This is the first blog post for 2015 and a very warm welcome back to the New Year. Of course, the first month of 2015 is nearly over and it already feels like a lot has happened. With graduation week, the end of 2014 got very busy and I didn’t manage to get a blog post up so I wanted to begin by closing off a few 2014 issues and celebrating some aspects of that.
First, in December we appointed our new Chancellor Dr Michele Allan. Michele has a significant background in agribusiness, rural and regional industry and engagement with Indigenous issues all of which are an excellent fit for the interests of Charles Sturt University. She also has extensive board and governance experience which will be of enormous benefit to the University given the changeable external environment, on which more later. We also farewelled the outgoing Chancellor Dr Lawrie Willett, AO in December after 12 years service. During Lawrie’s tenure the university grew substantially and he was a tireless advocate for CSU’s interests. I owe a particular debt to Lawrie, first for chairing the selection panel that appointed me but also for mentoring me through my first three years as Vice-Chancellor. I will really miss Lawrie, but equally am very much looking forward to working with Michele. Michele chaired her first University Council meeting in December at which we reviewed performance for the year. We have achieved a lot. Particular highlights that I raised were:
- We turned 25 years old as a university.
- Figures released in 2014 showed that in 2013 CSU had the largest number of Indigenous higher education enrolments in Australia and also the largest number of completions, overtaking the University of Newcastle which has traditionally held this spot.
- The Kajulu advertising students team won the national competition for the sixth straight year.
- The Centre for Customs and Excise Studies came on board which means that CSU is apparently now the largest provider of policing and security higher education in the world.
- Chris Blanchard gained $2.15M in funding for the Industrial Transformation Training Centre on Functional Grains.
- The Institute for Land, Water and Society was successful in winning $6.9M of funding over five years to monitor water flows in the Murray-Darling.
- We won four Office of Learning and Teaching Citations and an OLT Program award for the School of Community Health Overseas Workplace Learning Program.
- Thanks to the success of the NSW Country Eagles Rugby team which we sponsored, and the sporting nature of my fellow Vice-Chancellors, the CSU flag flew over the University of Sydney, Bond University, Southern Cross and Macquarie. We were lucky only to be beaten by Melbourne’s team and (oddly) Melbourne doesn’t have a university flag.
A very significant achievement is that we controlled costs really well in 2014 – not without pain – and actually underspent the budget slightly for the year. This is a terrific result and the University Council specifically asked me to thank everyone for the effort that went into this.
Graduation week was very enjoyable – when I officiate I really enjoy meeting the students as they cross the stage and the families afterwards. Someone floated the idea of ‘Gumption Awards’ for students and alumni who have created significant change and I wanted to give a couple of special mentions on this from last year. The first was to Daniella Greenwood who spoke at our Bathurst Arts graduation. She has made some real innovations in Aged Care and my favourite quote from Daniella “I’m still waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and say ‘what the hell do you think you’re doing?’” The second was to our Veterinary Science student Cassandra MacDonald who helped to bring Coles to account on milk pricing.