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Institute of Education

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Q&A with Zachary Walker

Dr Zachary Walker is Head of the IOE's Department of Psychology and Human Development.

What attracted you to take up your position at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE)? 
The chance to work with some of the best students and colleagues in the world while living in a diverse city rich in history and intellectual freedom was too good to pass up. Learning is around every corner at UCL and the IOE – and that is tremendously exciting.

What were you doing before this?
I previously spent five years in Singapore at the National Institute of Education but England is my fifth country to live and work in as an educator.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I really enjoy working with the students and my colleagues. We are lucky to have a tremendous department of Psychology and Human Development full of world leaders in research and students who bring a variety of personal and professional experiences. We often have students from 10-15 different countries represented in some of our modules. This combination of international and local students encourages complex discussions and learning – all underpinned by world-class research.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?  
I am most proud of former students who have gone back to improve the lives of those marginalised by educational systems in their own countries. Seeing students serve in their local communities - whether here in the UK or abroad - is very fulfilling. 

They are doing work that really matters and seeing them improve the lives of others is incredibly fulfilling."

What is the focus of your research and what benefits do you hope your discoveries and/or insights will bring?
I am interested in leadership in the areas of diversity and inclusion around the world. Personal and organisational performance is improved when everyone is included.

How do you think being in London benefits your work? 
London is a little globe in its own right and we are able to cross-diversify. For example, we are able to work with students who have dyslexia and speak multiple languages. We are able to understand the differences in policy and practice that take place in homogenous areas vs. diverse areas. This type of work across settings and populations allows for both a macro and a micro understanding of diversity and inclusion. 

UCL is one of the more dynamic places I have worked – people really care about their fields of research and, as importantly, about the students we serve. It is an exceptional place to learn.

What's the most important thing you've learned from your students?
Every year I learn something different – and understanding just how vast the field of diversity and inclusion can be. Our needs are on a wide spectrum and the key to being a really great educator is seeing an individual for who they are and for how you can best support them. We are lucky to have passionate, eager students each year who both learn from and teach us. We are lucky to have them and better researchers and teachers because of them.

What other subjects outside of your area of specialism interest you?
I am lucky to do quite a bit of work with the corporate sector on personal and organisational performance. This keeps me informed of what happens outside of academia and helps shape what I bring into the classroom so it is incredibly valuable work.

What might it surprise people to know about you?
Tackle chess, ice-cold yoga, and wrestling with elephants are all interests outside of academia. Is that surprising?