Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen: A Very, Very Special Person

Blog caroline McMillen  Please meet Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen, MA, DPhil(Oxon), MBB Chir(Cantab), FAHMS, Vice-Chancellor and President, of the University of Newcastle, Australia, a truly lovely and very special person who has had a huge effect on my life and on the lives of countless others (students, colleagues, and people out in the community) for the better in many, many ways.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen is an exceptionally brilliant lady, and an amazingly energetic person who embraces her work and her position at the University to the full.  Professor McMillen is held in high esteem by all who come into contact with her; an exemplary academic, she sets high standards and models excellence in everything she does. She joins in with the students and the staff and the community, and does everything she possibly can to help and promote the University. Her goal is to place the University of Newcastle, Australia, on the map as a world-leading research facility and trend-setting educational institution. UoN coat-of-armsAs the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor McMillen makes the University’s students and staff, as well as Newcastle and its surrounding areas and its people, very proud of both her and the University.

Professor Caroline McMillen is a very down-to-earth, humble and genuine person, and is highly respected and much loved by the University’s students and staff and community alike. Professor McMillen works long demanding hours: she has her own research work and her research students to attend to, and she also has her duties as Vice-Chancellor to fulfil.  Amongst other things, her role as Vice-Chancellor involves her playing an active part in the business community, outside of the University as such, and this also requires her attendance at many various business functions and dinners.  As well, on behalf of the University, she attends Guest lectures and talks, New Professor’s talks, and other University and business functions whenever humanly possible.

Professor McMillen’s enthusiasm and drive extend far beyond her duties within the University; this is evidenced by the fact that she willingly participates in community-based and Australia-wide fund-raising events for those in our society who are less fortunate than many of us. For one example, she participates in the CEO sleep-out, a community-based fund-raising event: once a year, very year, Caroline McMillan joins with other community-minded folk—she takes her cardboard bedroll, and sleeps rough, out on the streets, to help raise funds for the Newcastle area’s homeless. Another example of her selflessness is her whole-hearted participation in major fund-raising events for medical research: for one instance, every year Professor McMillen organises and attends a Newcastle University venue for Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea for Breast Cancer Research.

Being a Conjoint Fellow to the School of Humanities and Social Science, I am only a very small cog in the University wheel, but speaking from personal experience I can vouch for the fact that Vice-Chancellor Professor McMillen is very friendly, very approachable, and is always very willing to join in with the University’s students and staff, and roll up her sleeves to give a hand as it were. For example, when I was a PhD candidate and Professor Hugh Craig and I resurrected the RHD (Postgraduate) Student NewMac conferences, I wrote to Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen who was new in the role at that time, inviting her to open the conference, and participate in the event to see for 1 Pic 105 2 Pic 106herself what her Humanities Postgraduate students were getting up to. To our absolute delight Caroline accepted the invitation, and honoured us by opening the event and joining in.

Another time, after this, Professor McMillen honoured the School of Humanities and Social Science by accepting the invitation to open the RHD Symposium, a twice-yearly event that allows the RHD students in the School of Humanities and Social Science the opportunity to showcase their work and gain valuable practice in presenting and networking with colleagues and staff.

UoN coat-of-armsThen there was the proud (for me) day when I made my PhD graduation at the University of Newcastle, Australia, and had my photo taken with both the Chancellor of the University, Chancellor Mr Paul Jeans, the distinguished Newcastle business leader and a truly beautiful person, and the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline McMillen.   

