From typewriters to online learning: Kaye Nankervis' 30 years of service to MLS

By Blake Connell

After more than three decades at Melbourne Law School, long-serving staff member Kaye Nankervis retired from the University at the end of 2016.

Kaye Nankervis
Above image: Kaye Nankervis. Credit: Michael Silver at Magnet.

As Program Manager of the Melbourne Law Masters (MLM) Office for most of that time, Kaye played a pivotal role in growing the MLM program into one of the most innovative and esteemed masters programs internationally.

She recalls typing up the 1990 graduate studies prospectus on an electric typewriter in her former role as an administrative officer. At that time, there were 18 subjects on offer.

Nearly 30 years later, Kaye is proud that the MLM not only offers more than 180 subjects, but that it has become a flagship program for the Law School and a model for other masters programs around the world.

“At the beginning it was a bunch of subjects we inherited from both law and other faculties,” she says.

“Now it’s something that other law schools around the world are trying to copy.”

Kaye’s dedication to the Law School was recognised with a University Silver Medal – a rare and prestigious honour.

“Kaye’s role in the establishment and development of the MLM offers a case study in excellence in university administration,” says MLS Dean Professor Carolyn Evans.

Given the impressive length of her service, Kaye has witnessed many milestones in MLS history. One is the rapid introduction of technology in education.

“I remember the arrival of email and – temporarily at least – the fax machine,” she says.

“Today we have audio-visual classroom aids and online learning resources.”

Kaye has also seen the diversification of the school’s MLM cohort from an almost entirely Victorian student body to one that comprises students from all parts of Australia and international students from more than 50 countries.

Catering for the full spectrum of students’ needs was a particular strength of Kaye’s, according to academic colleague Laureate Professor Emeritus Cheryl Saunders.

“Kaye has had tremendous influence on students,” Professor Saunders says.

“She understood that many students doing the program had different needs – because they came from a different culture, spoke a different language, had a family or were juggling a full-time job.

Students understood that they could take problems affecting their studies to her office and the question of how to manage them would be treated with rigour but also understanding.

MLM academic staff – lecturers, professors and fellows alike – also appreciated Kaye’s organisational aptitude and professional tact.

“Kaye was masterful in her ability to quietly keep a very complex organisation running at the highest possible levels,” says Matthew Bell, Co-Director of the Construction Law Program.

She had the confidence and trust of hundreds of people.

While Kaye is adamant she will miss the people with whom she has worked, she is also looking forward to a new chapter. She has moved back to her hometown of Corryong in northeast Victoria where she is a partner in a wholefoods store.

“I’ll still be dealing with people, which is what I enjoy,” she says.

“But fewer spread sheets!”

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 17, May 2017.