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18 December 2012
Working at Cardiff University for the past 13 and a half years has been a remarkable experience and I value enormously all the things Cardiff has taught me, all of the challenges working here has offered, and all of the wonderful people who have been part of those lessons and challenges.
I came to Cardiff at a very privileged time when Sir Brian Smith was preparing the University for the 2001 RAE and had enviable amounts of money to invest in that exercise – particularly enviable when you had been ‘downsizing’ in Australia for some time. The offer of a research chair – even on the other side of the world – was too much for me – and I became one of Sir Brian’s, and the University’s, investments.
The sense of privilege with which I left Australia took a bit of a battering in my first few years in Cardiff. The culture shock was actually enormous! The University was a very different place in those days. Let us just say that the principles of dignity and respect, and of (at least the aim of) gender equality, in the workplace - now reasonably well embedded - were still a way off in some quarters. Ways of dealing with these issues were also quite culturally specific to the place and the time: benevolently male dominated, anything but transparent, and always indirect and behind closed doors if at all possible. A very interesting learning curve for a girl from the colonies!
This learning curve took me through three years as a research professor in the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, to appointment as Head of the School. I loved every minute of the time I spent as Head of JOMEC: learning to understand the media industry at first hand, writing and validating postgraduate taught degrees to attract international students to the School, engaging directly with the business of training journalists, for both the UK and international industries, developing the School’s postgraduate research culture, and having the most amazing opportunities to do research. I remember with such excitement still the recruitment and research trips to China, work at the Pentagon around the Iraq war in 2003, research with the UK’s major broadcasters and the work on inclusion and community cohesion in South Wales as well as the supervision of so many extraordinarily able PhD students. And the people were wonderful, such good, committed people to work with and all doing remarkable and significant things. It was so rewarding to be in a position where I could support, develop and enable the diversity of the people who were then JOMEC. JOMEC’s success in the 2008 RAE was the absolute icing on this already very rich cake!!
By then I had become Pro Vice-Chancellor for Staff and Diversity, a role in which I was twice offered what the then Vice-Chancellor, Dr David Grant, called ‘a career opportunity’: the Acting Headship of first the School of English, Communication and Philosophy and then the School of History, Archaeology and Religion – as well as the day job! Each School offered very different challenges, totally different staff and staff attitudes to change and being led and managed, and extraordinary riches of teaching and learning, research activities and innovation and engagement. How amazing it has been really to have had the opportunity to work with such large numbers of the very best scholars, teachers, disciplinary formations and communities. I am so grateful to all these people for what they have taught me and for what they have given in the sometimes difficult contexts in which acting heads of School need to work.
But there is even more! As Pro Vice-Chancellor, with the support of at least two VC’s, David Grant and now Colin Riordan, a number of significant senior women, great Senior Management Teams, and working closely with a number of the former directorates, but particularly my wonderful friends and co-workers in Human Resources, Governance and Compliance, Student Services, Registry and Estates and Finance, I have had the run of the University and all of its Schools as well as all of its staff. Now that is the most amazing way of learning how organisations work and how many people ever get to do that!
University projects of which I am especially proud include Investors in People, Athena Swan, our ranking in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, our work with research staff, the staff surveys we have done, our mainstreaming of Equality and Diversity, our Equality and Diversity work on REF, our on-going work on career pathways, academic promotions and workload, and our huge successes in leadership and management training.
These projects have been tools to help us to drive forward major change across the University, and to engage with all of the University’s diverse staff in the process. Listening and learning and enabling has been central to these processes and I am so grateful to the teams and the individuals who have come with me on these always complex, sometimes difficult but always rewarding journeys. I will always treasure the sense of a shared enterprise, the common values, the laughter and the commitment of these major team efforts.
And finally, there has been this last six months! Perhaps the last three months in particular, when I have had the opportunity, while almost out the door, to work with the University’s new senior team and executive board and to share in the making of at least one of the new colleges! This is such an exciting time for Cardiff, and there is such a sense of renewal and new futures. I cannot think of a better note on which to retire and finally make my exit – and I am so grateful for the exciting and exhausting experience of being part of it.
I hope you will all take these wonderful opportunities for change and work with them to take the University forward. I thank you all for working with me over the years, and I wish you all a happy Xmas, a successful and rewarding new year, and great futures for yourselves and the University.
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