A day in the life of... Tonia Gray

Tonia Gray
Tonia Gray is a Senior Researcher in the Centre for Educational Research. Commencing in 2012, Tonia was appointed to the Centre for Educational Research at UWS as a Secondary Specialist in Pedagogy and Learning. Since then she has become the Acting Theme Leader for the Sustainability Strand (CER).

Tonia was recently announced as a recipient of an Office for Learning and Teaching award for Teaching Excellence in the category of Social Sciences in the discipline of Teacher Education. These awards celebrate national university teachers renowned for their excellence in teaching, who have outstanding presentation skills and have made a significant contribution to enhancing the quality of learning and teaching in higher education.

Tonia and Dr Tim Hall (from the School of Business) are leading a project titled 'Enhancing programs to integrate tertiary outbound mobility experiences (EPITOME)'.  Recently, this project was granted OLT funding to the amount of $246,000.

Before Work

What do you have for breakfast and is there anything you do before you come to work?
Wow, good question. I never miss my morning freshly squeezed orange juice and then (because I live two hours from Penrith on 25 acres at Berry on the South Coast) I am up at sunrise feeding 15 horses.

What do you usually do when you first arrive at UWS?
As any academic would know, no two days are ever the same, but usually I have numerous meetings, answer emails, teach, and catch up with administrative duties. A little caffeine hit always starts the day off pretty well, too.

I have lots of research projects that are scattered around Sydney and also the Shoalhaven region, so I also travel a great deal collecting data.

At Work

What classes do you teach?

Since arriving at UWS, I have taught: 

  • Transformative Learning  
  • Education and Transformation
  • Introduction to Teaching and Learning
  • Learning and Creativity
  • Leadership Mentoring and Professional Growth

What are the two or three most important things you are currently working on?

  1. Ecopedagogy and Nature Based Education across the school curriculum 
  2. Reflection and Experience Based Learning (EBL)
  3. How green spaces enhance wellbeing and health

What regular meetings do you attend?

My research partnerships have regular meetings:

  • With Centennial Parklands and UWS colleagues Karen Malone, Carol Birrell and Ian Boyle looking at the impact of Nature Play on children
  • With Bundanon Trust and UWS colleague Carol Birrell examining the Touched by the Earth project on adolescent students.
  • 202020 Vision and Brookfield Multiplex looking at Biophilic design in office site sheds – with Carol Birrell

The Royal Botanical Gardens, Youth Community Greening, DEC and schools scattered throughout the region – in 2015, I am undertaking a major research project on Outdoor Links to Learning and Disengaged School Students with UWS colleagues Son Truong and Kumara Ward.

The Sustainability Strand (Karen Malone, Son Truong and myself) are writing a book (edited by Springer) entitled Reimaging Sustainability in Precarious Times – so that is the next big project.

Of course, I have all the usual UWS meetings, and am a PhD student liaison – and also am involved in meetings on various research collaborations around the globe.

What is something that can make a positive difference to your day?

Since doing my Masters in Community Health (30 years ago in Colorado, USA), I am a great believer in mirror-neurons – ie surrounding yourself with people who are uplifting and positive. As clichéd as it sounds, I am fortunate to have one of the best partners in the world who makes every day a positive experience.

After Work

What might we find you doing outside of work?

Like every academic, it is important to remember our "other life" beyond the workplace. I am constantly reminding myself of the importance of keeping a work-life balance. So on weekends (when not marking or meeting grant deadlines) you will find me outside on our farm with my husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats and 15 horses.

I have competed in equestrian sports all my life and we have a small hobby farm and breed warmbloods for dressage, cross country and show jumping. The three disciplines combined are known as 'Eventing' in the horse world – a bit like a triathlon in our sporting circles.

I also enjoy walking along Seven Mile Beach at Gerroa or catching up with friends and/or family. I've also been trying my hand at baking lately and I think I nearly have the banana cake with cream cheese icing down pat! Just joking!