A QandA with the Vice Chancellor

11 May 2020

Student and staff representatives sat down for a Zoom Q&A session with our Vice Chancellor Professor Francis Campbell. Check out the video recording, listen to the audio, or read the transcript right here!

Q&A with the Vice Chancellor - Students from The University of Notre Dame Au on Vimeo.

Olivia Trahair  0:00

When can or when will we be able to get back to normal?

Professor Francis Campbell  0:03

Thank you, Olivia. This is in a sense, when will we be able to return to what we had perhaps in February. Although this is likely to be an element of the new normal that for every organisation for every university and indeed for our society, the question will be how do we live with what is a pandemic or preparedness for a pandemic? So I think even this exchange that we're having over zoom, and which we have weekly, is part of the new norm. We can have a face to face when the circumstances allow. And actually, it will be difficult to have a face to face bringing Fremantle and Sydney together and Broome in one place, so actually doing it as part of the new norm. We have found, like every other organisation, is that we've sort of perhaps had You know, 8 years of change in about 8 days. So in a sense, even post COVID and post the pandemic, there will still be elements that will be the new norm. And our life will be something of perhaps a hybrid. So that for those who can come face to face, and to engage in lectures and to engage in seminars, tutorials and laboratories, that would be great. But there may be people that actually for health reasons are another reason or their lifestyle or they're carrying commitments, might have to engage on the digital platform and I think for Notre Dame at normal for us, this is going to be the hybrid going forward, offering both the virtual face to face and the physical face to face and building community around that for as long as the public health requirements remain in place, we will be looking to continue with the online and as a relaxation occurs to be bringing, you know that relaxation back onto the campus starting with laboratories starting with tutorials and seminars, but when that will happen for lectures will be guided by the public health guidance on that all the time actually saying in in this post COVID norm to be saying actually that student choice is important and the student choice would allow for digital and the face to face in the physical sense. So, that hybrid norm I think is what will come out of this.

Daniel Uremovic  1:05

So Vice Chancellor, what will this mean for Notre Dame?

Professor Francis Campbell  1:17

So, Daniel, I think what it means for Notre Dame; I think it means that we put a premium as you know, on the face to face and on the community and in building up the community And since, you know, March when we all in the space of a week, staff moved to work from home and within two weeks we had our courses online, we've had to put a premium into building up the community. So whether it's in Sydney in the St. Benedict's courtyard or whether it's here, in those students centres, and they're looking at you on zoom rather than in the courtyard or in Prindiville Hall. So I think, for us, it's navigating our way, like every university through this digital phase. And what comes out of that, at the end, I think is the best of both worlds. That the digital is there for those who for some reason can't access our services in the normal traditional way. But also for those who can, a strong encouragement that they do, and that we keep community and that we observe that face to face. But that actually we have the best of both worlds. And that for us, I think, you know, whether it's in Broome or in Sydney or in Fremantle, I don't know if Selma or Christine have observations on this, but I think that for us is is the new and the old, combined.

Professor Christine Bennett  4:29

I was I was going to add Vice Chancellor that this time, I mean, it’s been difficult. It's been challenging our lives and our university lives have changed enormously. But some of that change is actually going to be fantastic for the future. I think this is what you're saying as well. And that we've done things literally in in days and weeks that we would normally have taken a lot longer to do and, and frankly students I think we're catching up with all of you with your technology prowess, I managed to get on to this without too much difficulty today. So where we're being brought closer to the world that you've probably been in. But there's still obviously we're all keen to have that human connection as we are able to, but to keep the valuable part of what we've been doing now, using this virtual world as well. And let's hope we keep this sort of agility that we've had to act quickly and carefully and with consultation as we are now as part of how we do what we do going into the future. Selma, how's it been over in Fremantle?

Professor Selma Alliex  5:42

Look exactly the same and, you know, agree with everything, the Vice Chancellor, you just said Christine, and my conversations with other universities around WA in particular that they are actually quite amazed at how we managed to get our systems up and running at very short notice. So that's been really important for us, I think, because there are a lot of students who, for various reasons are actually not able to come onto campus. And so now we are able to cater to that group of students as well. So for us, it's been a very, very strong improvement.

Maneesh Kelly  6:20

So Vice Chancellor, how will Notre Dame go about evolving?

