Southern Cross Matters
From the Vice-Chancellor
As I left my office on a number of evenings this week, I was struck by the hive of activity on campus. Each evening over the past several days, our Lismore campus car parks have been jammed full, with hundreds of families attending the 2023 Lismore Performing Arts Festival event at Whitebrook Theatre. This year, the festival involved almost 1,000 students, drawn from 30 public schools located in Lismore and surrounding areas, and judging by the faces of the many performers and their families whose paths I crossed, the festival is an enormously anticipated and much cherished event!
Many of our colleagues worked hard to ensure that the event was the best that it could be, and to showcase the University to our community, reinforcing in a very tangible way our connection and commitment to our region. This instinct towards welcoming our community into the University whether through engagement with schools, businesses, regional leaders or local events is profoundly significant and very much connected to our success and impact in education and research. The more we work involve the community in our work, whether as citizen researchers, participants in on campus events or sporting fixtures or in other ways such as contributing to campus master planning processes, the better we will be as a University.
That we are working in an energetic way to become a better institution is, I think, very clearly evinced in the pages of this edition of Southern Cross Matters. And while I encourage everyone to read through each of the stories, all of which convey something interesting and inspiring, I do wish to draw particular attention to the first story, which involves a move beyond the reliance on traditional textbooks in one of our most quickly growing undergraduate programs – Psychology. This is an enormously significant innovation.
For so many of our students, the cost of purchasing increasingly expensive texts from the traditional academic publishing houses represents a very real barrier to participation and success. We have a group of colleagues, drawn from our team of outstanding Psychology academics and our Library, who decided that the time had come to do something emphatic and practical to address this and do things differently and better. No-one directed the team to do this. They saw an opportunity and a need, and with some inspired leadership by Dr Desiree Koslowski, got on with it. As a result, not only will our students have access to better quality learning material that is very much more grounded in our distinctive context, they will not have to pay an additional cent for it.
Imagine we could claim that as a ubiquitous element of the student experience at Southern Cross University – and imagine how much that would help our students, particularly those facing the most acute barriers to participation and success!
I am so proud of what the team who worked on this initiative did not only because of the enormous and enduring impact it will have on so many of our students, but because of the example they have set for the University community as a whole. We can do amazing things when we set our minds to it, and the more widely we develop a sense of our agency as individuals and teams to get on with the job of ironing out kinks, dispensing with tasks that sap time but add little value and chasing the big dreams, the better we will be as a University and as a place to give of our energies and talents.
It is with that intent in mind that the SCU Bold program has been established, and I am so delighted that so many colleagues from across the institution have responded positively to the opportunity to learn new skills in innovation and to take up the challenge of driving improvements to who we are and how we do things.
I hope you really enjoy this month’s Southern Cross Matters and look forward to continued feedback about areas on which we might focus and the kind of information you find insightful and useful.
Psychology students save thousands with OER learning initiative
Southern Cross psychology students are being spared the cost of expensive traditional textbooks, potentially saving thousands of dollars thanks to a social justice initiative led by senior lecturer Dr Desirée Kozlowski.
The use of Open Educational Resources (OER) means Bachelor of Psychological Science students can save between $2000 and $4000 over the course of a three-year degree. For the 173 commencing students in 2023, it opens the way for hundreds of thousands of dollars remaining available to them and their families rather than going to publishers.
OER includes e-Textbooks and other freely available online learning resources. Following the psychology example, the Southern Cross University Library has since created a special collection to map OER texts for all faculty areas.
The initiative affirms the University’s commitment to teaching practice that places students at the centre. Hopes are it will also encourage greater representation of female students, as well as students from diverse groups and lower socio-economic backgrounds.
“Since the start of 2023, all 16 core units within the Bachelor of Psychological Science have adopted the Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) program and are also exam-free,” said Dr Kozlowski, who is based at the University’s Coffs Harbour campus.
“This is an equity issue and a social justice issue. Apart from the often-prohibitive costs of traditional, prescribed textbooks, many do not represent the changes in social and gender equity now integral in today’s society, and they are not relatable to the careers our students can and will pursue.”
While Dr Kozlowski stopped assigning prescribed textbooks six years ago, the impetus for broader transformation began in 2020 when a former student admitted – for the first time – they had been unable to afford a single textbook during their entire degree.
“I had invited the student to speak to first-year students and they explained how much extra pressure this had placed upon them,” said Dr Kozlowski. “Their story spurred me on and when I became Course Coordinator, I decided to try to make a material difference to all students of psychology at Southern Cross.
“In 2020, I presented the psychology team with the challenge of transitioning to a ZTC course with a goal of 2023 to achieve that, and we committed to it with a lot of encouragement and support from the Southern Cross University Library team.”
