New directions

Sharing the leadership load

In addition to altering the committee structure within the Faculty, Darvall also began to modify the approach to leadership roles within the Faculty. This was an initiative that would have a lasting effect on Engineering at Monash. It had been decades since changes had been made to the official leadership positions within the Faculty. At first, the only formal leadership positions within the Faculty were Heads of Department and the deanship itself. If the Dean was ill, on study-leave or absent from the University for any reason, an Acting Dean from the pool of foundation professors would be appointed by the Dean and approved by the Vice-Chancellor.

Then, in 1969 the position of Associate Dean was created. The Associate Dean was the immediate back-up for the Dean in the event of absence or illness. No longer was there a need to appoint a representative on a case-by-case basis. The first Associate Dean was Professor Noel Murray who was appointed for a twelve-month term in 1969. Over the coming decade the Associate Deanship was filled at various points by Murray, Ron Barden, Ian Polmear, Owen Potter and later, Eric Laurenson.

audio file
Reflections on the role of the Sub Dean, Mary Gani and Robin Alfredson (audio)

The next addition to the Faculty leadership group was the position of Sub-Dean – who would, according to the Faculty Board minutes of 1973 be ‘mainly an academic lieutenant, with particular reference to first year students’. The first Sub-Dean, Charles Ambrose of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, was appointed in 1973. In 1976 the position of Sub-Dean appeared in the Faculty handbook as a stand-alone position, signifying its importance. Ambrose remained Sub-Dean until the position was taken over by Dr Colin Fryer of the Department of Chemical Engineering in 1977. The position was held by various individuals from different departments within the Faculty over the coming years.

Duties of SubDean

Mary Gani, who became Sub-Dean in 1989, recalls that it was more than the part-time position that it was intended to be. Gani commented that while being Sub-Dean was rewarding, it had a large workload – providing advice to first year students was hugely time-consuming as ‘a lot of them were completely at sea when they came to Monash’. Listing the Sub-Dean in the handbook signified the importance and magnitude of the role. In the late 1980s, the Sub-Dean was provided with an office adjacent to the Faculty Office and directly opposite the Dean’s –a further indication of the importance accorded to the position and of the increasing integration of the Sub-Dean role into Faculty management.

The changes being implemented to the committee structure of the Faculty by Darvall went hand-in-hand with his agenda for the creation of additional leadership roles. In the past, members of the Faculty committees were equally responsible for decision making and the direction and running of the committee. While Darvall did not alter the voting rights of these committees, he introduced the idea of committee leadership.

Under Darvall particular individuals were responsible for the coordination of a specific committee as well as strategic development in that area. The Graduate Affairs Committee, which had been in existence for over a decade, provides an appropriate example. In 1990 the Faculty Board voted in support of the title Associate Dean (Graduate Affairs) for the chairman, or ‘leader’ of the Graduate Affairs Committee. Brian Cherry was appointed to the new Associate Deanship and part of his role was to chair the GAC. Interestingly, while Cherry’s title is initially recorded as Associate Dean (Graduate Affairs), by 1993 when Associate Deans began to be listed in the Faculty Handbook alongside the Dean and Sub-Dean, Cherry’s title had changed to Associate Dean (Research).

The leadership hub of the Faculty was expanding. By 1991 in addition to the Dean and the Heads of Departments, there was a Sub-Dean, Mary Gani, an Associate Dean, Bill Brown, and an Associate Dean (Research), Brian Cherry. Darvall’s leadership brought about structural changes that enabled the Faculty to adapt and expand – helping Engineering transition into a period of strategy and vision. Successive Deans Mike Brisk and Tam Sridhar continued to build on the leadership and committee models that Darvall introduced, leading to the construction of a strong Faculty presence and identity, and facilitating strategic growth, development, and leadership.


(Updated Jun 8, 2011) Printed on: