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Collaborations recognised for improving community and student experiences


Sharlene King
3 December 2014

Identifying alternatives to climbing Wollumbin (Mt Warning) in the Tweed; better student placements in the social work and welfare sectors on the Gold Coast; and hosting the internationally acclaimed Hundred Languages of Children Exhibition at the Lismore campus are three of the projects recognised at the Southern Cross University Excellence in Community Engagement Awards.

The Excellence in Community Engagement Awards acknowledge and celebrate the contribution of University staff and community partners who have enriched communities in the University’s footprint during the past 12 months through community engaged teaching and research.

“The Awards recognise the ways in which the University engages with communities for mutual benefit. They shine a light on the power of collaborative approaches to problem solving, to developing new understandings, applying knowledge and stimulating learning,” said head of Community Engagement, Ben Roche.

This is the fourth year of the Excellence in Community Engagement Awards at SCU.

“Each year, the Awards unearth passionate educators who are harnessing collaboration to innovate the way in which they engage their students in their discipline and profession; researchers who are responding to significant community issues through approaches that partner with communities to create capacity and important new knowledge; and scholars and professionals who have demonstrated strong leadership and have connected their work with critical community needs to create impact,” Mr Roche said.

“At the heart of the Awards is the celebration and acknowledgement of the critical role for University–Community partnerships. We are incredibly grateful to all our partners and collaborators.”

The Award recipients are:

Community Engaged Learning category

Awarded to Hilary Gallagher in the School of Arts and Social Sciences; Jo Williams from Griffith University; and Matt Seaman from Silver Bridle Action Group Inc. and the Lynne Richardson Community Centre

For the development and implementation of a sustainable cross-disciplinary and inter-university Student Hub.

The Student Hubs Project provides ongoing, quality student placements in the social work and welfare sectors. A partnership was developed with Griffith University and the Lynne Richardson Community Centre to address gaps in community service provision, support community organisations/services, influence student learning and workforce readiness, provide ongoing student placements for each university and provide rich learning opportunities for students to put theory into practice.

“The Student Hubs Project has had such an impact that other organisations are interested in using the Student Hub model to connect with vulnerable members of the Gold Coast community,” said Mr Roche.

“Hillary, Jo and Matt were also the recipients of the Field Placement Recognition Award at the 2014 Australian and Zealand Social Work and Welfare Education and Research Symposium.”

Community Engaged Research category

Awarded to Dr Pascal Scherrer from the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management.

For facilitating evidence-based protected area management through community engaged research that influences tourism planning for the benefit of the Northern Rivers community.

The project identified visitor preferences for alternative experiences to summiting (climbing) Wollumbin (Mt Warning) in order to facilitate diversification of regional tourism experiences and to address significant cultural, environmental and physical site limitations of this World Heritage Area. The project was developed in collaboration with the National Parks and Wildlife Service NSW through an iterative process of engagement with SCU researchers.

Mr Roche said through Dr Scherrer’s work, the project provided detailed evidence of visitor preferences for alternative activities and experiences at the iconic North Coast landmark, as well as infrastructure considerations influencing such preferences.

“The research identified and tested a range of visitor experiences to diversify the reliance on solely summiting Wollumbin,” Mr Roche said.

“The project involved the broader community and stakeholders to capture and reflect their voices, including the local Indigenous community, tourism groups, Tweed Shire Council and community representatives, through face-to-face interviews and online surveys.”

Also in the Community Engaged Research category, a commendation was given to Dr Grayson Cooke and Dr Jim Hearn from the School of Arts and Social Sciences; Julian Louis from NORPA (Northern Rivers Performing Arts); and Mieke Bell of the Winsome Hotel.

For a three-year creative arts project exploring notions of home, homelessness and belonging in the Northern Rivers.

Community Impact category

Awarded to Alison Slocombe from Library Services; and Dr Wendy Boyd from the School of Education.

For hosting the internationally acclaimed Hundred Languages of Children Exhibition in collaboration with the Reggio Emilia Northern Rivers organisation.

The ‘Hundred Languages of Children’ is an international travelling exhibition that has been telling the story of the Italian-based Reggio Emilia educational approach to thousands of visitors for more than 25 years. The exhibition celebrates children as artists and inventors through a range of photographs, words, paintings and sculptures. The exhibition provided an opportunity for SCU students, children at local primary schools, pre-schools and childcare centres, and educators from early childhood through to higher education in the Region and beyond to engage with a world-renowned display of the Reggio Emilia pedagogical approach.

Leadership category

Awarded to Beth Mozolic-Staunton from the School of Health and Human Sciences.

For delivering innovative opportunities and unique learning experiences for students, providing opportunities for information exchange and promotion of best practice and consistently working to making a difference in the development of quality community partnerships.

Beth Mozolic-Staunton’s approach has contributed to the development and differentiation of the Occupational Therapy program, whilst also making connections across allied health disciplines. Through a collaborative approach, Beth has developed many external partnerships that are committed to her student’s learning outcomes. One partner, Gold Coast Medicare Local, funded a student driven outreach clinic for second and fourth year students. Beth’s understated influence, dedication and positive contribution has made a significant impact on students and the community, whilst inspiring colleagues to consider innovative approaches to community engaged learning.

Partnership category

Jointly awarded to:

• Arts Northern Rivers: Peter Wood
For facilitating collaborative learning and research in the arts and cultural sectors in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Australia.

Arts Northern Rivers has collaborated in a number of significant academic partnerships with Southern Cross University over the past 12 months across a number of activities all focused on developing the arts and cultural sector in the Northern Rivers. A notable partnership activity was the "Connect" project. Arts Northern Rivers partnered with SCU to conduct research that tracked and evaluated the Connect program whilst also collaboratively developing a model for mentoring and supporting the development of creative arts practitioners. The model represents a mutually beneficial outcome of the partnership that will inform the work of both partners in the future.

• Jason McDonald of Fred’s Place
For instigating complex, wide-ranging and realistic experiential service learning opportunities for numerous SCU School of Arts and Social Science students.

Jason McDonald, the Service Manager of Fred’s Place and a final year SCU Social Science student, has been instrumental in initiating and providing SCU students with real life social welfare professional experiences. Since June 2013, through Jason’s leadership, Fred’s Place (at Tweed Heads) has provided opportunities for approximately 20 SCU students (and 55 students from various other institutions) to experience complex, wide-ranging and realistic experiential service learning opportunities. He has facilitated and personally mentored students to synthesise theory and practice concepts, beginning in Year 1 Session 1 for some of these students, and continuing throughout their University journey. Jason helps students practise and further develop their professional competencies, as well as many SCU graduate attributes, in particular critical thinking, critical self-reflection, professionalism and communication skills.

The awards were presented by the Southern Cross University Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Lee on Friday November 28. The winners were selected from a shortlist of nominees.

Photo: Winners and nominees (back row, L to R) Dr Grayson Cooke, Dr Pascal Scherrer, Mr Jason McDonald from Fred's Place, Mr Peter Wood from Arts Northern Rivers, Dr Jim Hearn, and (front row L to R) Ms Beth Mozolic-Staunton, Dr Wendy Boyd and Hilary Gallagher.