Professor Dawn Freshwater started as Vice Chancellor of the University of Auckland in March this year – beginning right as the COVID-19 Pandemic hit New Zealand and the country went into Lockdown. Craccum catches up with her – admittedly over email – to find out more about our new Vice-Chancellor, outside of the university COVID-19 updates.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Nottingham in the UK, moving to Australia six years ago and of course most recently to NZ. I have an academic and professional practice background in Mental Health, and have been fortunate enough to engage in collaborative research that has focused on youth suicide, young offenders and psychological therapies, amongst other things. I am a passionate advocate of Education and committed to Inclusive Leadership.
How has the move to New Zealand been?
The move to New Zealand has not been quite as expected. I arrived in Auckland, and within two days was working with the university staff and students to think about a move to Alert Level 3 and 4. So, I have not really even explored the campus, and as yet, we have not got to know our local area, but we look forward to doing so.
What have you been looking forward to doing out of Lockdown?
Coffee is one of my few vices, and so I am really looking forward to enjoying takeaway coffee, and the ritual that goes with it.
Is there anywhere in New Zealand you plan to visit (when you can)?
The North Island is the part of NZ I know least. I have had many opportunities to explore the South Island in the past, both on holidays and with work, and so I am really hoping to get to know the top and bottom of the North Island intimately.
What would you say your three main priorities are in terms of moving the University forwards?
Priorities are: developing the new strategic plan and vision, which relates to the future purpose and relevance of the University; setting the tone, which is an important aspect of how we relate to others, including students, and how people relate to us; and of course ensuring that the University is on a sustainable footing to continue its enormous contribution to the region way beyond my time as VC.
What do you think is the most important thing for any student to learn at the University of Auckland?
There are many technical skills, and much discipline specific knowledge that are valuable of course. For me it is the skills you need to apply that learning in the service of humanity, community, your friends and whānau. These include empathy, ethical reasoning, communication skills, moral judgement and critical thinking.
What’s one thing you can’t live without?
The Covid-19 events have given us all a jolt into realizing that there are many things that we take for granted and actually can live without. Of course we cannot live without the air that we breathe, and this is something we all need to remember as we think about future grand challenges, including climate change.
If you could change one thing about the human body, what would it be?
As a health professional I could argue that there are many design faults associated with the human body, but in actual fact, our bodies are pretty amazing aren’t they. I would still like to be able to run marathons like I used to, but without having to do the training!
What’s your favourite body of freshwater?
The Lochs and the tarns of Scotland are pretty unbeatable, but…I have no doubt that I will find more beautiful and expansive bodies of freshwater right here on my new doorstep!