Period of vibrant progress

By Belinda Hutchinson AM, Chancellor
Image of Belinda Hutchinson

Belinda Hutchinson AM

What a vibrant and inventive institution is the University of Sydney. Even a passing glance at our year thus far shows a sweep of research, teaching and activity that is unrivalled in Australia. Dig deeper and you will find such enterprise reveals the true extent of our dynamism, patronage of the arts, connections to business, financial strength and our recognition by others as a place of ideas.

Consider first the University’s role as a founding partner for the $100 million Westpac Bicentennial Foundation, the single largest private education scholarship program in Australia’s history – 100 scholarships each year, every year, forever.

By helping universities pursue ideas that shape our world, Westpac will assist our University to remain at the forefront of teaching and research worldwide, and seek discoveries that will benefit all Australians. With Westpac’s support we will continue to be a place of exceptional scholarship, world-class facilities and brilliant students.

In February, International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Christine Lagarde visited the University to film a special edition of ABC Television’s Q&A program at the Seymour Centre. Madame Lagarde is a pioneer; the first woman to lead an international law firm, the first female trade minister of France, and the first woman to be a finance minister of a G8 economy.

Now, as head of the IMF, she is challenging fellow global leaders with her emphasis on environmental issues, economic equality and gender inclusion. At the University, Madame Lagarde urged governments to invest in education and health. We can only agree.

In March, the inaugural Chancellor’s Concert at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music was spectacular. The students in the Con’s Symphony Orchestra demonstrated their passion and talent as they played Sibelius, Mozart and Brahms. They were joined on stage by world-renowned American forte pianist, Steve Lubin, who has appeared as a concerto soloist and recitalist in the great halls of the world across a dazzling 30-year career. We were honoured to have Steve at the Con. Its amalgamation with the University of Sydney has allowed both institutions to generate broader support for the study of the arts and culture in Sydney.

Also in March, the University for the first time received an Aa1 rating from leading global credit rating agency Moody’s, reflecting our sound financial performance and prominent market position in Australia.

The Aa1 rating will support the University’s borrowing agenda and enable our $2.5 billion campus improvement program to create a world-class environment that meets all the needs of our University community. This investment in infrastructure will further boost the University’s ability to attract and retain top academics, researchers and students, and deliver on our academic strategy.

To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, the University of Sydney Business School joined forces with the UN Women National Committee Australia to promote gender equality at senior levels of Australia’s public, corporate and not-for-profit sectors.

Our partnership includes funding an MBA scholarship and industry placements for two Business School undergraduate students. The scholarship is a tangible way to empower women by developing their leadership skills, and the placements will allow two students to promote women’s interests. Managing diversity, promoting gender equality at work, and advancing more women into leadership roles are critical issues for Australian business.

More recently, I had the pleasure of celebrating the official launch of Sancta Sophia Graduate House. This new building is the first purpose-built accommodation for postgraduates to open on the University campus. Delivered on time and on budget, Graduate House will add much to the fabric of what Sancta Sophia College has been to generations of young women since 1926.

Finally, many of you would have heard of Advance, the largest network for Australians living abroad. In this year’s Advance Global Awards, University alumni won three of the eight awards, including the Advance Global Australian of the Year Award 2014, which went to Chris Boshuizen. Chris is a physics graduate who became Innovator in Residence at NASA’s Ames Research Centre before co-founding Planet Labs, a company that manufactures shoebox-sized satellites equipped with Earth-watching cameras to create a constant photographic map of the Earth.

There is also the University study which discovered links between high birth weight and heart disease; the University hosting a major forum on food security in the 21st century; and the University researchers who examined a unique way to identify people at risk of stroke, using an ECG test delivered by pharmacists via a smartphone.

As we enter one of the most exciting phases in our 150-year history, it is important that we acknowledge just how much happens at our alma mater every month, and how it is made possible by our talented staff and the support of our alumni.