Yvonne Kerr

Fellow of the University of Wollongong

Citation Orated by Mr Harold Hanson AM

Chancellor, I present Yvonne Kerr.

The great psychologist, Carl Jung, once said: “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child”. Her students, her community and her colleagues recognise in Yvonne Kerr that quality of warmth. She has reached out to touch their aspirations and nurture a desire for learning. She has opened up opportunities to grow and achieve, particularly for those who lack advantages. Yvonne has shown us how to fulfil UOW’s vision, “to transform people and the world we live in”.

Yvonne studied at Wollongong Teachers College and later, in what was a formative experience, she spent time in the United States, completing Bachelor and Master of Science degrees at the University of Oregon in her field of Physical and Health Education. In 1988, she graduated with a Master of Education from the University of Sydney. Yvonne’s academic career began at the Wollongong Institute of Education and she became part of this University’s Faculty of Education after the two neighbouring institutions merged in 1982. That milestone event in the history of the University provided the University with a critical cohort of experience staff and engaged students. Yvonne was to become one of an extraordinary group of former Institute academics who built the Faculty’s and the University’s reputation for teaching, outreach and innovation. They are also the keynotes in Yvonne’s own career.

During the next two decades, Yvonne moved to higher levels of responsibility and recognition. Selected as a university representative on the NSW Board of Studies’ Syllabus Committee, she helped to develop a new, cohesive Key Learning Area - Personal Development, Health and Physical Education. This precipitated national change in the area and Yvonne is proud that it also enhanced both professional development for NSW teachers and teacher training degrees.

In 1991, her expertise and inspiration as a teacher earned Yvonne the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to Teaching and Learning. Her capacity for leadership and effecting change earned her appointment as Faculty Sub-Dean. This role tested and proved Yvonne’s range. It highlighted her strength in providing fair and consistent academic advice but also added dimensions such as policy development and governance. She was to excel in these areas. She developed many of the policies and procedures that became guides for UOW teaching and learning in areas such as graduate qualities, course rules, academic integrity, and assessment. She participated in and later chaired key committees and acted as long-time Deputy Chair of the University Education Committee.

Yvonne embraced and promoted the possibilities of new teaching technologies and worked with colleagues to bring about the quiet but powerful revolution in delivery and interaction. She was also a valued mentor to her fellow Sub-Deans, establishing regular Sub-Dean meetings and sharing best practice and advice. For Yvonne it was always about collaboration, which she sees as the essence of the “UOW way”.

Known and respected by students and colleagues across campus, Yvonne was an inspired choice for the position of Dean of Students. From her appointment in 2002, she went far beyond the initial job description to shape the positive and inclusive student experience that distinguishes UOW today. She developed and championed a revitalised Social Inclusion Strategy which targeted not only funding but also professional development training for academics and the research and innovation that would help disadvantaged students to achieve their goals. Yvonne made initiatives happen by securing earmarked funding for scholarships and programs. She collaborated on establishing an equity grants scheme and maintained a rigorous, strategic approach to the distribution of funding.

Through her dedication, Yvonne Kerr helped to change this University and its culture. Her legacy is threaded through policy and programs. She made sure that socially inclusive teaching practices were embedded within faculties and she brought a vibrant and successful range of outreach activities to economically disadvantaged schools in our local communities. It is a measure of her unfailing passion for diversity and creating opportunity, that, even after her retirement, she accepted appointment as interim Director of UOW’s Woolyungah Indigenous Centre.

Chancellor, Yvonne Kerr gave her students and her community what Carl Jung recognised as the “vital element” – warmth of personality and kindness; she also gave us her exceptional skills as a manager and communicator who could convert ideas into practical program and funding initiatives.

It is my great pleasure and privilege to present Yvonne Kerr for admission as a Fellow of the University of Wollongong.