Stalking the bean

by Cat Hrysomallis

Welcome to RMIT, Mr Bean! No, not the goofball childhood mime who fluffs around in his tweed jacket and signature chocolate-coloured pants. Mr Martin Bean, a Melbourne-born fellow who has returned to his hometown after 30 years of working in the US and the UK.

Previously the Vice Chancellor of the UK’s monster institution, Open University, Mr Bean was unsure of what to expect after coming back from living abroad for so long. It’s safe to say he’s invigorated.

So, what can RMIT’s students and staff expect from Mr Bean? Well firstly is his aim to put all lectures online. Finally.

“The days of one-size-fits-all, cram 300 people into a lecture room and give them a tutorial once a week, those days are done,” Bean says.

Bean is pushing for a greater embrace of technology in education among staff and students. This is something Bean mastered after working as the General Manager of Microsoft’s education sector. If we don’t welcome technology in an educational format, Bean says RMIT will fall behind.

“Technology has got to a point to our lives that it is so pervasive,” Bean says. “Just like electricity, like water, like air, it needs to be there.”

“Every conference I go to now, ironically giving a lecture, there are people sitting there on their iPads.”

The majority of oldies would consider this to be totally rude, but Bean couldn’t be happier having hundreds of screen backs towards him. He finds this way of “dynamically capturing” speeches and lectures flattering.

He, Bean, asks why students would want to waste precious hours at university doing a lecture, and hopes to increase our time at university for more student-staff interaction.

Some university lecturers remain concerned and protective of their intellectual property, refusing to put their material online. It was “when the internet was invented”, Bean says “the days of locking up your intellectual property and putting it in a filing cabinet were over.”

He recognises these property issues aren’t going to be resolved overnight, but hopes with increased professional development this culture of online sharing will be achieved. He is prepared for the journey – or battle –  ahead of him.

Bean appears to have the utmost faith in  RMIT’s student body and seems eager to tackle the uni’s future challenges.

“There is a whole new generation not only capable, but motivated people,” he says. Stop it, we’re blushing.

Establishing close ties with RUSU, Bean endeavours to gain deeper understanding of what students truly want. But working with them hasn’t been breezy. Instead the relationship has been packed with rather “challenging conversations”. RUSU are pushing the new VC for accelerated reforms.

“The wish-list can’t be delivered straight away,” Mr Bean says.

Bean was asked, why RMIT? We know we’re full of vibrant, exceptionally smart and ridiculously good looking specimens, but what attracted him to our university before any other?

The answer? He had been fanboying hard for a while. Bean says he has been “a long time admirer of RMIT”.  He sought to move back to a hybrid university, as he is passionate about “the built environment” and what can be done with physical spaces.

“The university of the future will understand how to take the best learning and teaching and combine it with the best physical infrastructure and technology,”Bean says.

After the Group of Eight, RMIT has the largest intake of international students in the country. When asked about the increased competitiveness for local students to attain spots at RMIT with an increasing amount of international placements being given, Bean stressed that there is no need for concern.

“It’s not the case that for every spot an international student gets, there is one less spot for an Australian student, that’s just not true,“ he says.

“Instead we should rejoice in the fact that we are part of an institution that believe is access. We’ve got a reflection of the world.”

As such, global connectedness is also high up on the VC’s agenda.

Thanks for the chat Mr Bean, I hope the students look forward to working with you further.

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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