Professor Tyrone Carlin, Vice Chancellor
I reflected in the first edition of Southern Cross Matters on the turbulent period through which we are living and my gratitude to the University community for continuing to work together so ably and with such purpose in the face of such a degree of challenge.
During the intervening month, we have all witnessed further upheaval, including a swathe of additional public health-related directives impacting a number of our research activities, on-campus teaching and skills development, student placements and course compliance requirements.
Further, changes to border control regimes and in particular the hard border arrangements presently in place between New South Wales and Queensland are proving especially difficult for many of us and look set to persist for a considerable period to come.
These are times we will all long remember. They have vexed us and given rise to considerable levels of anxiety and uncertainty. But they have also brought us together and motivated us to find solutions to the problems that we face in common.
I think you will see precisely that spirit shining through in the story on how the Faculty of Health has been keeping pace with rapid and complex changes in their operating environment to ensure that students can continue to learn, progress and move towards completion. Read more
You’ll see the same spirit echoing through the description of the clever and enormously effective approach that we’ve taken to our virtual open day events. It is simply not possible to drive the level of engagement that we have seen this year without the dedicated input of a very wide group of colleagues – and it really has had impact. Every positive engagement with our community counts.
In responding so well to the problems we find in our immediate path, we are also in turn laying a sound foundation for our future and providing outstanding people with a basis of confidence to join the University and contribute to the transformative journey we have begun.
I hope that you find this second edition of Southern Cross Matters informative, interesting and inspirational. Thanks to everyone who kindly sent me feedback after reading the first edition. I look forward to your thoughts in response to this edition, and to more of your stories about our University.
Faculty of Health working hard to prioritise placements for final year students
It’s a challenge not a crisis.
That is the indefatigable spirit with which the Faculty of Health is approaching the unpredictable and demanding circumstances around border closures and restrictions that are impacting clinical placements.
Southern Cross has more than 2,500 students involved in health placements in any normal year. It is a complex matrix to manage in any circumstance. But even more so when hard border closures stop students from physically attending their placements or lock-downs and changing workplace requirements make it even more problematic.
Professor Rhonda Nay recently joined Southern Cross as Chair of Discipline (Nursing) and brings with her a wealth of experience. “At this stage it’s a challenge but not a crisis. I think that’s down to the way in which the team not only approaches a difficult situation, but the excellent networks they have to manage it and not panic,” she says.
The team is responding quickly to the often sudden changes, with the primary intention of helping students complete their placements in a safe and meaningful way.
Firstly, they’ve worked with NSW Health and Queensland Health to provide students with access to COVID vaccinations as part of the Phase 1B vaccination roll out and kept on top of the constantly changing workplace requirements as they become more clear for health workers. Read more
“Then the team is constantly working and adapting to restrictions that have been introduced and eased at different times in each state, and across LGAs (local government authorities), facilities and sites,” Professor Nay said.
Beyond Nursing, the Faculty of Health is juggling placements across 10 disciplines.
“We have a great team in the Faculty of Health and our students are committed health professionals and eager to be out on placement,” says Charlie Foxlee, Professional Experience Team Leader.
It’s involved reallocating students, where possible, to placements in their home state to enable placements to continue, working hard to prioritise placements for final year students.
“As a regional university with campuses either side of the New South Wales and Queensland border, we have been uniquely challenged by the pandemic,” says Charlotte Kelly, also a Professional Experience Team Leader.
“Many of our students and supervisors live in the border zone community and it can be difficult to navigate the rapidly changing restrictions in both states. But we are committed to getting our students out on placement and ensuring they can graduate and provide our local communities with essential health care workers.”
Southern Cross University Electric Kombi
The launch of the ambitious Southern Cross University Electric Kombi Project is now rapidly growing in popularity as a learning resource for school classrooms.
More than just a cool retro-conversion, the Electric Kombi Project has been turned into a series of digital resources covering topics such as renewable energy, the difference between diesel and electric engines, as well as what engineers do and the variety of careers available in engineering.
The Kombi is powered by a suite of 5.3kwh batteries, while the curriculum package is powered by the knowledge of two Southern Cross researchers in the Faculty of Education – Simone Blom and David Ellis.
