Alumni shine in an inclusive, vibrant and creative world

Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas writes

Traditional strengths, as well as emerging hi-tech ones, are celebrated within the pages of  this year’s Massey alumni magazine.

From a competition celebrating the best traditions of Massey University’s rural-focused origins such as Young Farmer of the Year, to the exciting futuristic possibilities of work by graduates from the School of Music and Creative Media Production, each acknowledges a pioneering spirit that is moving with the times.

In sports scientist Matt Miller’s case, it’s accelerating and stopping at the same time, with his device to improve braking performance on a bike making for a fascinating read.

As does the research behind the very real human dilemma of choosing whether to uproot a family and join a partner overseas or become, like Jo Mutter, an addition to the growing trend of stay-behind families.

You can also read profiles of Palmerston North MP and new cabinet minister Iain Lees-Galloway and about the success of lingerie designer to the stars Chloé Julian.

Julian was named Distinguished Young Alumni of the Year at a glittering awards ceremony at Parliament in March, however all of the graduates mentioned have shown a fierce determination to achieve their objectives and make a more inclusive, vibrant and creative world for us all.

Into my second year as Vice-Chancellor I see that every day.

Whether it be with eager first-year students at one of the three campuses showing that indefinable hunger for knowledge or catching up with a distance learner on a contact course or meeting some of our international students, they all exemplify so much of what Massey is about – and how we are seen by the outside world.

Over the summer I spent some time working in Oman and in Hong Kong. I have engaged in this work for many years as part of my professional service to the global academy; I learn a great deal and it gives me time to reflect on our importance and future direction on the global stage.

Everywhere I go, Massey University is recognised and respected. It is a privilege to carry my Massey bag through airports and, occasionally, people will stop to talk about our university.

Across the world, especially in non-western countries, there is a thirst for university education that is almost unquenchable. As well, many countries are actively working to build their esteem and recognition through the global rankings. The rise in the global rankings of universities from the East Asia region is clearly in evidence, with eight universities in the top 50 in 2007 rising to 13 universities last year. For us, that creates challenges in terms of maintaining our position.  We are in the top two per cent internationally in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) world university rankings and we wish to remain there.

These rankings also signify the economic and social impact of universities more broadly, including the role of research to drive innovation and national productivity.

Student and staff international mobility becomes more important than ever in a world where intolerance, the rise of national barriers and border protection are observed to be increasing.  By continuing to forge friendships and collaborations we also contribute to shared understanding, and shared goals in a way that seems to me to be more important than ever.

All of these things influence how we think about international activity at Massey. Through our international research and sponsored international students, we were globally active very early. This forged strong international connections and shared understandings between nations.  In my travels I try and catch up with international alumni – the warmth they feel towards Aotearoa New Zealand generally stems from that international experience with us, and now feeds into business and governmental connections.

Some of these connections were celebrated at the Defining Excellence Awards, which aside from honouring the university’s teaching and research excellence, its distinguished professors and alumni, also recognises key stakeholder partners – the organisations that have actively collaborated with the university across a range of areas.

Images from these awards can also be seen within the pages of this magazine.


Professor Jan Thomas