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Strategy and vision

Visions and strategies

Mike Brisk was appointed Dean in early 1995 and commenced in March of that year. He was passionate about the Faculty and dedicated to its future. He had a clear vision – to nurture Monash Engineering’s excellence and to expand and shape the Faculty to make sure it was, what he termed, the most relevant faculty of engineering. By relevant, Brisk essentially meant ensuring that Monash Engineering would be the faculty of choice – for students, for employers looking for engineering graduates, for industry seeking collaboration, and for those pursuing a career in academia. According to Brisk, ‘relevance’ was a characteristic that needed constant work to achieve. The Faculty would have to continue to evolve, diversify and respond to changes in industry and in tertiary education to maintain its relevance.

Brisk also had a clear agenda for the Faculty in terms of its place in the Asia-Pacific region. Born and raised in Shanghai, Brisk had long been aware of the importance of South-East Asia to Australia. His professional life prior to commencing at Monash had also brought him into contact with the region. He argued from very early in his tenure that it was imperative that Monash Engineering ‘develop still closer ties and become more involved with Asia-Pacific, both in education and in research’. He suggested cooperative training schemes with Asian companies and the establishment of focused research groups as possible avenues to be explored.

Brisk arrived at Monash, armed with well thought out aims and visions, at a time when strategies and long-term plans were making their way into the Monash University vernacular. Since the late 1980s Monash University had been developing a corporate image. Resources were directed towards portraying Monash as an open and progressive, internationally engaged, industry linked, dynamic University. A large part of this image and vision for the future of Monash was that it would become an increasingly global university with campuses all over the world. Monash was developing vision statements and strategies that would bring these plans for its future into existence.

The Monash faculties, via their Deans, were being drawn into line with the larger University vision as well as being asked to come up with their own. Mike Brisk’s appointment to the deanship was particularly shrewd in this context. Like the University, he had a vision for Engineering and, also like the University, it involved expansion across international borders – particularly into South-East Asia. Indeed it was under Brisk’s leadership that the Faculty of Engineering ventured to Malaysia and became a founding part of the new Sunway Campus. 

In this period of increased emphasis on strategies and visions, much of Brisk’s time was spent developing plans for the Faculty’s future and communicating these to the central administration and to members of the Faculty. A clear direction and various areas of emphasis for the Faculty were emerging under Brisk as a result. However, not as much time was allocated to furthering the internal structural and committee changes that had been started by Darvall.

During Darvall’s deanship the voice of the Faculty as a consolidated entity was slowly overtaking that of the five departments as the driver of direction and development of Engineering at Monash. One of the ways Darvall had encouraged this was by introducing additional leadership positions in the form of Associate Deans with specific portfolios and committee responsibilities. The Associate Deans were intended to be, in essence, directors of designated aspects of the Faculty’s operations.

Some have commented that Brisk differed from Darvall in his approach to the internal structure of the Faculty. It has been said that he was more traditional in his approach and that the development of the ‘directorship’ roles that Darvall had begun to establish within the Faculty and its committees slowed down under Brisk. However, others have pointed out that it was Brisk who established the roles of Associate Dean (Teaching), and also Director of Research Training. In addition it was under Brisk that the sub-deanship was converted into a full time administrative role. What is clear is that regardless of the differences between Brisk and Darvall and their approach to the Faculty structure, Brisk continued to strengthen the central voice of the Faculty and expanded what Darvall had begun. Brisk worked tirelessly on a shared sense of direction and identity for the Faculty by developing a vision for Engineering at Monash.