While September marks a new chapter for Geraldine Mackenzie, she will be returning to familiar ground.

The former Foundation Head of University of Southern Queensland’s School of Law is being welcomed back as the university’s Vice-Chancellor on Monday 4 September. “I’m very excited and honoured to be entrusted to lead USQ’s 1800 staff and almost 30,000 students,” said Mackenzie. “I want to be part of its future with the plan and energy to deliver, and to focus on making a real difference to the communities in which USQ works.”

Mackenzie’s promotion to Vice-Chancellor follows on from a successful and diversified career in law. Equipped with a PhD in Sentencing Law from the University of New South Wales, she had an international career as Barrister-at-Law, ascended to Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Law at Bond University on the Gold Coast, and was most recently Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research at Southern Cross University.

With more than two decades of tertiary-based focus, her desire to return to USQ was fuelled by her respect for the university and the supportive, thriving community.“I truly believe USQ is a dynamic, world-class university and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” she said.

Strengthening the bond between the university and surrounding communities is one of her driving goals in the position. For Mackenzie, the university’s beginnings and traditions are rooted in community involvement, and nurturing that relationship is critical to its future. “I want to promote the University’s commitment to enable broad participation in higher education through learning, employment, research and community partnerships,” she said.

USQ is recognised for its research in agriculture, climate sciences, regional development, digital literacy and education. However, Mackenzie would like to see the university expand its areas of focus and reach to match the calibre of other local and international institutions.

Part of this will include adopting new technology in the classrooms, shifting not just what students are learning, but how they are. “The university of the future will be … a conduit, if you like, for searching for ideas and then bringing those together to create change,” she said.

One of Mackenzie’s guiding principles is not simply to keep the university and its graduates competitive, but to level the playing field for all aspiring students. In her words, to “close the gap”. “I want to put in place equality focused policies that recognise diversity in the workplace, career progressions, and ways to empower those who want to take up university study and succeed in what they do.”

Geraldine Mackenzie’s appointment coincides with USQ’s own milestone: it is celebrating 50 years as a centre for higher education and 25 years as a university. The new Vice-Chancellor looks forward to building on past achievements while pushing for innovation and growth. “We have a social and moral obligation to ensure that we continue to be a catalyst for diversity and progress,” she said. “I am passionate about the difference that education can make in people’s lives.”