Global challenges call for ‘union of arts and science’

Published 09 October 2009

pettigrewdancerThe importance of a “union of arts and science” was a major theme in an address today by the Director General of the NSW Department of State and Regional Development, Mr Barry Buffier, at a University of New England graduation ceremony.

“The challenges facing our society today require not only the best scientific minds but also people well versed and equipped in humanities,” Mr Buffier said.

He was addressing about 160 people about to graduate from UNE with degrees and diplomas in disciplines within the University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

“Ethical debates concerning stem cell research and artificial intelligence, and shifting energy production to be cleaner, greener and more efficient – thinking about how the footprint we make today will create the legacy we leave for future generations – are just some of the issues that will benefit from the union of arts and science,” Mr Buffier explained.

“UNE has a well-deserved reputation for youthful dynamism, a strong commitment to academic excellence, and an eagerness to forge its own unique traditions, spirit and directions,” he continued. “As graduates of the new Faculty that combines the arts and sciences, you are perfect examples of a university being prepared to do things differently.”

“As well as being a significant day for all of you,” he said, “this is a significant day for me personally, as it is just on 40 years since I was privileged to graduate from UNE as a Bachelor of Rural Science, and then subsequently as a Master of Economics.”

Mr Buffier’s wife Jennifer, who accompanied him to Armidale for the ceremony, is also a UNE graduate, holding an Arts degree and a Diploma of Education. “As someone who married an Arts graduate from UNE, I can testify how well these two disciplines – arts and science – complement each other,” Mr Buffier said.

During today’s ceremony the internationally renowned mathematician Professor Norman Dancer was presented with the honorary degree of Doctor of Science. Professor Dancer now a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Sydney – taught at UNE from 1973 to 1993, receiving a Personal Chair in 1987.

In introducing Professor Dancer, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alan Pettigrew, said that, since moving to Sydney, he had published 25 high-quality joint research papers with UNE staff members, and that this joint research was continuing.

Two of Professor Dancer’s former postgraduate students are now members of the Mathematics staff at UNE: Professor Yihong Du and Dr Shusen Yan. The three of them currently hold their second joint Discovery Grant from the Australian Research Council. (The current grant is for research on partial differential equations.)

Professor Dancer’s wife, economics researcher Dr Diane Dancer, returned for the ceremony with him to Armidale – the city in which they raised their three daughters. During their years in Armidale – which, they said, were both enjoyable and fulfilling – Dr Dancer taught econometrics at UNE.

More than 1,100 people are graduating from UNE this week, with more than 400 of those able to attend the two ceremonies and receive their testamurs from the Chancellor, Dr Richard Torbay. The second ceremony – for people graduating within the Faculty of The Professions – will be tomorrow, Saturday 10 October.

Clicking on the photograph of Professor Alan Pettigrew (left) and Professor Norman Dancer displayed here reveals a photograph of Mr Barry Buffier (left) with the Chancellor, Dr Richard Torbay.