Southern Cross Matters

"Southern Cross Matters is designed to help us stay in touch with key developments and our achievements as a University community."

Tyrone Carlin
Vice-Chancellor, Southern Cross University

Southern Cross Matters
Professor Tyrone Carlin
Professor Tyrone Carlin, Vice-Chancellor and President

From the Vice-Chancellor

On Thursday May 12, members of the SCU team joined together with people from around the world to mark International Nurses Day. It was in that context that I had the good fortune to attend a celebratory barbeque at the Lismore campus and spend some time with Professor Jennene Greenhill and members of the Nursing discipline team.

It was delightful to meet again with colleagues who I had not seen in quite some time, and to meet others for the first time other than on Zoom! I imagine that this has been an experience that many at the University have shared in recent months. It underscored for me the importance, even as we embed a more flexible approach to working, of ensuring that we invest together in building a community and maintaining the liveliness of our campuses as hubs for engagement.

What struck me most about the events of the day, though, was the opportunity to meet with a number of our students. I found this to be enormously inspiring and I wanted to share this with our community as a whole because I believe that you will be similarly moved.

I first met Melissa and Bronwyn, two third-year nursing students normally based at the Gold Coast campus. During the height of the flooding, these amazing members of our University were so concerned for the wellbeing of community members that they decided to travel to Lismore and help out wherever they could in the evacuation centre that was at that stage home to many hundreds of people in deep need. I could tell as I spoke to them about this that their experiences in doing this had impacted on them to a very profound degree, but that they were so proud to have been part of a large team effort to respond to a terrible disaster.

Their efforts, though, did not end there. Whilst volunteering in the evacuation centre, they became very concerned about their fellow students from Lismore who had lost everything, including their trademark Faculty of Health shirts. So, they worked to raise funds for the purpose of ensuring that our Lismore students who’d lost these could be provided with new ones. That money, matched dollar for dollar by the University is now being used by the Faculty of Health for precisely that purpose.

After spending some time with Melissa and Bronwyn, I met Jason – one of our Lismore based Bachelor of Nursing students. I asked him how he was travelling with his studies and his eyes lit up with passion and excitement. He told me how he often finds study daunting and challenging, and how much he has valued the support and mentorship of the academic team at the University – for who he expressed enormous respect and gratitude.

Jason is 48 years old. In the decade before he commenced our nursing program, he was a long-haul truck driver. He described his week to me. He told me that on a Sunday morning, he would be up before dawn, for a 45-minute drive to the depot. Then after a further 45 minutes or so of preparation time, he’d be on the road. If he was lucky, he would arrive back home by footy kick off time on a Friday night – but very often wasn’t home until Saturday morning.

He was proud of that work and proud of the discipline that he learned in doing it for so long. But he wanted something different. So, having not been in a classroom or engaged in any formal learning for two decades, he took a leap of faith. When he found himself beginning to receive distinctions for his academic work, he was enormously surprised, but also found a deep sense of affirmation and purpose. He wondered out loud to me as to whether he would in the end succeed in completing his studies. I told him without equivocation that I was absolutely certain that he would, and how proud he should be of what he is accomplishing – but perhaps more than that, what he will accomplish when he realises his dream.

When we boil it all down, we can perhaps say two things about our University. First, that we are blessed to work and study in a community that has care for each other so deeply rooted in its value set and in which that is lived out every day. Second, that we work together in a community that makes dreams come true as we transform lives through education and research. How many organisations can genuinely say that?

I hope you find the content of this month’s edition of Southern Cross Matters informative and inspiring and look forward to your continued feedback and suggestions for future topics for inclusion. Thanks for all the outstanding work each of you continues to do to advance our University.

Lisa Siegel
Associate Lecturer Lisa Siegel

Lisa Siegel named NSW Environmental Educator of the Year

Lisa Siegel, an Associate Lecturer and doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Education has been named the 2021 NSW Environmental Educator of the Year.

But the road to that accolade actually started in a concrete playground in California.

As is the case in many schools, Lisa’s early school breaks were spent in concrete surrounds. It wasn’t until a pivotal moment in Year 4, when a teacher took the class to a nearby stream for a hike, that something shifted in her. Walking through the creek she experienced contact with nature she hadn’t felt before.

Later, when she was moved into a class for gifted children, Lisa met another teacher who also inspired her; and whose approach to teaching she emulates to this day. This teacher began each class ‘shooting the breeze’, asking what the kids wanted to talk about, and then using this to guide the day’s lessons. He also taught the class to assess their values and led regular discussions about them. It was a student-led, but teacher-guided experience that harnesses students’ passion and curiosity – an approach Lisa now uses herself.

“Environmental education at its core is interdisciplinary and intra-connected. If we feel connected to nature we have more of a desire to take care,” she said, “and I’ve seen it born out again and again.”

