Wenche Ommundsen

Wenche Ommundsen

Citation delivered by Professor Glenn Salkeld, Executive Dean, Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Wenche Ommundsen as an Emeritus Professor of the University on 28 April 2021.

Deputy Chancellor, I present Professor Wenche Ommundsen.

A distinguished international researcher, teacher and professional leader, Wenche Ommundsen has significantly advanced scholarly discourse around multicultural and diasporic literature, both in Australia and further afield.

Born in Norway, Wenche began her career in Switzerland as a secondary teacher and then a university lecturer and tutor in English. Emigrating to Australia in 1980, she joined the University of Melbourne as a research assistant, lecturer and tutor, and then moved to Deakin University, where she held several key roles including Associate Dean (Research) for the Faculty of Arts.

Leaving Europe behind to ‘discover’ Australia, and subsequently Asia, opened new cultural horizons for Wenche, reorienting her academic focus and personal values toward diverse, postcolonial and multicultural perspectives. Focusing her research on multiculturalism and multicultural literary production, with particular emphasis on Asian diasporas and theories of transcultural literary formations, she would become a global leader in her chosen field. 

Wenche’s investigations of Asian-Australian literature have been particularly significant, responsible for establishing a thriving sub-field. She has published six acclaimed books, a series of landmark edited collections on postcolonial and multicultural literature, and numerous influential book chapters, articles and reviews worldwide. She won four ARC Discovery Grants for her work on Australian literature and the intersection of national and transnational forces in literary studies, and has been a principal collaborator in major international research collaborations. Wenche is also a foundation member of the AustLit consortium and was instrumental in securing 13 ARC Infrastructure grants to construct the AustLit database – Australia’s largest-ever digital humanities project.

Joining UOW in 2006 as Professor of English Literatures, Wenche’s contribution as a scholar and academic leader rapidly flourished. She became Associate Dean (Research and Graduate Studies) and then Dean of the Faculty of Arts, and during her tenure established a vibrant and forward-looking faculty, drove extensive curriculum reform, significantly grew enrolments and staff numbers, and advanced research capacity, scale and quality. She also initiated and oversaw the construction of the Faculty Research Hub, and led greater internationalisation through strategic alliances and reframing of the curriculum and student experience.

Wenche has used innovative curriculum design and collaborative delivery to inspire students at all levels to explore diverse, postcolonial and multicultural perspectives and add value to the learning experience. As a teacher, supervisor and mentor, she has helped launch many promising young researchers’ careers. She seeks to instil in all she interacts with an openness to and appreciation of the richness that diversity in culture, experience and lifestyle brings.

After stepping down as Dean in 2013, Wenche continued her commitment to internationalisation at UOW, building international exchanges and collaborations – particularly with China – that have attracted significant funding and academic exchange opportunities. Among these was a cross-institutional higher research degree supervision program with Wuhan University, where she was also a visiting professor. Since her retirement in 2019, she has continued to supervise Chinese HDR students and serve as an active and engaged ambassador for UOW in China and beyond.

Deputy Chancellor, throughout her career, Wenche Ommundsen has made a noteworthy and enduring contribution to research and education in her field, and demonstrated exemplary commitment and high standards in professional leadership and governance.

It is a privilege to present Professor Wenche Ommundsen to be admitted as an Emeritus Professor of the University of Wollongong.