Catching up with Grady Venville

15 September 2020

When asked to describe 2020, Grady had one word to say: exhausting.

For our Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), this year has required mammoth efforts to enable remote learning and support staff and students. Whilst Grady reflects that this is meaningful work, it hasn't come without its hang-ups.

"This year has been mentally exhausting and physically exhausting. Not only have we had our regular work, but we have had the additional work of responding to disaster after disaster. Every moment there is something to be done. It can feel unrelenting."

For Grady, the hardest day during COVID-19 was the first day of the week-long pause on teaching. It came with the realisation that the University had a mere week to move everyone and everything online.

"It was overwhelming. As Chair of the Teaching Continuity Working group, I was thinking about all the people who had to switch their face-to-face classes to an online format, and all those students who had to pivot. I must admit, it was a bit terrifying.

"But we had to confront the challenges we faced. I am energised by optimism and people who are do-ers; people who are capable and supportive. The Working Group and Associate Deans Education said we could make it work, which had an amazing cascading effect on teams across the University. We took the necessary steps and created a framework of knowledge and support, with each step being a small but necessary win."

To lead a University through a crisis is no easy feat. When asked to reflect on how she got through it all, Grady emphasised some key points:

"Something that helped me stay resilient was identifying what was bothering me, reflecting on it and putting it in perspective. It really helped to be grateful for what was going right. For example, I was grateful to a social media-savvy mother and children in WA that I could call.

"Another thing that supported my resilience was routine. My strict morning routine of getting up at 6am and doing some exercise has been the bedrock of my days. Those runs get me in a creative and lateral headspace. It has been incredibly important to start my days well.

"Finally, it has been important to acknowledge that things are not going to be perfect. We can only do the best we can, and usually, that's pretty damn good."

One way that Grady has decompressed throughout this year has been through taking leave. Taking off the odd Friday or Monday has given her the chance to escape the rat race.

"One day I took off was my husband's birthday. We went to the Arboretum and had a picnic overlooking Canberra. It was absolutely beautiful. We took the dog and had a walk around. The air was refreshing and biting.

"On those days off, it gives me time to myself and to do the things I want to do. It gives me time to hang out with family and potter around the garden. I grew up in the country, so I love getting my fingers dirty and watching plants grow. It helps me to escape the very human life we live, tied up in technology and cities. Plants are quiet and peaceful."

Grady is excited for a little holiday she has planned later in the year.

"Later in the year, my husband and I are taking a Thursday and Friday off to go to Eden. We have booked a little place by the coast. My husband is from Melbourne and a crazy Collingwood supporter. I accidently booked our holiday for the same weekend as the grand final, so I had to make sure the Airbnb has a big TV."

This story is part of the Take a Break campaign. 2020 has been a particularly challenging year and has taken its toll on all of us in different ways.  

We encourage you to look after yourself by taking a break. If you need support creating a team or individual leave plan, please contact: HRD.development@anu.edu.au