Celebrating our successes
During our recent graduations at UON Singapore I had the pleasure of hosting our new graduates, staff, alumni and friends of UON at a wonderful graduation dinner. There was a great buzz in the room as our graduates celebrated an important milestone with their families.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see a presentation rolling on screens around the room summarising the achievements of UON professional and academic staff, and of our Australian and international students, throughout 2014.
These achievements represented international and national awards for education and research, successful partnerships with industry and business, success in all manner of sports, and remarkable contributions to community engagement across all of our campuses. As one of our Pro Vice-Chancellors reflected, it was extraordinary that the presentation of UON achievements had been rolling for around 40 minutes without yet getting back to the starting slide. This gave me pause, because we often don't have the chance in our busy lives in our different roles across the University to lift our heads up to see the impressive 'sum of the parts' that is the University of Newcastle. One of the real joys and privileges of my role is to hear first-hand of the achievements, contributions and commitment of our staff, our students and our alumni.
Many emails ping in to my inbox with simple statements of heartfelt thanks from students who want to recognise the commitment of a professional or academic staff member who 'made a difference' to them. Often that difference was made in a time of great need, but sometimes the thanks go to those staff members who took the time to translate a really wicked topic into something the student could understand for the 'first time ever'. Students also write to say that it was one encouraging conversation with an inspirational staff member that gave them the confidence to put in applications that have given them the opportunity to visit Asia, Europe, the US or to study at Oxford, Cambridge and other great universities.
At alumni high teas, cocktail functions or breakfasts from Shanghai to Seoul to Sydney or from Ourimbah to Newcastle to Port Macquarie, I have the privilege of hearing stories of time spent at UON that has transformed a life and made a difference to the families of graduates and their communities. In stories told over a cup of tea or something chilled, there is often a shy question asked about an academic who is still held in enormous regard – sometimes 10, 20 or even 40 years after the last assignment was handed in and the degree awarded.
In the echoing corridors of Parliament House or in the boardrooms overlooking cityscapes I watch as our industry, business and government partners listen intently to UON researchers – who are global leaders in their fields – describing solutions for major problems and delivering world-class social, creative or technological innovations which will impact in our region and beyond.
And it is always rewarding when visitors to UON from all parts of the world write to say what a difference it made to their long-haul visits to have interactions with 'stellar' professional staff who ensured that their time spent with us was productive, engaging and very memorable.
Finally only two weeks ago at the Vice-Chancellor's Awards for Excellence we had an evening of great warmth and pride as we recognised the outstanding efforts of a diverse and talented group of staff in front of their colleagues, friends and family.
So at this time of the year, when a tiredness seeps through our corridors as staff begin to pack up the desk at the end of another busy year, I would like to say thank you. Thank you for making that difference every day and for quietly, effectively and impressively delivering on our shared commitment to equity, excellence and engagement. Thank you for working so hard to build the reputation of the University as a world-class institution – a place of first rate education and research.
Next year we will come together as a University with our communities here in Australia and beyond to celebrate 50 years of UON achievements. During the year we will transition from our NeW Directions to our NeW Futures Plan that will differentiate our university in this next – possibly turbulent – decade. But first beaches, books, box-sets and the holiday break beckon!
My sincere thanks and best wishes to all, I wish you a very happy and safe break over Christmas and New Year.