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Helen Nicholson named as next DVC Academic

Friday 3 July 2020 9:39am

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Professor Helen Nicholson. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

Professor Helen Nicholson is tremendously excited to have been appointed as the next Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academic – a role she says is close to her heart.

The University announced on Monday that Professor Nicholson, who has been the Deputy-Vice Chancellor, External Engagement for the past five years, will step sideways into the equivalent Academic position in January 2021.

The new position suits Professor Nicholson, who has maintained an active research programme in the Department of Anatomy through her many Otago leadership roles.

Before becoming Deputy Vice-Chancellor of External Engagement, Professor Nicholson, who graduated as a medical doctor from the University of Bristol in 1979, held positions as the Head of the Department of Anatomy, Dean of the Otago School of Medical Sciences, and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International).

She came to Otago from the University of Bristol in 2000 as full professor.

“At the end of the day, I am an academic and having the opportunity to be involved with supporting students and staff and teaching and learning is very attractive and where my true passion lies,” she says.

"At the end of the day, I am an academic and having the opportunity to be involved with supporting students and staff and teaching and learning is very attractive and where my true passion lies."

Professor Nicholson was the first leader of the Division of External Engagement after it was created in 2015. It brought together the University’s international, alumni, communications, marketing, and schools’ liaison functions and the Auckland Centre.

“I’ve learnt so much in the last five years,” she says. “I think I’ve achieved much of what I hoped to do. We’ve appointed some great staff. We have brought the various teams together and they are working collaboratively, and we have managed to get all of the Dunedin staff physically co-located.”

Professor Nicholson says she has always been told that the key to creating a high functioning team is having the right people in the right seats on the bus.

“And this has really been shown to be true for the Division! In terms of tangible outcomes, until the advent COVID-19, we’ve had year-on-year growth of domestic and international student numbers, increased philanthropic giving and increased media coverage and this has only been possible because our teams have been working hard together.”

While she admits she won’t miss the extensive travel the role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor, External Engagement involved pre-COVID, she will miss the people.

“First, the amazing people in the Division, they are a great bunch and have worked so hard especially during the lockdown. I will also miss the interesting people I’ve met in New Zealand and offshore during the last five years.”

"Professor Nicholson is the ideal person for this role. She brings a strong background of academic leadership and a proven track record in building and implementing effective strategies."

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Harlene Hayne, says she is delighted with the appointment.

“Professor Nicholson is the ideal person for this role. She brings a strong background of academic leadership and a proven track record in building and implementing effective strategies. Additionally, Professor Nicholson’s strong problem-solving skills, complemented by a deep understanding of University processes, are an advantage."

When Professor Nicholson begins her new role in January 2021 Professor Pat Cragg, who has been acting in the role of Deputy-Vice-Chancellor, Academic since 15 April 2019 will step down. Professor Hayne acknowledges the work of Professor Cragg.

“We have been incredibly fortunate that Professor Cragg stepped into the role. She has been a lynchpin for us during the COVID-19 pandemic and her performance in overseeing the University’s recent challenges has been nothing short of outstanding. I wish Professor Cragg well and look forward to acknowledging her more fully later this year.”

A recruitment process for the role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor, External Engagement will begin in due course.