Q&A Stephen Yarwood
In 2011 University of Adelaide MBA graduate Stephen Yarwood was elected the youngest Lord Mayor of Adelaide City Council in the city's history. The 40-year-old outlines his plans for the city and how the MBA has shaped his thinking.
Q: How does your University of Adelaide MBA align with a visionary concept for the city of Adelaide?
A: The MBA I undertook at Adelaide is an excellent fit for the role of Lord Mayor. I aspire to provide professional leadership and to build a liveable, productive and sustainable city. The MBA incorporated a great number of values, practices and processes that I have adopted in applying strategic leadership. The MBA has a focus on interpersonal relationships. This has been exceptionally useful in motivating and building a team approach among both the elected members and council leadership team.
Q: What aspects of your postgraduate degree are you drawing on as Mayor and what were the most beneficial aspects of the MBA?
A: The strength of the University of Adelaide MBA is that I use virtually every aspect of my studies in my role. The accounting, economics and financial studies components have given me confidence in discussions surrounding current and long-term financial planning for the City. I have also learned a great deal about my strengths and weaknesses through the MBA and have used this to improve interaction with councillors, administrative staff, stakeholders and the broader community. Corporate strategy is critical in determining the direction and culture of the organisation and the MBA has been particularly useful in this regard. Effective communication is also critical and I started my social media push as a result of my MBA studies and have not looked back - I love it!
Q: As a former town planner, what role do you think universities play in the dynamics of a city - and particularly Adelaide?
A: Universities are essential to the DNA of a modern and progressive city that wishes to build an international brand. I am determined to build greater ties between the universities and a wide range of city activities and goals.
Q: Do you see universities as distinct and autonomous institutions within a city setting with individual priorities - or an integral part of the city's operations?
A: Universities are an integral part of the City's operation and a key driver of economic city growth. Universities enrich Adelaide, which has a tradition of education excellence. I appreciate that our universities have a major role in the future development of the city as they generate both economic growth and vitality. The size, location and quality of our universities in particular give Adelaide a unique identity and competitive position. A greater emphasis on research and innovation can only be a good thing for Adelaide and its connection to science and industry-related opportunities. Our universities are critical in ensuring we transition from a resource provider to a world-leading services and innovation economy.
Q: You are the youngest Lord Mayor in Adelaide City Council's history. Can we expect to see a very different plan for Adelaide that will resonate with younger people?
A: Definitely. My generation is committed to a more collaborative approach and is also more globally minded. Adelaide residents will see evidence of both under my leadership. I am also using social media to connect to people, get ideas and feedback and explain the actions of the Council. Sustainability is also important to younger people who have grown up in the shadow of climate change and a peak resources era. I am determined to make Adelaide more sustainable and to generate economic opportunities in this area. While respecting the traditions of the Lord Mayor's Office, I am also approaching the role in a friendly, less formal and fun way. I have a strong interest and passion for street art and people can see evidence of that across the city. I also represent a culture that shuns car dependence. I am pushing hard for better bicycle infrastructure that will make the city a more attractive place to live, work and get around.
Q: How important are international students to the city's economic and social wellbeing?
A: International students have transformed Adelaide in a very positive way, adding to the social fabric and vitality of the city. From 2005 to 2009, international student numbers in South Australia increased from 18,000 to 34,000, with their value estimated at nearly $29,000 per student per year. International students also bring a wide range of other cultural benefits - my favourite is the Malaysian Festival which is a great multicultural event. I also think it is a very good thing for the city that 50% of all daily users of the city are under the age of 30, predominantly due to our universities and their active international programs.
Q: How has a tertiary education shaped your life and the way you view the world?
A: It has made me question the status quo and imagine a better future. It has also made me respect research, collective knowledge and the role of experts in the decision making process of good governance.
Q: In an ideal world where all your wishes were granted, describe the city of Adelaide that could exist in 20 years time.
A: Our City will be clean and green, boasting a tram loop and connections to North Adelaide and Hutt Street. We'll have more people in sustainable offices and apartments and a smart power grid will use renewable energy to support electric vehicles.
We'll enjoy a new hospital, Adelaide Oval Stadium, Adelaide High Super School and more universities of international acclaim. Education and the arts, including multicultural festivals in our rejuvenated Victoria Square, will be the backbone of the City. ■
Story by Candy Gibson