VC's Update - Grand Graduation, Microsoft visit and COP25

13 December 2019

Hi everyone,

I've just attended the final graduation ceremony for 2019, which is one of the most important weeks of the year for us here at ANU. It's a time that brings our community together to recognise the achievements of our students - and for many, this will be one of the most special and memorable days of their lives. For our Chancellor, Gareth Evans, it was the final time he'll confer degrees - and he tells me that in the last decade he has shaken hands with more than 28,000 graduates as they cross the stage.

For our graduates, this is an important milestone -and a day that often grows in importance through reflection over time. Graduation is a time when our students often make big decisions that help shape their future, and in turn the world around them.

One of our current student cohorts, is our 3Ai Masters students - 16 postgraduate students from around the world who are nurturing a new applied science devoted to the responsible use of AI by both organisations and individuals. A few weeks ago they were visited by the global head of Microsoft - CEO Satya Nadella, who met with the students to learn about their studies as they help create a new field. We were the only university that Satya visited - a testament to the importance of what 3Ai is trying to do, and it was great to see Microsoft contribute $300,000 to support this degree - and I am pleased to announce that ANU will match their contribution.

Speaking of brilliant graduates, this week I was also pleased to see that three ANU scholars have won prestigious Rhodes Scholarships. This is an incredible achievement, with universities rarely winning two, let alone three scholarships. The three students - Emily Rowland, Matt Goh and Marcus Dahl - have all made incredible contributions to our campus and community during their time here. They'll get a chance to show Oxford University how great they are and change the world however they best see fit.

Like this graduating cohort, the next generation of ANU students will continue to be the best and brightest in the world. We will give them every opportunity to succeed in their chosen field by ensuring they are taught by the best academics, who excel and lead in their field. This includes leading intellectuals like Professor Frank Jotzo and Dr Nerilee Abram, who are attending COP25, where they are listening and contributing to discussions about climate change. They tell me there are many more ANU graduates in Madrid as part of this world event.  In a time when Australia's east coast is experiencing catastrophic bushfire conditions, and Eastern Australia is experiencing the worst drought in recorded history, the University  will continue to provide governments, organisations and individuals the research and evidence about how to deal with this emerging global threat. The students graduating this week will be the next generation of leaders, and I am looking forward to them shaping a future that creates a sustainable future for humanity.

Finally, earlier this week, we held our inaugural Grand Graduation on the lawns of University Avenue. It was a tad bit hot, but more than 1,500 graduands, their friends and family as well as staff came out to support our students. There was a parade, DJ, live music and a picnic to share - and we were privileged to hear from The Honourable Helen Clark, who received an honorary degree from ANU in recognition of her service to contribution to politics, international affairs, women's empowerment, development issues and environmental sustainability. We were also inspired by the journey of Karlie Noon, a Gamilaraay woman who, this week, graduated with an Advanced Masters of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Karlie is now inspiring the new generation of Indigenous girls from her community to consider university as a pathway to a better future. If you were unable to attend, I encourage you to read their remarks here. Both were impressive speakers who shared a lot that we can learn from. I hope to see the entire community there in 2020 at the University's most important celebration of the academic year.

This is my final blog of 2019, and I hope everyone is looking forward to a great holiday break; or the next adventure if you're leaving campus. Thank you to everyone for a great year, and keep an eye out for my end-of-year video next week, it'll be quite a ride...!