Professor Jeff Grabill joined us from Michigan State University in August as Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Student Education, attracted by a bold new strategy for the years ahead. Here he reflects on the role which alumni and other supporters can play in enabling our “extraordinary” University to realise the strategy's vision and ambition.
When I accepted this role, I knew I was coming to a highly-renowned institution. But what I have learned in these past six months is that Leeds is truly extraordinary – and through its ambitious and far-reaching strategy is shaping education for a generation and more.
The strategy, ‘Universal Values, Global Change’, imagines a University thinking together about how to educate most effectively and make positive change in the world. It challenges each of us to help ensure that our graduates enter the job market armed and ready to tackle new and complex challenges.
Early in the pandemic I was struck by a realisation that life is precious and time is short. I wanted to spend the rest of my career in educational work which really mattered. Leeds absolutely matched that, offering a remarkable opportunity to bring about change at a scale distinctive not just in the UK but internationally.
As someone passionate about education, I’m excited to be with an institution committed to building the most compelling learning experiences through which students can change their lives. Once we have executed the strategy, we will have completely reimagined what an excellent, sustainable and student-focused university looks like for the next 50 years.
But life is a team sport, and we can’t achieve such transformative change without a lot of help from our stakeholders – and prime among those are you, our alumni and other friends. One thing that struck me quite quickly is how much our community cares about the institution and its people. There is a special affection for Leeds that is clear to newcomers like me.
We need your best wishes, but we also need your energy, thoughts and advice – and the reassurance that comes from knowing you are on this journey with us.
Your help supports creative projects in new areas of inquiry, teaching and community outreach. It ensures that students can afford the costs of studying at Leeds. It also allows them to participate in a host of co-curricular experiences, internships, work experience and all the activities that expand the possibilities of university life.
One of the great challenges for education is to be more accessible, and your support is allowing us to take a lead role in recruiting students who might be first in their family to get to university or who come from communities where participation in higher education is low. Not only that, but through the opportunities you create and the guidance you give, you are shaping a landscape in which they can thrive.
And it benefits us all. These students lend richness, cultural diversity and intellectual gifts to a community that would be far less rounded without them. By nurturing their talents and by investing in our research, you're helping us push back the boundaries of knowledge while producing a new generation of leaders whose impact will be felt in business, education, science, healthcare, the arts and civic life – both here and around the world.
Thank you so much for all you do for the University of Leeds. I look forward to meeting more of you in the years ahead.