Christine Hallett this week became the new principal of Stirling University and the first woman to head a pre-1992 university in Scotland.
She had been acting principal since the sudden death of Colin Bell last April.
Professor Hallett becomes only the third woman to be made principal in Scotland, joining Joan Stringer at Napier University and Seona Reid at the Glasgow School of Art. There are 17 male principals.
The circumstances surrounding Professor Hallett's appointment as acting principal were taxing for all staff at Stirling.
She said: "At one level, it was difficult because there was no preparation or handover. I would say, though, that the extent of the shock and grief felt throughout the university meant that people pulled together and were very supportive of me and each other."
Having been the recipient of such strong support, Professor Hallett is keen to repay the debt - not least by supporting lecturers' calls for better pay.
She braved the cold two weeks ago to visit striking lecturers on the Association of University Teachers' picket line. Afterwards, Professor Hallett said: "I went down to see how they were getting on. I do believe that academic and other staff have a strong case for an improvement in basic pay levels.
"I'm very pleased that talks about talks are taking place between the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association and the AUT, and I hope we can reach a negotiated settlement."
Professor Hallett is a Cambridge University graduate who started her working life in the Department of Health and Social Security before moving into higher education.
She was appointed reader in social policy at Stirling in 1989. She led the university's department of applied social science from a 5 to a 5* rating.
Her research has principally focused on juvenile justice, child welfare and child protection.
Professor Hallett is keen to see increased recognition of Stirling and its research strengths. In the last research assessment exercise, it had the second largest percentage funding increase in the UK and the largest in Scotland.
"It's an insufficiently publicised jewel," she says.
Professor Hallett is particularly proud that Stirling was at the top of The Times Higher "access elite" league table, which investigated institutions'
success in combining wider access with low dropout rates and excellence in teaching and research.
"It's trying to hold high-quality research with a commitment to make Stirling an inclusive and accessible place for people with disadvantages.
That's the hallmark of what we are trying to do here," she added.
Professor Hallett is a staunch supporter of higher education and backs Universities Scotland's call for an extra £100 million for higher education in the Scottish Executive's autumn spending review.
"Higher education is essential to Scotland for economic success, social cohesiveness and cultural development," she said.