“Go bold or go home” is the motto CQUniversity’s Professor Fiona Coulson lives by under her new role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor Strategic Development and Growth (or, DVC for ‘Dare to be Different’ in plain speak). Fiona’s transition from academic, to Dean of the largest School in the University, to the DVC charged with building the cultural infrastructure around our unique philosophy of ‘Dare to be Different’ is firmly grounded by her upbringing in outback Queensland, her family, and in her own words, her renowned clumsy, nerdish tendencies.
What is your first memory?
Rain. I was three years old and we were living in Richmond in north west Queensland. It was the first time I had ever seen rain. It was quite an overwhelming sensory experience – the sound of the rain on the corrugated iron roof, the smell of the damp earth, and the feel of rain drops on my skin. I’ll never forget it.
If you could solve any social issue in your community, what would you tackle first?
Regional inequality – health, wealth, racial or gender inequality – whatever form it takes, it all comes back to access to quality education. This is why I work at CQUniversity; we take our role as social engineers more seriously than most and we see the dividends every day in the communities we operate in.
If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?
Coordination. And no, not the ability to match my clothing and accessories. The ability to perform more than one movement gracefully and in harmony – I can fall up stairs.
What was a recent highlight of your life?
Becoming DVC (Strategic Development and Growth). It’s a very cool role. It literally involves running with ideas that any other university would find too dangerous and turning them into a reality for the benefit of our communities.
What do you love most about your role?
It has got to be the opportunity to entertain truly bold ideas – if you only knew some of the projects I’m scoping! It’s one thing for a DVC to do this, but my challenge is encouraging the rest of the university to jump on board the ‘Dare to be Different’ train too. Everyone needs to feel they have agency to run a bold idea up the flagpole. It’s my job to build this cultural infrastructure into every level of CQUni. And I love it.
This weekend is free – what would you do?
Pack a picnic – rice paper rolls for the adults, peanut butter sandwiches for the children, and chocolate cake for everyone. Grab the kids, the dog, and my husband and head off to the beach.
What is your favourite book or film of all time?
I read too many books to have a favourite. But growing up I loved the novels of Enid Blyton and CS Lewis. From the Folk of the Faraway Tree to the Land of Narnia, my imagination was captured by enchanted lands and the folk who inhabited them. It made me wonder what could be possible. I subsidised this diet of fantasy tales with reading our family’s collection of the New Knowledge Library Reference Encyclopaedias (did I mention I grew up in the middle of nowhere with not much to do?).
Who has made an impact on your life? Why?
My Mum. She is strong, hardworking, ethical. But the thing that I learnt most from her is the importance of emotional intelligence. The ability to work with people, build trust and rapport, understand other people’s concerns and points of view. From personal relationships to professional – emotional intelligence enhances the way we make decisions and identify opportunities.
Are you a CQUni Alumni? If so, what did you graduate in?
Not yet. I started my Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Education in 2011 and I have one more unit to go. I was hoping to talk to someone about that…
What is the best thing about the CQUni Rockhampton North campus?
The Birdcage Bar. Sitting on the deck in the late afternoon under the palm trees with a cold beer and interesting conversation.