Professor Francis Campbell  6:24

Lectures that we're delivering at the undergraduate and postgraduate level, we've even moved down the route. You know, today, there are 145 nursing students that have been Fast Tracked through to graduation. And you know, how their exams were done at the end of term, how the invigilation occurred. What the technology platform allows you to do, I think is is really immense and really transformative. But we've also gone down the route of a new area where the government asked us to start preparing for courses for those people who might be out of work, or people who have been temporarily laid off from work because of the lockdown or the shutdown. So we were the fourth University in Australia to actually have that stream of course online at undergraduate or postgraduate level six monthly certificates. And it's great to see that it's up there, Selma, you will know what's being offered between education, nursing, health care, all the frontline stuff. And I think again, and I think people have surprised themselves as to how quickly they have been able to adapt to this new mode of teaching and learning. And for us to be attentive, not only to, you know, what our existing students want, and how we learn along the way, but actually how prospective students engage with that and we saw the first indication of that Maneesh shortly after we went online where our nursing school here in Fremantle offered some free courses for nurses and frontline health care professionals to upskill. You know, they might have been away from nursing schools for a few years. And they were simply overwhelmed by the number of applications. And that, for us, was our way of actually trying to support our alumni on our existing students are doing an absolutely vital job, but also to give something back to the community. I know that Selma was a dean of nursing here in Fremantle before she became the PVC, but Selma, how would you answer Maneesh's question about how we're doing it at Notre Dame?

Professor Selma Alliex  8:54

Thanks, Vice Chancellor, I think, you know, it's about being vigilant about what opportunities are there for us. And because we are agile, and because we've demonstrated that in the last few, few months, actually picking up on those to see where the gaps are. And addressing those gaps, I think for us has even reassured our staff that they are quite capable of doing this and doing it and the turnaround being very quick. So, for us, that's been a very positive step to say, look, we all know what's going on out there. We know it's a very competitive market, we can identify the gaps. We have the expertise, particularly in the health areas, and we are able to address that and you know, the Vice Chancellor talked about short courses. We've only had maybe three days of advertising that and we're inundated with inquiries, which shows that we've probably hit the mark, again, in terms of what we need to what we need to provide to the community

Professor Francis Campbell  10:01

Christine you were you reporting earlier about a webinar on bioethics. And Christine, as you know, was the former dean of medicine in Sydney.

Professor Christine Bennett  10:12

My nine year anniversary today. Yes, look, I think what we've seen in developing these new short courses and getting them out there was we had some fantastic curriculum that we already had. And then we started to look at what was distinctively Notre Dame, what different contribution we could make. And we have just developed and are about to launch in this next semester, the masters of bioethics, which is suited to people of all sorts of different professional backgrounds. Because bioethics, of course, was very important in medicine and Nursing and Health Care. Whether you're a lawyer or a policymaker or leaders of industry, there are still bioethical issues that you face and none more so than in COVID. So yesterday afternoon, the School of Medicine as part of the MD program had a workshop on COVID, and bioethical issues, and we had 200 guests, we invited other people 200 guests dial in. Now, of course, we're not there with all the answers, because there’re more questions than there are answers, and there's going to be more questions coming up. But what the purpose of that was, was to actually get people to sort of pause and think about these many decisions that are being made. And also to give people the tools for how to question how to think and how to decide and, of course, COVID we're still in the midst of the changing environment of COVID. But there's going to be a very long post-COVID period and one of the great learnings I think we got from yesterday from Professor Renee Kohler-Ryan was the people who went into COVID not what we would usually characterise as vulnerable will come out of COVID much more vulnerable, so I think it's a lot of work, a lot of thinking, a lot of advocacy across all the health and other sectors as well as a lot of our alumni being involved in this. So very excited about this master of bioethics that we're launching and be offering it also semester two, as a graduate certificate, so very pleased to be offering that to community.

Helen Beaini  12:23

I guess my question would be, will Notre Dame still have a strong focus on the whole student?

Professor Selma Alliex  12:29

That's a very good question. And we're being asked that repeatedly now, the Vice Chancellor used a very peculiar phrase in his previous answer, which was, you know, a face to face, being face to face virtually, and being face to face physically and that is going to be that is going to be central to everything that we do. You know, so for us as it has as it was 17 years ago when I first started, in fact, 30 years ago, when the university first started was always to keep the student at the center of everything we do. And all of our decision making is based around that, you know, whether it be the financial assistance package that we've been providing, whether it's the counseling services that we're providing, all of that, you know, goes towards what students mean to us. Look, I can give you an example of how we're going to maintain this. And this is even before the student is technically a student, even when they're considering Notre Dame as the University of choice. And based on feedback we've had from staff and students, we’re making the admissions process or the applications process much simpler. So we, based on that feedback, we've actually taken out the interview process, still keeping the questions that that staff would ask of the students that interview as part of the application process now we think this is going to be a much more streamlined way of allowing more prospective students, in fact, to experience what we are at Notre Dame all of it based on feedback that we've received. So that is, I mean, I think you can be reassured that that is never going to follow up. As far as our university is concerned.

