Lecturer picks up hat-trick of awards

Fri, 02 Jul 2021 16:19:00 BST
John has passed his experience in the world of sport down to students at GCU
John has passed his experience in the world of sport down to students at GCU

GCU Students' Association recently held their annual Teaching Awards – an event designed to recognise GCU's outstanding learning and teaching staff. 

The Teaching Awards gives students the opportunity to celebrate teaching and non-teaching staff members who have made a positive impact on their learning experience – with six different categories helping to make up the evening of celebration. 

International Sport Management lecturer, John Cullen picked up an incredible three awards for his efforts in supporting students over the last year. 

We spoke with John to find out more about the key to his success. 

You won three different awards; Terrific Teaching, Super Support and Inspiring Individual (GSBS) - has this
 impacted you in any way? If so, how?

Being shortlisted for four of the six categories was a really nice feeling and then to actually win three of the awards was a very proud moment. Winning the Terrific Teaching, Super Support and GSBS Inspiring Individual Awards all helped me in my first year as a part time lecturer. It’s always nice to know you are on the right track and the student’s feedback was a real boost. It’s been a struggle for the students who’ve missed so much of the fun of University life and so I was glad to keep them smiling and progressing during this complex year.” 

What are some of the things you’ve been involved in this academic year with students that led to y
ou being nominated for these awards?

I always try to make the content interesting with real life examples and a wee laugh or two. Expert guest lectures also added value with Patsy Goodwin from BBC Sport discussing Black Lives Matters. Kirsty Burrows from the International Olympic Committee presenting on athlete safeguarding. Hadwah Dildar detailed World Taekwondo’s efforts to improve Gender equity and equality. Finally, BBC Sports Personality of the Year winner Kirsty Ewen detailed the lifesaving value of volunteering in sport. This all served to connect the students to industry experts and create conversations that lead to fresh insights and also gave them a rest from my chat which is a bonus!”   

Is there anyone you would like to thank for this recognition you have received from The Students’ Association? 

“I’d like to thank Gerald Shaw who made the mistake of letting me into GCU through clearing many years ago and Professor John Harris for guiding me through my PhDI’d also like to thank the health and safety team (Collette Hamilton) for giving me a new chair after I hurt my back from too many online meetings, as well as John Lennon and Linda Shearer for the opportunity to work with GSBS. Finallya big thanks to the Principal for her vision and the students for making the job enjoyable.” 

You’ve had a really interesting career as a former Team GB captain in Taekwondo, as well as being a commentator for the Olympics and Wimbledon – what led to you entering the world of lecturing? 

I’ve been very blessed in my career as an athlete and then as a commentator to see the world and experience global sport at the highest level for the last 20 years. This all began at GCU where I took up the sport thanks to John Haggerty at Caledonian Taekwondo. At GCU I also received a placement in the USA for one year and then Tokyo for five months, all of which led to learning Taekwondo in Korea for three years. This all became possible from graduating at GCU. It’s nice to think that 20 years later I’m going back to Tokyo for the Olympics and Paralympics and the lessons from this will be shared with the next generation of GCU students. Plus, commentating and lecturing are not that different…nobody’s really listening haha! 

You started teaching at GCU in 2020, how challenging was taking on this role during a global pandemic? 

It has been a very difficult time for everyone around the world and so I’m very grateful to be in good health and in a country where vaccines have become widely available.  The missing daily interaction has been hard for all of us and teaching online is no substitute. I look forward to being on campus when it is safe to do so… and to being ignored in person rather than on the screen!” 

What’s your plans for the future? Are you hoping to continue teaching at GCU when we return to campus? 

I hope so. I want to specialise in global sport and media with an offering that the students can enjoy and apply in industry. I am organising placements at the Commonwealth Games in 2022 for my students who graduate this year, and similar roles for future students at the Olympic Games in Paris 2024. I want to prepare students for such opportunities by sharing my hard earned experience and connections so that as the world opens up students can begin their own exciting journey. 


The list of Teaching Award winners is available on the Students’ Association website 


By Ross Clark 
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