Establishing a scene for meaningful engagement, improvement and growth
In the first instance, let me thank you for making this special effort to be present in this general assembly – my very first formal encounter as Vice Chancellor with students. It is not customary in this University for the Vice Chancellor to address students. I believe, with you being our key clients, I should make a time to address you right from the start of my tenure. It is good for you, to hear what I have in mind. This is intended to ultimately stimulate ideas from you; ideas that would make your time at UniSey a pleasant and memorable one. So, the ultimate aim of this assembly is to establish a scene for meaningful engagement, improvement and growth. Through my address you would come to understand what I mean by this scene, which I seek to establish. Hence, I would be happy to have your full attention for the next 15 minutes or so.
The Vice Chancellor, who is he?
Three weeks ago, my Personal Assistant was travelling to Victoria, on the same bus as some of our students. Coincidentally, they were talking about UniSey and there was that one girl who was puzzled that my PA was working at UniSey as she has never seen her around. So my PA explained that she is working as personal assistant to the Vice chancellor, and guess what? That student asked, “but who is the Vice Chancellor? Immediately, this question really reinforced the need for this assembly today.
I do not intend to introduce myself by reading out my curriculum vitae. Instead, I will like to state what I stand for and I how I can help you achieve your academic goals and develop in you, the talent, the aptitude, that most employees would like to see in graduates. Several of you in this room know me personally or indirectly through a third party. I am an advocate of learning; a sincere student companion and a fighter for quality education. It is on this platform that I intend to lead my role as the Vice Chancellor of UniSey. In my previous capacity as Dean, when I addressed students in induction, I urged everyone to allow me to be part of their journey. The simple reason is that I cannot let you down nor can I afford to let you fail. Even if you can’t see it, I struggle hard in the background to make things happen for the students. Ever since, I have taken this role as Vice Chancellor, I have put it high on our agenda to give the students under our care, the best possible deal. I will definitely use my role as your Vice Chancellor to ensure that yes you are given the best possible deal.
UniSey is slowly making its impact both locally and internationally
We will soon be 10 years old. Even if for another 10 years or so, we will still be operating under a new university status, we will certainly not be forgiven for failing in our mission. Hence, we will have to demonstrate that we can be new and excellent, and that we do not have to be 150 years old to produce world-class graduates.
My dear students, we are already producing quality graduates. The University of London for instance, considers us as one of its best registered teaching institutions. For two successive years we have had graduates emerging the best among the best in the world. On both local and international programmes, we have had students achieving first class honours. Moreover, within the local workforce, our graduates are no less inferior to graduates from elsewhere. What is also very important to note, and I believe this preoccupies the mind of many of you in this hall today – yes, our graduates who so wish do get entrance to pursue their studies in top universities across the world. Moreover, lecturers who have left us after completing their tenure at this University, have secured employment in places like the United Nations, Oxford University, University of Western Australia just to name a few. This is a clear indication that the world out there values our experience and trusts that we are an institution of excellent standing. Furthermore, several local and international organizations and institutions are writing to us on a daily basis, expressing their intention to work with us. As a concrete example of our current standing in world academia today, I am proud to say that UniSey has been entrusted by the International Creole studies committee, from University of Provence, with the hosting of the 16th International Creole Studies Colloquium in October, this year. We are achieving so much in just a short time.
Respect and hard work is mutual
While the staff strives to give you the best possible deal, I expect in return you reciprocate. You give us, the possible deal. Last week, I was part of a group of staff who was reflecting on UniSey motto: Ou lavenir dan ou lanmen. This motto speaks from an adult perspective, urging students to take control of their destiny. Viewing this motto from another angle, I can equally tell you that, “Mon lavenir, lavenir mon zenerasyon, i dan zot lanmen”. This is why we take great heed to ensure that you do well. That you succeed for after all when we (my generation) will be in full retirement, it will be you who will be leading this country. You hold our future in your hands. The bottom line is simple, support yourself, support us and we will support you. Respect and hard work is mutual – a two-way traffic lane.
Perhaps at this stage, on behalf of the University community, I will apologise for having not met your expectations at times. We have our limitations, both as human and at the same time limitations in our resources. It is our expectation that our team go out of their way to make things happen for you, most people around work tirelessly and share the vision of quality education and quality learning experiences.
Since January, we have started a campaign, which we have labelled as, filling the gaps. We all want to get the basics right and ensure that we put our regulations and procedures in order. We are critically analysing our operations to ensure that over the next coming months we deliver the best possible service. We will be putting in place some newer regulations, not as a measure of punishment but as means to making our practices more accessible to you. So a collaborative and concerted effort is required from all nooks of this University.