More recently, I was talking to Professor McMillen at one of the New Professors’ Talks, University events that are extremely interesting. These talks are open to anyone who wishes to attend (these sessions fill up quickly, so anyone who is wishing to attend should book well in advance), and are held one evening a month—usually at the Newcastle Museum, at the Honeysuckle venue in Newcastle. Sometimes I shock myself. Even knowing that someone as important and as busy as Professor McMillen, Vice-Chancellor of the University, already had an over-crowded schedule, I nevertheless mentioned to her, tongue-in-cheek, that I was seeking really big names as reader-reviewers for my two new proposed book projects, both of which are edited collections—one with the working title A Practical Guide to Some New and Unusual ways of Writing Lives (by several of Australia’s top academics and professional practioners of life writing, some of whom work at the University of Newcastle), and the other with the working title Representations of the Mother-in-Law: in British/ American/ Australian/ and European literature, film, and television (but which also takes an international focus). To my absolute delight and extreme excitement Vice-Chancellor Professor McMillen said, “Jo, put my name down as a reader-reviewer, to both.” This, I feel, is a very great honour, and one that makes me feel very humble to say the least, and also a little bit scared–the “Possum Syndrome” is very real.

At some time or other in their careers, nearly all academics meet the “possum”; it’s that awful feeling you get that somehow you are secretly an imposter, that you are not really worthy of your title (“Dr” or “Associative Professor” or “Professor”), and need to keep looking over your shoulder lest someone should catch you out, or that you might mess things up and bring yourself undone, or that some greater authority on your subject might walk up behind you, clap their weighty hand on your shoulder, and say, “Out you go, you are not who you say you are so do not enter this University again, you have no rightful place here.”  In a way, I suppose this “possum” business could very well be one small element of the academic psyche, and something that adds to one’s constant drive to achieve. Yet, I cannot for the life of me imagine that Vice-Chancellors suffer from that Syndrome, they have ACHIEVED, they have already reached the Pinnacle, and are very deserving people indeed.

“Possums” aside, I know my strengths, and I also know my limitations, and even though it’s in my nature to keep pushing at the boundaries and striving to extend myself (fool that I am), I can honestly say that apart from the fact that I am nowhere in the same league as Professor Caroline McMillen—I simply do not have her drive and level of sheer brilliance–and could never ever even hope to achieve, and indeed would never ever be capable of achieving, even an “nth” of what she has done and does do, there is absolutely no way in this big wide world that I would like her job. I am happy being Dr Parnell, Conjoint Fellow to the School of Humanities at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Even so, to me, Vice-Chancellor Professor McMillen is a real inspiration and a role model. She never fails to amaze me: she gets along with everyone and always has kind words to say, and a genuine smile; she is diplomatic; she can handle any situation with ease; she is a natural speaker and enunciates her words clearly and beautifully; she delivers all her talks with confidence, and she never stumbles or forgets what she is going to say even though her talks are not written down on a paper in front of her; and, moreover, she can adapt easily and quickly to any situation. Her one-time teachers and mentors must be very proud to have turned out such a brilliant all-rounder. Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen is the epitome of academic excellence, and represents what one could achieve as an academic—if one was that brilliant.

Below, in the following section of my blog post on Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen, for Sam’s sake. and just in case anyone else in the world who happens to read these pages may not have already visited the University of Newcastle, Australia, homepage, I will not attempt to reinvent the wheel, rather I will copy and paste segments from Vice Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen’s University of Newcastle, Australia, staff profile at :

Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen

“Qualifications:  PhD, University of Oxford – UK; Bachelor of Physiological Science (Honours),  University of Oxford – UK; Master of Arts, University of Oxford – UK; Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, University of Cambridge – UK”

“Professor McMillen has dedicated almost 30 years to the higher education sector, holding leadership roles across research, innovation and teaching. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford University, and completed her medical training at the University of Cambridge.”

“In 1983, Professor McMillen moved to Australia to lecture at Monash University. In 1992, she was appointed Professor, Chair and Head of the Department of Physiology at the University of Adelaide. In 2005, she accepted the position of Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice President: Research and Innovation at the University of South Australia, a position she held until her move to Newcastle.”

“Professor Caroline McMillen joined the University of Newcastle as Vice-Chancellor and President in October 2011.” The University of Newcastle, Australia

“As a biomedical researcher, Professor McMillen is internationally recognised for her work into the impact of the nutritional environment before birth on the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and obesity in adult life. Her research group has been funded continuously for two decades by both the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council. She has published more than 200 publications and been invited to present at more than 70 international and national meetings. Professor McMillen is also currently the Chair of the Endocrinology, Reproduction and Development Commission of the International Union of Physiological Societies – the only Australian Chair on this international body.”