Lisa is on the leadership team of the Sustainability, Environment, and Arts Education (SEAE) research cluster at Southern Cross and on the verge of finishing her PhD, which examines how women develop into environmentalists. Her work even touches on the principles of quantum physics.

“Every moment that we meet is different, has potential, so that’s also what’s very exciting about environmental education. People can feel overwhelmed that we’re not going to be able to make the changes we need to in time, but quantum field theory – physics – says there’s potential in every moment for something to change, and that’s very heartening,” said Lisa.

Associate Professor Tobias Kretzschmar
Associate Professor Tobias Kretzschmar

Hemp research sows the seeds for future growth

Hemp’s formidable nutritional and fibre qualities are supercharging a recalibration of its reputation and research. Amid global demand for higher quality natural foods and medicines, Associate Professor Tobias Kretzschmar’s hemp research has Southern Cross University at the forefront of a growing phenomenon.

Based at Southern Cross Plant Science in Lismore, Tobias said hemp is “a crop of a hundred uses” and that Australia could lead its multi-faceted cultivation and development.

"Hemp has massive potential as a food and medicinal crop,” he said. “The seeds are rich in oils of a similar quality as fish oil, except they are vegan and do not have the smell. They also contain high amounts of essential amino acids. Like soy, hemp can be used as a protein crop. Like canola, it can be used as an oil crop. In addition, its flowers are rich in nutraceutical and medical compounds.

“Hemp also produces high-quality fibres that can serve as fabric for clothing or be used in composite materials to replace single-use plastic. As Hempcrete, it can replace concrete or other non-renewables in certain building applications. Developed correctly, hemp can help us reach zero waste goals and implement circular and sustainable economies.”

A plant geneticist and plant physiologist, Tobias’s career has ranged from studying pineapples in Townsville and rice in the Philippines to petunias in Switzerland, where he also did his PhD in plant molecular physiology. At Southern Cross, his research has covered passionfruit, coffee, mustard, tea tree and rice. He is currently leading a project into the drivers of nutritional quality in black rice.

In supporting plant breeders to make better crops, particularly for nutrition and medicine, Tobias is also investigating how plants produce their plethora of specialised natural compounds that are healthy for humans. Despite years of over-regulation and stigmatisation, he said hemp was an ideal crop for Australia.

“Currently we are involved in two large cannabis projects. One is investigating the effect of agronomic and chemical interventions on cannabis productivity and the other is on genetic control of hempseed nutritional quality.

This will involve looking at seed size and nutritional composition. Importantly, the work will also link hemp’s genetic makeup to its visual or chemical characteristics and traits through quantitative genetic approaches. “This will help in making better hemp seed varieties for Australia down the track.”

International students at the Gold Coast campus, Building B
Students on campus at the Gold Coast

New courses in 2023

As we approach the half-year mark of 2022, some exciting new courses and course changes are on the horizon.

A new Bachelor of Clinical Exercise Physiology commences in Term 1 2023. This four-year degree enables registration as a Clinical Exercise Physiologist – one of the fastest growing allied health specialisations – and represents the evolution of the existing Bachelor + Masters pathway.

Other new health degrees in 2023 include the Master of Naturopathic Medicine, the postgraduate complement to the Bachelor of Health Science (Health and Lifestyle) introduced in 2022 for students interested in practising clinical naturopathy.

The suite of Engineering degrees will see some important new changes, with the extension to the Gold Coast campus for the Bachelor of Engineering Systems (Honours), the Associate Degree of Engineering and the new Master of Engineering Practice.

The Associate Degree of Engineering will be sporting a new name and a new structure, with two new specialisations in civil construction and intelligent machines. The new degree structure is suited to those looking to enter the civil construction or manufacturing and production industries in a supervisory management or technical role, or as a pathway to the Bachelor degree and accreditation under the Washington Accord.

An expanding suite of pathway programs launches in Term 1 with two new Diplomas – the Diploma of Information Technology and the Diploma of Regenerative Agriculture. These join our current suite of Diplomas and Undergraduate Certificates as pathways into linked Bachelor studies.

Finally, the Bachelor of Business and Enterprise makes a welcome return to Lismore campus with a planned major in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Next year will also mark a significant milestone in our academic portfolio with the extension of the Southern Cross Model to all courses, including all Health and Law undergraduate degrees.

Pro Vice Chancellor (Academic Innovation) Professor Erica Wilson said the early data from the Southern Cross Model showed increased student success and pass rates. “It’s an exciting year ahead. We’re looking forward to seeing the Model roll out across all disciplines. These new courses and the Southern Cross Model are part of the evolution and innovation of our growing academic portfolio. These changes will enable even greater success for our students at university and beyond,” she said.

