Spreading his wings

1 JANUARY 2003

Listening to Associate Professor Tom Watson talk about his time as Head of the School of Communication at Charles Sturt University’s Bathurst Campus, the analogies with his favourite pastime – flying – prove too hard to resist.

Associate Professor Tom WatsonListening to Associate Professor Tom Watson talk about his time as Head of the School of Communication at Charles Sturt University’s (CSU) Bathurst Campus, the analogies with his favourite pastime – flying – prove too hard to resist.
 
“I just like flying. Tricky thermals, rain and strong wind, cold weather and hot weather, I’ve flown in them all. In Central West NSW you get a lot of interesting conditions.”
 
Interesting and challenging are two words which also describe his time at CSU. It’s been a “wonderful three-and-a-half years. Although the University took a risk appointing someone who was not strictly an academic, it has been mutually beneficial.
 
“I really feel that I have been able to assist the University and the School of Communication. It’s been good fun.”
 
Professor Watson leaves CSU soon to take up a professorial post at Bournemouth University’s renowned Media School in the United Kingdom. He says he is leaving the CSU School of Communication in excellent shape, and is most proud of encouraging his staff to do “really interesting, exciting research work.
 
“We have become one of the best performing research teams in the University with a major ARC Linkage Grant win a few weeks ago. The School has grown in student numbers and staff, and we now have a ‘community of scholars’, which is great for its future development.
 
“I think a lot of the successes we have achieved have been as a result of mentoring and support for staff, which gets far more out of people than policy and edicts.”
 
And his staff - “a terrific team of people” - is in turn educating students who are “staggeringly gifted. There were some Theatre Media students from 2004 who are so talented. I will be following their careers with great interest. I have seen Journalism students who have gone into top positions in the media and will build great careers.
 
“In public relations and advertising we have employers queuing up to recruit our graduates. In commercial radio we have a terrific hit rate on employment. We are not only giving our students a start to their working lives, but also introducing them to critical thinking and analysis of the world around them.”
 
As well as learning to fly – Professor Watson now flies solo in a Cessna 150 and a Piper Tomahawk – he was also able to indulge his love of motor racing while in Bathurst, becoming involved in the Light Car Club and, in 2003, the Bathurst 24-hour race. But what will he miss most?
 
“I won’t miss Bathurst winters and the drought, but I will miss the skies. You walk outside at night and see the starry heavens laid out before you. You don’t get that in Europe. It is one of the great memories that I’ll take away, looking at Orion, the Southern Cross or the Milky Way. It’s just wonderful.” 

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