Message from President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs

12 Jul 2018
President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs

Dear colleagues  

Happy NAIDOC Week! Every July, NAIDOC Week gives us an opportunity to learn about and celebrate the rich history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Under the theme, ‘Because of her, we can’, the focus this year is on the contributions of Indigenous Australian women as role models, advocates and leaders. In celebration of UNSW’s own community of outstanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, I’m proud to launch today a series of profiles, starting with UNSW’s Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous, Professor Megan Davis. Professor Davis was instrumental in developing last year’s Uluru Statement from the Heart (which you may have noticed on UNSW’s homepage this week) and continues to lead the national campaign for a Voice to Parliament. She is one of Australia’s foremost experts in constitutional law, a passionate advocate for meaningful recognition, and an outstanding member of our community.  

It has also been a privilege for UNSW to host the National NAIDOC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Conference here at Kensington campus these past few days – one of many events held across UNSW in celebration of Indigenous excellence.  

I’m glad to be back home after a busy two weeks of travel. A highlight of my trip was attending the official opening of the UNSW China Centre in Shanghai which is the new headquarters of UNSW’s operations in China. The Centre will showcase UNSW to prospective students and their families, and form a base from which UNSW students and researchers can connect into Shanghai’s innovation environment. This is an exciting development for UNSW – it places us on the doorstep of one of the fastest-growing innovation districts in the world and will help us to strengthen our valued Chinese partnerships.  

While away I also attended the annual meeting of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) in Taipei, and in my Go8 Chair capacity joined the delegation of the European-Australian Business Council (EABC) in Paris and Lisbon. Each of these meetings was a valuable opportunity to connect with international counterparts and collaborators. There were particularly interesting discussions in Paris about how the Go8 universities can work with French industry partners to ensure that Australia derives long term benefit from the French-Australian submarine contract. I had a brief stay in London, just long enough to get caught up in World Cup fever, which ended sadly in the semi-final early this morning. 

This week, we welcomed Finnish industrial design expert Ilpo Koskinen as the inaugural director of our new integrated design centre. DesignY (the working title of the new centre) will tie together UNSW’s strengths across its faculties of Art & Design, Built Environment, Business and Engineering. It will deliver a world-leading undergraduate and postgraduate education program that will be the only one of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region. The space will ensure UNSW students are keeping pace with the growing need for human-centred design. 

I’ve been delighted to hear of a number of our UNSW colleagues recognised recently for their outstanding work. Professor Rebecca Ivers, from The George Institute and UNSW’s Faculty of Medicine, has won the NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Fellowship Public Health Award for her work in injury and trauma care. We also heard that Professor John Roberts, of UNSW Business School, has won the prestigious Buck Weaver Award for his contribution to marketing science. These are both tremendous achievements and reflect extremely positively on UNSW. Congratulations. 

The good news continued with AGSM ranked among the top 50 best MBA programs for entrepreneurship for the first time, and AFR Higher Education Award nominations for the UNSW Hero Program and The Maker Games

I was sorry to miss out on last Friday’s Philanthropy Town Hall, hosted by Vice-President of Philanthropy, Jon Paparsenos. I’m told that the event was a tremendous celebration of the hard work our philanthropy division does in enabling our 2025 Strategy and keeping donors and our 300,000+ alumni network engaged. Our Chancellor, David Gonski, and the CEO of the Love Mercy Foundation, Caitlin Barrett, spoke about their pride at being associated with UNSW and the satisfaction they draw from giving back to an institution for which they have so much respect and affection. You can watch the presentation here.  

On a final note, we are almost halfway through Plastic Free July. I’m told there has been a great deal of enthusiasm for the initiative, with over 90 per cent of campus retailers encouraging customers to say no to straws, plastic bags and/or disposable coffee cups. The baristas at Penny Lane reported that almost a quarter of coffees sold last week were in reusable cups – a good start. 

Best wishes, Ian