Isaiah Koopmans training for the Gold Coast Marathon
Student Isaiah Koopmans training for the Gold Coast Marathon

Team SCU gear up for Gold Coast Marathon

After two years of COVID interruptions, the Gold Coast Marathon is back on 2-3 July, with Southern Cross University a major sponsor for the 15th year running (pun intended).

You’ll be able to spot Southern Cross University from a mile away as our partnerships team go all out with merch, the starter gun, our converted electric Kombi, and the recovery hub. The 100-point recovery program is designed by our health experts and run by our Osteopathy and Exercise Science students, who get to apply their classroom knowledge in a real-world race setting.

More than 100 students and staff are expected to participate in Team SCU this year, where they reap the benefits of a discounted entry fee, colourful SCU branded singlets, and access to our team marquee with a healthy breakfast and post-race sports massage.

A notable Southern Cross student is Isaiah Koopmans, the current Australian 20-24-year-old National Champion of the standard distance triathlon event - involving a 1.5km swim, 40km bike ride, and 10km run. Isaiah, who hails from Coffs Harbour, said the Gold Coast Marathon has a fantastic vibe.

“Not only is the Gold Coast Marathon event a fast and flat course, but the atmosphere at this event is unreal from both an athlete and spectator perspective, and it allows me to meet with and compete against fellow SCU teammates as well, who study across all campuses or online,” he said.

“My personal best at this 10km event was the last time I competed in 2019, which was just on 34 minutes, so this year I am aiming to run around 31 to 32 minutes.”

There’s still time to register to be a member of Team SCU! Head to the Gold Coast Marathon website for more details or email [email protected]

Diploma of Civil Construction graduate Tayla Preddey
Engineering student Tayla Preddey

Engineering Honours students focus on flood research

This year’s Engineering Honours students are focusing their theses on an area of research that’s close to home: flooding.

“There was a really strong response from students when considering their thesis topics. After the floods hit at the beginning of Term 1, the majority of students were really keen to do something that they thought would help with the recovery and future flood resilience,” said course coordinator Professor Andrew Rose.

With a combination of civil and mechanical engineering students, topics range from building design approaches to withstand flooding, development of flood-resistant materials for more resilient roads, to machine learning to predict floods.

“The great thing is that they are really practical projects and there is genuine research to be done which the students are really excited about. They are coming up with solutions for real world applications and hopefully some will be adopted,” Professor Rose said.

“One student who currently works for the Richmond Valley Council is looking at the effects of heavy rainfall events within the Casino urban catchment during major flood events within the Richmond River Basin. So, the outcomes of that project will be directly relevant to their flood modelling.”

Another student, employed by Transport for New South Wales, is researching the development of open-graded unbound granular materials suitable for base and sub-base application in Permeable Pavement Systems to provide flood-resistant and resilient roads.

“In theory they are just research topics and there is no obligation for students to have those sorts of connections with community. But in reality, a lot of students are involved by either working in the industry or with community groups. So, several projects already have a direct connection,” Professor Rose said.

Engineering graduates are required to complete a thesis to gain professional accreditation with Engineers Australia. According to Professor Rose, completing their thesis gives students the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of “what it actually takes to generate new knowledge.”

“For students who go on to work in the industry, it’s crucial that they have that ability to innovate. If they can’t find the answer in a book, they’re not just going to get stuck and say ‘oh well, I can’t solve that problem’.

“By completing practical research at university, they learn how to generate knowledge, ideas, tools and techniques when they encounter difficult problems, and that’s a lot of what engineering work is all about.”

Erica Wilson
Pro Vice Chancellor (Academic Innovation) Erica Wilson

Accolades

Pro Vice Chancellor (Academic Innovation) Erica Wilson has been appointed as the new chair of Council for Australasian Tourism and Hospitality Education.

The organisation represents the interests of higher education providers and individual members of tourism, hospitality and events education and researchers at Bachelor degree level and above in Australia and New Zealand. Congratulations Erica.

Welcome to the team

Steven Doherty,
Research Fellow, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Simon Eldridge,
Senior Technical Officer, Southern Cross Analytical Research Services

John Hancock,
Stakeholder Manager, Office of Engagement

Danielle Jones,
Project Officer, Financial Services

Nathan Kempshall,
Project Manager, Soil Research and Carbon Neutral Economy Project, Office of Engagement

Ruben Luakkonen,
Lecturer, Faculty of Health

Jodie-Anne Mak,
Partnership Officer, Office of Engagement

Suzanne McDonald,
Lecturer, Faculty of Health

Chris Medcraft,
Postdoctoral Researcher, National Marine Science Centre

Neville Mott,
Head Chef, Catering and Unibar

Simone Newman,
Senior library Coordinator, Library Services

Fendy Santoso,
Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Feifei Tong,
Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Science and Engineering