Students: your role in building a newer learning experience
One principle goal of this address, this morning, is to instigate in you an understanding of your role in building a newer learning atmosphere. Whilst we concur on the fact that the staff have the prime responsibility of ensuring quality education to all students, we should also recognize the invaluable role of students in nurturing an experience that promote holistic development of all individuals.
We have to agree that for the past few years, students of this University have been very, very passive and this has suppressed many of our good intentions. I would like to see this change. I will definitely work with you in achieving this goal. The Student Support Services have proposed a new concept – which we at Executive level have already felt that it will significantly improve your experience. More details will be provided in due course. In the meantime, I would like to make this special call. When we organize activities, at least when other students organize activities, please call along and participate. Support your peers and above help transform the learning experience, the ethos you want to see.
Leading your own agenda
This is how I see this change. Automatically when you joined UniSey, you became by default a member of the Student Union. But this Student Union, my dear students, is such an important engine of this University such that I cannot agree it is being undermined by its members. There was a Council, which in 2012 -2015 was quite active but unfortunately upon the graduation of the members, it faded away. The fact that I believe students should help lead their own agenda and aspiration, I am now urging you all, you who wants to be leaders, organizers, representatives of the others – you who can inspire others or want to challenge your intellectual capacity – I am making a special request for you to join the council.
As from this week, I will ask the Student Support services to lead the organization of elections where students are elected as class representatives who will in turn be members of the Council. And then I will look for a mentor for this Council so that its members are trained and prepared to lead the student agenda. Let me reinforce the fact that Student Council is an important engine of this University. Students are presented on Faculty Boards, Senate, and Council, the three main governance body of this University. What a privilege!!!
I was upset last week to receive a notice from a student that practically nobody turned up for a meeting to discuss bus fares. For me that you call ‘missing an opportunity”. Let us hope that after today’s meeting, you are inspired to join the Council, represent the voiceless and make it a priority to craft your own learning experience.
On a second note, whenever we ask you to fill questionnaires or participate in surveys, please respond. We can only progress if you participate and if you care to give your views and suggestions. We are on this journey together!!
Some tangible actions
I will now turn to focus on tangible actions which I believe would be important in shaping your journey with us. Regrettably, some of you will soon be leaving us but these actions which I have already triggered will be needed in a number of ways for those students who will continue their studies and those who will be joining us in future.
In my inaugural address on the 2nd February, I argued that the realization of a University in Seychelles should be a national project. The reason is clear. All entities would have to align their practices, and services if we are to succeed as a national university. It is no longer a task for the university management only but a target for everybody. We train people for the local workforce. All of our graduates remain in Seychelles and work for Seychelles hence, I will see how we can use this argument to attract more funders and more local sponsors for our programmes. Like that we would also be moving toward the realisation of a second major target which I have set and this is: improving access to higher education.
My dear students, Seychelles is a small country and the country is in a very dynamic state. The ideology, “one man one discipline” has lost popularity. The world is promoting cross boundaries and the architects of higher education are designing interdisciplinary programmes. I fully subscribe to this ideology and I wish that you too see the usefulness of it. We are redesigning our menu to include opportunity for transdisciplinary learning. We are organizing open seminar series for students, open workshops, our so-called summer school to really push ahead this interdisciplinary learning experience. The good thing is that being our students you do not have to pay for these programmes, as far as I know. So these are golden opportunities for you to smarten your own CV and improve your employability. Do not stay confined in your comfort zone but challenge yourself to know what goes on in other subject areas. Yes, many of these extra modules will not add up to your final score, but believe me it will add you to your overall competency. This is how our graduates will distinguish themselves from graduates from elsewhere.
My dear students, an grosso modo, through this address I have tried to get you to build a relationship with this University and use all the given opportunities to live and fulfil your experience to its maximum while you are here. I acknowledge that we have not always operated to your expectations but as I explained, we all have this good intention to be part of your journey. I request that you spend some time reflecting on this address, reconsider your ultimate mission and together let us build the University for others to come. I also commend those diligent students, those who every now and then stop me in the corridor or send me an sms as constructive feedback. Examinations for many of you are round the corner. I take this opportunity to wish you all the very best and expect to see good results. If there is on extra push that we can go to get you to move just one level higher, please let us know.We will make arrangement for you to be represented at the various governance bodies of this University so that you can properly channelled you issues and agenda. Please us the student support structure to reach the management of this University. Your opinion and views matter to us.
Thank you for your attention, and thank you for coming to this assembly.