Industry and research best - our newest VC’s Fellows

A highly-decorated research scientist and a respected ASX 50 business leader have been appointed La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor’s Fellows.

Recent winner of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, Distinguished Professor Jenny Graves AO has been appointed a VC Fellow. As the first solo female to win the coveted prize, she will work to help ensure more women are successful in their science careers.

Former Incitec Pivot Limited CEO James Fazzino will utilise his strong industry connections and insights to help employment outcomes of business school graduates.

The two appointments were announced today by Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Dewar, who said he was delighted that the new VC’s Fellows had agreed to take on their new roles. Both have either worked or studied at La Trobe, going on to forge very successful careers in two very different sectors.

“These appointments signal exciting times ahead for the students of La Trobe, who will benefit from these two respected leaders bringing their wisdom, experience and strong connections that will flow into our lecture halls and laboratories,” Professor Dewar said.

Professor Graves said she was delighted to be contributing to La Trobe’s strategies to attract and retain female researchers in STEM.

“La Trobe is where my career in genetics kicked off,” said Professor Graves.

“I want to make sure that other young scientists have the same opportunity to follow their noses into fundamental research, wherever it might lead.

“I’m particularly keen to help La Trobe strengthen its commitment to attracting and retaining talented female scientists.”

Mr Fazzino said that he looked forward to passing on his experiences to a new generation of business leaders.

“I know firsthand how transformative higher education can be. As a kid who loved numbers and the first member of my family to study at university, studying at La Trobe University opened up opportunities that I hadn’t imagined,” Mr Fazzino said.

“I am excited to now be able to share some of my experiences with the next generation of business leaders. This is a fascinating but challenging time in global business. The nature of work is changing rapidly: entire industries and occupations are being disrupted by technology and by geopolitical change. The best companies and professionals will thrive amidst that change, if they are well prepared," he said.

Female science prize winner to work with La Trobe scientists

Professor Graves is the first La Trobe academic to win the Australia’s most coveted prize for science, the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. She is also the first woman to be individually recognised by this prize. It places her in outstanding company; previous winners include Australian scientists who helped eradicate smallpox, developed the wireless internet and developed the first cancer vaccine.

Her research uses the genetic diversity of Australia’s unique mammals such as the kangaroo, emu and platypus to study how the mammal genome works and how it evolved.

Her life’s work has used marsupials and monotremes, birds and lizards, to understand the complexity of the human genome and to reveal new human genes.

She has transformed our understanding of how sex chromosomes work and how they evolved, predicting the decline and disappearance of the Y chromosome. Her research has contributed to a deeper understanding of many human genes, including those of the immune system, prion diseases and blood proteins. Her work helps to understand the tumour driving the Tasmanian devil to extinction.

Professor Graves has longstanding commitments to women in science, and science education. She won the 2006 international L’Oreal UNESCO prize for women in science, and served as both foreign secretary, and secretary for education in the Australian Academy of Science.

As VC Fellow, Professor Graves will work with La Trobe scientists to integrate genomics into traditional fields of animal biology, ecology and conservation. She will act as a role model and figurehead for La Trobe’s initiatives (including SAGE) to attract more women into STEM disciplines and into senior roles in those disciplines. She will also more broadly help promote women in science.

Business leader returns to university

Mr James Fazzino comes to La Trobe fresh from a successful career in the international chemicals industry, and has just concluded a highly successful eight-year term as Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Incitec Pivot Limited. He also served as the Chief Financial Officer and Finance Director at Incitec, and had senior finance roles in ICI/Orica including CFO Chemicals Group, Assistant Treasurer and Head of Investor Relations.

Under his leadership, Incitec was transformed from a fertiliser co-operative, operating in four Australian states with an enterprise value of $400 million, to a Global Diversified Industrial Chemicals company, operating in 13 countries and with an enterprise value of $8 billion. It is now the world’s second largest supplier of commercial explosives, and Australia’s largest manufacturer and supplier of fertilisers.

Mr Fazzino is also passionate about gender diversity, and oversaw a doubling of the number of women in senior management at Incitec since 2012.

Mr Fazzino is already strongly connected to La Trobe. He is currently a member, and was formerly chair, of the La Trobe Business School Advisory Board, and in 2016 was appointed as an Adjunct Professor in the La Trobe Business School.

Mr Fazzino is a La Trobe University alumnus. The first member of his family to attend university, he obtained a Bachelor of Economics (Honours) from the University.

Mr Fazzino will advise the Vice-Chancellor as well as the current and future leadership of the La Trobe Business School on the strategic directions for the School.

Head of the La Trobe Business School, Professor Paul Mather, said students would benefit greatly from Mr Fazzino’s expertise and experience in leading an ASX Top 50 company.

“As Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow, he will share his experience with the next generation of leaders, and will play an instrumental role in building critical industry and research links in the School,” Professor Mather said.

“He will bring cutting-edge business practice into the classroom and the curriculum and assist in developing a network of business practitioners to help add to the Business School’s capacity to educate its students for the jobs of the future. He will also be available to mentor both staff and students, and will broker partnerships to help deliver the vision of the University’s new strategic plan to put an outstanding student experience at the heart of everything we do.”

Other Vice Chancellor’s Fellows at La Trobe included respected academic Robert Manne, former AFL coach Mick Malthouse, journalist and commentator Tony Walker, science communicator Elizabeth Finkel, and writer and activist Dennis Altman.

Media Contact: Claire Bowers – or 0437 279 903