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

Published On December 5, 2020 | By Alana | General News, Latest News, News, Notes from the VC's Desk
Word the of the week must be optimism! Democracy has been given voice in the US as transition processes start, Virgin are offering cheap flights over Christmas to incentivise the brave, vaccine production is the new daily highlight and with advent in full swing – higher levels of life enhancing chocolate consumption (aka Maltesers) is high!

Given big numbers in relative terms have gone manically global (warmest, wettest, largest, biggest, smallest, deepest, longest, fastest…), I have decided to concentrate on other aspects of the human narrative (which for an official badge-wearing science-driven numbers loving groupie) might signal that even my capacity for absorbing, processing and celebrating data has been stretched to new limits this year.

Meetings as ever keep me busy but the diversity of topics this week has been uplifting and deeply engaging at a number of levels. In no particular order – a great meeting with a small group of very passionate education historians and conservationists from Armidale who want to work with UNE to see the Museum of Education reborn as part of the ‘learning region’ agenda. An equally rich conversation with our Curator and her colleagues as we pondered the best way to build appropriate community voices into our practice as we develop the UNE collection policy. It is now agreed that we will extend the commitment of UNE as a regional university to community through a focused approach to New England Art, Music and Heritage; a very positive step forward and at a time when it is easy to push these matters to the side. I am more than pleased and indeed honoured to be part of this mature, structured and purposeful conversation. We must engage and make decisions. Well done Narelle.

As an extension of this conversation, it is both fascinating and challenging to be part of the process of determining how UNE might bring meaningful local voices into our conversations, and ensure we are part of theirs. I could reflect at some length on how little the ‘ties that (might) bind’ UNE (regulation, assurance standards, protocols and practices) are understood by our community partners when they rightly demand our engagement; the perception that we can be bearocractic, challenging and burdening is valid. Equally, as a ‘learning organisation’ we must explain, engage and educate. I think the time is right to capture an opportunity to create and build something quite special for community, for place and for UNE. The same basic arguments have featured in conversations and discussions stretching from Sydney to Armidale this week, and I will spend time thinking about how to square the circle.

With fewer than 20 working days left in the year, the number of documents requiring my signature is increasing exponentially each day; I am very clear there will be a new delegations process in place by this time next year – key indicators of success, how few documents I need to sign and the higher value of those that I do… watch this space. 

This week saw the last SET Open meeting for the year, we covered a range of topics across the spectrum from culturally appropriate email boilerplates to Future Fit, the new strategic plan, from the purchase and management of software licences to support student learning to the details of the programmes being offered in Tamworth, WHS issues and the start of the consultation process for the future design of our residential colleges and their contribution to UNE’s future plans.

So, whilst busy running to and fro, I gather I missed one of the best events of the year whilst stuck in meetings in Sydney?! Many gathered to celebrate the end of the year and the end of an era for some, with music, stories and cake on the Ingrid Moses courtyard in the sunshine this morning. I was texted repeatedly and photo bombed by those who attended to tell me what a great family event it was at so many levels. I may have been absent but I gained a sense of the joyous comradery and positive energy despite the ongoing layers of anxiety which still pervades the thoughts of us all; it is great to hear that UNE as a community has much to celebrate. As I said, word of the week – optimism!

Sunscreen, electrolytes and wrapping paper are on my to do list for the weekend. I hope you enjoy yours…


Professor Brigid Heywood

Vice-Chancellor & CEO


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