Professor Bruce McKenzie returns to teaching role in 2022

21 December 2021 | News

After three years as Lincoln's Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bruce McKenzie is spending his last days in the job before returning to a teaching role at the University in the New Year.

As a Professor of Agronomy, he will re-join his former faculty to teach plant science to a new cohort of Lincoln University students, and is excited to start the new phase of his career.

“Teaching is one of my great passions, and I’m really looking forward to taking up the mantle again, as well as easing myself back into doing some research.

“It has been an honour to serve as Acting Vice-Chancellor, and I’m very grateful for being given the opportunity.

“I’m stepping aside at the right time. The University is in a good space, and we’ve been financially stable for an extended period.

“Our Lincoln University Strategy 2019-2028 remains the key driver for our growth, financial sustainability and ultimate realisation of becoming a globally-ranked, top-five land-based university.

“We have also created a vibrant and inspiring campus for our students through the launch of our campus development programme, and have successfully completed a number of our key projects – on time and on budget.”

Initially appointed as Acting Vice-Chancellor in January 2019 for a term of 18 months, he was reappointed for a further 18-month term in July 2020, ending on 31 December 2021.

Appointed at a time when the Government was considering a proposal, later shelved, for a formal partnership between Lincoln University and the University of Canterbury (UC), Professor McKenzie delivered the solid, stable stewardship and engaging, inclusive leadership needed to guide the University through the change process.

Perhaps the most formidable challenge faced during his tenure came in his second term in the job, when he adroitly steered Lincoln University through the devastating effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“The last two years have presented unparalleled challenges for our University, but our academic staff continued to provide teaching and research of the very highest quality, while our professional staff have safeguarded our reputation and maintained the smooth running of our operations.

“I feel deeply proud of the ways in which all our whānau have risen to the challenges that confronted them in a period of time like no other,” said Professor McKenzie.

Despite pandemic-related constraints on international enrolments, Lincoln’s student headcount in 2021 achieved a 10-year high. Professor McKenzie says that getting through COVID challenges together has given New Zealanders an increased understanding of where their food comes from.

“Our country’s agriculture sector is almost solely responsible for pulling us out of a very big economic hole, and people’s interest in food and fibre production has taken off in the last two years.

“Being a specialist land-based university, Lincoln University is well placed to contribute significantly to a more productive and sustainable future for Aotearoa and beyond.

By the second quarter of 2019 a comprehensive programme of campus development projects spanning 2019 to 2028 had been approved and set in motion, with major projects including two new science facilities, an ambitious makeover for the recreation centre, the creation of new student social spaces and a reimagined landscape masterplan that will connect the University’s built and human environments while also showcasing its land-based values and incorporating its unique cultural narrative.

When Lincoln University’s tauira returned to campus for Semester 2 2020, following an entire half-year of remote learning due to COVID-19 Alert Level restrictions, a vibrant new student hub awaited them. The new student social and collaboration space, named Grounded, was part-designed by Lincoln students to reflect the needs and preferences of a world-class student experience. In July 2020 Professor McKenzie introduced then-Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Hon Poto Williams, to cut the ceremonial ribbon at the official opening of Grounded.

In June 2021 Professor McKenzie welcomed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Sport, Hon Grant Robertson, to campus to unveil the modernised and upgraded Whare Hākinakina LU Gym, saying the redeveloped facility has become a focal point for the community and further boosted the celebrated Lincoln campus experience.

“Students are our reason for being, and their experience while part of the Lincoln whānau is at the centre of everything we do. While pursuing their study and career aspirations at Lincoln, our tauira can also work on their social, physical and mental wellbeing at LU Gym.”

In June 2020 Professor McKenzie climbed into the cab of a digger and turned the first sod at a ceremony that marked the beginning of the construction phase of a new fit-for-future science facility, dubbed Science South. Barely 13 months later, he invited the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation, Hon Dr Megan Woods, to cut a ceremonial ribbon to officially open the new building in front of a crowd of dignitaries, project partners, staff, students and invited guests.

