On 20 February 2019, Griffith University hosted a wonderful farewell event for me (organised by a highly efficient team led by Executive Assistant Sheila Twilley and Institute Manager Ian Hayward – thank you!). The farewell acknowledged my three years as Director of the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery and celebrated my new appointment at the University of Wollongong where I will be Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation. I was asked to prepare a 2-minute speech for the event. Below is the transcript of that speech.
(oops, it may have been a little over 2 minutes….but who’s counting?)
There‘s a well-known African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child“. Well, it took many villages to raise this Director, including all of you in this room, as well as many others who couldn’t be here today. I want to thank each and every one of you. Not least for taking time out of very busy lives, to come here today and celebrate all that we have achieved together. Without you, without your help, support and advice we could not begin to realise our goals, our dreams. Together, we have accomplished so much in just three years.
But first, I should let you know that I’ve been banned from thanking each of you individually, so please also know that “my success is your success ……and your success is my success”. I thank you for your success. And I thank you for my success.
Second, I am deeply grateful to Griffith University for the opportunity to lead the remarkable Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery (aka GRIDD), and to work with so many incredibly talented and dedicated researchers, professional staff and students.
Obviously I am sad to leave: I care very deeply about GRIDD and the people who joined me on this journey on March 1 2016, a journey that started out by defining our mission and our purpose “Creating knowledge that transforms lives” and our values (ie how we put our purpose into action). I am so proud that we are a values-based research Institute, an Institute that cares about, that exemplifies, that rewards excellence, integrity, respect and collegiality.
And, as somewhat of an aside, there is something quite beautiful about the symmetry of my Griffith start and end dates (1 March 2016 – 1 March 2019) that brings a certain sense of crystallographic joy.
When I step aside in a few days time, there’s no need for me to be concerned about GRIDD because I know it will be in the excellent and highly capable hands of Prof Kathy Andrews as Acting Director and Prof Sally-Ann Poulsen as Acting Deputy Director. My own research team will remain at GRIDD and I will have the pleasure and privilege of co-leading that team with Dr Maria Halili. We will become the Halili-Martin lab. That news makes me very happy….because it means I get to continue to work with a fantastic research group in a wonderful Institute, and it means I’ll be back at GRIDD regularly! (you can’t get rid of me that easily).
You may wonder then, if I am so sad at leaving, why am I going? The thing is, I have an ulterior motive. You see, at my core, I am an idealist. I am a dreamer. Africa’s First Woman President, and 2011 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is also a dreamer. She said “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough”. And she’s right. My dream certainly scares me. My dream is to change the world; particularly that part of the world that focuses on how higher ed research is measured and valued. I want researchers to be valued for more than the number of dollars they bring in, the number of papers they publish, the number of HDR students they supervise. I want researchers to also be measured by their values and how they live them; by how they treat other people; by how those at the top support those still climbing the ladder; by how they help underrepresented minorities to succeed; by how they mentor people from outside their own demographic, outside their own team, outside their own organisation. By how they build community.
Most of all I want to help young people achieve their own dreams, whatever path they choose to carve. According to Eleanor Roosevelt, well-known US diplomat and activist, “For our own success to be real, it must contribute to the success of others.” And you know what, that is how I want to be remembered: as someone who used the recognition they’ve been fortunate to receive, the connections they’ve made, and the unearned privilege that society has afforded them, to change the world for the better – to help others succeed, to smash stereotypes and disrupt the status quo.
Finally I’d like to pay tribute to my husband; my rock. He has also taken time off from work today to come here and to support me. Without him, my life and my path would be very different. For 2019 at least, he will live in Brisbane and I will live in Wollongong, and we will commute between those two cities. He promises that during this year he will instil discipline into our two very spoiled cats. Though I have my doubts about that…
Some of you may know that I have always adored cats. Perhaps that is most glaringly obvious from the number of cat videos I share on social media. Did you know that managing academics has been likened to (shares cat video) herding cats*. That simple observation may go some way to explain why it is that I love the challenges and opportunities of academia so much.
* [tongue in cheek] Ummmmm….EDS I know this video was made at the turn of the century, but why are there no women cat-herders featured???? IME they do a much better job of herding cats