Darrell Evans

Darrell Evans

Explorer of innovative education + leadership

Tell us who you are and what your role is at UON?

My name is Darrell Evans and as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at UON I am responsible for leading the transformation of the university’s education and student experience endeavours to ensure equity of access and success, an exciting student journey, and strong graduate outcomes. Whilst working in universities in the UK, the USA and Australia I have been fortunate to develop expertise and experience in areas such as curriculum design, technology enhancement, innovative teaching practice, quality assurance and student empowerment.

I have an academic background as an anatomist and developmental biologist and my biological research program has focused on the mechanisms underlying cell movement and tissue assembly during development and repair with an emphasis on the musculoskeletal system. I currently hold the title of Professor of Developmental Tissue Biology at Newcastle. I also have a pedagogical research programme that focusses on the development and analysis of learning approaches and teaching methodologies in higher education.

What does the concept of enterprise and innovation mean to you, and what do you see as its relevance for the students of UON?

The world around us is changing. The rate of this change is unprecedented in human history and has been the result of interconnecting technological disruptions, industrial growth and a reshaping of the communities in which we live through globalisation. The changes we see around us affect the way we lead our lives and the way in which we connect with each other. But this transformation has also left us with major challenges to confront; from climate change to urbanization to food and water security, the supply of our energy needs, plastic pollution, cybersecurity and many more. The challenges won’t be solved through typical traditional approaches and will require fresh thinking, new ideas and a different way of working. Therefore, the next generation of graduates will need to be creative, combining diverse concepts to generate novel solutions; connective in their ability to combine theory with practice; collaborative so they can interconnect with peers, experts, local and global communities; and must be implementers, actively testing and applying solutions. An emphasis on enterprise and innovation is therefore key to enable us to achieve the goals of the future and I hope all UON students will have opportunities whilst at the university to develop these attributes and explore their potential for making positive change.

Tell us how you have incorporated innovative thinking into your plans for the future of teaching and learning at UON?

At UON we have developed a transformational agenda, the NeW Education Framework, which is designed as a holistic and multifaceted approach to learning and teaching that will provide students with opportunities for discovery, exploration and application, and enable a portfolio of skills and attributes to be developed, preparing our students for the challenges that await them. In developing the framework, I have focussed on making it truly learner-centered, inspiring and challenging, through research, innovative and enterprising-rich teaching and learning, nurturing students through opportunities and support and delivering Career Success through effective outcomes. This transformational approach to changing the education value proposition relies on innovative thinking in the way we develop our programs, courses and credentials, the learning environments we provide, the inclusion of effective and empowering technologies and the way we enable a more personalised learning journey. These are exciting challenges for us over the next few years.

How will this impact on the UON community now and into the future?

The NeW Education Framework provides an integrated and transformative strategy for responding to the changing higher education landscape and is aimed at supporting and preparing the wonderful diversity of students we have at the UON for the world that awaits them. The success of such a transformation relies on the whole UON community coming together and playing their part. This includes working with industry and local communities, helping to tackle issues important to them, bringing about lasting and meaningful partnerships, and helping to contribute to the success and wellbeing of those around us.

What would your advice be to students to inspire them to bring the spirit of enterprise and innovation into their studies and lives?

Having a mindset for enterprise and innovation can provide you with the capacity and motivation for making real change, to pursue new and unknown ventures or expand your horizons and those around you. Don’t be shy, take hold of the opportunities that come your way (or make your own opportunities) and remember to think outside of the box!