It's been a while since my last blog and I wanted to finish the year by reflecting on one of the most important parts of university life: graduation.
I've been to a lot of ceremonies in the last 25 years and have seen students from every background walk across the stage. In each case, it is a privilege to be at the celebration of the culmination of hard work, dedication and sacrifice. Graduation is a major milestone in one's life and, for me at least, the importance of the day has actually grown over time, rather than subsided.
Everyone's time at university has its ups and downs, and it is such a formative period for almost everyone. You should be proud of what you have achieved, even if it takes a while to sink in. It is also a time to reflect on those who have supported you - family, friends, colleagues, teachers and members of the broader university community. I hope each of you will think about how you can support others, as opportunities open for you after your degree.
I am not just proud as your Vice-Chancellor to attend graduations. I'm also very proud as a teacher, supervisor and mentor to see students I've worked with walk across that stage.
I still manage to do a bit of astronomy, teach an occasional class and regularly go up to Mt Stromlo. Keeping touch with my discipline keeps me grounded and connected to my fellow academics and students. It also means I feel the same pains as everyone else when things go wrong, and collegiate pride when new breakthroughs are made.
I am very pleased that one of my students graduated with this week with a PhD. Like many Doctorates, hers was a particularly challenging thesis, but our weekly meetings talking about her work have been incredibly satisfying and important for my own state of mind.
I find teaching and supervising is incredibly fulfilling because you get to be part of the amazing transformation of a student as they learn - and as you teach, you also learn. I hope teaching and learning, whether formally or informally, will be part of all of your lives.
This week more than 4,500 students are being conferred, ready to go out into the world and make a difference, however they see fit. Our graduands have heard some inspiring speeches and sage advice about what they will do next. There are some things I'd like you to think about:
- Embrace the fact that you may not know what you are going to do next. Enjoy the journey and don't worry so much about the destination; all of the stops are important in getting you there.
- Be prepared to make mistakes. Take risks and do things outside your comfort zone. These are the most rewarding moments, and this is when you are likely to do something that is both interesting and extraordinary.
- Always be prepared to listen and take advice, from anyone. Surround yourself with different views that challenge your perspectives and don't be afraid to change your views over time.
- Back yourself. You can only succeed if you have confidence, a confidence completely justified by all the experiences you have had in successfully gaining your degree.
- Finally, enjoy life. Every year take stock of what you are doing - and make sure you are not on a treadmill of unhappiness.
It has been a great week to meet our graduates, their families, friends, colleagues and supervisors. You are forever part of the ANU community.
Be very proud, take a moment to savour your achievements and share this with the people who matter most.