Notes from the VC’s Desk: Direct from the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brigid Heywood this week

Published On February 7, 2020 | By Amy | Latest News, News, Notes from the VC's Desk
Rain, rain and more rain! I have spent the week in Sydney where it has rained kangaroos and wallabies every day.

I visited our Parramatta campus on Monday to meet with staff and discuss how to design our required move to new facilities – the civic development plans for the city will see our building bulldozed to make way for new transport links. I also joined colleagues from across UNE in celebrating our ACIAR funded GEARed programme which provides leadership development for women in agriculture from across the Asia Pacific region. The participant delegates from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, PNG and Fiji formed an inspiring cohort of women who want to make a difference in their communities.

That afternoon I attended a workshop session at TAFE NSW; it was a very rewarding experience which allowed UNE and TAFE NSW to develop ideas for a new partnership framework. I am very excited about this as it will provide an axis for both organisations to blend their unique capabilities and create something special in the education space – for our ‘learning region’ this is important.

My day closed with a very useful session with one of our consultant support teams who are helping us frame the new Tamworth strategy and develop other strategic plans to underpin our own work for UNE 2021+.

I travelled across the city again on Tuesday morning to visit the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship (SSE) at their Ultimo campus. I have joined their Board, so the main purpose was an induction event. The conversation quickly morphed though and I had the pleasure of a very rich conversation about a topic dear to my heart – the dynamics of regional innovation models and student enterprise, and our plans to introduce ‘enterprise hives’ into the colleges over the next year in partnership with the Smart Regional Incubator. The SSE team were very keen to partner with us on this work.

I also managed to grab time with the NSW Chief Scientist and discuss the strengths of UNE and what we can bring to the table in discussions around water futures, health and agribusiness. The engagement and support of his team is a valuable resource for universities, given their capacity for providing landscape views of issues and their capability in bringing key groups together to dissect big issues and focus on informed problem solving.

In the middle of all of these meetings I was part of an intense and ongoing e/conversation about the impact and consequences of the coronavirus from a public health perspective and through the lens of education. Some 90,000 students were intending to study in NSW this semester; the aggregate numbers are much higher. We have created a dedicated advisory page on our website and prepared a campus response for each of our sites with the help of healthcare professionals and public health specialists. UNE staff have also been collating a summary of what support we might offer to assist other providers and stranded students in the online space.

It is reassuring to hear of staff and students with health concerns seeking advice and following the self-quarantine guidelines. The fact that colleagues are stepping up and offering home care support to quarantined individuals is yet another example of the great community spirit that pervades this organisation.

The second half of my week provided a bit of a gear shift; I joined the NSW Governor, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, and other ANSTO Board members for the launch of ANSTO’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) – a truly inspiring event which included a bush walk to visit a number of local sites where Dharawal heritage (stone grinding grooves and figures carved into rocks) share common ground. I learnt a lot from the experience and hope to bring appropriate elements of my learning to UNE when we launch our own RAP. ANSTO also commissioned a mural to acknowledge and bear witness to the intent of the RAP; local school children and Aboriginal artists contributed their energy and effort to create this artefact which reflects both place and culture.

Board meetings of various kinds occupied the rest of my week. I always learn something new at these meetings and find myself tapping ideas into my smart phone so that I can share these experiences and my thoughts when I am back at base. This week I think I may have provoked RSI given the range of things I have been a part of, and from which I gained insights and generated thought bubbles…

My week will close with me still in Sydney (yet more rain!), joining first a group of young students to discuss the wonders of STEM and then some of our alumni for lunch to discuss the glorious thing that is UNE. Before I head for home I will also link up with NRL representatives to discuss collaborative spaces.


Professor Brigid Heywood

Vice-Chancellor & CEO


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