March 2018

Hello there,

I hope you enjoy this latest instalment of what’s been happening around the University.

Sharing stories about our values

From now on, I will start each of these monthly blogs by sharing examples of ways our colleagues and our students have exemplified our cultural qualities of connectedness, care, accountability and innovation. This is an important way we can help to bring these values to life across the University. I would encourage you all to think about doing the same at the start of meetings in your work areas.

Orientation – where all of our cultural qualities were on full display

The best example – by far – in recent weeks of all of our cultural qualities in action has been the way we welcomed students during Orientation earlier this year. This involved innovation (improvements in our processes); connectedness (the way our staff worked together with students in partnership across the university, and with outside agencies, to offer an improved level of service); care (the lengths our staff went to assist our students); and accountability (the willingness of staff to take responsibility for assisting a student through to the end, rather than just directing them elsewhere).

So, a huge thank you for all of your help in welcoming the 2018 commencing and returning cohorts of students to La Trobe.

We made a number of changes this year to the way we handle student enquiries and enrolments with the aim of reducing wait times and becoming more responsive to student needs. I’m delighted that as many as 350 of our colleagues volunteered their time across our campuses directing students to the right place to have their questions answered.

A special mention goes to Customer Service Program Director Ben Oxford and all of the colleagues who volunteered to help our hard pressed Ask La Trobe staff. The results speak for themselves. Last year, students waited an average of 74 minutes in the student services queue in the first five days of teaching, while this year the average was 17 minutes. Last year the average wait to pick up a student card was 23 minutes, this year it was only four. Other queues went from an average of 10 minutes to just three.

This is an absolutely fantastic result, and reflects the hard work and dedication of many, many staff across our campuses. On behalf of all our students - thank you and well done, and let’s keep up the great work.

While this great work was happening, students were enjoying themselves as they got to know more about the university and the opportunities we offer, whether through our sports clubs or our interest-based societies. From chocolate and beer to quidditch and the martial arts, pretty much all interests are catered for at La Trobe. Student clubs and societies enrich and extend life on campus in so many ways. The atmosphere on campus was buoyant, and many colleagues remarked on the very positive vibe.

Thank you to everyone involved in making Orientation such a success. It will have helped so many of our students get off to a flying start.

Golden Games

Keep an eye out for Renu Vithi Veeran, a staff member from the Student Operations and Improvement team at the Melbourne Campus, who will be representing Australia in Badminton at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast this month.

Renu has been in the Australian national team since 2007, and competed in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and in Glasgow in 2014. She also competed at the London Olympics in 2012, performing magnificently to come fifth in the women’s doubles with her partner Leanne Choo.

Renu took a three year break from the sport after retiring in 2014, but her teammates convinced her to try out for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games only six months ago, and she made the team with flying colours.

Congratulations to Renu on being selected, we will all be cheering for you.

Happy to be blue

The AFL season is once again underway and you have no doubt heard or read about our expanded partnership with VFL/AFL foundation team Carlton Football Club.

The deal means more learning and work placement opportunities for our students, a greater presence at the Melbourne Campus for Carlton’s women’s teams, and development of stronger research opportunities in partnership with Carlton. An alert for Blues fans and AFL tragics - keep an eye out for the La Trobe logo on those controversial grey shorts.

Europe report

I will soon be returning from a very productive trip to Europe where I met with La Trobe alumni as well as University partners, potential collaborators, and trade and consular officials. I was joined by Professor Amalia Di Iorio from the ASSC College, Stephen May, Director of the Alumni and Advancement Office, and Nandi Lakshmanan from La Trobe International. Victoria Dillon, Manager Graduations, joined us briefly for a graduation ceremony in Montpellier, before heading off to Hanoi for the same purpose.

The trip provided the opportunity to meet with colleagues at Malmo University in Sweden, one of La Trobe’s closest partners in Europe for student exchange and research collaboration, and staff from other partner universities including Copenhagen Business School, Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Potsdam, and Bayreuth University.

I also awarded degrees to students studying for our business degree at the Montpellier Business School.

We held positive discussions about establishing new collaborations with the University of Lincoln, Keele University and Manchester Metropolitan University, and met with staff from the German Aerospace Centre and technology start-ups in Berlin.

I also met with officials at the Australian High Commission in London to discuss the implications of Brexit and how we can maximise opportunities for Australian higher education in the UK, as well as holding talks with embassy and trade officials in Berlin.

The visit also built on the momentum created last year with the ‘World La Trobe Week’ events that celebrated our 50th anniversary, with another round of very successful events with alumni in London, Berlin and Paris. Our alumni love these events, and genuinely welcome the opportunity to stay in touch with the University. A number of alumni have joined our Alumni Mentoring Network, which means that they will start giving back by helping the next generation of La Trobe graduates find their feet wherever they are around the world.

A truly International Women’s Day

It was great to see so many La Trobe people taking part in International Women’s Day celebrations, some as far afield at Chengdu, China. Professor Amalia Di Iorio was invited to present the keynote speech at a lunch hosted by the Australian Consul-General in Chengdu.

Indigenous leadership

Congratulations to Nellie Green, who has been appointed as co-chair of the Innovative Research Universities’ Indigenous Network. I am confident she will play a key role in influencing national policy development, improving outcomes for Indigenous students and increasing understanding of Indigenous perspectives and knowledge. Nellie is a powerful voice in standing up for the rights of Indigenous people both inside and outside of La Trobe. Her appointment recognises her leadership in advocating for Indigenous students and the importance of increasing Indigenous participation and success in higher education.

International honours

I was delighted to see that Professor Cheryl Dissanayake, Director of La Trobe’s Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC), has been inducted as a Fellow of the International Society of Autism Research.

Cheryl was the Founding Director of OTARC, which was Australia’s first research centre dedicated to autism. She is one of only eight international scholars to be appointed as a Fellow of the Society - a just recognition of her standing as one of the world’s leading researchers in her field. Warmest congratulations Cheryl.

Upcoming events

Don’t forget we have two exciting upcoming La Trobe events. The Ideas and Society program is joining forces with La Trobe Asia to host Australia’s Foreign Minister, the Hon Julie Bishop MP who will be keynote speaker at the Australian Foreign Policy in a contested Indo-Pacific region event. Tickets are selling fast for this breakfast on Wednesday 11 April at the Grand Hyatt – so book online to receive your staff discount.

Tickets are also available for our next Bold Thinking Series event on Veganism and how food choice relates to psychology, identity and diet on the evening of Wednesday 18 April at the Sofitel. Staff can also book their discounted tickets online.

The Conversation worth having

La Trobe University has always been strong supporters of The Conversation website because we believe in the importance of communicating scholarly ideas to a general audience in an accessible way. So far almost 900 articles from La Trobe authors have been viewed more than 10.4 million times and have drawn 37,800 comments. La Trobe authors are often amongst the most widely read.

There are many reasons to get involved in this and other forms of public scholarship, and I encourage all academics to get involved. Apart from the benefits of simply sharing your ideas and discoveries, the reach and the profile of The Conversation means your expertise is given far greater prominence with the general public, as well as potential industry, funding or collaboration partners.

Consent matters

There’s been a great response from our students to a new online training resource, Consent Matters, which stresses the importance of respect and communication, and provides useful information on boundaries and positive bystander action.

Every student is expected to complete it and more than 9,000 have already done so, with more than two thirds being either satisfied or highly satisfied with the course content.

That’s all for now. Have a great April and enjoy the Easter break.