IN THE LIMELIGHT meet Susan Webster, U3A Network Victoria President
In an informal interview Susan talks about the challenges she faces as President, the highlights, ‘what keeps her awake at night’, achievements and what she is passionate about.
She says, ‘the President’s role is building a team of people with common goals and agreement on where U3A is heading’. Susan believes it is her responsibility to find people to join the committee and thinks that the committee is unique for a peak body in that it is comprised of volunteers who are members of individual U3As. This means that everyone brings different views and experience to the team; blending these together is a challenging task for all but especially for her, as president.
Susan is proud of everything Network has accomplished in the past year, but says particular highlights were ‘the cooperative way we worked with our Member U3As to build Network’s strategic plan and 'our first political campaign, timed for the early period of the Victorian election, which helped Member U3As make contact with all candidates in their electorates'. Another highlight was 'gaining recognition for the U3A movement in Victoria by being named the Age-Friendly Organisation of the Year in the Seniors Festival Awards'.
Susan is aware there are always challenges and thinks Network’s main challenge is that ‘we want to grow bigger so we can achieve more good things for seniors but getting bigger means change which ends up creating its own challenges’. Accommodation is still a particular problem for many growing U3As.
Solution? ‘All of us in the U3A movement need to keep talking about where we are heading and how we all can overcome our challenges’.
Before retirement, Susan worked in many industries; publishing, retail and technology. Her main interest was in solving problems like taking an intangible concept and turning it into something successful and concrete. An example within U3A is her work in creating the U-MAS member management system. ‘We started with a need in our Member U3As and we turned this into a self-supporting system available throughout our membership’.
Susan became a U3A member on the recommendation of a friend about 15 years ago. She says she likes being involved in things and believes ‘you get more out of a membership if you put back into the organisation’.
True to her word, after joining U3A Box Hill and U3A Hawthorn, she volunteered to help with Box Hill’s IT classes, and became an Assistant Tutor in their technology program and is now a Life Member at Box Hill.
Still wishing to contribute further, Susan joined Network 10 years ago, and has been the Convenor of the Policy and Planning committee, Secretary for three terms, Vice President and now President.
However, Susan still finds time to participate in Box Hill’s Bridge group and their ‘What the Future Holds’ discussion group, looking at what sort of future we would like to leave behind us.
Susan’s passions are far-reaching, ‘I am interested in the workings of politics, and I keep across a myriad of news sources. I look at news providers on an increasingly critical basis these days’.
She is an avid collector, with a particular interest in needlework tools, and likes to research and publish social history around this area.
Thanks Susan for sharing your thoughts and insights.