I must confess that when I was invited to become the next Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, I was speechless, which will come as a great surprise to those who know me well.
Katherine Grainger has become the new Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University. Picture: Damian Halliwell
I was a little apprehensive about whether I should take on such a significant role – not least because I would be following in the footsteps of Shami Chakrabarti CBE, Jon Snow and Baroness Helena Kennedy.
However, once the initial shock had subsided, I could only say yes to this wonderful and exciting opportunity.
It is truly a tremendous honour to be taking on the role of Chancellor.
Education and universities have played a significant part in my adult life and academia in general has always been very important to me.
Both my parents were teachers while I was growing up and instilled in me the importance of learning and knowledge
Once I reached university, I soon realised that it is not just about the degree you receive at the end of your course, but the experience you have throughout your time of study.
This helps shape you as a person and prepares you for going out into the world to achieve great things.
I am sure many people who are in higher education will feel the same way and I am looking forward to playing a part in this at Oxford Brookes.
My own time in higher education helped to shape my sporting career in rowing.
managed to find a great life balance at university and both have run alongside one another in a very healthy way.
On the one hand I was able to be outdoors and challenge myself physically, but I also loved writing essays, studying and expanding my mind with fellow students.
After my undergraduate degree, and when my rowing career became more serious, I consciously chose to continue studying and completed my masters and then my PhD.
I could have decided to just continue with rowing, but I devoted part of my time to education.
I believe it made me a better athlete and a more rounded person.
It was an alternative focus in my life and switching between the two gave me a perspective that I wouldn’t have otherwise had.
It’s an exciting time to be joining Oxford Brookes as it celebrates its 150th anniversary year.
I’m looking forward to joining the celebrations and acknowledging the university’s history and achievements and just how far it has come.
I’m also eager to be a part of the conversation about where the institution will go next and what the future holds for the university.
Throughout my rowing career and in supporting the Oxford Brookes Social Entrepreneurship Awards in recent years, I am already well aware of both the university’s sporting prowess and its strong values.
One of the things that already makes me proud about Oxford Brookes is how much it engages with society and the community – particularly through its fantastic students.
One of the most exciting times in the academic year for me is the graduation ceremonies.
This will give me the unique opportunity to meet those students who will use their skills, knowledge and experiences to continue benefiting society.
Being able to engage with students and the staff is something that is important to me and I will strive to do as much of this as I can throughout my tenure.
I know the previous three Chancellors of Oxford Brookes have made a huge impact on the university.
Following in their footsteps will be a huge task but one I am relishing.
I look forward to being a part of this very special institution.