Prof Denise Meredyth

Professor of Social Innovation, School of Creative Industries at the University of South Australia, Director of Outside Opinion Pty Ltd, previous Pro Vice Chancellor Education, Arts and Social Sciences, previous Executive Director for Humanities and Creative Arts at the Australian Research Council
Melbourne, Victoria
Humanities and Social Sciences
Senior Leadership
Industry Engagement

Denise Meredyth is a teacher by training, with a keen interest in social innovation and digital inclusion. Until January 2018 she was Pro Vice Chancellor for the Division of Education, Arts and Social Sciences at the University of South Australia, where she enjoyed the hands-on work of creating and driving initiatives. 

She has now returned to a research-only role as a Crossing the Horizon Professor at UNISA, while also building a new enterprise as the leader of a national network expert in research and development and in public sector innovation. 

Fascinated by public debates on literary theory, educational politics, equity and cultural capital, Denise undertook a degree in English and History at Australia National University, going on to complete Honours and a DipEd in radical English teaching. Following her studies, she became an English and history teacher in a senior secondary college, which she left to undertake a PhD at Griffith University, across disciplines in Education, Policy, History, and Cultural Studies.

Denise took up lecturing roles at Griffith and at Queensland University of Technology, teaching cultural studies, history, social theory and education studies. In 1996 she was awarded an ARC post doctoral fellowship on the history of contemporary debates on citizen education, exploring the political ambiguity of efforts to establish core and compulsory civic values through mass schooling. She pursued postdoctoral work at the Institute for Social Research at Swinburne 1999-2000, then spent 2001 at the Centre for Cultural and Media Policy at the University of the West of England, Bristol.

Soon after her return to Swinburne, she was promoted to Professor and became the Deputy Director of the Institute. In the 13 years Denise was at Swinburne, the Institute grew from four to 40 full-time researchers and increased the annual income to $5 million. Denise secured several ARC grants, primarily Linkage grants with multiple partners.

In 2011 Denise moved to RMIT to become Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor of Research for the College of Design and Social Context, which included seven schools. In this role, she was challenged to navigate managing the research office and generating new research projects. In 2013, she got an 18 month secondment to the Australian Research Council as the Executive Director for Humanities and Creative Arts, which gave her insights into the inner mechanisms of funding rules and systems.

There have been a number of times when Denise has had to consider her next steps, such as leaving the ARC. She currently faces the decision of whether to pursue new initiatives in research and development, or to return to an ambitious career in senior management. This means reflecting on what success and satisfying work is to her personally: on work-life balance, on independence and on commitment to common purposes in a team and network.

Denise has faced challenges in consolidating her broad intellectual knowledge and experiences and aligning these to create a central point of interest. She most enjoys leading and creating initiatives, such as initiatives in learning precincts, in the digital humanities, smart cities and industry-based learning. However, she acknowledges these kinds of activities took her away from critical scholarship and writing, to which she has now returned, combining that with a new co-operative private enterprise, building on national networks in the humanities and social sciences. 

Denise offers perspectives on working from within many universities, the public sector, across disciplines and with industry partners. As a mentor, Denise works best with people who are flexible in their thinking and can engage in the speculative. She helps her mentees understand their goals and find solutions, while managing their emotions and the politics of situations they find themselves in.