ANU Spaces – Professor Grady Venville

23 April 2018

Meet the new Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education), Professor Grady Venville.

Professor Venville joins ANU following an 11 year career with the University of Western Australia, where she held a number of positions including Professor of Science Education, Dean of Coursework Studies, and Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education).

Prior to moving to Australia, Professor Venville was based at King's College in London.

Professor Venville, welcome to ANU and Canberra! What are your first impressions of the campus and our city?

I think it's true to the rumours about Canberra and the ANU campus. It's very much a bush capital. I really love the combination that it's very bush-oriented, but at the same time, everything you need is here. It's very Australian and a beautiful environment.

The campus is so lovely and has that really rural feel about it with so many trees but it's just a hop, step and a jump and you're in the city with everything you could possibly want.

You've not long arrived from Western Australia. What stands out as being one of the biggest differences between here and WA?

It's a bit hard to tell - I've only been here a few weeks, but I think in Perth you're so isolated from the rest of Australia. It's, really, a minimum of four hours on a plane before you get to the next place. So here I feel very connected, I feel much closer to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and all of the things that happen on the east coast. I'm looking forward to taking advantage of that, in terms of university environment, collaborations, working with other people. I think there's a greater opportunity to be able to do that here. You can still do that from Perth, but it's more challenging. It's further to the beach from here, though!

One of the traditions of the ANU Spaces profile is asking people what their favourite space is on campus - it can be a secret garden nook somewhere or a park bench by Sullivans Creek for example. You may still be figuring yours out, but what is your favourite space at ANU and why?  

I really love the pond that is at the front of the Chancelry building, with the enchanting sculpture of the lady reading a book. It's very beautiful. I really love my new office with a view of a magnificent Eucalyptus outside the window- there's a bird's nest in the tree, that's a nice thing too.

What are you currently reading?

Before I arrived at ANU I was on long-service leave and my husband and I trekked the Machu Picchu in Peru. So I'm reading a book by author Mark Adams called Turn Right at Machu Picchu. It's a reflective look at Yale Professor Hiram Bingham, who was the first western person to 'find' Machu Picchu. It's a critical examination of the early 20th century 'discovery'. It's hilarious, he has a very engaging writing style and I'm loving it.

So do you enjoy exploring new locations, trekking and exploring?

We've only been here a few weeks but we've already climbed Mount Ainslie, Black Mountain and Mount Majura - they're lovely! I mean they're all in the city! We've cycled around the lake and there's lots more things to explore and do so we're very excited about living in Canberra.

You come to ANU as our new Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education). What does that entail?

I've been getting to know the University and thinking about a plan of action. I'm planning to work from the Strategic Plan, with the colleges, to improve education - whether that be curriculum or teaching and learning or both of those things. I'm keen to support and improve the fantastic things that have already happened in this great university.

Reading up your background, it sounds as though you've worked in similar roles in other universities?

I am a Professor of Science Education. My whole life's been dedicated to understanding and researching education. That's one of my core values - quality education is critically important to the world and to people. In the last six years at the University of Western Australia, I was Dean of Coursework Studies. My job was to support the development and rolling out of an entirely new curriculum, but also to develop education policy and to improve the quality of education that was delivered.

ANU is currently going through a period of change both physically as well as through the improvement of service experience for students and staff. You've only been here a short time, but from your perspective, is there anything in particular you'd like to see improved?

The Kambri development is very exciting and to have student-focused buildings I think will be fantastic for the students. It's really important that the academic teachers take advantage of the amazing new facilities, and adjust their pedagogies and the way that they deliver their courses and programs so they are consistent with the essence of the development. It's a really great opportunity for the whole University to work with the new physical surroundings to improve student enagement and learning.

I really love the double degrees and the vertical double degrees and that lots of students select those programs. Students leave the University with depth of understanding in more than one disciplinary area. Congratulations to the University for implementing that type of curriculum. However, the students have given me feedback already that they've found some inconsistencies in the way those programs are delivered and administered and that can be aggravating for them. So I think some consistency around the quality of courses and programs, but also the rules, and policies that enfold those courses might be a helpful project I can work on.