As I’ve quickly learned, there’s little doubt that March is the time of year when local activity is frenetic and Adelaide is abuzz.
But it’s not only the dynamism and diversity of the Festival, the Fringe, the V8 Supercars, WOMADelaide and myriad other music festivals that engenders a palpable sense of excitement.
In terms of the University of South Australia calendar, March has once more been a month that has delivered great anticipation, poignant acknowledgement and the celebration of outstanding achievement.
While some of that expectation can be attributed to my ongoing induction into the life of the University and the broader South Australian community, of greater moment has been the arrival across our campuses of some 9,000 new and continuing students.
As most of us doubtless recall, the first days of tertiary study can pass quickly in a blur of new acquaintances, timetable permutations and course outlines.
However, for those of us who are immediately familiar with the higher education landscape it’s perhaps too easy to embrace the comfortable routine of each new year and forget how the world looks from the perspective of someone entering our environment for the first time.
That’s why, in order to see from a different perspective, I managed to attend and talk to students at a number of lectures over the past couple of weeks. To gain an idea of the quality of UniSA’s student learning experience, and get a feel for what they are discussing and thinking.
At the other end of the student continuum, I was honoured and delighted to take part in perhaps the most significant public event that our University stages in the course of any year – the March graduation ceremonies that saw around 3,500 students receive their parchments during the course of a week.
To be a part of the official academic party and look out upon an auditorium of proud faces – students, their families and their friends – was both uplifting for the endless possibilities that await and reaffirming for the vital threads that universities contribute to society’s fabric.
As I noted during that week, people often use the ‘number of cranes on the skyline’ analogy as a measure of economic buoyancy. But to me, the graduation of so many job-ready additions to the skilled workforce is an equally tangible measure of our future development and prosperity.
On a personal note, I was also deeply humbled to become the first South Australian Vice Chancellor to be welcomed to this land by its traditional owners - senior representatives of the Kaurna community.
As someone who has recently left my own homeland to relocate half a world away, I felt a great sense of privilege and inclusiveness to be part of such a powerful and timeless ceremony.
It was an occasion that will live with me and members of my family for the rest of our lives, and further reinforced to me the importance of embracing the new by acknowledging that which has past.
And before I forget, circle Tuesday, May 28 in your diaries. It will mark an exciting world first for our University. More details to follow.