Southern Cross Matters
From the Vice-Chancellor
I think it can genuinely be said that this month’s edition of Southern Cross Matters reflects both the diversity and the excellence that define our University. The material that touches on our work in research strikes a balance between illuminating the kind of dedication and focus necessary to build up authoritative expertise in a domain of knowledge and examining the new approaches that the University is beginning to adopt, building platforms for research and enquiry that harness expertise in new ways and genuinely engage industry and other stakeholders to drive collaboration and impact.
Moving in this direction will challenge us to reflect very carefully on the areas in which we have or can generate capability that is either unique or which in a tangible sense gives us some other basis for comparative advantage in delivering insights and solutions in partnership with others. It is for this reason that we are beginning to focus with such intent on better approaches to engagement with the many organisations and institutions with whom we can work to leverage our capabilities to better effect, and to more systematically strive to draw upon insights from multiple disciplines in the pursuit of solutions.
We are redefining and repositioning ourselves in the domain of research, just as we have been doing in education through our work in realising the vision of the Southern Cross Model. More profoundly, perhaps, we are doing this on the basis of a belief in excellence and a rejection of the notion, to the extent that it has ever been part of our institutional zeitgeist that our scale, age and location should somehow constrain our level of ambition.
We all know that we face a series of constraints and pressures because of these and other factors. None of us can wish away the raw fact, as an example, that in Australia there exist enormous economies of scale in Higher Education and that we are well below the size threshold at which those kick in.
We can either confront our reality with timidity and resignation, or with boldness and creativity. We can choose to believe that the constraints we experience define us, or that our defining character is evinced in how we cleverly transcend these in our quest to do better for our students and to improve our world through our research.
We don’t have walls of money to throw at our problems. We do have something far more potent. Each other. We are blessed with a wealth of talent at our University, and perhaps more importantly than that, a very widely shared and very deep commitment to our cause and purpose.
That is why, in my opinion, so many made time in their busy schedules to participate in the creation of our new television commercial. It is why we have such vibrant programs on offer at our virtual and on campus open days this year. It is why we have managed so swiftly and with such broad participation to imagine and build out our distinctive and revolutionary curriculum model. It is why we are seeing such positive affirmation for our journey in all of the key global University rankings.
In the coming months, there will be an opportunity to reflect together as a University community on the course we will chart together as we move towards 2030 and beyond. That will involve careful consideration of our priorities, our strengths and the many opportunities that lie ahead of us. Most importantly, it will involve reflection on our purpose and our values and how we will draw upon these as we work to transform from the University that we are, to the one that we can be.
I hope you find this edition of Southern Cross Matters interesting, informative and engaging and I look forward to your continued suggestions for content and in relation to how we can continue to improve.
Creating connections and conversations at Open Day
Hybrids are all the rage and Open Day this year is embracing the trend. For the first time, the University is holding both an on-campus and online Open Day where future students get to know not just the courses on offer, but the academics behind them.
Dr Erica Russ is one such academic. A senior lecturer in social work and community welfare and a social worker for more than 30 years, she is passionate about working with vulnerable, marginalised people, influencing social change and helping improve people’s lives.
Erica will be speaking at the Social Work and Community Welfare Open Day panel at the Gold Coast. The course-specific panel sessions are part of this year’s Open Day revamp and include speakers such as academics, students, alumni and industry representatives.
Erica said she has attended previous Open Days and enjoyed engaging in conversations with people and answering their questions. “It’s really about connecting with people. I’ve had lovely conversations with people who go, ‘yes, this is where I know I want to be’, and others who say they are thinking about it but not sure. And as you talk to them, they understand what it’s about and gain interest,” she said.
“Social work and community welfare are areas where we need workers now and into the future. The workforce is really rapidly growing. So, if people are unsure, then it’s at least opening their minds to thinking ‘this might be a really good opportunity for me in the future’
“It’s about working with individuals but it’s also about me contributing to social change that will affect larger groups of people and have a benefit for people more broadly,” Erica said.
As an academic, Erica has continued to advocate for social justice and change. “It’s wonderful to be training the next generation of people who are going to be out there making a difference,” she said.
For the Future Students team, being able to open the doors and welcome prospective students on to campus is very important. Future Students Senior Manager Evan Crandon said it’s one of the best experiences they offer each year.
“It’s really important for us because most of the Future Students activities throughout the year involve us being out in an environment,” Evan said. “Having our Open Days and inviting people to our house is something our team gets really excited for.”
