May 2021

I hope you’ve been enjoying the magnificent Autumn weather we’ve been having across Victoria. Last week’s graduations in Wodonga – our first at-scale graduations since December 2019 – were held on a magnificently sunny day of perfect temperatures. It made for a joy-filled occasion – not just in celebration of our students’ achievements, but also of the fact that we are able once again to come together in public for large-scale events.

The Holy Month of Ramadan began in mid-April. It is a special time for our Muslim staff and students. It’s also an opportunity to spend time with the many Muslim communities around our campuses and to learn about the great traditions of Islam. The Iftar dinners held during Ramadan at the breaking of the fast are always special, and the University has been part of several Iftar celebrations this year. Ishaq Bhatti from the Business School attended the Islamic Society of Victoria Iftar dinner sponsored by the University as a contribution to the fundraising effort to upgrade the Preston Mosque facilities. I attended the Victorian Parliamentary Iftar dinner, and Rob Pike, Provost of SHE College, went to the Iftar dinner at the Melbourne campus organised by students from the La Trobe University Islamic Society. It’s been terrific to demonstrate La Trobe’s inclusive spirit during the month.

Ramadan is a time for spiritual renewal and reflection; but also one that reminds us to think about those who are facing disadvantage and hardship. It’s been heartbreaking to see images of the devastating effects of COVID-19 in India. My thoughts are with staff and students who have family and friends in India, and elsewhere around the world, who are confronting these terrible outbreaks. If you need support, please reach out to your manager or make use of the resources available through our staff support portal.

Global impact

La Trobe has once again performed brilliantly in the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, which measure our contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

We were ranked first in the world for protecting and restoring life on land; second in the world, and first in Australia, for gender equality; second in the world for our contribution to decent work and economic growth; and fifth in the world for ensuring and promoting good health and wellbeing.

This ranking is only three years old and La Trobe has been ranked fourth in the world in the last two years for our overall impact. It’s a remarkable example of our influence on a global scale.

One of the best things about these rankings is that it measures all aspects of our performance – not just our academic achievements. This means that all our staff – academic and professional – have contributed to our exceptional performance in 2021. You can read more about our performance in our media release.

Graduate Research winners

I was delighted to see our research leaders scoop up two of the three awards in the 2021 Australian Council of Graduate Research Awards for Excellence in Graduate Research Education.

Congratulations to Kay Crossley on winning the Excellence in Graduate Research Supervision Award. Kay is a brilliant researcher in her own right (you might recall she won Victoria’s highest scientific honour last year, the Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation) and she is also dedicated to mentoring and training the next generation of physiotherapists and clinicians. Kay goes above and beyond to provide her students with the mentoring, networks and opportunities needed for a successful career.

And well done to Jeanette Fyffe, who is a very worthy winner of the Excellence in Graduate Research Leadership Award. Jeanette has done a huge amount of work to foster effective research communities and culture at La Trobe over the last few years. As well as designing our sector-leading Research Education and Development (RED) program, Jeanette established our Intellectual Climate Fund. Since 2015, the Fund has sponsored journal clubs, writing circles and symposia, and supported a women in STEM network, a Pan-African student network and a grounded theory network.

Well done, Kay and Jeanette!

La Trobe luminary

Warm congratulations to Dennis Altman on being named the 2021 Eminent Scholar for LGBTQA research by the International Studies Association.

Dennis has been an important figure in the exploration of sexuality, politics and their inter-relationship since the release of his 1972 book Homosexual: Oppression & Liberation, one of the groundbreaking works in the gay liberation movement that is quite rightly regarded as a modern classic. Dennis is a pioneering academic and activist whose influence reaches around the world. It’s an honour to count him as a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at La Trobe.

Congratulations to Dennis on this richly deserved international recognition.

Regional graduations

Attending graduation ceremonies is one of the great privileges that comes with my job. There’s nothing like sharing in the celebrations with graduands and their families after they’ve worked so hard to earn their degrees. Often our graduands are the first members of their family to study at university, making these occasions even more special.

Our regional graduation season has just kicked off and it’s a double celebration this year with graduands who completed their degrees last year, along with those who finished in 2019 but couldn’t graduate last year because of COVID-19.

The Chancellor presided over two ceremonies at Albury-Wodonga last Friday that showcased some terrific examples of La Trobe’s inclusive ethos, including the graduation of 82-year-old Pat Zehntner, who crossed the stage to accept her Bachelor of Arts and is officially our oldest undergraduate!

Well done to Pat and everyone who is graduating over the next few weeks. I’m looking forward to being at the graduations in Mildura tomorrow.

Staff wellbeing and mentoring

Finally, I’d like to thank the 993 staff who completed the Wellbeing @ La Trobe survey earlier this year. The Wellbeing Reference Group are keen to explore the survey data with staff to identify actions we can implement to improve staff mental health and wellbeing. Do try and get along to the listening sessions that are being organised over the next couple of weeks and give your insights on the results. Details on registration are available at the Wellbeing Hub on the intranet.

I also encourage you to consider signing up for our staff mentoring program this year. Applications have just opened through a secure digital platform where you can create a profile with your mentoring goals, select from recommended matches, and connect and develop your mentoring relationship.

That’s it for another month at La Trobe. Once again, my thoughts are with all those with family and friends in COVID hot spots around the world. My best wishes for you all to stay safe and well.