Pascale Quester, Grande Ecole 1985, Vice Chancellor of Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia
When we enter Pascale Quester’s living room through the lens of her laptop camera, we find her surrounded by boxes. She has just moved from Adelaide in Australia to start a new role as vice-chancellor of the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne. For whoever is not familiar with the academic hierarchy, that makes her the university’s top boss. But just a few weeks after she accepted the job, the pandemic forced the whole country into lockdown. So today, Pascale finds herself leading an institution whose lecture theatres have become empty, and whose entire curriculum has been moved online. “Dealing with a $50M funding shortfall was definitely not part of the original job specifications! Nor is having to run the university from my computer at home…”, she reveals with a defiant smile. Fortunately for the staff and the 57,000 students, Pascale Quester characteristically refuses to let adversity get her down.
Grit is the personality trait she cites to explain her meteoric rise. She was raised in St Nazaire by parents who had not had the opportunity to finish school and who instilled in her the value of resilience. Sheer determination is what helped her graduate from Audencia in the top ranks of the 1985 cohort, all whilst having worked night shifts in an institution for pregnant teenagers. She discovered a passion for marketing and, from then on, climbed the academic ranks in record time, soaring from junior lecturer to professor in the space of 10 years. Despite evolving in an environment not always welcoming for senior professional women, she became the first French female university president of the Australasian region. She has earned a reputation as one of the most respected consumer behaviour researchers in the world. She is one of the top highly-published French researchers in marketing, with three leading textbooks on consumer behaviour on her list of accomplishments. With a staunch belief in the power of education to create social impact, she was awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite title, in 2012, in recognition of her contribution to higher education in both France and Australia.
Pascale Quester shares with us the most memorable milestones of her remarkable career, as well as a few valuable life lessons.