Who is the VC and what does he do?

Throughout your time at the University of Newcastle you’re going to get to know a ton of interesting people. However, someone you will likely hear a lot about but may not get a chance to meet – except perhaps in your Orientation Welcome Session, at the Vice-Chancellor’s Student Welcome or your graduation – is the Vice-Chancellor.

A VC is the equivalent of a chief executive officer (CEO). In addition to managing day-to-day operations, our VC is also the principal academic officer. As the public face of our University, the VC is responsible for promoting our goals, including building global networks and fundraising.

At the University of Newcastle, our current VC is Professor Alex Zelinsky. And for those of you who are new to the University, guess what? So is Professor Zelinsky, having become our eighth VC and President in November 2018.

A remarkable and varied career

Prior to taking up this position, Professor Zelinsky was Australia’s Chief Defence Scientist and leader of Defence Science and Technology within the Department of Defence.

However, Professor Zelinksy is no stranger to leadership in the tertiary sector, having previously held executive positions at the CSIRO, University of Wollongong and the Australian National University.

During his time at ANU, he co-founded and was CEO of safety technology firm Seeing Machines, which uses computer vision to monitor a driver’s attention and alertness.

In 2017, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) “For distinguished service to defence science and technology, to systems engineering, and to education as an academic and researcher.”

While he has also worked as an engineer, scientist and roboticist, education is of special significance to Professor Zelinsky. The son of Russian refugees, he started primary school unable to speak English. Now fluent in three languages, Professor Zelinksy personally attests to the ability of education to change lives.

You may be wondering though…

What are his plans for our University?

High on the list of priorities for Professor Zelinsky is environmental sustainability and social responsibility.

Since his appointment, the University of Newcastle has become one of the first Australian universities to pledge to purchase 100 per cent of its energy from renewable sources.

Professor Zelinsky also plans to build upon our reputation as one of Australia’s most inclusive universities.

“I know what it is like to grow up in regional Australia, in an industrial city where the local university plays a central role in the community,” Professor Zelinsky said.

“I know what disadvantage looks like, and I know first-hand the difference that education can make to a person’s life.”

He will also bring expertise in grants and industry funding to the table, having been awarded over $7 million during his career. With the University of Newcastle ranking in the top eight in Australia for research – “well above world standard” – Professor Zelinsky plans to use his industry experience to translate our research into economic and social benefits.

“I know how tough it can be to successfully translate good research into real products for global markets,” he said.

“By working in our publicly funded research agencies, I have learnt the value of interdisciplinary work and how it can be applied to solve difficult problems with large teams of researchers partnering with others in research institutes, business, government and international agencies.

“I have learnt the lessons of harnessing the transformational power of digital technology.”

Despite having a packed dance card, if you happen to see Professor Zelinsky on campus, don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation. In the many presentations he has delivered since commencing his role, our new Vice-Chancellor has stressed the importance of students.

After all, what is a university without them?

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