Introducing the new Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Corporate Engagement and Advancement
Introducing the new Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Corporate Engagement and Advancement


Introducing the new Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Corporate Engagement and Advancement

As alumni relations, philanthropic development and strategic partnerships become increasingly important to the higher education sector, the appointment of Professor David Wilkinson to Macquarie University is a significant milestone.

Previously head of Australia’s largest medical school at the University of Queensland, Professor Wilkinson joined Macquarie University at the beginning of May 2013 to take up the role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Corporate Engagement and Advancement.

Wilkinson plays a key role in Macquarie’s executive leadership team, and is responsible not only for alumni relations and philanthropic development, but also for the Macquarie Foundation, as well as marketing and communications.

In addition, he is responsible for strengthening the University’s engagement with a wide range of corporate entities, particularly in the neighbouring Macquarie Park technology sector where many major multinationals are located.

Wilkinson grew up in the UK, where he trained in medicine, before working in rural Africa between 1987 and 1998. He moved to Australia in 1999 as Foundation Chair in Rural Health at the Universities of Adelaide and South Australia, and became Pro Vice Chancellor/Vice President for Health Sciences at the University of South Australia in 2002.

Highly respected internationally as a medical practitioner, researcher, teacher and administrator, his background is a further asset to the strategic developments planned for the Macquarie University Hospital and the Australian School of Advanced Medicine.

In conversation with Professor Wilkinson

Professor Wilkinson discusses his strategic direction for Corporate Engagement and Advancement at Macquarie University and how his experience equips him to meet the challenges ahead.

What is your strategic vision for your new portfolio? How is this different to what was being done previously?

My portfolio is broad and diverse; it is very busy and very exciting, filled with opportunity and possibility. I feel very humble at the wonderful opportunity given to me, and am determined to succeed. The underlying commonality about the different parts of the portfolio is that ‘we serve the University community‘.

This is very important: the different parts of the portfolio serve the rest of the University, especially the Faculties. If we think about marketing (which is largely about domestic student recruitment, and the support for international student recruitment) then that is all in service of the Faculties – after all, my portfolio does not run courses!

The same is true for branding, and also for fundraising: we don’t do this for anyone other than our colleagues across Macquarie University. This is our mission – to provide our academic and professional staff colleagues with the support and resources that they need to be successful. We take the same approach to alumni relations – we seek to serve our alumni, and nothing more. It is our role to understand what alumni want and need, and to help to provide that.

I am very focused on what is called ‘servant leadership‘. One of my core responsibilities is to build, support and lead a very high performing team, right across the whole portfolio. This includes the senior members of the team and the different Directors and my Executive Officer, but the whole team is much larger, and my goal is to build and resource this group of people. Together we serve our colleagues across Macquarie University.

One way that we will do this is by keeping the central group small, and building capacity and networks in the Faculties. One clear example of this approach is our new alumni team structure which includes staff based in the Faculties, and that was designed in discussion with the Executive Deans.

On a personal level, how do you feel about the challenges that lie ahead? What do you bring to the table form your past experiences?

I am excited, humbled and honoured to be at Macquarie University in this role. It is like a dream come true. I have been made to feel very welcome here and I am grateful for that.

My previous role – as Dean of Medicine at a very big medical school in a Group of Eight university was quite different from this role. I do not miss the line management responsibilities, issues and challenges that I had there, nor the extraordinary complexity and incredibly high pressure environment.

Here I have to be much more strategic, and can spend more time in rather more deliberate work. What I have to do now is a whole new level of leadership, and I am enjoying this transition. In terms of my own leadership journey and development, I have moved right through the spectrum from when (as a young doctor working in Africa) I led through my direct technical expertise, positional authority, and longevity in the role.

As my career developed in research and academic leadership I had to become more and more adept at building and leading teams, while still developing myself as a technical expert: even as a medical dean I was winning grants and fellowships and publishing papers, while spending a large proportion of my time on the needs of my colleagues.

Now I am very clearly not a content expert! I have content experts working as Directors, and so my job is to nurture and support them, and find ways to add value.

Comment (1)

  1. Diane Causer

    Thank you for your ideas on what constitutes the Macquarie University Community and ideas
    about serving that broad Community as a point of leadership.

    Also – I thought it important that you expressed and acknowledged the nature of building more
    strategically and taking time to deliberate about what is important in the role of leadership.

    That you are leading on a new level is inspiring.

    Many thanks for the opportunity to comment.

    Diane Causer


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