Dr Simon Rushton is the SIID theme leader for Health, recently given a TESS award recognising his outstanding practice in supporting the learning of our students. Read his interview below.

Simon, congratulations for being one of 7 TESS Award winners. What are the TESS Awards about?

The Teaching Excellence in Social Sciences awards are given by the Faculty of Social Sciences (which includes fourteen different departments at the University of Sheffield) to staff members who, in one way or another, have shown outstanding practice in supporting the learning of our students. In summer 2017, seven awards were given across the Faculty – four to individual members of staff and three to teams.

Tell us about your contribution and the reason you received this Award.

I was lucky enough to receive an award this year to recognise (in the words of the panel) “achievements as an inspirational teacher who has demonstrated excellence in learning and teaching through your commitment to your discipline, and the academic and professional development of students”.

I think the reason I was given the award was because I’ve introduced the teaching of global health politics in the Department of Politics, and my students have both enjoyed and got a lot, intellectually and professionally, from the courses I offer in that area. For the vast majority of my students this is a completely new area that they haven’t studied before, and they really enjoy exploring some of the big issues – and thinking about politics and health in new ways. We do lots of things in my modules that students seem to really engage with – not just learning by reading great books and articles (although that’s important too, of course!), but also trying to put ourselves in the position of policymakers facing difficult decisions. That’s often when the politics gets really interesting.

What is especially nice is that many of my students have taken their interest in this area further once they’ve graduated from their degrees – either through further study at Masters level and beyond, or by following careers that are directly related to global health.

What does it mean to you having received an Award?

It is obviously nice to know that students enjoy the courses I teach and get a lot from them. It is especially nice when students go on to take their interest in these issues further after they leave us.

We’re very fortunate in the Department of Politics in that we’re really encouraged to offer modules directly related to our own research interests – so that means that I’m able to teach on the things that I’m researching and thinking hard about right now. I think that’s part of what makes it fun and engaging for students. But it also makes it a real pleasure for me.

I really enjoy working with my students to explore the issues we cover in my modules – and they always teach me a lot and challenge my own thinking. So while the award is a lovely recognition, having the chance to work with such smart and committed students every year is the really important thing.

About Simon’s courses

Simon currently offers the Third Year undergraduate module POL3139 Pandemics and Panics: Health, Security and Global Politics and the MA Module POL6604 Global Health and Global Politics. Simon also contributes to teaching on the Second Year module POL230 Contemporary Security Challenges.

About the Faculty Awards Scheme

The Faculty of Social Sciences aims to identify and promote outstanding practice in learning and teaching and celebrate Faculty staff members’ achievements in this area.

The Scheme rewards those who are inspirational or who demonstrate an exceptional contribution in the area of learning and teaching and/or supporting and enhancing the student learning experience.

As well as those who work directly with students, the Scheme welcomes nominations for colleagues who indirectly support students, for example, by designing and planning learning activities, creating learning materials, or through the strategic development of learning and teaching.