Cian O’Neill, Irish educator from Cork, reviews NC’s Sport Management program

Cork Institute of Technology (CIT)’s head of department, Sport, Leisure & Childhood Studies, Cian O’Neill, PhD, is pictured recording a guest lecture on Ireland’s Gaelic sports for future student cohorts of NC’s Sports Management program. O’Neill visited NC as part of the College’s quality assurance program review.

Cork Institute of Technology (CIT)’s head of department, Sport, Leisure & Childhood Studies, Cian O’Neill, PhD, is pictured recording a guest lecture on Ireland’s Gaelic sports for future student cohorts of NC’s Sports Management program. O’Neill visited NC as part of the College’s quality assurance program review.

This article is the fourth in a four-part series on the collaborative bilateral curriculum review from March 4 to April 4. NC is among only a few colleges in Ontario that use external assessors for its quality assurance program review and has been recognized by the Ontario College Quality Assurance Service (OCQAS) for implementing this as a best practice. For the first time, programs in three different NC schools of study are undergoing a comprehensive review that will inject an international perspective into their curriculum. Read the first articlesecond article and third article.

From April 1 to 4, NC welcomed Cork Institute of Technology (CIT)’s head of department, Sport, Leisure and Childhood Studies, Cian O’Neill, to review NC’s Sport Management program.

“The School of Hospitality, Tourism and Sport (HTS) created its Internationalization and Mobility strategy in the summer of 2017 and one of the pillars was to build upon the existing relationships the International Department has already created,” said School of HTS associate dean, Damian Goulbourne. “CIT is one of the College’s partners and this activity has deepened this relationship. This assessment help’s NC and the Sport Management program align with global best practices as the visiting professor from Ireland brought an international view of pedagogy that will enable faculty to elevate the rigor – and thus credibility – of the credential in a global context.”

O’Neill shared the notion of collaboration in the context of curriculum development, and how it is rooted in the conceptual understanding that no single person or group, has all of the answers. He explained bringing a variety of experts together from different but related industry sectors is critical to the process, ensuring a broad perspective-based approach to developing the best program for the students of tomorrow.

“My colleague from Canisius College in the US, Shawn O’ Rourke, and I were provided with an insightful and informative program overview from various perspectives,” shared O’Neill. He explains that, on a personal level, he learned three things in the role. First, “the role and importance of the visibly strong student-faculty relationships.” Second, “the strong connection between the faculty and the Sport Management Industry, not just in Niagara and Ontario, but across the country in terms of engagement at the coalface with largescale sporting events.” Finally, “the pride, value and respect that the alumni group that we met still held for the program and the respective faculty who had helped to shape them into successful practitioners and citizens.”

He explained the responsibility of every educational institution to ensure they are providing the best possible experience from an academic, social and vocational perspective and the quality assurance process is critical in doing so. “With the ever-changing nature of the sports industry, and indeed the business sector directly associated with sport as a cultural entity, such program reviews help to keep the faculty and the program content and methods of delivery current and valid in the context of the transient,” said O’Neill.

During his visit to NC, O’Neill recorded a guest lecture on Ireland’s Gaelic sports for future student cohorts of the Sports Management program. “The culture of sport is quite different with the Canadian landscape dominated by hockey, lacrosse, etc. and the Irish landscape dominated by the Gaelic games of Gaelic Football and Hurling, in addition to soccer and rugby, but the challenges faced by graduates are largely similar,” explained O’Neill.

Additionally, O’Neill conducted industry partner site visits at the Welland International Flatwater Centre, the Meridian Community Centre in Pelham, and the oldest surviving golf course in use in North America, the Niagara Golf Club circa 1875 in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“Through hosting an international assessor, the School of HTS also learned how the mechanics of such initiatives work,” explained Goulbourne. “We as NC can take this knowledge and apply it to our own systems so in the future we are ready to send faculty abroad to act as external assessors. Sending faculty abroad for professional development through international opportunities is another pillar of the School of HTS’ internationalization and mobility plan, as it enables faculty and students to ‘infuse diversity, cultural and global competencies within our academic programs’ as per our strategic plan.”

Director of the Centre for Academic Excellence (CAE), Mary Wilson, EdD., shared how the similarities between Ontario and Irish higher technical vocational and education training (TVET) sectors were the basis of an informative and enriching external assessment. Both the common interests and concerns of educators in Ireland and Ontario, and the unique experiences of our Irish colleagues contributed to a meaningful program review process for the Sport Management program, as well as for the Early Childhood Education and Renewable Energies and programs.

“Engaging international experts such as Mary Skillington, Gerry Ryder and Cian O’Neill gives NC programs an edge over other Ontario colleges who either do not engage external experts or rely only on Canadian external assessors,” said Wilson. She shared how much of an added benefit was realized through industry visits, connections with our students, and featured talks which expanded the benefits of the program to more members of the Niagara region and NC community.

“Conversations had with our visiting colleagues from Ireland provided insights and perspectives that will spark future innovations among our faculty members.  As our faculty members reflect on what they heard, they will begin to adapt what they learned to strengthen teaching, learning and curriculum in our programs here,” she said.

“NC is committed to continuous improvement and one of the ways that we can achieve this is to seek out relationships with strong higher TVET systems around the world and build sustainable networks for exchanging knowledge. As a globally-engaged college, we are thrilled to be able to broaden the search for great external reviewers from highly regarded colleges around the world. Jeff Post, manager of academic quality in the CAE, welcomes suggestions for objective, arms-length reviewers from world-class institutions and parallel programs and looks forward to inviting future international colleagues to our campuses.”