VC’s Update – A new Vice-Chancellor and a gathering of unity

06 Oct 2023

Hi everyone, 

I'm so pleased that Distinguished Professor Genevieve Bell AO FAHA FTSE has been appointed as our new Vice-Chancellor. Many of you will already know Genevieve as the Director of the School of Cybernetics and 3A Institute (3Ai). Since her arrival at ANU in 2017, Genevieve has been a significant figure on our campus and I'm confident that she will be an outstanding and dynamic leader for our University. I couldn't be happier to pass the Vice-Chancellor baton over to her as I return next year to being a Professor and resuming my research and teaching - largely based out of Mt Stromlo, but also Physics.  

Over last weekend, I unexpectedly spent Sunday afternoon implementing my bushfire plans, as one took off three houses down the road from mine, and so I was pleased for this week's rain. As we head into the summer months and another El Niño, I'm reminded of when we last had this event with the 2019/2020 summer fires and the hailstorm that caused so much damage to our campus. Taking action to fight climate change is essential to limit these extreme events. So far this year, we've reduced emissions from the ANU campus by transitioning multiple buildings away from gas heating, and there are more projects like this in the pipeline. Organisations and individuals both have an important role to play in the transformational change required to meet the challenges ahead. Since the pandemic, the University's travel emissions have significantly reduced. While travel is necessary for our work, we must also consider the environmental impacts of travel. At the last Senior Management Group meeting, I and other ANU senior leaders endorsed a goal that halves the number of travel emissions from those in 2019. This step is vital to support the ANU climate goals to be below zero emissions by 2030.

Travel is an essential part of university life and reducing emissions from travel does not simply mean we need to stop travelling, it means we need to make more informed decisions about how and why we are travelling. We need to weigh up the big-picture costs of travel by including environmental impacts in our decision-making process. For my part and I'm sure this is true for many of us, COVID helped to open doors to new ways of working and using technologies for engaging with our networks. I want to take this opportunity to commit to continually finding ways to reduce my own travel carbon footprint and to do my part in achieving this target. When I return to the College of Science next year, I also commit to take more Zoom meetings and will travel by a low CO2 means whenever I can. Similarly, I encourage all of you to consider ways to reduce emissions from your own travel plans. Over the next months and into the coming year, we will be working on measures that support collective and individual actions to reduce travel emissions. Read the full story and stay up to date on sustainability action on ourwebsite

Turning to research news, congratulations to the 18 ANU early career researchers who received a total funding of $7.9m in the latest round of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme. To name a few interesting projects, Dr Samantha Stanley will investigate public support for climate aid in Australia and abroad, while Dr John Noel Viana will examine anti-racist neuroethics for epistemic justice in mental health research. For this year's round, the ANU success rate was 30.5%, our highest since 2019. This was also the highest success rate among the Go8. A marvellous achievement by all involved.  

Last month it was announced that Professor Maryanne Dever, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education and Digital) has accepted a position as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) at Western Sydney University. Maryanne arrived at ANU in April 2021, a challenging time during the pandemic, and has achieved a great deal since then. Throughout her exceptional leadership, Maryanne has led the delivery of a world class timetabling system, the approval of the University's first Learning and Teaching Strategy, and recently, great progress on securing approval of a $32m business case for a new digital ecosystem that will transform our approach to learning and teaching. I am most grateful for Maryanne's service to ANU and wish her well in her new role.  

Yesterday we had the Gathering of Unity Ceremony convened by Aunty Matilda and Paul House near the area of the 18 September attack on our campus. After a difficult few weeks, it was important that we came together as a community as an act of healing. It is important to reclaim our campus, but not forget what happened. We will continue to support all those affected, and remember, help and support are available if you need it. We have an incident support website, with links to resources, updates, and information on how to access further help or counseling support.

Next week I will be traveling to North Dakota, USA, for a week of leave on the family farm that I spent my summers as a child. Most people know about Fargo ... well, I fly in there, and then drive four hours north to the Canadian Border. Mobile phone coverage has not yet reached the farm - so I am looking forward to some peace and quiet. The following week I will be representing ANU in New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. I am trying to get the biggest bang for my flight emissions as possible.

Enjoy the weekend, and make sure you get out and vote next weekend fully informed.