The Fiji National University (FNU) officially welcomed incoming Vice-Chancellor, Professor Toby Wilkinson, in a traditional ceremony at Nasinu Campus this morning.
Prof Wilkinson had assumed office on January 4 this year and was working remotely from the United Kingdom prior to arriving in the country.FNU staff and students performed the Na Qaloqalovi, presenting a whale’s tooth to traditionally welcome Prof Wilkinson before partaking in the yaqona ceremony.
FNU Acting Chancellor, Tessa Price, in her welcome address, acknowledged Prof Wilkinson for accepting the role and joining the FNU family and its ambition to build a world-class university for all Fijians.
“We are thrilled to have somebody of your calibre lead our students and our university into the future,” Price said.“Prof Wilkinson was appointed by the Council and his credentials and leadership style was compelling.”
“These set Prof Toby apart and made him the perfect fit for FNU.”Vice-Chancellor Prof Wilkinson said he was honoured to be accorded a traditional welcome and acknowledged the FNU Council and the wider FNU community for placing their trust in him to lead the institution as it embarked on its second decade of progress and success
Prof Wilkinson highlighted his interest in Pacific cultures during his speech to FNU Council members, senior management group and staff and students who were present and those tuning into the ceremony via live-stream.
“I have been a great admirer of Pacific cultures since I was a boy. Among my most treasured possessions is a tanoa, very similar to the one used at today’s ceremony. Little did I ever dream that one day, I would be offered yaqona from such a bowl at a traditional ceremony of welcome,” he said.
“Moreover, some years ago, I visited an amazing exhibition of Fijian art and culture at a gallery near my home in England. In pride of place, at the very start of the exhibition, was the tabua presented to Queen Elizabeth II on her first visit to these islands in 1953.
Little could I have imagined that one day, I would be presented with a tabua myself.”Prof Wilkinson highlighted that he would carry out his role as Vice-Chancellor of FNU with humility and optimism and looked forward to working with the community of FNU staff, students, families and supporters, with business and government, and with partners at home and around the world.
“Our vision for FNU is for it to be recognised as the premier dual-sector university in the South Pacific, creating a better future for our nation, our region, and our planet. I look forward to that challenge and I will give it my all,” he stated.
“FNU is a remarkable institution. Its roots go back to the late 19th century yet it is also a young, dynamic and vibrant institution, with its eyes set firmly on the future, focused on providing the very best education and research to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”
“In short, FNU has all the inherent qualities it needs to succeed and prosper in the years ahead.”“In the words of our national anthem, ‘Onward march together”.”Prior to joining FNU, Prof Wilkinson was Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Lincoln, UK, with an extensive portfolio of responsibilities including; the College of Science (incorporating Science, Engineering and Medicine) and the College of Business, regional partnerships between technical and vocational education and higher education, portfolio development, online programmes and micro-credentials, civic engagement, external relations and internationalization, advancement, marketing and communications and a group of five primary and secondary schools sponsored by the university.
Over the coming weeks, Prof Wilkinson will be visiting FNU campuses and centres and meeting with education and industry stakeholders.