The package includes a detailed unit map of 30 lesson plans that align with the iSTEM program outcomes and objectives including the iSTEM Process for STEM inquiry.
“We were both excited by the opportunity,” Simone says, “as we could see how it enabled student learning in STEM to be put in the context of a real-life, industry example while also demonstrating how STEM subjects authentically work together in practical application.”
While both Simone and David were busy with full-time academic workloads, the Kombi Conversion curriculum package became a project of passion. Going above and beyond, they completed the lesson plans through a series of evening meetings and weekend correspondence to ensure the resource was developed to a high standard. Read more
As a team, David and Simone harnessed their strengths: David with extensive expertise in the technologies, contexts of design, technology and STEM education, and project-based learning pedagogies; and Simone with experience and expertise in science and technology education and writing secondary school STEM resources.
“What teachers do in and out of the classroom has a lasting effect on their students,” says David.
“Engaging teaching and learning programs not only are effective for student learning, but also inspire students and encourage them to entertain new possibilities.
“As STEM teachers we aim to empower our students with the knowledge to make informed decisions in an effort to reduce our impact on the environment.
“The Kombi Conversion Project is a perfect example of how the decision to move away from fossil fuels will reduce our impact on the environment and open up new opportunities for innovation.”
It’s a sentiment Simone endorses.
“When you work together on projects, it enables each person to bring their expertise to the fore and pushes the bar further upwards – creating a rich, authentic and high-quality product. This is what inspires us to do what we do: knowing that we can assist teachers in the work that they do with their students – our collective future,” she says.
So while Australia’s most talked about Kombi hits the roads, young students can hit the books. The 'Southern Cross University Electric Kombi Conversion Curriculum Package' is endorsed by the STEM Industry Schools Partnerships (SISP) program, an initiative of the NSW Department of Education’s Educational Standards Directorate. Since its launch last month, the package has been downloaded or adopted by 46 schools.
And just to add a little more to the #SCUKombi story, engineering students like Max den Exter worked extensively on the project, applying knowledge from his studies to the unique conversion. The technical smarts behind the conversion come from Andy Naughton, of EV Machina, himself a Southern Cross Environmental Science graduate.
It’s been a long road to bring this humble 1976 machine into the 21st century, but now it’s well and truly on the road again.
Professor Les Christidis
What happens when you bring two highly regarded Southern Cross specialist research groups under the one umbrella? You structure a more competitive organisation to successfully gain research grants and support our postgraduate researchers of tomorrow.
Professor Les Christidis reckons it’s one of the University’s really good news stories of 2021. He’s referring to the formation of the Southern Cross Analytical and Research Services, or SCARS, and he’s driving the initiative.
Les strongly believes we have world-class capabilities which we are growing.
“The challenge was to create a one-stop shop for industry. So, we decided to consolidate our Analytical Research Laboratory (ARL) and Environmental Analysis Laboratory (EAL) facilities under the SCARS umbrella to further develop and grow our reputation in the areas of agriculture, natural plant products and geosciences,” Les explains.
“The new SCARS team boasts more than 90 technical and professional staff and trainees who generate almost $9 million in commercial activity. SCARS also supports the research of academics and Higher Degree Research students in the Faculty of Science and Engineering.”
There’s no doubt EAL and ARL are go-to organisations for industry. Read more
“Their work is of a consistent high-quality. EAL is definitely the leading lab for soil carbon in Australia, if not the world! I intend to keep working with them for soil testing to support the rapidly expanding soil carbon industry,” says Ignatius Verbeek, Managing Director, AgriX Operations Pty Ltd.
But it’s not just about industry; SCARS has a clear focus on the engagement and support of academics and Higher Degree Research students.
“Our postgrads gain access to world-class analytical equipment that leads to publications, kick-starting their science research careers," says Professor Amanda Reichelt-Brushett, Chair of Discipline (Science) in the Faculty of Science and Engineering.
“Our research teams are able to establish projects that answer important questions about environmental contamination and food safety, which enables us to partner with industry to solve problems.”
People like laboratory trainee Simone Ogg are getting invaluable first-hand experience as part of Certificate III and IV courses.
