A Day in the Life of…

It is always a pleasure to meet readers. Indeed, it’s hard not to, given the frequency of College hosted events. I bumped into one of the blog regulars last week at a stimulating event and they asked, ‘do you do this every night?’ A fair question…

Last week was a tad busier than usual…

Monday I was dining with a well-known Victorian entrepreneur comparing ideas about a European Future Cities conference at which some of our people are presenting and sharing knowledge about DSC’s work in urban resilience.

Tuesday evening saw me ensconced in The Moat with some colleagues working through the College ‘Green Paper’.

Wednesday was pretty special – the Emerging Writers’ Festival launch of 9 Slices – a book created at breakneck speed by staff and students from Media & Comms – a chapter a day for 9 days! The launch at the inimitable 1000 £ Bend was very memorable – crowded, enthusiastic and committed to fine writing.

Thursday I was MC for the opening of the Impact Design Festival at the Design Hub, a truly varied exhibition of materials and design innovations. See it if you can (showing until August 9) and make sure to check out the fillets of basalt rock and the very elegant bone-line pieces from Canada.

… But Friday evening topped the lot. RMIT had a table at the Social Studio Winter Gala in the vast Fitzroy Town Hall. Rappers, poets, samba bands, a runway fashion show, and a 3-course meal of fab ethnic food. Hats off to Lisa Thompson and the students for getting us all around one table and to VC Fellow Grace McQuilten, who works with the Social Studio on a range of innovative, socially engaged arts projects. Not sure who the chap in the picture is, but he moved with alacrity that I could never hope to emulate.

Check out these links for more info:



Registrations Closing Tomorrow: DSC ‘Meet the VC’ Forum

Dear colleagues

A reminder that you are all invited to a ‘meet the VC’ event 3.00 – 4.30pm Wednesday 19th August 2015 in Storey Hall Auditorium (presentation and discussion @3pm, refreshments @4pm)

Following a number of presentations by colleagues, Martin will reflect on what he’s seen across DSC and on our priorities. He’ll also reflect on his first 6 months at RMIT and on the development of the RMIT 2016-2020 strategy.

The short presentations by College staff will focus on innovative projects in learning, teaching and research, and will reflect the many ways we work with a wide range of partners in this country and overseas. They’ll give us all an opportunity to see genuinely exciting, even radical, projects that have been initiated by our students, staff and stakeholders.

Places are limited so please register now via this google form.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

best wishes

Getting Rid of Menelaus

One avid reader of the blog sent me a clipping about an unfortunate member of a Scottish ‘Boy Band’ who collapsed from heat exhaustion on a long-haul flight. Apparently he was wearing 12 layers of clothing to avoid paying the $90 excess baggage fee.

This put me to thinking about the word ‘simplicity’, which is making such a startling appearance in the RMIT Strategic Plan. ‘Simplicity’ is a powerful singular term for any organisation that aims to be agile, collaborative, and empowered. There is a desperate need across Australia to radically simplify our procedures, processes and programs of work to stop us getting ‘weighed down’.

A recent report from Deloitte described a near-crisis facing the country. Apparently, 1 in 11 workers in the country are employed in ‘compliance’, and 8.9 hours of every middle-manager’s working week is spent meeting compliance requirements. The irony is that most of the compliance has been put in place by themselves and their organisation, not by ‘others’ outside.

So here’s three cheers for ‘simplicity’ – here’s to the call for a radical simplification of processes, systems integration, giving permissions to act and empowering staff to succeed.

Before I get carried away though, the sobering report can be browsed at: http://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/media-releases/articles/rules-eat-up-250-billion-a-year-271014.html

Weird Words

Thanks to those many readers who wrote last week to advise that some odd words had sneaked into my blog entry about the DSC Staff Survey results. The Ghosts were most definitely in the Machine. What popped up was the tantalising phrase CONTENT NOT FOR INCLUSION IN STAFF EMAIL OR BLOG POST. Very odd. I checked the text, nothing missing, nothing censored, or removed by higher order. I can only assume that the RMIT Staff Survey results are a concern to national security as far afield as GCHQ in the UK, or even NSA in the US.

Meanwhile, expect some future blog entries about the DSC Spatial Masterplan (which offers a series of innovative solutions to the vast sprawling estate of the College) and a DSC Green Paper on ‘Academic Clusters’ which is now being ‘workshopped’ (another noun being wrongly used as a verb) with the DSC Executive to promote interdisciplinary thinking across the many academic strengths in the College.

… Now, let’s see if the words ‘masterplan’ and ‘strategy’ trigger the spooks this time?

