Vice Chancellor’s Scholar

For a second consecutive year, I have qualified as a Vice Chancellor’s Scholar as a result of my academic awesomeness. By maintaining a GPA of 6.7 or above (out of 7.0), I have secured my place on the VC Scholar Honour Roll and will have this distinction acknowledged on my academic transcript. Along with forty other fellow VC Scholars, I also participated in a two-day workshop on Leadership Development held in Armidale. The workshop, ran by Kay Hempsall and Peter McClenaghan, was an opportunity for the scholars to get to know each other and spend time together while learning what leadership was all about.

The activities throughout the weekend focused primarily on group-based learning, with the Desert Simulation exercise being the clear standout activity for most, if not all of us. It was truly eye-opening to discover how utterly wrong we all were (as individuals) when attempting to survive a plane crash, but then to realise how dramatically our chances improved when we worked together as a team. Despite how obvious all this may sound, it was quite a revelation nonetheless! Especially for those few individuals with the ‘correct’ strategy, unable to wholeheartedly convince their respective teams that they had indeed the right answers all along.

Inevitably, questions of leadership emerged from this simulation exercise. Was there a dominant voice within the group or was leadership a product of multiple voices? Why is it that some voices could be heard more so than others? What attributes of so-called leaders made them stand out from the crowd?  Why were some voices ignored when their opinions were equally valid, if not more so? What made some groups outperform the rest?

After several more fun and interactive activities where we learned about ourselves and each other, it became clear that the underlying theme of the workshop was the notion of communities of practice. According to one of our handouts, a community of practice is “a group of people who share a common concern, a set of problems, or interest in a topic and who come together to fulfil both individual and group goals”. As VC Scholars with a passion for learning and a history of high achievement, what better way of putting leadership theory to the test but through establishing a little community of practice of our own? While consensus could not be reached as to the finer intricacies of #VCScholar_CoP by the end of the workshop, the wheels were set into motion, and I suspect that momentum will build once everyone finishes their exams. Personally, I’m looking forward to belonging to such a distinguished group of individuals who interact regularly in pursuit of even greater glory.

Apart from the attending the workshop, the VC Scholars were also in Armidale for another most prestigious event. We were in town to receive our VC Scholar certificates, in front of family and friends, and the academic community that was embracing us with open arms. Dressed in our best cocktail/lounge suit attire, we accepted our awards from Professor Annabelle Duncan, our beloved Vice-Chancellor and CEO. As our names were called out one by one, it dawned on me what an honour it was to be among such elite minds. And for those lucky enough to receive Academic Development (valued at $1000) and Engagement Awards (valued at $4000), it was like adding icing on the cake! Hearing my name called out for a second time, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as I walked up on stage once again to pose with my fellow award winners.

“With his Engagement Award, Mark will attend the Royal Australian Chemical Institute National Congress held in Adelaide, and the Physical Biology of Proteins and Peptides conference in Mexico City.”

The ceremony came to a close with a final address from Dr Sarah Lawrence, the Charles Tesoriero Lecturer in Latin from the School of Humanities. Her speech was based, not surprisingly, on a Latin word; that word being inspiro or “to inspire”. Regaling us with tales of her academic accolades, previous shortcomings and future aspirations, she certainly made an indelible impression on me. I particularly enjoyed the metaphor she used about rays of light irradiating the night sky, which she premised with “I hope my colleagues from the hard sciences won’t jump all over me for my inaccuracy.” Speaking as a wannabe ‘hard’ scientist, I fell for it hook, line and sinker. With my certificate in hand and inspiro instilled in my head, my own rays of light shone through the darkness bigger and brighter than ever!

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