Mary-Anne Feghali  14:16

Vice Chancellor, I was wondering what students could look forward to, from a university perspective.

Professor Francis Campbell  14:22

Well, I think Mary-Anne, from a university perspective, and I'll ask Christina and Selma to come in, but my take on this from the university perspective is actually the enhancing of student choice and voice. So all of a sudden, there is a spectrum, I think of possibilities that perhaps aren't available in January around a how will you hear a lecture. So if we imagine that we at some stage come out of the COVID world and we will with you know, the help of God a vaccine will Be created and people will be inoculated. But that actually a student has a greater choice either in their array of courses they can take, or whether they decide to go into the lecture hall or whether they decide to listen to this remotely. Or a student that we haven't been able to reach before, who may be in a remote part of the country or whose physical or social circumstances may not allow them to basically reach campus very easily that that student's life chances and that student's education can be really opened up by being able to use this digital means. So this has fast tracked us into that space. And for me, I think that's an immense offer around just the student choice and allowing the student enabling the student to make a decision that's right for them. Christine, do you want to add anything?

Professor Christine Bennett  16:00

Look, I think one of the things I would say about the future is that, and it reflects on our previous questions, actually, is that it will be different at Notre Dame, I think the way we do things has always been different. And we're now morphing that because of the need of COVID into a new way of doing that. And Vice Chancellor mentioned the student voice. And I think that the weekly meetings that we've been having, it's a dialogue, it's a two way conversation has been really, really important in terms of what we do and considering what the priorities are as well. I think it's going to open up more students to the opportunities here at Notre Dame because we can build on technology. And the other thing I'd reflect is I just as I've been quite pleased to see our nation come together at that national cabinet and although each state does slightly different things, and we're in three states, of course, that there has been a real coming together nationally in our government. And I think that's the case here for Notre Dame as well. We found the schools on each side of the country working together and our executive and our campuses and, and I think it's been really uniting for the country, but for Notre Dame as well. And I think that sort of casts a slightly different opportunity for the future because we can really get the diversity and strength of both as both campus expertise in how we build our academic life, but also what we can offer from people around Australia. So yeah, I think it's a very, it's been a very daunting difficult time. And I would say, everybody has been working very, very, you know, committedly, and long hours, etc. And I will just, you know, be a doctor for a moment and say, I think we do all need to also recognize that we'll have to take a pause and have a bit of a rest and even though that might rest might be at home for a little while, or not quite the overseas trip we might be looking forward to, I think, you know, we can we can still find that rest and a different sort of piece. And one last thing I would say is that, I don't know about you, but I have had people who I haven't spoken to for 10 years contact me to say, how are you going? What's it like for you? And I and maybe, you know, maybe not everyone is frenetically, busy as we are. But again, even though not physically close as Selma was saying, that human connection is prevailing through all of this. So yeah, I think, you know, looking to the last three months, I'm kind of really keen to think about the next three months or a year or two and what we might be able to do to build on what we've been doing recently.

Professor Selma Alliex  18:54

Look, I have a slightly different take and you know, some suggestions for our students during these times. I mean, the Vice Chancellor's talked about the LinkedIn availability for students as well. And apparently research that's just come out suggest that all of you that are starting out in your careers will have 7 career changes in your lifetime. I'd love to see what you're doing in 20 years time, actually. But it's really interesting that micro-credentialling and you may have heard the term so many times. But I think this is an opportunity for you to start gaining those skills that you can build on in any position, transferable skills, and competencies that you can start developing and build on. So you can actually take them to any positions, any qualifications, any professions you want to go into. And this is just exactly the opportunity that you're going to have. Because the LinkedIn will allow you the opportunity to access the 15,000 courses that are already available. So I think you should do that. I mean, I'm looking forward to having a look at the list to see what I can get from there. But it's something that you should all consider.

Professor Christine Bennett  20:09

This wasn't the start, I guess you're expecting. Just wondering what sort of reflections over the last three months might shape what comes next for Notre Dame?

