Patricia "Trish" Davidson is the proverbial Wollongong success story.
But the new University of Wollongong vice-chancellor had to leave home and travel across the world to progress her career.
The former Wollongong nurse's stellar international career included a nearly eight-year spell as Dean of the School of Nursing at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, USA.
It was while working at the prestigious university that Professor Davidson was appointed UOW's first female vice-chancellor.
Saturday was her first official day at her "dream job".
It fell the day after a farewell dinner for outgoing vice-chancellor Paul Wellings was crashed by protestors, who were denied entry by a large police presence.
Protesters voiced their opposition to the staff and budget cuts made by Professor Wellings, as well as demanded the incoming vice-chancellor reverse the cuts.
Prof Davidson, who spoke to the Mercury at length earlier this week, said this period of time was about "consolidating, healing, recovering and moving forward".
She spoke enthusiastically about being back home in Wollongong and her desire to highlight the university and region's many riches.
Prof Davidson has for the past couple of weeks been shadowing and learning the ropes so to speak from outgoing VC Paul Wellings.
Read more: Meet the University of Wollongong's new boss
While it may be too early to say, it seems clear from the events that Prof Davidson has so far attended that her style of leadership differs from her predecessor.
Prof Wellings was in his element with the big end of town and thrived when prime ministers and governor generals were in the house.
As a former nurse, Prof Davidson felt well equipped to deal with all people from the city's movers and shakers to staff and students alike.
But that said, the institution's fifth vice-chancellor since UOW became an independent university in 1975, said she wasn't afraid to make the tough decisions as long as they benefitted the university and Illawarra.
Though Prof Davidson was mindful of "not leaving anyone behind" and making sure people felt their "voices were heard".
"One of the greatest compliments I got in my career was from a retiring Dean of Business at Johns Hopkins University. During his retirement speech he was sort of roasting some people. When he got to me, he said 'Trish, well she's smart and she is kind',." Prof Davidson.
"I'll take that any day but it doesn't mean I won't make the tough decisions.
"But I hope people will always realise that I will do it with the university's best intentions at heart, but also really thinking about the impacts the decisions will have on people."
Prof Davidson, the first UOW vice-chancellor who is also an alumna, also was mindful the university and Wollongong had been through and was still dealing with COVID-19 related issues.
"Wollongong has been through a tough time. But you know, there's so many riches here," she said.
"When you've been in the US and you've been through COVID, and you've also lived in environments that are tough, you appreciate more the beauty here.
"There's so much beauty here. And I think University of Wollongong has so many amazing people.
"I just hope that we can get through this rough patch to rebuild and regrow."
Prof Davidson admitted the lack of international students was a real concern.
"I think it is a big concern, and not just because of the income stream. But because of the internationalization of education and about science.
"People talk about fortress Australia but we want to be on the world stage, we want to be able to travel.
"I believe 30 per cent of Australians were born overseas and 50 per cent of them have family overseas. So there's many reasons why we want to be open.
"Particularly in Wollongong, it is a city of migrants and it's an enriched society. So I think it's important that the borders open for so many reasons, beyond just international students."
Prof Davidson has a lot of things she wants to implement but her first 100 days will involve making sure the university has a business model that is going to sustain UOW moving forward.
She also wants to future proof the university's future.
"I think COVID-19 not just for the University of Wollongong, but other places was such a real jolt," Prof Davidson said.
"With our reliance on particular income streams UOW was not as exposed but exposed.
"There's been much discussion and debate about the budget. I think it's really important that people look at how universities contribute to society.
"I think particularly in the Illawarra, look at what the university brings to our environment, to our culture, to our economy.
"I will be spending a bit of time really telling people how great the University of Wollongong is, and what is our potential."
And because we've had to do most things on the smell of an oily rag.UOW vice-chancellor Patricia Davidson
Prof Davidson was adamant UOW was an exceptional place because of its people and the region it serves.
"And because we've had to do most things on the smell of an oily rag," she said.
"It's not been a city where there has been a lot of privilege, and a lot of people have been giving money.
"So most of the successes in the Illawarra are due to the passion and commitment of people.
"And I know now compared to when I was here in the 70s, there's beautiful buildings and beautiful grounds, but the DNA of the University of Wollongong is there, you know, sometimes a little bit scrappy.
"But boy, we can get things done."
Prof Davidson also took a lot of pride in being the university's first ever female vice-chancellor.
"I hope it says particularly for my trajectory of starting off as a nurse at Wollongong Hospital in the 70s that if you are smart and kind and work hard, you can do anything.
"I will be a role model to others and I hope I can support many other people.
I just think this is kind of the beginning of breaking the glass ceiling for everybody.
"I would love to see greater participation across the Illawarra in diversity of all forms. And in particular, you know people from a range of cultural, religious and gender-based backgrounds.
"In my dream we would have many more indigenous graduates. Hopefully in five years we would hopefully have someone who is indigenous be part of the leadership team.
"I just think this is kind of the beginning of breaking the glass ceiling for everybody."
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