Graduation address given by David Turner

David Turner gave the following occasional address at the Faculty of Science graduation ceremony held at 9.30am on 12 June 2009. Mr Turner is President of the University of Sydney Alumni Council.

The photo of Mr Turner is copyright, Memento Photography.

David Turner

Graduation address

(Deputy) Chancellor, Dean, learned academics, graduates, families and friends.

It is indeed an honour to be invited to speak today, to congratulate each and every one of you for the immense amount of work you have put in to make this ceremony such a success. To you graduates: today you have reached a huge milestone in your lives, and one you will remember forever. Through your intellect, commitment and vision you have won a degree from one of the leading Universities in the world and proved yourselves worthy members of our great band of scholars, the alumni of Sydney University.

To you families and friends: congratulations for the support, guidance, and encouragement you have given the graduates over their long journey. To the academics who, by the way, never get the recognition they deserve at graduations: congratulations for producing such a fine bunch of graduates through all the knowledge, wisdom and the joy of learning you have imparted, and may your good work live on forever through them.

Well done, very well done, each and every one of you.

This University has high standards, but I didn’t realise how high they were until I started teaching at UNSW. My Head of School told me that if students queried their marks at the end of term their exam scripts were sent to Sydney Uni for re-marking, and they always came back with much lower grades...

I’d like to now tell you about the alumni family of which you graduates are now very welcome members, and how you can add your energy and enthusiasm to what we do, and reap some very substantial rewards.

First some history.

4 years ago alumni flame here was barely flickering, kept alive by some dedicated people on the old Standing Committee of Convocation with no funding or administrative support. Thanks to the vision of the then VC, Gavin Brown, the flame was re-lit: a new, reinvigorated Alumni Council emerged, representing some 36 faculty alumni chapters, supported by a n energetic Alumni Relations Office that also now manages the University’s events program. The result, in a few short years is that Sydney is now setting the standard for alumni engagement in Universities across this country.

Over the past three years we have achieved a lot:

- We have a higher proportion of alumni on our electronic contact data base than most other Universities.
- Our quarterly magazine SAM has had a total makeover and now enjoys a wide readership, and we have launched a very successful e-newsletter, SydneyOnline.
- We have a commitment from the University to build a new Alumni Centre on campus.
- We have expanded our annual Alumni Awards from 2 to 5 categories, to recognise the major contributions our alumni are making to society, their professions and the University.
- We have staged a variety of very successful reunions and alumni events in Sydney, rural NSW and overseas.
- We have contributed to university governance through our 4 elected representatives on Senate.
- In a few weeks we will launch a new electronic portal for alumni, called Alumni OnLine, which will be a special networking package, like Facebook.
- Finally, a member of the Alumni Council is now attending every graduation, to personally welcome new graduates into our family.

Who are we?

- There are 165,000 of us worldwide with growing chapters in USA, UK and China.
- Through surveys we know we are united by a set of core beliefs about the University: the challenge of intellectual engagement, being part of a community of scholars, our traditions and reputation, and of course gothic sandstone. These beliefs are shared across all academic disciplines, by alumni young and old, male and female, local and international. I’m proud to say we are many, but we are one.
- We also know that underpinning the strong sense of affiliation we have for the University is a desire to give something back to the place that has given us all such a great start in life.

For you new graduates there are many opportunities for you to add your energy, vision and commitment to the vibrant alumni culture we are building here:

1. Come back for further study

Now that you can learn and apply high level knowledge, you will be forever learning new skills and having new insights. Knowledge, though has a short half-life in this busy world so you should plan to come back here for further study at some stage. Better still, get your employer to pay for it, then demand a higher salary.

2. Take advantage of your new electronic network

Through our new AlumniOnline web portal, stay in touch with your classmates and teachers. It’s the best professional network you could ever have and one that graduates from other Unis can only dream about. It will be going live in a few weeks.

3. Revisit your classroom

In my experience there is nothing like having alumni in the classroom to pass on the very latest happenings at the professional coal face and challenge students to analyse real world situations as they are unfolding.

Alumni also great role models for students who are about to graduate and are worried about not finding jobs. I used to invite my alumni back to my classroom: there’s nothing more inspiring than a graduate of 3 years experience, when she’s earning $100K and managing one of Macquarie Bank’s investment portfolios, or one who’s setting off for an MBA in the USA having just sold his first startup business for $3M.

So stay in touch with your lecturers and accept every invitation to attend seminars or be a tutor: the students will love you for it.

4. Become a mentor

Our new online portal will enable you to become a mentor for a young student and pass on your invaluable knowledge, experience and ‘street smarts’. As psychologists, you are very well suited for this role, and I seriously ask that you consider taking up this challenge when the new portal goes live.

5. Get involved in your faculty alumni chapter

If you are entrepreneurial, this is a great opportunity. By way of an example, our Architecture Alumni group was the first to:
- Organise phone-ins to track down lost alumni.
- Initiate faculty alumni awards in the same categories as the University alumni awards. I’m proud to say that other faculties are now following suit.

5 years ago we organised an annual Careers Market Day for our students. Now some 20 design firms take part, all represented by recent graduates on the day. When we were without a Dean a few years ago, we visited the Vice Chancellor to suggest that his proposed merger of the Architecture and Engineering faculties needed more time, to enable them to find common opportunities for teaching and research. The VC did give them more time, out of which came a brilliant joint degree, a Bachelor of Design and Engineering that was recently oversubscribed by 300%, with a higher UAI than either Architecture or Engineering. It’s good to think we had a small part in that.

So, there are many opportunities for you as alumni to make a real and valuable contribution to the University, and not only derive great satisfaction from that, but develop some very useful networks too.

Finally, as psychologists, you have many other challenges ahead. The world is becoming more complex, and more threatening as shown by the growing number of Australians seeking mental help since the financial crisis hit. You can also look forward to what one commentator described as the ‘tsunami of dementia’ that will engulf Australia when my baby boomer generation pays for the sins of its chardonnay sodden past and becomes a full-blown ‘senility surge’.

Whatever happens though, I know that, with the degrees you have rightly earned today, you will each have a very rewarding, brilliant career.

Finally, you will be very busy in your careers if you choose to live by the dictum of the great founder of your profession Carl Jung when he said “Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you”.

Congratulations everyone, thank you for your time and I look forward to welcoming you all back to this campus very soon.