Professor Francis Campbell  20:24

Well, Christine, certainly COVID was emerging just as I was coming, so much so that I left my job in London on the 30th of January. And I was flying to the US for a conference in the US on the 31st of January, which was Brexit day in Britain, Brexit, Britain was leaving the European Union. And when I was over in the conference, I met some colleagues from Notre Dame and they said look, not sure you should be travelling via Hong Kong. If I were you, I would travel directly from London to Perth, because things are moving so quickly that actually you could find yourself being sent to Christmas Island for two weeks. So I came here and then, you know, when people now talk about, you know, what we had in Sydney in February, it seems like years away because so much has happened. I think it's very important for any organisation, especially a university that, you know, whatever comes from this is some sort of shift and some shift around the way we work the way we interact. And maybe we emerge from this a lot less complacent about our health, and about our human relationships, and about our planet and how we work and about really the existential questions of life and meaning and purpose, with an organisation like Notre Dame and the University of Notre Dame, bring them together because we don't divorce, the existential the faith and the reason we bring them together. So I think for us, I think there's a real intellectual journey of renewal that we can go on where we can have impact way beyond our university. And for me, it's that whole sort of Newmanesque vision around the interdisciplinarity of what we're doing. Knowledge isn't fragmented, it's actually unified. And Christine referred to earlier as our bioethics to anyone who looks at the pandemic and sees simply health. And then you look at the media and you see the discussions about, you know, who's entitled to the service and who isn't who makes that judgment on the basis of what. These are deeply ethical questions that need to be investigated from many disciplines, and to be discussed. as an institution Christine, look, as you all know far better than our generation, the digital induces you not just to be national, but to be International. It's your window into the world. So I think, as a university community, the very fact that you know, Olivia, and Helen are reaching out on the zoom conference to the student union representatives in London, who themselves are in lockdown. And that tells you something of a new world that that's emerging from here. And also the fact that, you know, we have our first joint degree as an institution with our sister University in Paris, an LLM in law. So there's a whole range of possibilities that emerge from this. And I think it's a reminder for me, you know, regardless of where we are that pursuit of education in a faith-based tradition and a Catholic tradition, I think is vitally important. And for us, it's around the national footprint, it's around what we offer and what we engage with. And, you know, you look at some of the, you know, just today, one of the videos that I was asked to do this morning was a video message for the 145 nursing students that are graduating in Fremantle today and it's the year of the nurse and the midwife because of the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth. And you just think, you know, 145 of our students fast tracked to graduation going out into hospitals into the front line. And you just think wow. Not only for the students, families, but to the staff who've been forming them the last three years so I think examples like that tell us that COVID is a problem we're managing. Actually, we're coming out the other end, and we're looking at new ways of doing things and being very, very agile. I have a question for each of you. And my question for each of you is, what do you see in the future?

Daniel Uremovic  25:23

I guess it means for us a, like you said, a new way of doing things and a lot of new opportunities that are going to come out of this. And so to maintain that, you know, your Newmanesque vision for the university, I think that's going to only benefit us in the end and in the long run. So I'm, I'm looking ahead quite keenly towards what's, what's ahead.

Professor Francis Campbell  25:47

Good. Daniel, what about you, Olivia?

Olivia Trahair  25:50

I agree with what everyone's been saying. I'm excited for the future. And definitely looking forward to the hybrid model that you speak of and providing that more opportunity for students, and for them to have the choice as to whether they do come on campus or are part of it virtually it's exciting. And I can see why it was, it was daunting in the beginning. But the more we sort of learn about it, the more we discover how it can be utilised. I think it's very exciting.

Professor Francis Campbell  26:18

And Olivia, when Selma says that you're going to have seven careers during your life, how does that make you feel?

Olivia Trahair  26:23

A bit overwhelmed, but again, also excited because it's so hard to tell what's in the future, and sort of how my life is going to play out. But I know that the skills that I'm learning, both within my role with the Student Association, but also what I'm learning from the university, will be beneficial in all of those careers.

Professor Francis Campbell  26:44

Well, Olivia Thank you. And Maneesh?

Maneesh Kelly  26:49

Um, I think like it or not, everyone's had to shift their perspective with this pandemic. And I'm really interested to see what sticks after it's all over. And I'm hoping that the best parts of it, stay around the sense of community and everyone looking out for one another. I'm hoping that we can move on and be all the better for it.

Professor Francis Campbell  27:17

Thank you, Maneesh. Mary-Anne?

Mary-Anne Feghali  27:23

I guess I'm really interested to see the dynamics post-COVID between students and staff. This zoom era has meant that there's been a great interaction between students and staff. So I think taking that with us after COVID will work out really well.

Professor Francis Campbell  27:43

Very good. Very good. Like we never before this, we never had a, you know, we never had a zoom meeting with students and we never had one right across the country. That's a really good, really good point. And Helen?

Helen Beaini  28:00

I think with university and beyond university; I think it's exciting in that before we were very much had a structure and we loved structure. We loved knowing what the future held. But I think it's exciting now knowing that things are going to be different from what we planned. But I think the big lesson is it's okay not to know. I think especially in our society; we love to plan and we love to have control over things. I think so, the COVID really shook our world. But I think the blessing in disguise really, in a weird way, but yeah, so I'm excited.