Librarian (Library Education & Research) Ms Carlie Daley said OERs had been on the Library’s radar for some time as it wrangled financial barriers created by academic publishers and sought to enable student access to free learning resources.
“Desirée immediately popped into my mind as a possible OER champion because of her innovations and passion for student learning,” said Ms Daley.
Nearly $900,000 to explore nature's sinks: ARC grants for two of our early career researchers
Congratulations to our early career researchers Dr Judith Rosentreter and Dr Luke Jeffrey, who have secured Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) grants worth a total of $891,197.
The DECRA grants will allow Luke and Judith to build on work around the role of trees and wetlands in the greenhouse gas cycle.
“These grants really are a testament to the amazing research environment we have at Southern Cross University, and to our support of early-career researchers. Both of these researchers undertook their PhDs here and are now entering this exciting new phase of their careers at Southern Cross,” said Professor Mary Spongberg, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Academic Capability).
Dr Jeffrey’s $457,155 DECRA research will investigate the diversity and metabolic capabilities of microbial communities within tree bark in other Australian forests. While it’s already known that trees are vitally important for sequestering atmospheric carbon, the role played by tree bark-associated microbiome in regulating other climate-active trace gases such as methane, hydrogen and carbon monoxide is not.
In a different but related area of study, Dr Judith Rosentreter’s new research, funded with an ARC DECRA grant worth $434,042, will focus on identifying and quantifying methane oxidation and production processes in mangrove environments, mostly in soils and water. This will generate the first complete picture of the mangrove methane cycle to accurately quantify Australia’s contribution to global coastal mangrove emissions, which in turn will help to improve strategies for natural climate solutions of Australian coastal wetlands.
The pair have both received a Chancellor’s Medal for their PhDs and their research has garnered recognition on the global stage, with citations in the esteemed United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report 6. This achievement highlights their significant contributions to the field of climate science.
Heart-warming stories at Melbourne graduation
It was an overcast Melbourne day for our most recent graduation but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of 230 graduands and their families.
Graduating with a Master of Business in Global Hotel Leadership was Sevag Keroghlian, the newly appointed Head of Campus at the Melbourne Hotel School, who said he was loving his new job.
“I am very passionate about hospitality and travel and I find great joy in working with and sharing my passion with students,” Sevag said. “When you work in hotels you take care of people for a night or two, but at The Hotel School we have the pleasure of taking care of students for up to three years. It’s wonderful to pass on my knowledge, motivating and nurturing the next generation of hoteliers.”
83-year-old PhD graduate Diana Doust also crossed the stage in Melbourne. She stole hearts with her story of determination against the odds (including being forced to give up work when she married) and the journey that led her to graduate with a thesis investigating the approach of pre-service teachers to numeracy. There were numerous messages of support for Diana on the University’s social media channels, especially from students who had commenced studies later in life and were inspired by her message to never give up.
The last graduation of the year will take place in Lismore on 29 September.
Top marks: bold research agreement between Southern Cross and Lismore Diocese schools
The spirit of partnership and a commitment to student-centred, evidence-led approaches sit at the heart of a research agreement signed by Southern Cross University and the Diocese of Lismore Catholic Schools.
The three-year, $1.2 million agreement will produce a model of education, co-designed with school educators, providing greater involvement in the classroom for University students before they graduate. It was signed against the colourful backdrop of a prep class at St Carthage’s Primary School, Lismore.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Tyrone Carlin acknowledged the strength and contribution of the University’s Education Faculty, including Executive Dean Professor Amy Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles and TeachLab Research Director Professor David Lynch.
“I’m really proud of the team, not simply because we have forged this partnership, but because of the commitment that it shows to an evidence-led approach,” Professor Carlin said.
“I want to affirm the University’s intention to do this with rigour, to do this with purpose and to use this as the basis of a journey for the greater good of the profession and young people whose futures we are building together.”
Professor Lynch said the partnership would draw on substantial bodies of research that supported different approaches in teacher education and classroom practice.
He said change was difficult at a national and state level because reform was typically delivered in a ‘top down’ way, which did not involve teachers and school leaders in the process.
“The research agreement with the Diocese of Lismore Catholic Schools will allow us to flip that model, working with teachers and school leaders on those things the evidence tells us will improve outcomes for students, support the development of teachers in their practice and create a school environment which is highly individual and targets the needs of each student,” Professor Lynch said.
Professor Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles said the research would take place on the cutting edge of a national conversation about university teacher education, national assessment programs and teacher retention.
“We won’t be working in isolation to this broader discussion,” Professor Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles said. “Rather, we will draw it in to the way we are working together to create models that lead the country in supporting teachers and students in extraordinary classroom environments throughout the Diocese.”
What’s next for the Lismore Master Plan?
You may have noticed posters around campus and in downtown Lismore over the last month as consultation got underway for the Lismore Campus Master Plan.