“I began the traineeship at EAL as a gap year from my science degree and have enjoyed it so much that I’m hoping to continue lab work when I return interstate for university. This traineeship has enabled me to complete my courses at my own pace,” she says.
And Graham Lancaster, SCARS Senior Manager puts it into perspective: “The SCARS model is a realised vision of centralised commercial/research services and infrastructure. This unique structure and success are the envy of other universities.”
Faculty of Health, Lecturer (Teaching Scholar) Lucy Shinners
What do you do when you’re not allowed the traditional university Open Day? Put it on for a month, that’s what.
Southern Cross University’s Open Day (for a month) was a 30-day open invitation to prospective students across Australia to visit virtually through a series of live webinars, on-demand presentations, virtual reality campus tours and online chats.
It was one of the most elaborate collaborations across academic and professional colleagues that Southern Cross has seen, and it delivered strong results.
One of the most popular live webinars was in Nursing. Lecturer Lucy Shinners said the revised, all-digital format was a great success.
“The production team handled it really efficiently with clear communication about how the day was going to progress. We got questions before we started which allowed us to prepare; when I turned up, I was quite confident about everything,” she said.
Lucy explained that the majority of questions from prospective students involved a breakdown of how much time is spent online and on campus, study loads, flexibility and alternative entry pathways. Read more
“It was actually a really nice dynamic situation with the Session Host asking casually phrased questions sent in from the attendees, so it felt like a conversation; it wasn’t like a pre-structured interview. So, the day went really well with high registration numbers. In fact, better than previous webinar sessions.”
Lucy’s session was among many that featured outstanding results. Overall, the Open Day (for a month) registrations were up 60 per cent on last year, with more than 10,000 visitors to the Open Day platform. As another mark of success, 1,600 people took virtual campus tours and there was a record number of applications for the Open Day scholarship on offer.
The innovative approach to a conventional event in the recruitment calendar included collaborations with the University Events team under Lena Mager and with Production Services colleagues, along with the University’s digital agency Social Garden. The Future Students team was central to the live webinars and had team members on the phones and online chat until 7pm each night during the campaign.
The Open Day platform included contributions from the Content and Design team with the assistance of the Digital and Marketing teams, championed and co-ordinated in detail by the Future Students team and the whole project led ably by Jemma Neylan and the Partnerships team.
PhD candidate Megan Lee
Faculty of Health PhD candidate Megan Lee is Southern Cross University's most popular author on The Conversation. Her seven articles have attracted a total of 835,116 readers over the last few years.
Megan’s published articles focus on her PhD research in nutrition and mental health. Megan has also recently published on occupational stress in academia and the impact of anonymous student feedback on academics, mental health and wellbeing.
The Conversation articles are republished globally and Megan’s work has appeared in 53 different outlets in Australia, USA, United Kingdom, Indonesia, South Africa, India and France to name a handful. She’s on the way to becoming a Conversation millionaire!
Professor Fiona Naumann, Associate Dean (Education), Faculty of Health. Fiona was formerly Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning at the QUT Faculty of Health. She holds a PhD in Clinical Exercise Physiology, a Graduate Certificate and Masters of Higher Education and is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
“My motivation to join Southern Cross was to work at an institution where I could have significant and meaningful impact on the quality of teaching and learning and ultimately the delivery of amazing student experiences. I believe the Southern Cross Model is an interesting concept and drawcard in terms of being able to be part of true curriculum transformation,” Fiona says.
“I want to support staff across that transformation process, creating a shared vision and an environment of collaboration and support. The higher education sector has really taken a hit during COVID and I would like to assist students and staff transition out of the uncertainty and look towards a future with new opportunities.”
Her experience in higher education is broad, having worked at a regional university (University of the Sunshine Coast), a Catholic university (University of Notre Dame) and a Group of Eight university (UNSW Australia).
“The staff I have met in my first six weeks have been so welcoming and have reinforced my decision to come to SCU as a great one.”
Also joining the team
Professor Rhonda Nay, Chair of Discipline (Nursing), Faculty of Health. Most recently Rhonda was Chair, Interdisciplinary Aged Care and Director of the Australian Institute for Primary Care and Ageing, of the Australian Centre for Evidence Based Aged Care and the Dementia Training and Research Centres La Trobe University.