Professor Francis Campbell  28:37

Thank you. Helen. and Christine?

Professor Christine Bennett  28:45

Look, I love uncertainty. See, because from uncertainty comes opportunity. And I am really I am really I've always been very close to the students. That's actually You know, the thing that energises us to keep us going, and I'm particularly reflecting on my alumni to be honest, when you ask that because I've just said, so many of our alumni reach out and tell us what they're doing and how they're contributing makes you incredibly proud. So I guess I am, I am a bit into preparedness; I have to tell you Helen and because even though we don't know what we don't know, at least being prepared for a number of different opportunities gives us the opportunity, the ability to move quickly. So I'm very, very, I'm excited for the future. And I'm excited to work with all of you and I think, keep Notre Dame as being different, special and making a contribution to the community here. And I do look forward to when we can actually move across the countryside and I do look forward to when we can get back to international travel. But until then, there you are all on screen. And so looking forward to the journey that we'll be going through the next year or so.

Professor Francis Campbell  30:12

Thank you.

Professor Selma Alliex  30:15

Thank you, Vice Chancellor. Look, this has been a week of highs and lows. Many highs though compared to the lows. And in terms of the highs, you know, we talked with Maneesh and some other student representatives the other day about the School of Medicine, YouTube video, thanking our staff for first-year students, you know, thanking our staff for looking after them but also being very creative in their teaching and making it very engaging for them. And listening to all of you speak I'm thinking well, our future is secure because you know, just hearing you all speak your ideas about what you're looking forward to. It does give us as academics and people that; you know are at a different level in terms of where we are in our own careers, a bit of an affirmation, I guess, to see that you know, you will do you will all do really well but gives us inspiration in return to say that we need to continue doing what we're doing because it clearly makes a difference to everyone and in turn, you will do the same, or when you're in your own professional role, so I'm really happy.

Professor Francis Campbell  31:29

Thank you, Selma.

Olivia Trahair  31:31

Vice Chancellor, I’d just like to ask what’s next for Notre Dame?

Professor Francis Campbell  31:35

Well, Olivia, what is next for us is that we come forward on the back of the changes that have occurred, that we retain who we are as a community, that we're not complacent about that. We're not complacent about the human to human interaction. And that sense of community that defines us Both as staff as students as alumni, that we're within the communities that we're studying and living in, in Fremantle in Broome, across Sydney, even into Victoria. We face a situation which we know we're living through, which is a huge cultural shift in some form of which none of us have the answers. We're living through it, and we're living through it together. And I think that what I've learned from students what I've learned from staff ideas that come forward, I think the more of the ideas are there, the more we listen to other's perspectives and each other in terms of what we have to think about. What some of the solutions might be, how we can remind each other in periods of change or turmoil or upheaval what actually it is that makes us part of a community. I think that's really, really important. So for the next steps, I think the dialogue with the student associations, and you're, you're the representative, the students who are elected into the roles. I think that's a vitally important that that student voice is at the heart of everything that we do. And I think also that the staff voice is at the heart of what we do. And the openness for suggestions, comments for engagement and dialogue. So this time last week, this week, we're meeting the Student Associations, this time last week, I was sitting down with the joint Consultative Committee of staff. And I think that as long as we understand that, actually, each of us living through this has a perspective to bring to the table. So there's a genuine welcome that's on my part, my colleagues part for suggestions, recommendations, questions. Sometimes we might have the answer. And sometimes we might not have the answer, I think in an environment like this, it's very important that we know what we know. And we're able to say we don't know, sometimes. And I know that the questions you've raised and your colleagues have raised, Olivia, in many of these calls, what'll happen for semester two, what will happen with the remainder of semester one students have this issue, and we can work through those issues. And then some of the issues we see governments struggle with around when will we lift restrictions, etc, etc. And that's because government often doesn't know government is looking at the same situation as we're all looking at. And you see governments do their best and the government here has done, you know at a state level local level national level has done a remarkable job. And they've been under huge pressure. And I think, you know, the fact that Australia is coming out of this stage with such low numbers, I think, is a testament to public service. So I think, you know, whatever's next for us, I think having a degree of patience with each other, and a degree of openness to each other, and we're all experiencing something new. And no one person and no one organisation has all the answers as to what and how we come through this. And I think being open to the perspective of other people and different perspectives, I think will equip us better to come through it.


Media Contact: Breyon Gibbs : +61 8 9433 0569 | breyon.gibbs@nd.edu.au