Just north of the new Science South building, Lincoln University’s flagship science facility, known as Science North, is taking shape as Professor McKenzie enters the final days of his post. The largest of Lincoln’s campus development programme projects, the Science North construction phase began shortly after a formal ceremony in February 2021 marked the breaking of the first ground.

Throughout his time as Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor McKenzie remained focused on developing strategic relationships with like-minded organisations, including CRIs, iwi, central and local government agencies, industry and other universities.

In particular, the close ties formed with UC during the partnership proposal process continued to yield mutually beneficial joint projects, including a jointly-taught master’s programme in precision agriculture and the establishment, together with the University of Canterbury, of Te Mātāpuna Mātātahi | Children’s University.

Food Transitions 2050, a postgraduate school focused on supporting Aotearoa’s transition to more future-proofed, sustainable food systems, was conceived as a partnership project between Lincoln and UC and ultimately launched in late 2020 with the added participation of all CRIs based in the Lincoln area.

Lincoln University’s long-term relationship with its closest neighbour AgResearch was further boosted in 2019 with the sale of a parcel of land on the University’s Te Waihora campus to AgResearch to allow the construction of a major new science facility for the CRI.

The University’s very close relationship with Te Taumutu Rūnanga was deepened in 2019 through renewing and strengthening the Memorandum of Agreement between the two entities.

During Professor McKenzie’s term at the helm, the University has made great strides in internalising the cultural narrative of its whakapapa and embedding a bicultural approach in its educational programmes, its day-to-day operations, and in the actualisation of new campus buildings and landscapes.

Professor McKenzie believes the spirit of inclusiveness and caring for others is extraordinarily strong at Lincoln University, and this is especially evident during times of extreme stress, like the Christchurch terrorist attack of 15 March 2019.

“The outpouring of grief and love amongst our Lincoln University community, and the spontaneous upwelling of support for our Muslim whānau, was one of the most moving and inspirational experiences of my entire career.”

The University’s senior management team, too, is a tight-knit, highly capable unit.

“I’ve had the privilege of working within a really tight management team who have worked closely and collaboratively together for three years.

“It was a stable group of skilled individuals who got on well and worked together effectively and cohesively. We didn’t always agree on everything, but we always came up with good solutions. We accomplished a lot in that three years,” said Professor McKenzie.

A particular highlight for Bruce McKenzie during his tenure was the visit to Lincoln University of the Prince of Wales in November 2019.

“His Royal Highness gave a stirring keynote speech on the state of the global environment to a rapt audience of around 300 Lincoln students, staff and partner organisations, and in his address he referred to Lincoln University as an institution that he had ‘long admired from afar’.”

On a parting note, Professor McKenzie says he is handing over to a capable pair of hands. [Professor Grant Edwards will take over the role of Vice-Chancellor on 1 January 2022, from his former role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor.]

“I’ve known Grant since he was a student here at Lincoln. As well as being one of the smartest people I know, he is a great leader and an astute judge of people.

“Under the stewardship of Grant and the team, I’m confident that Lincoln University has a very bright future.”


Professor Bruce A. McKenzie

Professor McKenzie’s association with Lincoln University began in the early 1980s, when he attended as a postgraduate student, completing a diploma and then a PhD in agronomy and crop science.

From there, he took up a 22-year post at the University as an Associate Professor of Soil Science, responsible for teaching a range of classes in plant science, statistics and annual crop production.

In 2008 he became Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences, which involved managing 150 staff members in four departments.

He worked in this role for more than seven years before becoming the University’s Chief Academic Officer, overseeing Lincoln’s academic faculties, as well as the Library, Teaching and Learning department and the Research Management Office.

He was appointed to the position of Deputy Vice-Chancellor in 2018, and in January 2019 he began his appointment as Acting Vice-Chancellor.

Present Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Grant Edwards, will take over as Vice-Chancellor from 1 January 2022.

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