New vice-chancellor an advocate for excellence
Before becoming vice-chancellor of Monash University in September this year, Professor Richard Larkins was often struck by the number of Monash graduates in high places he met while travelling overseas.
Professor Richard Larkins with his wife Caroline.
"Whenever I have travelled in Southeast Asia in particular, I have been very impressed by the number of community leaders in different countries who were Monash graduates," Professor Larkins told Monash Magazine.
"I think Monash's early involvement in international education has stood it in very good stead. The network of people who now say with great pride that they are Monash alumni is quite extraordinary."
Professor Larkins says he has known of and respected Monash and its achievements since its very beginnings in the early 1960s and since his own early days in academia.
"I think the basic aspirations of academia are the same wherever you are - you want to achieve the highest quality teaching and the highest quality research you can. The Monash difference lies in its innovative and youthful approach - and in the opportunities presented by its multiple campuses.
"Monash's facilities and space provide enormous scope - the fact that there is the space to build the new synchrotron at Clayton is a perfect example. This is the kind of innovation and opportunity that a somewhat newer institution can deliver."
Professor Larkins' appointment came with expectations that he would be an enthusiastic advocate of the university's world-class research activities, such as its work with stem cells, reproductive technology, green chemistry and road safety research.
"I think the role of being an advocate - the public face - for what Monash is doing is essential," he says.
"There are some wonderful areas of research that are absolutely at the forefront of international activity. We need to build on these and create other areas of excellence."
He believes Monash's position at the cutting-edge of research activity has helped it attract high-quality researchers, which ensures its students are taught by the best in their field.
"People who are involved in the advancement of knowledge do have an excitement and a depth of understanding about their topic that allows them to convey that sense of excitement to their students," Professor Larkins says. "It's a vital part of education.
"Access to quality teaching and research gives students the desire to discover new information as it unfolds during their lifetime, whether it is in their profession or other areas of their lives."
And that is entirely consistent, he says, with the university's motto Ancora Imparo, 'I am still learning'. "We will find more and more that the qualifications people graduate with will be insufficient for a lifetime in a fast-changing environment."
Staying in touch with Monash and all it offers in terms of flexible learning arrangements makes sense for alumni looking to advance both their knowledge and careers, he says.
"We are planning to further develop a suite of educational programs that will help our graduates accommodate the changes in their professional lives."
Professor Larkins is not shy in calling for graduates to support their alma mater. "It is in our alumni's interest for Monash to be an esteemed and valued university on the international scene. The value of their qualifications will increase enormously as the university's standing increases.
"So every Monash graduate has an obligation to increase the knowledge and reputation of the university around the world, and to give something back when they are able to, to allow Monash to take the next step forward to being a really great international university."