An announcement for DSC’s Academics, from VC Martin Bean CBE

A message from VC Martin Bean for DSC’s Academics:

 Bring your class to Founders’ Celebrations!

 I am delighted to invite all academic staff to bring your students to Founders’ Celebrations and help kickstart a productive and supportive semester for everyone.

We know that a student’s social experience on campus has a profound impact on their academic outcomes. This is why I’m so excited to be hosting RMIT Founders’ Celebrations on 21–23 July at all Melbourne campuses.

With free food, live entertainment and lots of giveaways, it’s the perfect opportunity for your students to interact and create bonds that will strengthen their experience into the next semester and throughout their education journey.

  • Brunswick campus, Tuesday 21 July, 12–3pm
  • Bundoora campus, Wednesday 22 July, 12–3pm
  • City campus, Thursday 23 July, 12–4pm

Martin Bean CBE, Vice-Chancellor and President

Please click this link for more information or watch this short video from Martin Bean 


Your Voice Counts

Dear colleagues across Design and Social Context

The 2015 ‘Your Voice’ survey was completed by 598 of DSC’s academic, teaching and professional staff, representing 62% of the College. Key findings were an increase in staff satisfaction on the majority of items, with the exception of organisational direction which dropped 11% to 63% and work life balance which reduced by 3%.

Of note, only 51% of staff reported that they were aware of the overall strategy senior management has for RMIT. This rating represents a drop of 15% on the previous survey and is on par with RMIT Australia overall (after allowing for the survey’s margin of error of 2.3%). These observations – on direction and strategy – may reflect the continuing debate about the 2016-20 RMIT strategy.

Survey items with the highest satisfaction ratings demonstrate DSC staff engagement and commitment to the part they play in achieving RMIT’s mission.

  • 80% of respondents agreed that they are committed to RMIT with 82% subscribing to RMIT’s mission and values
  • 82% expressed job satisfaction with 90% of respondents agreeing that they like their job
  • 82% agree that they have clarity about their role with 83% reporting that they had completed their 2014 workplan and had received feedback from their manager

In addition to these strong responses, DSC staff contribution to https://shapermit.com/ indicates staff interest and enthusiasm in contributing to RMIT’s new strategic plan. DSC is holding an all-staff forum on 19 August to exchange examples of innovations in learning and teaching and research. The forum is also an opportunity for dialogue with Martin Bean about the vision and strategic direction of RMIT.

Items with the lowest rating clustered around processes, cross-unit collaboration and workload:

  • Only 38% of respondents expressed satisfaction with RMIT processes, a drop of 2% and a rating 4% lower than RMIT Australia overall
  • There was increased satisfaction with technology, however, the rating was still only 45% and was 5% lower than RMIT Australia overall
  • Cross-unit collaboration was rated at 24%, a drop of 2% and 6% lower than RMIT Australia overall. Only 21% of respondents agreed that there is good communication across all sections of RMIT and 27% considered that knowledge and information are shared throughout RMIT – in contrast, within work units, DSC staff view teamwork positively, rating this at 83% satisfaction
  • In relation to change and innovation, only 30% of DSC respondents agreed that RMIT is good at learning from its mistakes and successes
  • DSC’s rating of workload at 34% was 10% lower than that for RMIT staff in Australia – only 29% of respondents agreed that there is sufficient time available to work on high priority projects and activities (11% lower than the rating for RMIT as a whole), 40% agreed that they are given enough time to do the job well (a rating on par with the previous survey, yet 13% lower than RMIT as a whole)
  • This was also the case for staff wellbeing with DSC’s satisfaction rate at 45%, 11% lower than the University as a whole

Your voice counts

Clearly, at College level we have some immediate challenges about workloads, how we prioritise and how we appoint new staff. Life-Work balance is also a real issue. I will be talking to my Executive colleagues this week about these specific responses from across the College.

By mid-August, you will each have the opportunity to review survey results with colleagues. You will be invited to respond to the outcomes and to recommend actions which might be taken to address issues, both at school and college-level.

Deans and Heads have copies of the communication and action schedule. I will be following this up with my team and look forward to engaging with many of you.

Thank you for your continuing commitment to our students, our stakeholders and to each other, and to our values as a university and college.

Paul Gough

Pro Vice Chancellor, Design and Social Context

New Head of the School of Art – Dr Julian Goddard

DSC is delighted to welcome Dr Julian Goddard as our new Head of the School of Art. He took up the post on 1st June 2015 after a long period at Curtin University’s School of Design and Art where he established himself as a leader on a national and international stage.