A community survey and pop-up consultation was undertaken by JOC Consulting, giving people the chance to have their say about our future campus. The consultants will now collate the feedback and provide a report with recommendations to the University towards the end of the year. The Lismore Master Plan is the largest study the University has ever undertaken of its type. It considers the current needs and uses of the campus and also what the future might hold as we look towards 2050.
“It’s a very exciting and ambitious project,” said Jack Williamson, Vice-President (Strategy and Implementation). “We are emerging from a difficult period in Lismore, especially after last year’s floods, but at the same time there is a lot of positive energy around and a desire in the University community to look to the future and be involved in building the kind of campus and university we want to see here.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in a lot of ways. It’s not often you get to reimagine a massive site in this way.”
Future uses of the campus might include increased student accommodation, community and government services, schools, specialist research and teaching facilities and more.
Teamwork helps inspire farmers as part of Northern Rivers Net Zero project
An interdisciplinary collaboration between Southern Cross staff and students has resulted in a series of short films aimed at inspiring farmers to make important changes on their properties.
The films were produced for the Northern Rivers Net Zero project, which is bringing industry sectors together to develop strategies that will make the Northern Rivers one of the first carbon net zero regions in Australia.
Project manager Nathan Kempshall, said there was strong support from the agriculture sector, with a growing number of farmers transitioning from conventional to regenerative farming practices.
“I wanted to show the amazing work happening on the ground with video case studies that would inspire other farmers and provide practical advice,” he said.
“This presented a great opportunity to work with students from the University’s Digital Media and Regenerative Agriculture courses, as well as colleagues from those faculties and my team members in Strategic Projects and the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance.
“I employed Southern Cross film students Nathania Sutanto, Luke Hancock and Alako Myles, who created storyboards for the films, shot footage on-site and completed all the editing work.
“With his specialist knowledge and skills gained through Southern Cross’ Regenerative Agriculture degree, recent graduate Adam Coates interviewed the farmers to learn about their processes, challenges and achievements.”
The first film features the regenerative work underway at Banyula, a 364-hectare property at Clunes. The farm grows macadamias, finger limes and Davidson plums, and runs cattle using rotational grazing techniques. They are also regenerating Big Scrub rainforest with 360,000 new plantings and creating vital koala habitat through the WWF Koala Friendly Carbon Project.
The film, Banyula: The journey to Regenerative Agriculture, was officially launched at a field day held on the farm in June, attended by more than 270 people.
The latest video, Multispecies cover cropping in subtropical horticultural plantations, Zentveld's Coffee Farm, has been released recently with the aim to become an educational resource.
Values in action
“As Manager for Campus Services, our team operates at the forefront of interaction. Serving not only Southern Cross University’s staff and students but also the broader public and communities in our vicinities. We proudly represent Southern Cross’ values through trust in our actions. Actions speak louder than promises, and each genuine act of reliability, integrity, and accountability fortifies this vital connection. Trust starts with small everyday gestures that demonstrate our reliability, like being on time, going the extra mile, actively listening and showing up when it matters most. It is the core foundation to success. We build trust through action.”
Did you know...
Coinciding with the release of his new book, ‘Better Than Happiness – The True Antidote to Discontent’ (Penguin Life), academic and advocate Dr Gregory P. Smith OAM has been recently featured in The Australian, where he details his experience of homelessness and addiction for decades, and how he finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel.
Applications are now open for the inaugural Regional Universities Network (RUN) Learning and Teaching Awards. These awards are a national, sector-wide opportunity to recognise learning and teaching practices, innovations and outcomes at Southern Cross – at all of our campuses, locations and partnerships.
To enter, please submit a 3-minute video presentation detailing an innovative initiative you have implemented and the outcomes you have achieved, against one of the following themes:
- Innovation in Learning and Teaching
- Indigenous Engagement
- Regional Education
Southern Cross can put forward up to three, three-minute submissions. The deadline is 5pm, 6 October. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
The Centre for Teaching and Learning invites colleagues and teams to contribute to the 2023 Scholarship of Learning and Teaching Symposium. This year’s theme is Impactful teaching: Revolutionary learning.
Proposals to be received by 26 September 2023. Further information here.
Thomas Sim, Lecturer - Faculty of Health
Aveley McCann, Senior Manager, Strategy and Implementation - Office of VP (Strategy and Implementation)
Paul Banbury, Technical Assistant - Southern Cross Analytical Research Services
Jay Gilligan, Technical Assistant - Southern Cross Analytical Research Services
Mark Poswillo, Project Manager - Technology Services
Darron Richardson, Senior Manager, Cyber Security - Technology Services
Peter Stagg, Project Manager - Technology Services
Dylan Atkinson-Pickering, System Analyst - Technology Services