From the VC's Desk

The value of a good introduction

I have to admit to being a Jane Austen fan – there is something about the precision of the writing, the dry wit and the wonderful attention to manners of a different age that simply draws one in. In different leadership roles, it has often struck me that the art of a good introduction into 18th century society, as captured so particularly by Jane Austen, is actually relevant to the development of good relationships in any workplace in any century.

Last year, the point was well made in one of our NeW Directions Planning Fora that we often miss the chance as a University community to be introduced to our new Professors and to hear about their research – and that this resulted in lost opportunities to develop great relationships and collaborations. I remembered this discussion recently as I headed down on a lovely spring evening to the Newcastle Museum to join a great crowd of around 120 University and community members to listen to a new UON Professor, Simon Dennis - who has recently joined us from the US - present an open lecture on his remarkable research as part of our ‘New Professors Talk’ series. Simon delivered a wonderfully pitched lecture on his research that uses smartphone technology and a lot of pretty serious looking maths to understand how to augment human memory when it lets us down. Simon’s was the fourth in the series where each lecture has been stimulating and challenging, and offered a great introduction to the depth of talent and body of work produced by our new members of staff.

Congratulations to the team in External Relations who have worked so hard to develop the NeW Professors Talk series as an initiative in their 2013 NeW Directions Corporate Plan - they have really brought back the ‘art of the introduction’ in the form of this great community event.

Celebrating great work

We have said many times that NeW Directions will not be a plan that lies buried in the bottom drawers of filing cabinets across our campuses, only to be brought out for visitors and High Tea. In the latest edition of In the Loop, Professor Nick Talley brings us up to speed on key developments under the 2013 Research and Innovation Corporate Plan. Thanks to the hard work of our colleagues in the Research Division and in the faculties we are on the cusp of launching three new Research and Innovation Clusters - an initiative that paves the way for the University to increase its research engagement with industry, government and partners in our regions in Australia and overseas. We are also on track for record PhD and Masters completions in 2013 (one of our really important KPIs); and the Office of Graduate Studies has been developing innovative strategies in 2013 to increase our research student numbers – we know that excellent research students are the mark of any research intensive university and this great work in the OGS team is very timely for UON.

I don’t want to steal my colleagues’ thunder, but I will foreshadow that Professor Andrew Parfitt will announce a significant outcome of one of the major strategic initiatives cited in the 2013 Education Corporate Plan, which is a result of excellent teamwork and innovative thinking by faculty colleagues and the Academic Division. Also Professors Parfitt and Burd and good colleagues in CTL are making real progress on UoNline Plus, our strategy to support the expansion and quality of our online and blended learning, which includes developmental work around MOOCs to be delivered through Open Universities Australia.

Over the last few months, the strategies in our 2013 Future Workforce Corporate Plan have really taken shape with a lot of hard work by staff from HR and across the University. In the coming weeks we’ll hear more from the team led by Professor John Germov and Tina Crawford about outcomes from a range of new projects that have formed the focus of the HR Corporate Plan in 2013.

Your views shape our future

The UON community shaped the development of NeW Directions and ongoing input from staff is vital to continue to help prioritise and focus UON’s activities as we develop the 2014 UON Corporate Plan in each of our areas. I regularly hear from staff right across the University. Many email me directly, others email through to newdirections@newcastle.edu.au, and some good conversations have been held in the coffee queue in Mamadukes.

Your input into shaping the 2014 UON Corporate Plan will be important in your Unit or School, and your contributions on matters great and small is always welcome and valued so please do keep those emails coming through to me, the Plan convenors, Pro Vice-Chancellors, Heads of Schools and Directors - send through your ideas, questions and, of course, details of your achievements in the last year. Jane Austen certainly recognised the role that timely and informative communications played in holding communities and storylines together – although I grant it is debatable whether she would have warmed to an email …

Best wishes

Caroline