The Chancellor

Alas, here I am only a few weeks into the beginning of a long journey through the perilous landscape of technological engagement, and I’ve already found myself falling behind on post. I wish I could say that my deficiency in postings were due to a scarcity of time— but that would be a lie. On the contrary, the reason is a bit of an embarrassing one: I hit a patch of writer’s anxiety. Thoughts of apprehension began to decimate my ability to just sit down and enjoy a quality writing session.

Am I a good communicator? Who really cares about what I’m saying? What makes my propositions any more valid than the next? My words are nothing more than proclamations to an absent audience? What if I can’t catalyze the capacity for change?

 Needless to say the pressure was unbearable, excessively so, for a single Blog post. After some concentrated readings and reflections from some of my most revered authors and scholars— I have learned a valuable lesson. Just sit down and write. All that pressure is rendered futile if one takes small steps toward completing an intermediary goal. It’s about being realistic, and understanding that while a scope may be limited for any given author, you never know what insights your words may inspire. Maybe my words will inform a single reader, or maybe they will provide a calming reaffirmation of a questioned thought. Perhaps a story will provide guidance, or start a conversation that I will never know the benefit of. The only thing I can do is leave my informed and well- reflected messages with the reader. No matter how infinitesimal this voice may be, it trumps not being in a dialogue any day of the week. So here we are, my apologies for the hiatus; I will do my best to ensure it does not happen frequently.

Over the course of my 3 years at The University of Queensland, I have not the slightest doubt I will be exposed to some sublime experiences. Subsequently, I find it vital to reflect on said instances to provide comparator musings for myself, and thoughtful deliberations for others. In posts where I provide a brief vignette, anecdote, or thought I hope to instill a sense of reflection in others. Below is a moment I will not readily forget, as the team and I had the distinctive pleasure of having morning tea with the Chancellor (the Chancellor is the head of Senate for the University’s executive board for my American readers).

The Chancellor and The Team

It was a sunny morning—the rays of light shining and reflecting off the decrepit brick of our cozy office. We all stood apprehensively around the table, awaiting the arrival of the big boss. The excitement builds as we heard footsteps approaching down the narrow corridor. In strides JD Story the current Chancellor. He walks with an eminent confidence and prestige as he greets each of us, eventually taking his seat at the head of the table.

It’s hard to define the atmosphere, the air about the room at that moment. It was charged, but comfortable. Chancellor Story made me feel comfortable.

He was quiet, composed, had a commanding voice when he did have something to interject. He was sharply dressed and sat with extraordinary posture. Glasses placed precisely across the bridge of the nose. However, what fascinated me was his ardent interest in all of us. I had the preconception that such an exalted figure would come into a room full of a single lab and virtually dominate the dialogue. I was sorely mistaken. On the contrary, Chancellor Story took specialized interest in hearing each and every one of our stories and what we did at the University. He asked questions and made comments that one would expect from the most astute active listeners. To not extend an ancillary point, the morning tea itself was lovely.

This is a digression. What really struck me were the few times that Chancellor Story did speak. The extended fragments of wisdom he eloquently delivered to our little lab were burst of predictable brilliance that are etched into my mind. Two things in particular that the Chancellor said I would like to share here. They may seem almost facile to those who don’t appreciate the man, but the layers of complexity and truth resonated with me.

First and foremost: seize the opportunity. When questioned how he had managed to achieve so much, the Chancellor was tersely forward. It was about being malleable to life’s circumstances and taking advantage of opportunities that struck an effervescent chord in you. Don’t get me wrong, Chancellor Story is from a lineage of privilege and he is the first to acknowledge that. Nevertheless, this was the bottom line he felt most vital to his successes. Seize the moment, and seize the opportunities.

Second, universities are places for open dialogue, learning, and the sharing of ideas. John wasn’t entirely sure if he had left a memorable legacy (and in all honesty, I don’t know either considering I just got here). However, one thing he has pushed fervently for is the rebirth of the university as an epicenter of innovation and rigorous idea conception. As an aspiring university professor, this tapped into a very deep personal space for me. Naturally, the university should be a space where cutting edge ideas walk the metaphoric tightrope of pioneering and barking mad. This may be counterintuitive to certain universities where disputing ideologies are frowned upon and questioned philosophies are seen as grave insults. Chancellor Story says, “Bring on the difficult conversations!”

Finally, and most importantly to me: do things because they’re good fun. When I told Chancellor Story about the project I would be undertaking the first thing he said was, “that sounds like quite the challenge you will be undertaking.” The second thing he said was, “sounds fun.” This is a man who took over one of the biggest insurance firms amidst a massive collapse. This is a man who began his reign as Chancellor on the heels of a massive University scandal. In both instances, he was simply the man who stepped up to the helm of these monumental enterprises in the middle of dark storms. When questioned about what kept him so resilient, so composed, so skillful in his seemingly supernatural ability to navigate the waters of controversy he explained: Well it’s all in good fun, you see. Fun. FUN. That’s the Chancellor’s— not so secret— secret. It’s one I think that can be embraced by all. Those ridden by antipathetic sentiments cannot conquer the most complex issues the world faces. Indeed, those who do the impossible must see the merit in accepting a challenge for the sheer dynamism of interest and wonder.

Thank you, Chancellor Story, for such a cherished experience.

 

 

 

 

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