Reflections of a staff member: Dr Neville Jennings

Dr Neville Jennings
Dr Neville Jennings

In late 1989, my wife Dr Leonie Jennings was appointed to the School of Education as a lecturer. We had previously spent a few days in a student residence when visiting Lismore so we knew our way around the Lismore campus. It was a delight to find that long-time friends such as Sue Sawkins and Beth Hansen were already employed by UNE Northern Rivers.

We took up residence in Alstonville early in 1990 and eventually bought a home in Wollongbar. Leonie taught Australian and Asian Studies alongside the legendary Maurie Ryan while I gained employment at the Centre for Professional Development in Education - a joint venture between the University and the North Coast Regional Office of the NSW Department of Education. Through that role I got to know Lionel Phelps, Zbys Klich, Gordon McLeod and Bob Wright as we organised international symposia and ran professional development programs for teachers. At one stage I was asked to coordinate a Japanese Language for Teachers Program that eventually trained about 100 language teachers through an interactive technology.

By 1994, the two institutional partners had withdrawn support from the CPDE and I was working as a tutor for the School of Education. Leonie had moved to the Centre for Work and Training with Allan Ellis, Michelle Wallace, Merle Rankin, Brian Griffin and Peter Miller. They developed a Graduate Diploma in Training and Development using a large grant from the Education and Training Foundation. I recall vividly the lively discussions that were held over the naming of the new university. The first Vice Chancellor proved to be a very different personality to Professor Rod Treyvaud who moved the institution towards independence from UNE. The new VC, Barry Conyngham, gave a guest lecture for my students on Asian influences in Australian music. He saw himself as the conductor of a tertiary orchestra. In 1996, Leonie and Anne Graham contributed a chapter to a new book on action research edited by Ortun Zuber Skerritt. When Barry Conyngham launched the book, espousing the values of "learning organisations", he made the startlingly honest observation that universities are often the last institutions to encompass the learning organisation ethos. Little seems to have changed.

In those early years we spent a lot of time travelling between the developing campuses and attending conferences. We forged significant links with our colleagues and students. As we wind down our active involvement with the university it is gratifying to see many of our past students making a positive contribution as staff members of the university and leaders in the professional world and in business. We mourn the loss of a few close colleagues who played an important role in our lives (Lou Randall, Brenda Hall-Taylor, Trevor Lucas and Sheryl Bebbington and Wendy Douglas). I was inspired by academics such as John Barry and Baden Offord. In the early days I attempted to liven up lectures and tutorials with the old multi-media stalwarts (video, colour slides, cassette tapes, cd's, overhead projectors) and a range of inspiring guest speakers. It is fascinating to see how the technologies have changed and SCU has been in the forefront of such changes.

I eventually gained a permanent position in the School of Education and worked closely with Brian Kean and Renata Phelps on an Innovative Links Project that involved local schools. This project allowed us to engage in a nation-wide evaluation of the Innovative Links Program. I was involved with the training of teachers from Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea and my visits to Port Moresby were highlights of that experience. In the meantime I had begun my PhD studies as an external candidate through James Cook University. Leonie took a redundancy at the end of 2001 and returned to the classroom as a technology teacher. I retired temporarily when we moved to Kingscliff. In 2005 I took over a role as Academic Liaison Officer at the Riverside campus (Tweed Heads) where I was responsible for a Grad Dip Ed program for future secondary teachers. That role continued till 2008. I especially enjoyed the contact between local and Canadian students who attended the Tweed Gold Coast Campus.. In recent years Leonie returned to the fold in a pastoral care capacity and as a tutor. I have maintained a role as tutor in the Master of Education program, valuing a close association with Professors Martin Hayden and Anne Graham. One of my most gratifying pastimes is keeping in touch with past students.

Dr Neville Jennings