Dear Students, my name is Patricia Davidson – or Trish for short – and I am honoured to be your new Vice-Chancellor.
As the first UOW alumna and the first woman in this role, it means a great deal to me to lead the next phase of this University's remarkable history. UOW has come a long way since I studied here as a nursing student in the 70s, and I'm proud to say UOW now sets the benchmark for young, dynamic, and innovative universities across the world (we're in the top one per cent, in fact!).
Before joining the University, I spent eight years as the Dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in Baltimore in the United States.
In March 2020, a few weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic was officially declared, I found myself in lockdown in the US, physically separated from my family, colleagues and students. Like everyone across the world, I struggled emotionally and mentally to understand the unfolding consequences of the pandemic and deal with the many things out of my control.
In the context of this unprecedented turmoil, I began writing to the staff and students at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing every Friday. It was one way I could stay connected to keep our culture and bond strong, share highlights of the University's essential work, and reflect on important issues affecting our society. So here I am, as your new Vice-Chancellor, writing the first of my weekly updates to you and other UOW students.
I want to start by saying thank you for the incredibly warm welcome you have shown me in my first month as your new Vice-Chancellor.
I've had the chance to meet with many students over the past month, including the Student Advisory Council. I am very thankful for their wise counsel and support.
The candid engagement I have had with students I have met has been highly beneficial to me. It's helped me understand the challenges facing students and the opportunities in front of us as we rebuild and recover from the effects of the pandemic. I am so impressed by the calibre of our students who are thoughtful and respectful of the current public health crisis.
I have heard from many of you and recognise the challenging period that you have faced, and do not underestimate the lasting impact that these challenges will have.
However, I have already observed the unique resilience and strength of the UOW community. My meetings with students have left me feeling more optimistic and energised than ever before as we embark on our mission to ensure our graduates are both job-ready and life-ready when they leave UOW.
The University's staff and I are here for you and want to ensure your UOW experience is the best it can be. This is why we invited current UOW Students to be an integral part of our UOW Strategy Event last week – in which over 150 UOW Staff heard from a cross-section of Students about how we can improve your UOW experience.
We heard that you want a greater voice in the future direction of UOW, improved blended learning options and access, more student services and support, and getting back to having in-person campus experiences asap. All these issues are extremely valid, and we are working on them as a priority. You will start to see updates and new practices implemented in the coming months.
In the meantime, our most pressing priority is getting students back on campus in semester two safely and responsibly. Unless lockdown is extended, from the week beginning 26 July, UOW will transition back to increased levels of on campus teaching for semester 2. I'm pleased to report that over 80% of teaching is scheduled to take place in-person on campus, which you told us you wanted.
We're also busy planning a series of on campus events to welcome our students back in a big way! Stay tuned for more details on this.
We'll continue to keep an eye on the COVID-19 situation in Greater Sydney and its surroundings, and hopefully, with all of us doing our part and following the restrictions in place, we'll be out of lockdown and back on campus soon.
Please take a moment to read the statement released this morning regarding our upcoming UOW graduation ceremonies.
Another priority is to help provide you with clarity on the current vaccine roll-out. I know many of you have questions about your specific circumstances and your role and responsibility within the broader vaccine program. That is why we have attempted to answer some of your FAQ's here. We have also established an information centre with resources from various trusted sources that you may find helpful.
From my recent experience in the US, we will only beat this thing with science, leadership, and a strong sense of community. I encourage all students to visit the links above and familiarise yourself with the necessary information to make your personal – and critical - contribution to defeating this virus for all Australians.
Before I sign off, I just want to say how proud I am to be a part of UOW's vibrant and diverse culture that brings together people with different values, experiences, and knowledge from across the globe, enabling us to learn from each other and grow individually and collectively.
I look forward to meeting you at some stage during your time at UOW. In the interim, I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter. And if you want to know more about my story, I recently sat down with UOW's fantastic publication The Stand.