One of my stated aims since moving into the Vice Chancellor’s office here at UniSA has been to grasp every available opportunity to get out of it.
I believe the best way to learn more about the diversity and depth of work taking place across our institution, throughout the State and Australia-wide is to meet as many people as possible and to learn first-hand about their relationship with, as well as their perceptions of, our University.
I have also been fortunate to experience public events such as the Santos Tour Down Under, which – through UniSA’s ongoing support – exemplifies the University’s close and responsive engagement with the wider community.
What I have gleaned from this extensive round of introductory meetings and fact finding appointments – and what further informs the knowledge I’ve developed since my appointment last year – is that UniSA maintains its vital role as a producer of highly skilled, work-ready graduates and the driver of innovative, globally relevant research.
The people I’ve met with during recent weeks span the gamut of our organisational and external operations. From many academic and professional staff, aspiring and existing students as well as alumni, leaders from other Australian Technology Network and local universities, heads of industry, government and community organisations, and elected representatives across the political spectrum.
The common theme running through these meetings has been the crucial nexus between the work that universities undertake and the increasingly complex challenges that societies face. As such, it is both reassuring and inspiring to see the direct and practical impacts that the University of South Australia can have at local, national and even global levels.
For example, when I spoke with Premier Jay Weatherill and several of his senior Ministers, we focused on ways that UniSA can continue to work with South Australians to ensure our graduates have the most up-to-date, flexible skills to help maximise the economic and social opportunities that exist, now and in the future.
When I’ve met with industry leaders such as David Knox (Santos) and Professor Göran Roos (Economic Development Board), I’ve been proud to highlight UniSA’s preparedness and capacity to build external relationships. That can be seen in the highly competitive Cooperative Research Centre scheme – built upon collaborative and solutions-focused research – in which UniSA is ranked number one in Australia for funding received from Commonwealth grants.
And when talking with parents of aspiring students and key education figures in Adelaide and beyond, I am delighted to be able to point to endorsements such as The Australian Financial Review’s ‘Boss’ magazine which last year reported that our Masters of Business Administration program scored the highest satisfaction rating of all MBAs in the nation.
But perhaps the most uplifting event I’ve been involved in thus far was the recent completion ceremony for students who finished their Foundation Studies through UniSA College. To witness the sense of achievement among that cohort – many of whom could scarcely have imagined the chance to study at tertiary level given the challenges they faced at school – as well as their friends and families brought home the importance of providing equitable access to education in addition to delivering excellence. To know that 85 per cent of those who undertook the College’s Foundation Studies program last year did so as the first step towards university study is both gratifying and illustrative.
It is the need to remain abreast of the rapidly evolving demands facing education providers, as well as the necessity created by recent personnel changes among our senior management, that led to the revamped organisational structure I announced earlier this month. As I mentioned at the time, the changes will help ensure that UniSA continues to position itself to not only achieve its ambitions, but also to adapt and respond to the changing external environment.
During my initial weeks in the job, I’ve enjoyed the chance to visit and meet numerous people at our City East, Magill and Mawson Lakes campuses, as well as better familiarise myself with ‘home base’ at City West. I’ll also be heading to Whyalla for the upcoming Centre for Regional Engagement graduation ceremony, and am planning to visit Mount Gambier soon after.
Of all the meetings I’ve attended thus far, it’s meeting with our staff and students that resonates most strongly.
So if our paths have not yet crossed, I hope that opportunity arises when I’m out and about in the near future.