Dr Diarmuid (Dee) Hurley, Associate Lecturer, Faculty of Health. Dee's academic and research background is in psychology and mental health intervention, with a Bachelor degree in Psychology and Sociology (Ireland), Masters degrees in Sport and Exercise Psychology (Finland and Germany), and a PhD in Psychology (UOW, Australia).
Manjula Angammana, System Administrator, Technology Services. Manjula has more than 20 years of experience in Hospitality, Education and Health services. He’s excited about delivering customer satisfaction with new initiatives in the technology space.
Sophia Gerontakos, Research Assistant, National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM). Prior to joining Southern Cross, Sophia worked in clinical practice as a naturopath in Brisbane and completed her Honours degree by research at Endeavour College of Natural Health in Brisbane. She is currently completing her PhD thesis at the NCNM.
Lydia Plowright, Communications Outreach Officer, National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM). After a decade working in banking and corporate communication roles in Sydney, Lydia relocated to the Northern Rivers in 2018, where she has been working with local not-for-profits.
Julia McConnochie, Research Development Officer, Office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research). Julia is passionate about supporting researchers to build and strengthen research capabilities for impact and excellence. She has a background in research project management.
Dr John McKenzie, Senior Data and Research Analyst, Office of the Vice Chancellor. John is looking at factors promoting success for Indigenous SCU students. John has previously studied Indigenous health and education outcomes through on-the-ground evaluations and the linkage of government data sets.
Eliza Walter, HR Business Partner, HR Services. Eliza has a HR Generalist background, and has previously worked across Professional Services, Property, Financial Technology and Aged Care.
Nicholas Catel, Applications and Delivery Support Coordinator. Nicholas has a deep passion for Information Technology and believes the position is a perfect fit. He has completed a Bachelor degree in Information and Communication Technology and a Diploma of Project Management.
Professor Tyrone Carlin, Vice Chancellor
Welcome to the first edition of Southern Cross Matters. I hope you will find the material in each monthly edition to be interesting, informative and useful.
Each of us brings a particular focus and frame of reference to our work at the University. But what makes life within an institution such as ours particularly rewarding is our shared sense of community, and the impact that our teaching and research brings to the lives of so many each day.
Southern Cross Matters is designed to be a platform that helps us all to stay in touch with key developments, and our many achievements as a University community.
We are moving together through a period of tumultuous change and challenge. This is asking much of every one of us. In these circumstances, knowing that we can continue to achieve excellence whilst we build for the future is important to all of us.
As you read this edition and share it with your friends and family, I hope you are inspired by the story of our recent PhD graduate, Dr Louisa Salmon and her amazing supervisor Associate Professor Gail Moloney. I hope you enjoy learning a little about some of our new colleagues, and why they were attracted to join SCU. I hope you reflect on the incredible achievements of our researchers, in this instance evinced through the work of Brad Eyre and Dirk Erler whose ARC funded projects will make a real impact on our environment and on many of the enterprises that are key stakeholders for this University. Read more
I also hope you look carefully at the material relating to the continued development of our new academic model, and reflect carefully on it. Setting out to revolutionise the philosophy and design of all of our educational programs over a three year period was, to put it mildly, an audacious call. Right now, large numbers of academic and professional staff are working very hard on the next phase of this journey, and it is important to be reminded why. We did not set out to do this just to be different.
We did not set out to do this so that we could say that we were not standing still. We set out to do it because of a profound conviction that we could and should do better for our students and more than that, that there is simply no reason why Southern Cross University cannot provide a better quality curriculum and learning environment than any other Australian university.
Listen to the stories of our students in the video links embedded and their response to our work on our new academic model and I believe you will clearly understand why we continue to commit to this ambitious project, and how we will make deeply valuable differences to the lives of our students as we do so.
We are a small, young University. As we look forward, we need to continually ask ourselves why that should not be a recipe for allowing us to be consistently outstanding and innovative – the better to serve our students and the communities in which we are privileged to be based.
