VC's update - a week of highs and lows

22 Mar 2019

Hi everyone,

This week has been a challenging time on our campus with the news of the terrorism attack in New Zealand last Friday. I have been heartened to see the messages of support for the people of New Zealand and the Muslim community. During these dark times, messages of love and solidarity give light and hope to us all. I attended the vigil at Nara Peace Park on Tuesday evening, hosted by the New Zealand High Commission, the ANU New Zealand Club and the ACT Government. It was healing to see thousands of people come together - with all sharing the central message of the event that when we are united, terrorism cannot win. The ANU New Zealand Club are to be commended for their leadership in helping organising the vigil - it was commented on by both the New Zealand High Commissioner and the ACT Government.

On Friday 29 March, the ANU Muslim Students' Association will be holding a Christchurch Funeral Prayer which is open to all ANU staff and students to attend. I know this is a difficult time for many people in our community, and I ask you to keep an eye on your friends and colleagues. If you see someone who is struggling, please encourage them to reach out for support - we are here for you.  

Last week I travelled to the United States to meet with our alumni communities in Seattle and New York. It never ceases to amaze me how incredibly talented and far-reaching our alumni are.  In Seattle I met a number of alumni who are helping lead efforts of the best tech companies in the world, tackling some of the biggest innovation and technological challenges of our generation. And although Seattleites tell me their coffee is good, our alumni tell me (and I can confirm from my own taste tests) they ain't got nothing on Canberra! In New York we met up with a broad range of alumni young and old including CEOs, bankers, financiers, artists ... and even a former Prime Minister.

Also as part of the trip, I met with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which has supported a number of ANU researchers over the past decade. We have many areas of research which overlap with the Foundation's interests where we are true world leaders, and I see a bright future of increasing our collaboration with the Foundation to help improve the lives of people across our region and the rest of the world.

While I was in the United States, the 'Operation Varsity Blues' college admission scandal broke.  There are lessons here for us. At one level, it tells us the level of importance placed on a university degree. Here we have some of the most privileged people in the world with all of the opportunities that provides, prepared to break the law to undermine the admissions processes, to get into what they saw as good universities.  Reflecting on our new admissions model launched in early March, one of the most important things about our model is that it is open and transparent - and is therefore much less susceptible to bribery or corruption. Furthermore, we have built into the system evidence-based ways of attracting students of talent from a variety of backgrounds - and avoided issues of CV stacking and legacy which serve to level the playing field for students from less privileged backgrounds. 

Unfortunately, right now there are many students who would like to come to ANU, but cannot afford to. So we will be looking at how we support a diverse cohort of students from across Australia to make ANU their new home. I will be making an exciting announcement about our plans to do this at the Alumni Awards on Friday 29 March, and I hope to have your help.

Last Sunday, more than 100 friends, neighbours and colleagues helped me with the 2019 vintage by picking grapes in the vineyard. This weekend I am looking forward to spending some time in the wine shed pushing down the caps of my latest vats of grapes, which have begun bubbling away. This year looks to be a year that should produce some fine wines. Time will tell!

Have a good weekend,