The Open Day online platform is now live, with course information and student-led videos. On-campus Open Day events will be held on August 5 to 7.
Research clusters move from incubation to implementation
After many months of conversation, collaboration and preparation behind the scenes, the University’s research clusters have taken an important step forward.
A pitching session was recently held with key members of the research team and University Executive to introduce the proposed clusters and take them from incubation to implementation.
Researchers are well acquainted with pitching their work, but why pitch a cluster? Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and Academic Capability Professor Mary Spongberg provides some background: “The clusters will provide a new framework that brings together the University’s key and emerging research strengths. The aim is to drive innovation, enable interconnectedness and multi-disciplinarity, bringing together researchers and HDR students from different backgrounds to create new opportunities and amplify our research impact. This model will allow us to harness our resources and collaborate better, both internally and beyond SCU.”
“The clusters are also critical for the University to generate build reputation and diversify research funding, and to show how distinctive we are on a global stage,” Professor Spongberg said. “The pitching session was a way to present the work to date and give the Executive a chance for feedback on their structure and purpose.”
The Waste Management in the Circular Economy cluster was presented by Professor Dirk Erler and brings together research expertise in geochemistry, environmental science, engineering, business and education to develop solutions for our global waste problem by integrating circular economy principles.
The Harvest to Health research cluster, presented by Associate Professor Tobias Kretzschmar, focuses on better health for plants, people and communities and adds value for producers and consumers.
There will be further pitching sessions as new clusters come together. The teams from the ODVCR and Engagement will work with the newly minted clusters to finalise their research plans, to co-design investment and governance models and connect them with researchers across the university who signalled their interest in these clusters through the survey that was undertaken late last year. There will be further rounds of pitching later this year and in 2023.
Behind the Southern Cross Model
A community of teaching and learning scholars, deeply invested in student success, has spent years developing the Southern Cross Model. Now, a series of academic papers documents the rationale behind this seismic shift in curriculum and course delivery at the University.
The first edition of the Southern Cross Scholarship of Learning & Teaching Papers explores the impact of the new Southern Cross Model on university student learning, academic achievement and experience. They are a window onto the Model’s complexity and academic rigour, underpinned by data showing how students – on-campus, online, international or domestic – have performed in the Model.
One of authors of the series is Liz Goode, who has been actively involved with the Model’s implementation. It’s the culmination of many years dedicated to student success for Liz. She has taught and developed enabling programs like the University’s Preparing for Success Program (PSP) for thousands of aspiring university students.
“When it comes to preparatory or enabling programs, a key part of their rationale is this idea of equity in access and participation in higher education. It’s been very exciting to be part of that movement,” she said.
After teaching English in South Korea and work in Sydney and Melbourne as well as a stint at Newcastle Uni, Liz moved to the Coffs area in 2019 with her young family. “Living near the coast and working at a forward-thinking university like Southern Cross, it’s the best of both worlds,” she said.
Liz says it’s been a challenging couple of years for many colleagues as they have redesigned units and, in some cases, complete courses for the Southern Cross Model. “Colleagues have been amazing and I think it’s important to acknowledge that incredible and significant body of work,” she said. “Especially as we are so close to the critical milestone of implementing the model across all courses next year.”
Staff, students, and alumni unite for new Transforming Tomorrow TV commercial
You might soon spot a few familiar faces while watching TV, thanks to the participation of Southern Cross University staff, students, and alumni in the new Transforming Tomorrow TV commercial. More than 180 people were involved in the extensive three-day filming, as either talent, technical advisors, or extras.
The planning of the new Transforming Tomorrow commercial began as early as February, with the Office of Engagement marketing department determined for the video to be 100 per cent staff, students and alumni.
“The decision to use real people instead of actors added a few more levels of planning and logistics. We needed to find the right mix of people to best depict the Southern Cross University community,” said Marketing Manager, Bill Key.
The most extensive shoot occurred at Whitebrook Theatre in Lismore, where more than 100 students and staff drove far and wide to be audience extras in a ‘TED talk’ scenario. The commercial will show the Southern Cross community cheering and taking photos of Business student Sophie Fischer, who got up nice and early, despite being her 21st birthday the night before!
“Transforming Tomorrow talks to the essence of Southern Cross University, through our teaching, studies, research, and through all the external and internal environments that the university operates in,” said Bill.
The advertisement, which reflects just that, is set to hit the screens in September. There will be two 30-second ads and an extended 60-second version for the Southern Cross University website, presentations, events, and of course to show off to your friends and family.
Next stop, Hollywood!