Professor Kent Anderson
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Global
Office of the DVC Global Engagement & Partnerships
- Phone:(02) 4921 6100
Community engagement is a core element of the modern university
The triple helix model of the modern university, where universities have three equal pillars of education, research and engagement, guides Professor Kent Anderson’s approach to his new position as the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Global, a role in which engagement – local, national and global – is front and centre of his remit.
He firmly believes that the University’s obligation to the broader community goes beyond educating just those who formally study with us, to engaging community in a multitude of activities including broadcasting through 2NURFM, running swimming classes for all ages through NUSport and offering a co-working space for local entrepreneurs through the Integrated Innovation Network (I2N).
Kent’s community engagement philosophy has been at the heart of his aspirations for many years. When he was a relatively junior academic and a newly naturalised Australian, he was invited to be a delegate at the Australian 2020 Summit held in 2008, the aim of which was to help shape a long-term strategy for the nation’s future.
“That invitation was huge for me,” explains Kent.
“I felt welcomed and accepted into Australia, and it made me realise that I had something to say about how our community might live together and someone was willing to listen to my rationale.”
Knowing that engagement with our institution goes beyond local borders, Kent is keen to further expand the University’s reach and ambition globally, particularly in the Asia Pacific region. He has some ideas on how to achieve this.
“First, we ground ourselves and our knowledge in the Indigenous communities where we are located,” says Kent.
“With that confidence and ballast, we reach across to those open to learning with us and searching for new knowledges. That takes us to Singapore where we have a hub, as well as throughout Asia and increasingly into the Pacific.
“The wider world is here at home in Newy too: Our staff and students come to Newcastle from across the globe, and this diaspora brings its insight and experience to enrich and add to ours.”
Community engagement drivers
This global education passion and driver may have much to do with Kent’s own educational and career journey which has taken him from the US to Japan to the UK and finally to Australia. His 20+ years in Australia have entailed a mix of university and government appointments.
“While my career may sound peripatetic, internally it feels cohesive in that I’ve always followed my passion for having an impact on communities I care deeply about,” Kent explains.
Kent has taken part in a number of government committees and initiatives including as an advisory board member for the New Colombo Plan project, chaired by then Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop. The University adopted the New Colombo Plan when it launched in 2014.
“I am particularly proud of my work on the New Colombo Plan which has enabled tens of thousands of young Australians to experience Asia and the Pacific”, says Kent.
Strategic goals: education, research and community engagement
Kent comes from a family of educators. Intellectual curiosity is in his blood.
“You can study from crib to coffin with an Anderson,” quips Kent.
But while he loves supervising research students and teaching – he still teaches a course and guest lectures in others – moving into university administration was natural because, as he describes it, rather than whingeing about something, he’d rather get into trying to fix it, a trait he attributes to his grandfather, a curmudgeonly farmer.
To that end, Kent has set himself some idealistic goals founded on achieving excellence to keep him busy in his new position. He wants to provide a platform for staff and students to achieve more. He wants to improve the way we provide educational opportunities to communities that might not traditionally have been given them. He wants to keep the myriad bureaucratic distractions away from researchers so they can achieve more for the benefit of us all. And he wants to ensure fiscal responsibility so that the institution can thrive sustainably and fairly for the whole community.
Kent’s more pragmatic goals draw directly from the pillars of the triple helix model of the modern university. He is intent on delivering on his great passion of enabling our students to undertake an international experience during their study. In fact, he wants to double the number of students currently in that fortunate position, which, in the era of COVID-19, might seem daunting but Kent has that goal well in his sights.
Additionally, he wants to establish a platform for more early career researchers to connect with interesting projects and collaborators from beyond our University.
And finally, he would really love our alumni to feel even more pride in their University and want to show that pride in concrete ways.
“I’m motivated by higher levels of excellence and for the University of Newcastle, that means where we are the best in the country at what we do,” Kent says.
The triple helix model is premised on three equal pillars of education, research and community engagement. Clearly, Kent’s vision is to intertwine those pillars to create an engagement strategy that strongly supports and delivers the University’s strategic engagement priorities. It’s hard not to be caught up and carried along in Kent’s enthusiasm for what promises to be an exciting journey towards achieving that vision, particularly when the journey which has, at its heart, the very best intentions for staff, students, the institution and the community.
Oh, and he loves a chat. You might want to ask him what he’s reading right now. At the moment it is University of Pennsylvania psychologist Adam Grant’s Think Again, which argues for using cognitive flexibility, humility and curiosity to push yourself to consider changing your mind.
“We make better decisions when we listen more and constantly pressure test our own shibboleths,” explains Kent.
Finally, when asked what excites him, Kent’s immediate response was, “Talking to my colleagues who are passionate and crazy smart”. He’s in the right place.
The triple helix model of the modern university, guides Professor Kent Anderson’s approach to his new position as the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Global, a role in which engagement – local, national and global – is front and centre of his remit.
May 11, 2021