Romy’s road less travelled

professor romy lawson and her family in front of a tree

While many people know Romy Lawson in her senior role as Provost, fewer are aware of her personal and professional background. As she steps into the role of Interim Vice-Chancellor, we spoke to Professor Lawson about her life and what influences her.

Life’s sliding door moments are usually memorable. In Professor Romy Lawson’s case, she was sitting in her pyjamas at 1am, being interviewed for a job that would take her to the other side of the world.

Soon after, she was packing her bags and saying goodbye to University of Wales, Bangor – her alma mater and workplace of 18 years – and winging her way to the University of Southern Queensland.

As she reflects on it:

I was ready for some fresh opportunities and I thought, if you’re packing up your house and moving, what’s the difference between moving to the other side of the United Kingdom or moving to Australia?”
Professor Romy Lawson

The road less travelled is a familiar one for Romy. Born in the north-west English county of Cheshire, a devoted Manchester United fan, former lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve, hockey player and coach, her journey to Murdoch University has not been linear.

The Murdoch ethos of educational opportunity, however, resonates strongly with her own experience. She decided to leave school before completing her higher qualifications and stayed away from formal education for four years – "quite a gap year”, as she says.

“I was doing maths, further maths and economics at school – that’s where I had been positioned. But I decided that wasn’t what I wanted in life and so I ran off to the Lake District and became an outdoor education instructor – it was a bit like running off to the circus!

“I was teaching kayaking, rock climbing, sailing. I loved it! But there was another aspect to it – using the outdoors as a vehicle for personal development, this really resonated with me and so when I eventually decided to return to those higher qualifications and then onto university, I enrolled in physical education and psychology.

“I enjoyed examining how people learn and how you create effective learning environments. How do you motivate people to develop and provide the learning design to support them in their experience? That’s where my passion is.”

Romy with her mum and Romy with her hockey teamLeft image: Romy in her Royal Naval Reserve uniform with mum Edna. Right image:  Winners of the 1991-92 Welsh University Championships. Goal keeper Romy is in the hockey mask (back row, middle). Credit: Professor Romy Lawson.

Romy went on to complete her Masters and PhD whilst working at Bangor University, supporting the professional development of colleagues, as well as lecturing.

She came to Murdoch five years ago after stints at University of Southern Queensland, University of Technology Sydney, James Cook University, University of Wollongong and Edith Cowan University. At Murdoch, she “loves the teamwork, the challenges and the openness to doing things a bit differently”.

Her arrival at Murdoch also closely coincided with another momentous arrival in her life, daughter Mackenzie with partner Sam. Like any working mum, balancing a busy job and parenting can be challenging – but she has strategies in place.

“When I’m home and Mackenzie’s awake, I make sure my phone and laptop are put away and we get good quality time. I’ll then pick work up work again when she’s asleep. She’s been coming to Murdoch since she was five months old and she loves visiting, We’re very much a Murdoch family.”

Romy has always been passionate about equity and diversity across the University, supporting improved parenting facilities for students and staff, and ensuring the rainbow flag flies as a permanent symbol of the University’s inclusive culture.

From 2 August 2021, she takes on the role of Interim Vice-Chancellor while a global search for Murdoch University's next Vice-Chancellor continues.

She recognises that she comes into the role at a challenging time for Murdoch, as the impact of the pandemic continues to affect international student enrolment, University finances and the way learning and teaching is delivered. She is also focused on better understanding the issues raised in the recent Employee Experience and Engagement Survey.
During the transition period to a new Vice-Chancellor, Romy wants to get out and about and talk to people across the University. She’s placed regular coffee catch-ups into her schedule and plans to visit teams across the University to engage with colleagues first hand.
“We need to learn from our people and we need to have them on board, passionate about our purpose and vision, to be successful."

Romy also recognises that as Provost, she has been tasked with implementing a number of tough decisions, including the College restructure and implementation of the Workload Model.

“Someone once told me being Provost was like being the grit in the oyster – you have to make a lot of hard decisions for the good of the University. But being Interim Vice-Chancellor is a different role with both internal and external responsibilities. In this wider-reaching role I will work hard, along with the whole Senior Executive Group, to achieve the best for Murdoch.

“As a team, we are very keen to engage with as many colleagues as possible, act on issues related to the employee survey and make sure we continue to progress the important work of the University, as set out in our Strategic Plan, while we wait for our new Vice-Chancellor.”

Posted on:

10 Aug 2021



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