An exciting year ahead

Image of Belinda Hutchinson

The Chancellor, Belinda Hutchinson AM

As I write, it is almost a year to the day since Senate elected me as the University’s 18th Chancellor. As an alumna returning home, I have relished the opportunity to rediscover our University. As this edition of SAM shows once again, this is a place where big ideas are part of daily life, and lead to extraordinary outcomes.

Our University makes things happen, and, as alumni, we can take great pride in the achievements of our alma mater. As Chancellor, I assure you on behalf of Senate that we can look forward to an exciting future. As we move beyond the midpoint of the University’s 2011–15 Strategic Plan, we will start to see some
of the hard work of recent years have a very visible impact.

At the time of writing, we were making final preparations to open the Charles Perkins Centre building to researchers and students. This is a remarkable facility that will bring some of the University’s finest minds together with star new recruits to deliver innovative solutions to the problems caused by obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It will also offer cross-disciplinary teaching programs.

We are also making great progress on two other transformative projects, the Australian Institute for Nanoscience and the Abercrombie Precinct. The latter will provide a much-needed single location for our Business School, new study facilities and 200 student beds on the Darlington Campus. Our wider student accommodation strategy is really starting to bear fruit following our purchase of the Queen Mary building. We are now converting the former nurses’ residence to deliver 800 beds for domestic and international students – a major breakthrough in addressing the crisis in affordable student accommodation.

The Nanoscience, Abercrombie and Queen Mary developments are due to open for academics and students during 2015, by which stage we hope to be well advanced with our proposed Campus Improvement Program (CIP). This exciting seven-year vision, approved by Senate and recently lodged as a State Significant Development application with the NSW Government, considers how we can continue creating a world-class integrated environment that meets the research, educational, cultural and recreational needs of those who work and study here, and live in the surrounding community.

The opening of the Charles Perkins Centre hub is the first important step in changing how our campus infrastructure supports the University’s staff and students. However, the new building does not simply represent the University’s single largest investment in new infrastructure since the 1850s, it also exemplifies how the University is making it easier for researchers and students to reach across ‘traditional’ disciplinary boundaries to tackle problems facing the modern world.

Image of Fellows of the Senate

Fellows of the Senate

One area of focus for 2014 will be taking forward the recommendations from last year’s final report of the University’s Health and Medical Research Strategic Review. This suggested how we might maximise the impact of our considerable strengths in health and medical research across different faculties so that researchers and students in those disciplines continue to rank among the world’s best, and so that we can increase the impact of their work in the communities we serve.

This is an ambitious agenda, and we are pursuing it in a challenging external environment. The ever-fluctuating global economy, changing technologies and increased competition within Australia and internationally are just some of the key challenges we face.

Image of the Senate during a recent meeting

The Senate during a recent meeting

I look forward to keeping you updated during the year on the work of Senate and our progress. Senate represents all of the University’s communities, and I value the input of the four new alumni Fellows you elected late last year, joining the re-elected Peter FitzSimons:

  • Verity Firth (BA ’97 LLB ’99), CEO of the Public Education Foundation, an advocacy organisation providing scholarships for students in need of financial assistance
  • Dr Catriona Menzies-Pike (BA ’00 PhD ’06), Arts Editor of The Conversation online media site
  • Kate McClymont (BA ’81), a senior investigative journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald
  • Andrew West (BA ’92), presenter of the Religion and Ethics Report on the ABC.

They join many alumni in providing deeply appreciated guidance of our University’s future direction. With the benefit of the experience of my first 12 months as Chancellor, I can say with confidence that there’s never been a better time to get involved.