from Law to Human Resource Management?
My experience in employer relations fits really well in the HR discipline.
How will you be approaching your role as Head of Department?
In my various roles within the SchooI, I have gained a lot of insights into how the University works. This allows me to not only focus on what we do as a Department but also see what we do in the greater scheme of things, aligning our activities to the LTU and LBS strategy.
Looking at the MST Department itself, we are unique, as we have a high proportion of staff that are in the early stages of their academic careers. Besides supporting our experienced staff, I want to especially focus on providing support to our early career teachers and researchers by actively engaging them, starting dialogues with senior staff and helping mentor them to kickstart their careers.
What do you know now that you wished you knew when you were a student at university?
It’s okay to fail. I was a bit of a perfectionist when I was younger, which was at times quite stressful. Now I realise it’s okay to make mistakes or have things turn out differently than expected, as long as you learn from it. I also think it is really important to learn how to turn bad situations around, and always find a positive takeaway. If I had known that when I was younger, I would have been less of a stress-head.
What do you do to get rid of stress?
I take my dogs for a walk, or play the piano.
Lastly, if people come across you at the coffee-machine, what’s a good conversation starter?
I’m a cricket tragic and a Melbourne Storm fanatic, so you can always talk to me about cricket or rugby! However, a simple “how’s it going” will get me engaged in a conversation too.
Nicola is currently working on several research projects in the areas of gender and work, work-life balance and the impact of high-performance work practices on employee wellbeing. She has received research grants and consultancies from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Australian Federal Government, VicHealth, industry partners and not-for-profit organisations.
Nicola is a leading educator and teaches classes in employment relations, human resource management and research methods to undergraduate and postgraduate students, and supervises several PhD and Honours students. Nicola is also an instructor for the Australian Consortium of Social and Political Research Inc (ACSPRI) and offers courses on the use of computer-assisted qualitative data analysis and mixed methods research.