What we see and what appears

A message from the Executive Dean of Theology and Philosophy Professor Dermot Nestor:

Common sense would condition one to read the conjunction in this article’s title as indicating a direct and positive relationship between the verbs it sits between. Surely what we see is precisely what appears? There is however a wide body of literature which suggests the verbs do not in fact address the same concept – that seeing and appearing are categorically discrete things. In this light, our conjunction indicates not similarity but difference.

Admitting such a distinction does not point us towards the phantasms of pareidolia but rather the possibilities inherent in strategy: that which Peter Drucker once caricatured as the breakfast of culture. There are many who salivate and sneer at Drucker’s prognosis, but strategy is precisely what provides organisations with their direction, and their focus. Strategy is what is designed to hold the gaze, to centre it and to captivate it. Strategy is what provides us with the necessary liberty and authority to allow things to come fully into view. Strategy is what frames and informs that choice between the many things we see and might intuitively grasp, and the fewer things we focus on and decide to hold to.

Effective strategy can never then be a wholly external imposition: a requirement to look left rather than right, up rather than down. Such Orwellian peremptories are destined to fail in the most spectacular ways. Rather, effective strategy evidences trajectories of coherence between transformative ways of seeing and of doing, whether traditional or novel. Effective strategy is what organises vision: individual or institutional. It is what enables a correspondence between what we all might see and what we all can share.

In this university, effective strategy is organised around and gives expression to our Mission and our purpose. It is a way of seeing and doing that is simultaneously an orientation to the past and a means of animating the future. At ACU, this strategy is parsed in a variety of forms: course innovation and digital uplift, student experience, and revenue diversification. Each is a distinct yet interrelated way of framing the bigger picture that depicts success. Each is a way of understanding our future, and each provides an impetus to bring that future into being.

At ACU, the strategies established and communicated by the Vice-Chancellor, detailed in our strategic plan, and cast through the overarching lens of Mission are not simply what makes us different but are what casts us in a hue that others can recognise. In that act, we appear. In that action, we are seen. The distinction is subtle, and to some imperceptible. To others, it is clear, and it is obvious. What do you see?

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