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Odd week. 

I have been at UNE for a year!  One the one hand it feels like I arrived only yesterday – there is still so much to discover, explore and learn about this amazing institution. One the other hand, I feel like I have been here for so much longer – I feel embedded, connected and engaged.

Sadly, the pandemic still persists with now monumental numbers being exposed, as testing procedures ramp up globally. Locally, we had a bit of a scare which stress-tested our planning but delivered a good outcome. Nationally, we all know the concept of ‘waves’ and their burden is now upon us. The debate about the wearing of face masks (beyond decisions about colour, fabric choice, PPE origins or homemade etc.) and the correct spacing measuring 1.5m is ongoing. Whatever the views, the question of individual responsibility to maintain COVID Safe practices is clear and unambiguous.

Here at Armidale, students are using the library and related facilities to get on with their studies; they are very focused and working their way through the safety control points each day with good humour. The number returning to the Colleges is lower than predicted but still the surge of numbers on campus is clear and the wildlife are conscious that they are no longer the only residents enjoying our spaces. Staff have progressed with the return to campus process and our study centres are opening, as a growing number of students seek support onsite. 

The UNE21+ conversations are running with solid numbers of staff and students participating and joining the webinars and Zoom fest. In reality, there can be no excuse for not engaging in this process at some level and the UNE community is embracing the various options. Feedback from outside of our immediate community is also very positive. This week I joined the students as they explored the possible framing of a distinctive UNE 21+ student experience. I also joined senior colleagues across Learning and Teaching portfolios in a discussion of the principles which might guide our next learning and teaching strategy. Again, the need to explore any draft framework with our student community was a key outcome from this week’s meeting. The development of the academic workload framework which will underpin the implementation of the new Enterprise Agreement with Academic Staff and English Language Teachers was another point of focus. Progress with the development of suitable modelling tools to inform the management of an hours-based workload allocation model, as well as the process of calling for nominations to serve on the working group, featured on the list of tasks this week. The mid-year budget forecasts also required no small sum of attention this week given the areas of concern created by a complex range of environmental factors. 
UNE in Conversation 11:30am next Wednesday 22 July
Join the webinar via Zoom (password 406145)
Whilst much of the week was inwardly focused (and quite rightly so) there are always exciting little nuggets from the ‘outside’ world too. UNE’s Smart Regions Incubator is the new poster child for successful regional innovation and UNE staff contributed to a global webinar on enterprise in times of challenge. University colleagues from Scotland, Brazil and Germany have made contact seeking opportunities for alliances with our agri-sciences and creative arts experts. I am uplifted to hear external voices celebrating the signature contributions of UNE staff to community well-being at a time of great challenge and by news that an ex-UNE student, an alumnus of many years, kindly remembered us in their Will and left funds for a scholarship. 
We have passed the half way mark in the 2020 calendar and much has been achieved. The second half of the year brings with it new challenges and more issues. A few short minutes reading letters from our alumni, our staff, our students and our partners reminds me why what we do is so important and why we must rise to those challenges and be solutions focused. These are the beacons I rely on to help me hold steady to the cause when buffeted by the tides; along with the emergency packet of Maltesers, my lovely Domino and a walk across the beautiful UNE Armidale campus on a frosty morning as the sun rises.

Professor Brigid Heywood

Vice-Chancellor & CEO