Dr Louisa Salmon with Vice Chancellor Tyrone Carlin
Dr Louisa Salmon describes herself as a quiet achiever but there was one moment in our recent Coffs Harbour graduation ceremonies that drew loud applause for her.
It was a powerful moment as Dr Salmon had her determination rewarded with a Doctor of Philosophy.
Dr Salmon has cerebral palsy and her thesis focuses on children who have had to overcome disabilities. Titled ‘Social experiences of children with disabilities: resilience, social identity and bullying’ the graduation guests were moved by that very resilience displayed by Dr Salmon in achieving her PhD.
“Working on a thesis for a decade, it was hard to see the end,” she said.
“I am a quiet achiever, but it really was great to be acknowledged for the years of work I put into my studies, along with all the other graduates.” Dr Salmon said.
Her drive and motivation to achieve excellence was based on the desire to make a difference to the lives of people who have profound disabilities.
She’s thankful of the dedicated support from her supervisors, Associate Professor Gail Moloney (SCU), Professor Lewis Bizo (UNE/QUT) and Professor Iona Novak (Cerebral Palsy Institute), the University’s Student Equity & Inclusion team, Duncan Blair, and Maddison Norton, as well as her parents, friends and carers. Read more
Professor Moloney put the achievement into perspective.
“Apart from Louisa’s obvious academic capabilities, she has a remarkable determination, fortitude and a capacity to overcome barriers, along with a wicked sense of humour that allowed us to laugh when, like all PhDs, things didn’t go to plan.”
Face-to-face graduation ceremonies seem such a privilege now as COVID-19 continues to cancel these events but on a rare reprieve from restrictions more than 1200 people enjoyed the Southern Cross University graduations at Coffs Harbour on June 26.
Under the conditions, the graduation organising team adapted remarkably well to ensure that one of the most important days in the students’ lives was able to be celebrated on campus in a safe and enjoyable environment
Three University Medals were presented to Janelle Maye Driscoll, Gurpreet Singh and Meri Oakwood.
Two Honorary Doctorates were conferred, one to the former Southern Cross University Chancellor Nicholas Burton Taylor AM (Honorary Doctor of the University); the other to Ian Hutton OAM (Honorary Doctor in Natural and Physical Sciences).
Tayla Preddey is now studying the Bachelor of Engineering Systems (Honours) (Civil)
Early data shows that the new Southern Cross Model is achieving improved outcomes for students.
To date four courses have commenced under the Model:
- Bachelor of Business and Enterprise
- Associate Degree of Civil Construction (Engineering and Management)
- Diploma of Civil Construction (Engineering and Management)
- Preparing for Success Program (PSP)
On average the latest student feedback on these courses is more positive than feedback on courses in our traditional teaching format. When compared with data from Session 1, 2020, the aggregated success rate in Diploma and PSP units rose from 60% to 78%. GPA rose across all courses.
When asked in focus groups, as part of an ethics-approved research project, students have described the Model as “confidence boosting”, “stress relieving” and “the best workload experience I have ever had”.
This from a PSP student – “I was relieved because I remember trying to juggle four subjects was hard. So only focusing on two was a big relief.” Read more
Business student Lucia Miles has put her thoughts about the Southern Cross Model into a video on YouTube.
“The new academic model is great. It’s so manageable; it’s just a good balance … and I’m doing well in all my courses.”
Equally, Engineering student Tayla tells her story on this video on YouTube.
“I’ve already completed two of the units in this new study mode and I love it,” she says. “The teachers are right on top of it and it’s a new thing for everybody but they’re really good with it.”
Dr Liz Goode
The Southern Cross Model implementation has been boosted through the applied expertise of Dr Liz Goode.
Dr Goode is a Teaching Scholar working in the Academic Portfolio Office (APO) to strengthen and lead Communities of Practice in the Southern Cross Model. She has more than 10 years’ experience in enabling education, working in the University's Preparing for Success Program (PSP) and at the University of Newcastle to support the achievements and successes of non-traditional students.
According to Professor Thomas Roche, Pro Vice Chancellor (Academic Quality), Dr Goode has been an integral part of the University’s move to the Southern Cross Model. She was part of the team that piloted the first courses in the new Model this year, including the redesign of several of SCU College’s PSP units and co-designing and teaching a new academic communication unit for the Faculty of Business Law and Art’s Bachelor of Business and Enterprise.