As a curator, Associate Professor Goddard has made over 50 exhibitions and published widely on Australian, Aboriginal and concrete art, including three books. His research interests include Indigenous art and especially contemporary and historical Noongar (the original people of south-west Australia) art as well as Neo-Concrete art, politicised art and Australian art history. He has curated several major and many smaller exhibitions and published widely in dealing with these interests that collectively form a type of art practice in itself – sometimes referred to as ‘social practice’, based on the production of new knowledge and understanding stemming from primary research.

Besides bringing history into being through writing and curation, many of the artifacts that have been rediscovered in this original research – including trade union banners, paintings, photographs and installations that may have otherwise been destroyed – have instead ended up in public collections as part of the national estate.

Major exhibitions, such as the recent Revel Cooper (Noongar artist) at the John Curtin Gallery at Curtin University can take years of primary research to prepare. It requires locating material, collecting stories about an artist through interviews and primary documentation and then writing a narrative/argument/biography for the exhibition, negotiating the loans of work from institutions and private parties, raising funds for the exhibition, giving talks and lectures – all part of an extended notion of ‘research’. The recent Australian Centre for Concrete Art (AC4CA) exhibition at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art was a result of over 10 years support and curatorial activity for an international tendency in art based around the production of very large public artworks (wall paintings).

Julian is currently working on a book on Revel Cooper and two exhibitions of the AC4CA in Europe.


DSC Executive Profile – Judy McGannon

Judy McGannon recently accepted an appointment as Director Planning and Resources in the College Office for a 5-year term, 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2020.  Judy joined the College in May 2013 on secondment from the Academic Portfolio where she was the Deputy Director Planning and Projects in the Academic Registrar’s Group, and prior to that Director of Planning and Resources in the Academic and Students Portfolios.

Judy has an MBA from Swinburne University, a Master of Arts (Applied Linguistics) from the University of Melbourne and a Graduate Diploma in Education and Bachelor of Arts from Monash University.

Following her early career as a secondary school teacher and then lecturer in language teacher education at the University of Melbourne, Monash University and VU, Judy moved into educational administration.  She spent close to 10 years at the Centre for Adult Education (CAE) which culminated in the position of Director of Education Programs where she had oversight of short courses and vocational education programs. Experience gained at CAE in the negotiation of funding agreements with the Victorian Government and development of curriculum in response to learner feedback and market demand stand her in good stead for the role in DSC.

Judy leads teams in the DSC College Office responsible for business and strategic planning; student profile development and portfolio analysis; marketing and web services; facilities and OHS and secretariat support to college committees.  In addition, the position ensures integration and alignment of IT, HR, Property and Financial Services to support the College’s academic priorities.

DSC Executive Profile – Professor Ralph Horne

Ralph Horne (BSc (Hons), MSc Salford (UK), PhD SHU (UK)) is the Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor, Research and Innovation (DPVC R&I) for the College of Design and Social Context and the Director of the Global Compact Cities Programme (the urban arm of the United Nations Global Compact).

As DPVC R&I, he supports research performance through the development of new and existing research Groups and Centres, mentoring future research leaders, and providing strategic leadership in support of research activity across the College. In his Directorship role with the Cities Programme, Ralph is responsible for strategy and engagement, development of the programme, governance, business planning, academic engagement, staff, resources and reporting.

Ralph enjoys a wide network of industry partnerships. He has led over 100 urban research projects, collaborating with researchers, cities, governments, and commercial organisations across all continents and including specifically studies of housing and development in Europe, Australasia, SE Asia and Latin America.

Ralph’s expertise is in urban social and policy change for sustainable design and development. He has extensive experience of environmental techniques and sustainability appraisal and has a specific research interest in urban transitions, including socio-technical relations in the context of climate change and resource scarcity. He combines research leadership and participation in research projects concerning the environmental, social and policy context of production and consumption in the urban environment.

He held the positions of Director, Green Building Council of Australia from 2010-13 and Council Member, Built Environment Industry Innovation Council, Commonwealth Government, Australia from 2008-12.

Practice Makes Perfect

So good to see such a lot of student work on show in the last few weeks. DSC programs excel in practice-based learning, and that was clear to see when I wandered into Building 9 where Marius Foley and colleagues were assessing long tables of design work produced as part of their studios last semester.

I was out at student events most nights last week, as well as a well-attended inaugural professorial lecture by Robyn Goodman from GUSS, which was both authoritative and provocative.

The pictures show the Architecture and Urban Design prize-winner presentations in the Design Hub on Thursday, with Leon and Vivian at the controls; the other shows new Head of School Julian Goddard opening the Masters exhibition of Art in public Spaces in PS50, Orr Street. Both great occasions… and an opportunity to say ‘Welcome Julian!’

Student talk dotted wall