Leading the way forward for Crawford: Meet Helen Sullivan

04 June 2020

Crawford School introduces our fantastic staff, so you can meet the people of Asia and the Pacific’s leading graduate policy school.

This time around, Crawford School Director Professor Helen Sullivan reveals that the most intimidating part of applying for the role of School Director wasn’t facing the Vice-Chancellor during her job interview, and tells us about what keeps the school going strong in a crisis.

What was your first impression when you started working at Crawford School?

Crawford is full to bursting with incredibly talented people who are completely committed to doing what they do to the highest standard. This was evident to me when I came to be interviewed for the Director’s role. I was very closely scrutinised by Crawford’s academics and professional staff in my many meetings with them. The interview panel chaired by the Vice-Chancellor and with a cast of senior academics and bureaucrats was a breeze compared to being quizzed by people like Warwick McKibbin and Margaret Eichholzer on my academic and leadership credentials.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I enjoy pretty much everything about my role, even the bits that drive me crazy. As a professional graduate school, we attract students from all over the world; their diversity in skills and experience coupled with their shared determination to make the world, or at least their bit of it, a better place, is pretty humbling. Everyone at Crawford teaches because it keeps us connected with the lived experience of those who are wrestling with major societal challenges, and it enables our students to have access to our latest research.

As Director you also get to chair lots of School events. This means that I am regularly exposed to the huge variety of specialist expertise we have in Crawford, and I am always learning new things. It’s fascinating.

Can you tell us about one of your personal highlights working at Crawford School?

The launch of our Strategic Plan in 2019 was a fabulous evening. Our Communication and Engagement Team curated an event that showcased our academic expertise in innovative and fun ways, drew on and promoted the skills of ANU artists and musicians, and made fantastic use of the Crawford building. It brought in people from all sectors and was a great example of how connected we are to people who work on the big policy challenges of our time. It demonstrated the creativity and collaboration that is at the heart of the School, and it made me incredibly proud.

What is your vision for Crawford School going through and coming out of the COVID-19 crisis?

Crawford is a unique institution that has huge reach globally because of its outstanding education programs, world-leading research, and focus on impact. The evidence of our impact is all around us at present as colleagues contribute to vital recovery efforts in relation to the devastating bushfires, and more recently COVID-19, as well as supporting the many international students who are studying with us and who are concerned about their own communities and countries. Our Strategic Plan is based on three principles that we believe to be essential for societies to survive and thrive in the future: sustainability, integrity, and capability. We will continue to hold to these, and indeed apply them to our own organisation as we view the uncertain future. Crawford’s inherent entrepreneurialism coupled with its collegiality makes me confident that we will navigate a successful path.

Can you give us your top three tips about how to stay positive during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Stay connected to friends and family wherever they are in the world. Take virtual tours of some of the world’s best art galleries and/or Australia’s ‘big things’. Laugh every day.

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Updated:  26 May 2022/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team