7 Questions with Anita Monro
Name: Anita Monro
Current title: Principal
Current organisation: Grace College - Tertiary student residence, UQ St Lucia
Anita Monro is an ordained Minister of the Word of The Uniting Church in Australia. She has lived and worked in the Synods of Qld and NSW/Act. Christian formation is her passion. This passion has informed her work in congregations, theological colleges, the Uniting Church's National Working Groups on Doctrine and Liturgy, and now Grace College, a tertiary student residence for women located on the St Lucia campus of The University of Queensland. Grace College is an independently incorporated organisation with links to the Uniting Church, the Presbyterian Church and UQ. Its vocation is to provide a safe, inclusive, nurturing home, built on Christian foundations, supporting holistic growth and empowerment for female tertiary students, enriching their paths to academic success and their lives as contributors to the global community. When Anita is not living at Grace College, she and her husband live in Mapleton in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast in Qld. Russell has been her partner in life and ministry for over 30 years and is now retired, growing veggies and working on some Qld Synod Committees.
1. What have you found most challenging as a Christian school leader?
Fostering a safe, inclusive culture for everyone in a community requires constant awareness, flexibility and creativity. I love to be prepared and organised, and I keep learning that being organised means being prepared to be open and flexible. Working collaboratively and listening to others in the community/team helps me to enjoy the creativity and flexibility that comes with that approach.
2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Rudy (my dog and the College dog) begin every day with the river walk around the campus and coffee at our favourite on-campus coffee shop. Walking is my time for personal reflection. I'm in the office by 9 am but very often I've already had several conversations with staff and residents by that time - on the way out to walk, to and from breakfast... No day is ever the same at work. With a small staff, every one of us covers multiple areas. Living onsite makes it important that I schedule some offsite some time during the day when other staff are around. During the main part of the year, there's lots of evening events and meetings, so that makes some offsite time during the day extra important. (Rudy prefers the offsite time to be the dog park in the afternoon but he doesn't always get his way.) Dinner is early to fit with the College routine; then it's either a meeting and a Skype call with my husband, Russell, or a Skype call with my husband Russell and a wind-down with a good book or video. "Cozy murder mysteries" are my guilty pleasure. My work involves lots of constant reflection on the way in which actions and approaches fit with Christian formation in a secular university context. By the end of the day, a "cozy murder mystery" is about all my brain is capable of comprehending.
3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
2020 definitely reinforced that the only constant is change; and 2021 looks like doing the same. It looks like I'm going to keep learning on a daily basis to be organised to be open and flexible.
4. What's one book apart from the Bible that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
My doctoral work was based on the work of a French philosopher Julia Kristeva. Kristeva's works delves into the dualisms that we humans are constantly inventing and reinventing to justify ourselves and who we are. For me, the Gospel narrative of a God who enters our human world breaks those kinds of dualisms; and invites us into God's work in the world of breaking down all kinds of dualisms and barriers between people, between humanity and the rest of creation, and, of course, between God and humanity.
5. How do you find and keep great Christian teachers?
We are not a teaching institution as such. Nevertheless, building a committed and cohesive staff team is an absolute must for fostering a community of Christian formation. Valuing every member of our community - staff, residents, volunteers, alumnae, contractors, visitors is key. Everyone is important; and every task, no matter how seemingly minor is important to building a holistic approach to community formation.
6. What's most important as a Christian school leader for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?
Setting and continually fostering a whole community approach is key. Engaging members of the community in the journey (even when that journey is a tough one!) means not only that their wisdom and experience is valued, but that wisdom and experience is harnessed towards the good of the whole.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a Christian school leader so far?
In my time at Grace, we've worked on some significant culture change in relation to several aspects of the College's life. The most rewarding thing is to see a young woman suddenly get the vision of safety, nurture and inclusion. Her eyes light up and she becomes an advocate and key worker in the whole community approach to working towards that vision. She then brings her wisdom and experience in an even more powerful way to the process; and takes that vision and the experience here into the next phase of her life beyond our walls. Hearing stories of where our alumni are now and what they are doing is so encouraging!