August 2022

Welcome to my August blog.

This month sees the return of on-campus Open Days for the first time since 2019. Things kick off this weekend at the Melbourne campus, followed by Mildura and Shepparton next week and Albury-Wodonga and Bendigo later in August. Thank you in advance to all the staff who have volunteered their time to help prospective students and their families learn more about the great things La Trobe has to offer. I can’t wait to feel the buzz of a busy campus once again. And it will be busy – registrations have already far exceeded those in 2019.

With the return of Open Days to campus I’ve been reflecting on how we can make the most of our time working on campus each week.

We’ve demonstrated that many of us can do parts of our jobs effectively when working remotely. But there are also activities that are more suited to collaboration in person – like innovation and process improvement, building relationships, developing our culture, and mentoring young colleagues, all of which can be achieved far more effectively when we’re physically together.

The work arrangements we introduced earlier this year – a minimum of three days on campus – are designed to combine the best of both worlds, offering the flexibility of remote work as well as the benefits of being on campus for part of the week. Spending time on campus is good for our teams, and for the local businesses that are such an important part of our campus communities. I encourage you to identify the activities undertaken by your team that will really benefit from being conducted on campus rather than online.

As usual, I’d now like to share some recent achievements from across the University.


Keeping it dry

Well done to the ‘La Trobe University - Dry Ducks’ team that participated in Dry July to raise funds for people affected by cancer. At the time of writing, the team has raised over $10,000 – placing them in the top six of all workplace teams in Australia. What an amazing effort – congratulations to all involved!


Making a difference to our Net Zero mission

I was pleased to see Andrew Jennings from I&O recognised for his terrific work on the La Trobe Energy Analytics Platform (LEAP) that is an important element of our Net Zero program. The platform, developed in partnership with La Trobe's Centre for Data Analytics and Cognition, monitors consumption patterns and performance in 50 buildings across the University and means we can reduce energy consumption by making lighting, heating and cooling adjustments in real time. Andrew received two awards last weekend at the 2022 Human Systems Interaction Conference (hosted by the Centre for Data Analytics and Cognition) – he won best paper on Net Zero Emissions and Energy AI, as well as the Leadership Award for his work on LEAP. Congratulations Andrew.


The Conversation

We’ve received a report from The Conversation showing that La Trobe researchers and academics published 122 articles over the last 12 months which attracted 5.1 million readers across the globe – with 38 per cent of readers from countries outside Australia. 68 per cent of La Trobe’s authors were contacted by media for follow up interviews, 13 per cent invited to speak at conferences, and 20 per cent contacted for research collaboration.

Popular La Trobe articles included a piece co-authored by three researchers from the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research on why young people are drinking less than their parents’ generation. Tony Walker, a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow who writes about foreign policy and international affairs, wrote three of the 10 most read articles by La Trobe researchers.


Eureka!

Congratulations to Brian Abbey from LIMS, who has led the development of the NanoMslide over the last five years. The technology, which modifies the surface of conventional microscope slides to create contrasts in microscopic cell samples that can reveal the presence of disease, has been selected as one of three finalists in the 2022 Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology. The NanoMslide certainly meets the award criteria of originality, innovation, impact and benefit – it would be a very deserving winner at the award ceremony on 31 August.


A voice in Parliament

As noted in the May VC’s blog, La Trobe alumna Jana Stewart is Labor’s first Victorian Aboriginal senator. Jana is a graduate of The Bouverie Centre’s Indigenous Graduate Certificate in Family Therapy and Masters of Family Therapy. Jana also worked for the Indigenous Team at The Bouverie Centre for some five years and was pivotal in the development of the Centre’s Indigenous Policy Framework. You can now watch Jana’s inspiring first speech to the Australian Senate.


Winning recognition

Congratulations to members of the La Trobe community who have been recognised for their work recently.

John Morgan won the Ecological Society of Australia’s 2022 Australian Ecology Research Award; Lisa McKenna was inducted into the International Nurse Research Hall of Fame; and PhD student Akuch Kuol Anyieth received an Achievement Award in the 2022 Victorian Refugee Awards.


Funding success

I was pleased to see La Trobe researchers win some highly competitive funding grants over the last month.

Andrew Govus is undertaking a project on optimising athlete performance, one of six projects funded by the Australian Institute of Sport. Leesa Hooker is leading a project that has received a $265,000 grant from the Victorian Government Crime Prevention Innovation Fund to help improve responses to drink spiking-related sexual violence in Bendigo; and Angeline Leece has received a 2022 Humanities Travelling Fellowship from the Australian Academy of the Humanities to investigate three species of hominins that shared the South African landscape two million years ago.


Going for gold

Four students from the La Trobe University Elite Athlete Program made the Australian team and are competing at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham – and I’m pleased to say our athletes have already won some medals! Mack Horton won Gold in the Men’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay and Bronze in the Men’s 400m Freestyle, and Josh Katz won Bronze in the Men’s 60kg Judo. Caitlin Parker is competing in women’s boxing, and Amy Lawton is a member of the Hockeyroos, who have won their first three games against Kenya, South Africa, and New Zealand. Best of luck to Caitlin and Amy for the rest of the competition.


The art of China

I’ll be heading to the Bendigo Art Gallery on 20 August for the opening of In Our Time: Four decades of art from China and beyond - the Geoff Raby Collection. Co-presented by the La Trobe Art Institute, the exhibition will show almost 70 works from the terrific Geoff Raby Collection of 174 works of Chinese art that was donated to the University by our distinguished alumnus Dr Geoff Raby AO. Assembled over a 35-year period from the mid-1980s, the collection is valued at $3.1 million and is the single largest cultural gift ever made to the University.


In closing

That’s it for another month at La Trobe. Thank you again to all those involved in our Open Days during August – I look forward to seeing you on campus.

John