Dr David Collis shares why he enjoys working at Trinity College so much and why he is so passionate about maths, and tells us about a public lecture that changed his perspective on life.
What class do you teach?
I teach Mathematics 1, which I have done since January 1997. I am also the Director of Curriculum and Academic Development, so I work to support teachers to teach too.
What do you enjoy most about working at Trinity College?
The students have an abundance of creativity and goodness. The staff have an abundance of creativity and goodness. I get a deep satisfaction watching people thrive, becoming more than they thought they would be. At its best, Trinity is a life-giving place, and I thoroughly love playing a role in that.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An airplane pilot, a rock star and a vet. I couldn’t decide between the three.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Maths, because it is a deeply reassuring knowledge. Arguably, maths is the greatest intellectual collaboration in human history, straddling cultures across the globe throughout millennia. Maths is a logical meditation on the universe and our connection to it, a deep ecological energy. What more is there to like?
What is your favourite place in Australia?
The walking tracks up at Mount Dandenong. Walking for hours, listening to music, getting lost among the trees. Spending hours in the trees gives me perspective to see where things that happen in life fit. Those trees are responsible for a big chunk of my mental health.
Has there been a pivotal moment in your life?
Decades ago, I went along to hear a public talk by an Indigenous person at the Melbourne Town Hall. The speaker handed out white blindfolds and invited us all to put these on so they half covered our eyes. She said the inability to see clearly is a condition shared by people who haven’t disentangled themselves from colonial social forms. She asked us to take off the white blindfolds, and told us this is what we do when we learn about the land, our family histories, and listen to Indigenous people. Every day, she said, keep taking off the white blindfold. More than anything, this has helped me to properly see the students I teach.
What is your favourite food?
Chicken Vindaloo. Not an interesting story, but a very, very true fact.
What is an interesting story from your travels you’d like to share?
I was once on a train in Italy, speaking with a stranger who knew very little English, so we had to improvise to communicate. I asked her what she did, and I thought she said ‘farmer’, so I made sheep and cow noises to try to show her I understood. Later I realised she was a pharmacist (not a farmer, but sounded similar). I laughed to imagine how she described me as the Aussie guy who made farm animal noises for no apparent reason.