"What exactly do you do?"

16 Oct 2015

John Pickering’s business card reads Head of Innovation and Engagement at the University’s Triple P Innovation Precinct, however it is in his role as the elected postgraduate student on Senate that has people asking, “What exactly do you do?”

“I have always been intrigued by the Senate, long before joining,” he said.

“It has this mysterious, unknown quality about it which has always seemed strange to me because it is obviously quite an important group, but very few people seemed to know much about it.”

Senate is the peak governing body of the University and operates in much the same way as a Board of Directors of a large listed company operates.  The University of Queensland Act (1998) sets out the powers, functions, and composition of Senate.

“Senate is the final authority for everything from policy changes to multimillion dollar projects,” said Pickering.

Members of Senate are invited to attend all major University functions. The variety of the events showcase UQ’s wide depth and range.

With graduations a matter of weeks away, a number of Senate members will attend graduation ceremonies where the Chancellor confers degrees on our most recent graduates.

“Senate is also currently in the process of seeking a new Chancellor, as our current Chancellor, Mr John Story AO, has indicated that he will not seek re-election at the end of the year,” said Pickering.

As a member of the Senate’s Buildings and Grounds Committee, Pickering is particularly passionate about the UQ Master Plan.

“I have been fortunate to visit virtually all of the Group of Eight campuses around Australia and I do believe St Lucia is the most vibrant, beautiful and extraordinary campus in Australia.

“The challenge is for us to preserve its beauty, while realising that we must make considerable investment to enhance its functionality, usability, and capacity to enable new waves of innovation to take place.”

Other Senate committees include Honorary Degrees, Risk, Student Appeals, Legislative, Finance, Membership and Nominations, and Equity, Diversity and the Status of Women.

Pickering was voted into the position by his peers in the postgraduate cohort, and considers the role one of the highest honours he has received at the University. His time on Senate concludes at the end of the year.

“I have been a long time student, staff member and general admirer of UQ,” he said.

“I believe very strongly in its value, not only its staff and students, but also to the state of Queensland and its role in improving health and wellbeing for people everywhere.

“To be part of Senate – overseeing the many different aspects of the University – is a great privilege.”

The expertise Pickering garners working on projects in his day-to-day job are essential skills he translates to his role on the Senate.

“At the Triple P Innovation Precinct, we are looking at how we can constantly evolve and improve the University environment to better enable innovation to take place,” he said.

“This means understanding the importance of not just collaborating, but collocating researchers from different disciplines and evolving the way we train our graduate students.

“We place great value on engagement, entrepreneurship and providing our students with the experiences to learn these skills.”

Pickering suggests his passion for UQ and its prosperity is an essential foundation for his role as a Senate member, and he isn’t alone.

“The Senate comprises 22 people who are as enthusiastic about UQ as anyone you are likely to meet!” Pickering said.

“All of us are around campus regularly and are always keen for a chat over a cup of coffee.”

Which café should we meet you at, John?