Together with colleagues in the APO and SCU College, Dr Goode is engaged in a number of scholarship projects that aim to evidence and disseminate the impacts of the Model on student learning, experience and success.
Students at the Coffs Harbour campus library and learning centre
The number of interactions with Southern Cross libraries has jumped almost 30 per cent in the last year.
Since the COVID crisis hit it’s been a rollercoaster ride for library staff and students over the last 18 months. But the pandemic has shown how versatile and nimble staff can be in keeping this vital resource functioning.
First, almost three months of lock down for all but Coffs Harbour, then in July 2020 the University’s libraries at Lismore and the Gold Coast re-opened their doors again with a reduced capacity and strict social distancing measures in place.
Floor plans and work stations needed to be reconfigured to cater for the restrictions and students relied on special kiosks to access library services with an online chat function and precautionary measures like plastic keyboard covers and hand sanitizer provided.
Throughout the pandemic a dedicated band of library staff members have been on site at each campus every day. They continued to provide services, including mail out lending, our online help resources, virtual appointments and video tutorials.
Interestingly there were 9580 chat transactions in 12 months prior to closure, and 12,282 in the 12 months following closure. Additional online ebooks and textbooks were purchased to increase access to all students. Read more
The beefed-up virtual services have continued throughout and provide a valuable model for provision of services into the future. This means that we are able to provide equality of access across the entire student population no matter where they live.
The lessons learnt from the first closure in 2020 created the ability to quickly react and adapt staffing arrangements and other practical measures and to put them in place immediately.
Director of Library Services, Clare Thorpe
In July Clare Thorpe joined the University as the new Director of Library Services. Clare has a strong focus on empowering staff to achieve excellence in service delivery in multi-campus and online environments.
Clare brings more than 20 years’ experience in Library services having worked at QUT, Griffith University, State Library of Queensland and since 2017 at University of Southern Queensland. She currently serves as a Board Director of the Australian Library and Information Association.
Clare explains, “I’m a long time admirer of SCU. The SCU Library is known for its innovative campus library spaces and its risk-taking early adoption of new systems and technologies. I am excited to contribute to the SCU model and looking forward to building on SCU Library’s achievements, continuing the digital transformation of our collections and services which we escalated during the pandemic.”
Professor Bradley Eyre
Southern Cross researchers are in elite company with the awarding of two highly sought-after Australian Research Council linkage projects totalling $1.2 million.
Associate Professor Dirk Erler aims to transform meat residue into agricultural soil improver in collaboration with Northern Cooperative Meat Company, QUT, Justus-Liebig University of Giessen, and Department of Regional NSW ($510,507).
The second project, led by Professor Bradley Eyre, in collaboration with University of Western Australia and Healthy Land & Water Ltd, will use new innovative measurements and modelling to investigate nitrogen removal pathways of the coastal zone ($704,711).
Starting with the University in June and July are new colleagues:
Jessica Taylor, Clinical Trials Coordinator, National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine. Since relocating to the Northern Rivers in 2014 Jessica has been working as a Practice Nurse in Ballina and Byron Bay. Jessica has now returned to her research roots accepting the position with the National Centre of Naturopathic Medicine at Southern Cross.
Bern James, Research Assistant, Clinical Trials, National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM). Bern has managed a specialist nephrology practice over several years and multitasked the roles of nurse, research assistant and site clinical trials co-ordinator. She now feels excited and blessed to be able to contribute to a dynamic and highly motivated group of people at NCNM.
Kate Currey, Lecturer, Faculty of Health. Kate is passionate about mental health nursing and nursing education and believes the position is a perfect fit. She has completed a Graduate Certificate of Clinical Education and Teaching and a Masters of Mental Health Nursing.
Isaac Byrne, Content and Marketing Assistant, Office of Engagement. Isaac has just graduated from Southern Cross with a Bachelor of Business majoring in marketing and takes the first formidable steps in his career with this graduate role. Isaac lives in Lismore where he also went to school and will be based at our campus there as part of the content and marketing team.