By Serpil Senelmis
Chris Gallavin is Professor of Law and Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Massey University, in New Zealand. It’s one of the largest universities in the land of the long white cloud and Professor Gallavin plays a key role in the academic and strategic planning of the institution which boasts over 30,000 students.
“I lead the academic decision-making functions of the college and contribute to setting the overarching strategy of the college (and therefore the university) in areas such as digitisation, internationalisation, student recruitment and retention and innovation from work integrated learning, to micro-credentialing to community engagement.”
In 2017, Professor Gallavin completed the online Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Education Management (Governance) through the University of Melbourne and is currently studying the online Master of Tertiary Education Management. He says, “I could not think of better preparation on my journey to my first Vice Chancellorship.”
I chose to study at the University of Melbourne – and the LH Martin Institute in particular – because, quite frankly, there is nothing like it in the world. The tailored qualifications for tertiary leaders are incredibly unique and, in my path to becoming a Vice-Chancellor, I believe there is no better grounding than the qualification I am pursuing through the Institute.
The 2018 Eisenhower Fellow is on a mission to explore ways to democratise university education and says through his University of Melbourne online studies, he’s “picked up perspectives that I haven’t before been exposed to in 15 years of tertiary involvement.”
Describing himself as a career academic – he’s been studying since he was 23, when he decided to pursue a law degree – Professor Gallavin says he “believes very strongly in the academic mission as the conscience and critic of society.”
“I have a clear vision for the tertiary sector, this being one where tertiary providers are integrated into the societies they serve and where scholars (academics and students alike) are focused on solving community and global problems.”
Professor Gallavin has come a long way since his first job working in a machinery workshop. A dedicated student and academic, he says he wants to “make a difference in the world.” He explains, “I want to implement my vision of a tertiary education system that not only services business and commerce but does so in a way that contributes directly to grappling with the big problems our families, our communities and our global population face in the 21st Century.”
This is the 44-year-olds first attempt at online study and he says he finds “the system used by the University of Melbourne to be fantastic.” He adds,” The ease of posting on discussion boards, the incredibly quick feedback received from lecturers and the interaction with student colleagues as facilitated by the technology used, makes for a very rewarding learning experience.”
“I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the online platform, it really has been outstanding. I am just blown away that in addition to the lecturing staff (often two or three in attendance for the webinars) there is an ever-present facilitator. That has made a world of difference to other online learning environments that I am aware of.”
Given his numerous commitments, Professor Gallavin’s passion for further study would not have been possible “if it were not for the online environment provided by the University of Melbourne.”
He explains that the most valuable part of the course so far has been the discussion sessions with fellow students. Professor Gallavin says, “There is such an array of perspectives and they come from all over the world.”
“Often in universities, managers talk to other managers, academics to academics and professional staff to professional staff – at least in relation to mega trends and serious issues of principle and strategy. In this course the diversity of participants means that those discussions are all the richer and rewarding.”
He adds, “Most importantly however, I do not feel at any disadvantage to those studying in a face-to-face environment.”
Being a life-long learner hasn’t come without its challenges. Coming from a single parent home with seven other siblings meant that the cost of tertiary education initially was unaffordable for the driven academic. Fortunately, Professor Gallavin was able to complete his PhD when Hull University in the North of England offered him an all-expenses paid spot.
His challenge now is quite different. He explains that because of the direct relevance of the masters course to his professional role, his assignments have all been founded on real issues that he’s dealing with – and that can be testing.
“Whilst the course has been very helpful it has also been challenging – as sometimes it is easier to academically deal with an issue at arm’s length – than those that your decision will affect dozens, if not hundreds of others.”
For Professor Gallavin, every element of his masters degree is directly relevant to his role as a senior university leader. He says the degree has prepared him for everything “from risk management, to sustainability in the tertiary sector, digital disruption, internationalisation and the future of the degree.”
His advice for anyone thinking of doing the degree is to simply, “do it.” He says, “If you want to succeed as a leader in tertiary education anywhere around the globe then this is the program that provides you with the discipline-specific knowledge and skills you need.”
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