Professor Caroline McMillen MA, DPhil(Oxon), MBBChir(Cantab), FAHMS

“Research Expertise:

Professor McMillen has an international reputation for her work in development and the impact of the early nutritional environment on the programming of later obesity, insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. The work of her Early Origins of Health Research Group has been funded by both the NHMRC and ARC since 1990 and she has published 203 research articles (book chapters, edited proceedings and journal papers) with papers published in journals including Physiology Reviews (IF 35.0), Journal of Clinical Investigation (IF 16.56), The FASEB Journal (IF 7.05), Endocrinology (IF 5.0) and the Journal of Physiology (IF 4.65). Her work has been cited more than 4,100 times (h index 35), and she has received invitations to present more than 70 Plenary or Symposia lectures at international and national conferences. She was selected by the NHMRC to contribute to the ˜Great Minds in Health and Medical Research~™ podcast series in 2008 and was elected to the Council of the International Union of Physiologists in 2009.”

“Over her career, Professor McMillen has trained more than 50 Honours and PhD students who have gone on to win national honours and fellowships and made significant contributions in diverse careers, including research, industry, medicine, dentistry, veterinary science and education.”

“Between 1983-1991 Professor McMillen convened, taught and assessed in a range of second and third year physiology courses in Medicine and Science at Monash University. In 1991 Professor McMillen initiated, designed and tutored the new Clinical and Communication Skills Unit which was singled out for commendation in the subsequent Australian Medical Council Accreditation of the Monash Medical Course. Between 1989 and 1991, Professor McMillen played a major role in the development of the new medical curriculum and was involved in a range of Faculty Working Parties in Curriculum Development. Professor McMillen convened, taught and assessed in a range of first, second and third year courses in science, medicine and dentistry at the University of Adelaide between 1992-2005. Experience with a range of learning and teaching methods including didactic lectures (50-300 students), journal club style tutorials, problem based learning tutorials with medical students and biomedical students, research project practicals for small (4-6 students) or large (24-28 students) groups and the delivery of a range of non-didactic workshops for both Honours and PhD students. She was course coordinator for a range of courses including a third year major course in physiology (~100 students) and the Honours in Physiology program (15-25 students). Her contact time with students was usually around 250 hours in any year.”

“Administrative Expertise: Collaborations: Professor McMillen is a member of the national Automotive Industry Innovation Council and a Board member of the Cooperative Research Centre for Advanced Automotive Technology. She has served on state government groups focused on: building innovation, climate change, manufacturing and the resources industry. Professor McMillen was a member of the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council Working Group on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders focusing on maternal and peri-natal health. She has served as Chair of the Australian Research Council and National Health and Medical Research Council’s grant review panels. Professor McMillen is committed to building collaborative partnerships between universities, government, industry and communities that directly contribute to the economic, environmental, social and cultural health of Australia.”

Professor Caroline McMillen

Expert panel: what the national innovation statement means for science

The government should think hard before deregulating university fees

A Vice-Chancellor’s defence of the uncapped university system

Searching for equity or excellence in universities – or is it just about the money?


Keywords for Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen:

“Biology of reproduction; Early origins of obesity; Endocrinology; Paediatric Research; Physiology; Pregnancy”

For a full list on Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen’s publications and conference attendances and publications visit her staff profile at

CEO Sleepout

June 16, 2014

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline McMillen, will again trade her bed for cardboard sheets to raise awareness and funds for homeless Australians as part of Vinnies CEO Sleepout on Thursday 19 June.”

UON welcomes greater support for entry pathways

April 14, 2014

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline McMillen, has welcomed the report of the review of the Demand Driven Funding System released by the Australian Government, and the recommendations for the expansion and improvement of the system.”

Works cited:
















Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline Macmillen

Image | This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s