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Celebrating the women driving change at BGS: Part One
  • Staff

Ms Alexis Hill: Cracking the Code

The United Nations’ theme for International Women’s Day 2023, Cracking the Code, highlights the importance of embracing innovative and inclusive technologies.

At BGS, Ms Alexis Hill is driving the School’s Digital Transformation Program (DTP), which will overhaul how staff, students and parents engage, interact, organise, teach and learn.

Ms Hill acknowledged that a female Chief Information Officer at a boys’ school is a major step forward in gender equality.

“Brisbane Grammar School encourages diversity, gender equality and leadership opportunities.” 

Since joining BGS as the Chief Information Officer, in April 2022, Ms Hill has been busy digging into important data to help connect the education, IT and business sides of the School.

Understanding the intricate ecosystems of cybersecurity and emerging software systems can be overwhelming for those with limited digital expertise.

For Ms Hill, however, this is her passion. For more than a decade before joining BGS, she restructured corporate organisations, including amalgamating a number of councils in New South Wales.

“Digital transformation is really about how we simplify business processes, whether that be people, whether that be systems, whether that be processes to be more efficient and effective,” she said.

Plans to move the School's entire student information system, known as Synergetic, across to Microsoft Dynamics 365 are well underway.

“We are leading this space. There is no other school in Queensland, that I know of, replacing its entire student information system with Dynamics.”

The revamp is a two-pronged strategy. Doing business will be simpler at the School and students will learn real-world skills.

She pointed out the major workforce shortage in IT-related professions, which is predicted to reach a critical level by 2032. Last year, about 10 per cent of BGS graduates went into IT jobs, she said.

“When the STEAM Precinct is operational, there is also the ability for our students to be able to use leading digital technology such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and holographics.

“When all this extra work comes in and businesses want more in this space, we want to give our students every opportunity possible.”

Ms Tanya Neilsen: Building a 21st century school

Brisbane Grammar School’s head of STEAM, Ms Tanya Neilsen, is no stranger to working in the unknown.

A successful audition on VHS tape saw Ms Neilsen leave her hometown of Brisbane to study acting for three years in New York, aged just 19.

She then ran her own production company, directing and producing theatre, short films and documentaries for more than a decade.

After returning to Brisbane, Ms Neilsen gained 25 years of experience in education, including lecturing at Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

Since joining BGS, in 2007, Ms Neilsen has taught in the Middle School and overseen the rapid growth of the Drama program.

Now, she is spearheading the School’s most ambitious project to date: STEAM.

The $70 million precinct will usher in a new era of education, combining the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.

The Precinct is currently taking shape at the western end of the School, but as Headmaster Anthony Micallef says, “there is more to STEAM than just the remodelling of the campus.”

Ms Neilsen’s new role is to develop the School’s STEAM curriculum.

Given the rapid emergence of digital technologies, artificial intelligence and DNA mapping, students will discover new ways of working to combine scientific and technological skills with the problem solving of engineering, the creativity of art and mathematical thinking.

Collaborating, communicating and thinking critically and creatively is the expectation in the real world, she said.

“The onus is not only on having technical and problem-solving skills, but also having conceptual and creative thinking skills, so you can be comfortable working in areas of the unknown.”

Ms Neilsen’s leadership, experience and persistent advocacy for the Arts made her the ideal person for the Principal Project Officer of STEAM and Related Learning, a role designed to ensure that a coherent STEAM experience is available to all students at BGS.

“I realised the transferrable skills from running a production company, to working on range of projects across different professions helped me to lead strategy, work with complex operational management and build a culture of high student participation in shows that are next level,” she said.

As the mother of a BGS Old Boy, Ms Neilsen said she is proud to work at a school that advocates for gender equality. 

“Women’s voices are valued here even though it is a boys’ school. We have a balance of females staff in teaching, and middle and senior leadership roles at the School.

“This School values experience, innovative thinking, expertise, culture building and professional energy/agility over gender. 

“It is incredibly important to educate young men, so they recognise their role in empowering women. They will ultimately contribute to shifting the dominant norms about gender that drive inequality.”

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