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University of New England Education - Passport to an International Career


n the day the world learned of the death of Steve Jobs, cofounder of Apple, my day began in Ottawa, ON, Canada. I was returning home to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan after representing the University of Saskatchewan at professional association meetings. Using my iPad and the airport wi-fi connection I checked email and found news from UNE Alumni. It all seemed a long way away from the day in the early 1970s when, via Australia Post letter delivery, I learned the news that I was to be the first in the Williamson family to ever attend university. Thanks to the then highly innovative UNE policy of advance admittance through the Principals’ Report Scheme, I had earned a place at UNE to study for a Bachelor of Arts! That day began a lifelong career at universities - several different ones in various Australian states and since 2006, in Canada. I went to UNE over 30 years ago and as a result of a high quality educational and learning experience, I equipped myself with the knowledge, skills and abilities to build a international career in universities, one which has taken me to many parts of the world and sees me now residing on a permanent basis in Canada. You could say I went to university and never left! I had always loved learning (and books) and upon arrival at UNE I discovered the treasures of Dixson Library, going on to join the ranks of their student assistant workforce back in the days when they boasted state of the art library technology - a microfiche catalogue and Xerox photocopying machines! Upon graduation, I obtained employment joining the library workforce at the then state-of-the-art library building at the Armidale College of Advanced Education (ACAE), which not only housed an impressive rare books collection but was then the home of the Howard Hinton Art Collection. True to Hinton’s original wishes, I worked alongside the art collection on a daily basis, drawing joy and inspiration from a collection amassed by a benefactor who simply wanted people to enjoy good art.


to help establish Australia’s first Prime Ministerial Library - the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library- come along. So in Perth I stayed for 13 years, watching higher education institutions across the country reinvent themselves and welcome ever increasing numbers of students from diverse backgrounds - women, Aboriginal and international students.

My broad UNE educational experiences included living at the then single-sex Duval College; participation in the development of public broadcasting through Radio UNE and 2ARM FM (now TUNE FM) and active involvement in student clubs and societies, including the Students Representative Council (SRC). These extra curricula activities and the privilege of having been taught by some truly Australian Legends, including Professors Russel Ward and Bruce Mitchell, set me up well for a career in librarianship. Further studies at UNE in education (undertaken through part time study while working at ACAE), a Graduate Diploma in Information Management and an Master of Arts from the then Canberra College of Advanced Education (now the University of Canberra), undertaken as a summer school program while working at ACAE; and a Doctor of Education from Curtin University of Technology, Perth Western Australia consolidated my UNE foundational qualification in history and politics. But change happens, and happen it did in Australian higher education in the late 1980s. Ahead of inevitable merges of some higher education institutions, I ran away to Perth to a large institution not threatened with mergers. I planned on staying a maximum of three years, only to have a rare professional opportunity

I never fully appreciated Perth until I had left. By 2001, I was preparing to return to some traditions I had learned and experienced at UNE, feeling excited and committed to making a difference in rural and regional post secondary education at the University of Ballarat, Victoria. I was very excited about the role of ProVice Chancellor (Administrative and Academic Support), but little did I realize that public policy change was once again about to be handed out to Australian universities by the Howard Government! So when an early morning call came from a head hunter in Vancouver I realized it was time to finally realize my secret career ambition of working overseas. Canada, Saskatchewan and Sasktoon welcomed me, my husband and Jack Russell terrier (born in Ararat) and my Australian university experiences with open and warm hearts. Six years on I have no regrets well maybe just a few when the temperatures reach -38c and the snow drifts high. I often remember with pride and happiness the foundational educational experiences afforded to me at UNE. Not just the quality and commitment of the teaching faculty; the opportunities for community engagement and outreach; amazing green spaces and impressive physical facilities, but a deep understanding of academic traditions and the meaning and importance of education and the role of universities in a civil democratic society. Above all my UNE experience taught me the true value and empowerment of education and have rewarded me with a truly amazing university life! Dr. Vicki Williamson, Dean, University Library, University of Saskatchewan

In Addition Dec 2012  

Newsletter from the Office of Advancement for Alumni and Supporters of UNE