The role of Campus Dean

A message from the Campus Dean, Strathfield Dr Miriam Tanti.

I commenced my appointment as Campus Dean, Strathfield a month ago and the most common question asked of me has been, “what is the role of Campus Dean?” There’s a position description that identifies a diverse set of responsibilities, but for me the focus will be on establishing a culture of participation, care and collective spirit, that begins and ends with people.

Moving towards an epistemology of care and collective spirit, a unified concept of campus culture, may require some reconceptualisation. For those that are familiar with my research, this reconceptualisation will continue the impetus created by a movement that has raised awareness of the ethical and social dimensions of food production and consumption - the Slow Food Movement. My thesis (and book, to be released later this year) explores how the ideologies of Slow Food can be used to establish a future-orientated vision that fosters communities of learning and supports individuals to understand, accept and mindfully act on their social and ethical responsibilities. Ideologies that I hope to bring to the role of Campus Dean.

So what exactly is Slow Food? Slow Food was a revolution conceived in Italy in 1986 when McDonald’s opened a franchise, amongst the historic and classical architecture of the Piazza di Spagna, in Rome. Carlo Petrini, a local journalist at the time, led a small protest against the opening of the fast food restaurant. The revolt was held in the name of traditional foods that were increasingly at risk of disappearing forever as a speed-hungry world turned increasingly to fast food. Petrini saw the franchise as a representation of everything commercial and industrial; where ingredients were sourced internationally with the financial gains a priority over taste, where food preparation was centred on standardised procedures, regardless of location and tradition, and where food did not reflect the culture, local climate or conditions. The result was a menu filled with ageless and cultureless food, each hamburger a clone of the other, completely disconnected from the city in which it was purchased and consumed.

To counter this trend, Petrini established an international gastro-economic movement known as Slow Food. It is the Slow in Slow Food that is of most interest to me, an ontological position which Petrini defines as an awakening of our senses through a strong philosophical position motivated by the desire to experience life more fully, to enjoy the company of like-minded people through which one can pursue one’s natural curiosity. Second, it values tradition and character, because eating well means respecting culinary knowledge and honouring the complexity of the gastronomic practices undertaken. And third, Slow Food is about making moral choices, where taste holds the central position supported by our direct relationship with food growers, our direct link to the natural environment in which we live.

Slow is a way of thinking and acting that places heart, soul and spirit at its centre. As a rich campus community, this will mean creating opportunities for us to gather together, across faculties, schools and departments, as a way for us to connect and engage in rich discussions where we can pursue our natural curiosities, to explore the past and share our hopes for the future, and to experience collective joy, over a shared meal - as a way to experience life more fully. Such an approach makes it possible to promote the mission of the University and Campus, which is to encourage an attitude of caring and participation, towards ourselves, each other, our Campus and the world in which we live.

I’m very much looking forward to our first gathering, and together, further strengthening this wonderful campus community.

Warm wishes,

Miriam Tanti
Campus Dean, Strathfield


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