The beginning of May brought with it some changes to the MGSE Executive as we farewelled a Deputy Dean and welcomed another. Professor Janet Clinton has now assumed the role of Deputy Dean after Professor Helen Cahill’s departure. Many thanks again to Helen for her outstanding leadership and service as Deputy Dean and for the time she devoted to the handover process. Janet has hit the ground running and is already making a great contribution in her new role. We have also temporarily farewelled Professor Liz McKinley from the Executive for the rest of 2020 as she increases her commitment with the Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity. We wish Liz every success in this important program and look forward to welcoming her back to the MGSE Executive table in 2021.
Annual research strategy and performance meeting
Yesterday we met with the Deputy Vice Chancellor- Research, Professor Jim McCluskey, for our annual research strategy and performance meeting. I was pleased that we could present some excellent progress in research at MGSE. We have increased our publications, increased our HERDC income to meet the University’s target for MGSE and we increased our own financial investment in research capability. Importantly, we improved the quality of our graduate research experience, supervision and the timely completion of thesis submissions. While our discussions also highlighted the specific challenges MGSE faces with COVID-19 we had a productive discussion about what the rebuilding and reshaping of research might look like during and after the pandemic. My thanks to Professor Sophie Arkoudis and Dr Bella Blaher for their work on our presentation and to those who participated in this rich conversation.
Phased return to campus
It has been most encouraging to see the flattening of the curve of COVID-19 cases across Australia. The University is carefully planning what a safe and phased return to campus will look like, however at this stage there are no timelines around the gradual return. As you would appreciate it is a complex process and will take time to both plan and implement. I will, of course, keep you informed along the process. The gradual return to campus is likely to include a continuation of social distancing guidelines, increased hygiene practices and the monitoring of staff density in buildings. The University is guided by, and continues to work closely with, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, the Australian Government and health experts to determine our response to COVID-19. Our number one priority is always the health, safety and wellbeing of our University community.
Wellbeing of international students
I greatly appreciate the unfailing support our staff give to our students, and I know their welfare has been front of mind throughout this disruptive period. Like the rest of the University community I have continued to be most concerned about the ongoing racism some of our international students have experienced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. I realise how worried many staff have been about the wellbeing of our international students and it is important that we continue to check in with them, give them an outlet to discuss their concerns and support them as best we can. The University has a range of health and wellbeing resources and services that you can direct any of your students towards. Our graduate research students are another of our cohorts who have been especially affected by the numerous challenges COVID-19 has presented and there is specific information and support available for them.
It is also crucial that you look after yourselves during this challenging time as we all juggle to manage our work and family lives. Please seek out support if you need it and feel free to contact me with any of your concerns.