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McKinnon Walker Fellowship launched at Global Challenges conference

Inaugural fellows collaborate with UOW researchers to address real-world issues, both locally and globally

The McKinnon Walker Fellowship was officially launched at the University of Wollongong (UOW) on Wednesday 29 November, timed to coincide with the Transforming Vulnerabilities Conference (30 November – 1 December) organised by UOW’s Global Challenges Program.

The McKinnon Walker Fellowship will engage with the world’s most innovative thinkers and foster ongoing collaborative research opportunities that address real-world challenges on both a local and global scale.

The Fellowship was made possible through the support of the McKinnon Walker Trust, established by former UOW Vice-Chancellor Emeritus Professor Ken McKinnon AO and Ms Suzanne Walker, a UOW alumna, to invest in bright ideas, cultivate innovation and support excellence.

The four inaugural Fellows are Professor Yoshitaka Iwasaki from University of Alberta, Canada; Professor Nicola Ansell, Brunel University London; Professor Peter Bridgewater, University of Canberra; and Dr Allan Rennie, University of Lancaster, UK.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings OBE thanked Professor McKinnon and Ms Walker for their generous support, and welcomed the Fellows to the University.

“We are excited to host the most innovative thinkers on campus to collectively approach this challenge in a multitude of ways, with the ultimate aim of touching lives and changing worlds,” Professor Wellings said.

“At UOW, we are committed to addressing issues that not only affect us at a local level, but challenges that should be addressed at a global level.”

During the conference, each of the Fellows presented a keynote address on one of its subthemes: Transforming vulnerable lives (Professor Iwasaki), Transforming vulnerable communities (Professor Ansell), and Transforming vulnerabilities through technology (Dr Rennie), Transforming vulnerable coastal and marine ecosystems (Professor Bridgewater).

During their time at UOW, the Fellows will participate in research projects across campus and facilitate workshops to delve deeper into how we can approach the same challenge of Transforming Vulnerability in a multitude of ways.

The Fellows were selected as thought leaders in their fields, and for their potential for productive collaborations with UOW academics working on the Global Challenges research themes.

McKinnon Walker Fellows - group shotEmeritus Professor Ken McKinnon AO, Ms Suzanne Walker, Professor Peter Bridgewater, Professor Nicola Ansell, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Judy Raper, Professor Yoshitaka Iwasaki, Dr Allan Rennie and Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings OBE.  

Professor Iwasaki is the director of the University of Alberta’s Community-University Partnership for the Study of Children, Youth, and Families (CUP) and Associate Dean of Research in the Faculty of Extension.

His research interests include engaging and mobilising marginalised population groups, and addressing key life challenges (such as poverty, racism, mental health) from a holistic and strengths-based perspective.

As a leading expert in therapeutic recreation, Professor Iwasaki has been cited numerous times in the work of UOW’s Recovery Camp team and during his stay will attend a camp and share his knowledge.

A highly regarded human geographer, Professor Ansell’s research focuses on social and cultural change in the lives of young people, particularly in southern Africa; and on politics and impacts of global policy agendas (particularly in the areas of education, children’s rights and social protection).

In her keynote, Professor Ansell talked about her work in Malawi and Lesotho researching efforts to reduce poverty among those countries’ most vulnerable groups.

Dr Rennie, from Lancaster University’ Engineering Design Academy, is an expert in additive manufacturing (3D printing) and in translating research into ways to transform regions.

He has worked with many small businesses using 3D printing, and has a strong track record of helping industry transform.

In his conference keynote, Dr Rennie will talk about the industry-engagement initiatives he has worked on at Lancaster University, and how they have successfully grown its local SME community and transformed or diversified many businesses in the north west of England.

During his fellowship, Dr Rennie will also address an Advantage SME and Southern Manufacturing Innovation Group event, talking to Illawarra manufacturers about how small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from both Australia and the UK have used additive manufacturing to future-proof their businesses.

Professor Bridgewater, from the University of Canberra’s Institute of Applied Ecology, has held a number of high profile positions, including Secretary of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Program, Director of UNESCO’s Division of Ecological Sciences, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on the Protection of Wetlands of International Importance, Chair of the International Whaling Commission.

Professor Bridgewater’s research focusses on links between cultural and biological diversity, data-science-policy-implementation interfaces, international law and environmental policy.

In his conference address, Professor Bridgewater looked at opportunities for university leadership to play a role in transforming vulnerability by engaging with the community.