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

Last week, I had the opportunity to spend some time with colleagues from SCU College who had come together for their annual planning day.

I was delighted in particular with the way in which the team began the work of the day by reflecting on our statement of purpose as a University, and the core values that we have adopted and that will guide us as we work towards our 2030 ambitions.

Though small in number, our colleagues within SCU make an extraordinary contribution to the life of the University. They have displayed considerable innovation in learning and teaching during a tumultuous and disrupted period of time, expanded their portfolio of programs and committed deeply and authentically to incorporating evidence-led scholarship of learning and teaching into their practice.

All of this is translating into highly satisfied students who are excellently prepared for their academic journey beyond SCU College. They are a very humble and self-effacing group of colleagues and so not given over to boasting of their achievements, so it falls upon me to do a little of that on their behalf because I genuinely think that what they continue to accomplish, and the spirit with which they do it is inspirational. 

As you read through the material in this month’s edition of Southern Cross Matters I think you will also find considerable inspiration. You will learn of colleagues testing their personal limits on the global stage, see the continuing evidence of the profoundly positive impact of the Southern Cross Model, feel the joy that so many of us experienced at our recent Lismore graduations and so many other things besides. We are blessed to be a part of a dynamic, energetic and passionate University and we continue to elevate the lives of so many in our communities and to improve the world around us through our revolutionary teaching and our impactful research. 

Students at the Gold Coast campus
Students at Gold Coast campus

2030 vision drives the University's Strategic Plan

The University’s new strategic plan is a bold vision for the future – with some initiatives already under way and enjoying success.

Vice Chancellor Professor Tyrone Carlin described Strategy 2030 as a statement of certainty and intent after the disruption of recent years.

With the overriding goal to change lives through revolutionary learning and research with real impact, priorities are: 

  • Education and Student Experience 
  • Research and Impact Initiatives 
  • Engaged Communities and Partners 
  • Digital Transformation 
  • Financial Security 
  • Outstanding People 
  • Reimagined Campus 

“Strategy 2030 is a living strategy underpinned by values of excellence, trust, care, boldness and ownership,” said Professor Carlin. "In myriad conversations over many months, we have distilled a sense of our purpose, and found ways to evoke the values that will stand us in good stead as we go forward.” 

This is already happening. For example, five Southern Cross University research publications featured in the latest IPCC Climate Change Report, affirming that being a small University is no detriment to achieving global influence and impact.  

Also, early data from Term 1 this year offers encouraging news around learning and teaching under the revolutionary Southern Cross Model, bringing great optimism leading into 2023 and beyond. 

In other initiatives, the Digital Experience Project continues to drive enhanced digital performance for our students and colleagues, while the growth of the University is reflected in a program of development, expansion and modernisation on all campuses.   

Learn more about our Strategic Plan

Students at Lismore campus
Students at Lismore campus

Generous scholarship for Business in Lismore

There are 15,000 more reasons to study Business in Lismore next year.

Business is back in Lismore! We all know Lismore is a great place to study and it's more important than ever to keep our budding entrepreneurs and innovators in the region as it rebuilds. That's why we're offering a $15,000 scholarship to every student who enrols in the Bachelor of Business and Enterprise on-campus in Lismore, starting in 2023.

“This is the University’s way of saying to the Northern Rivers business community we continue to be here for you and the next generation in the revitalisation of the city of Lismore and the region,” said Professor Richard Dunford, Interim Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business, Law and Arts.

Business NSW’s hub has been located in Lismore campus A Block since the floods earlier this year. Jane Laverty, Business NSW Regional Director Northern Rivers, said the launch of the Bachelor of Business and Enterprise comes at a time when the Northern Rivers region is experiencing a turning point in its economic development. 

“I am impressed with the agility and responsiveness of Southern Cross University to meet the needs of our emerging talent in this field and deliver on the demand from business to employ the best and brightest, enabling them to expand their businesses in a sustainable and innovative way,” she said.

A group of students on campus
A group of students on campus

Positive progress for the Southern Cross Model

It may be early days and still a while to go before Christmas, but we think there’s plenty of reasons for good cheer around the Southern Cross Model.

Results up to Term 3, 2022 show improved student performance and retention, which is exciting news as the University prepares to deliver every course – from Arts to Health, Engineering to Law – under the Model in 2023. 

When compared to 2019 results, results up to Term 3 2022 under the Southern Cross Model show student success rates in completing units have increased on average by 16 per cent, rising from 69 to 85 per cent. Mean Grade Point Averages were also up, from 3.6 to 4.4 (where the highest rate is 7.0), while absent fail rates are down 25 per cent to 4.6 per cent. The early data also builds on positive evidence gathered during pilot programs conducted from 2019-21. 

Pro Vice Chancellor (Academic Quality), Professor Thomas Roche, said the Southern Cross Model was a bold approach to education that had been purpose-built for the 21st century student.  

“This early data confirms our belief that the Southern Cross Model is a better way to learn,” he said. 

Shinmay standing in garden
Bachelor of Science graduate Shimay Clark at Lismore campus

Celebrating success at Lismore graduation

Throw the mortarboards in the air! More than 200 Lismore graduates crossed the floor over two ceremonies on Saturday 5 November. It was the first graduation in Lismore in three years due to the pandemic.

They say no one likes a bragger but we can’t help it when our students are such high achievers! A number of medals were presented at the event, including two Chancellor’s Medals to Doctor of Philosophy graduates Dr Luke Jeffrey and Dr Laura Stoltenberg, and a University Medal to Bachelor of Education (Honours) graduate, Timothy Barringham.

The breadth of the Southern Cross University community was represented by our graduates hailing from the Faculty of Health; Faculty of Education; Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples; Faculty of Business, Law and Arts; Faculty of Science and Engineering; The Hotel School; and SCU College.

Bachelor of Science graduate and Technical Assistant at the Southern Cross Analytical Research Laboratory, Shimay Clark said she is excited to jump into her career in genetic engineering. 

“Wherever the opportunities are, I go. I’m excited to see what’s possible,” Shimay said.

“I particularly like working on genetic projects around endangered species. I did a bit of research on the Tasmanian Devil and looking at ways you can genetically modify it to be resistant to the facial tumour disease.”

As a former student ambassador, Shimay has transitioned from ushering families into the auditorium, to herself filing in, dressed in a gown and mortarboard.

“I used to do the tickets and the ushering of old ceremonies and I haven’t done that for three years now due to the pandemic, so it’s really nice to see graduation ceremonies come back and bring a bit more normality back to the uni.”

“Returning to normal events and programs gives a bit of hope and I think it really livens up the university community. If I’m here doing admin and seeing people playing music in the plaza, it just feels more alive.” 

Our new alumni were inspired by Newton Denny Chapelle Managing Director and Principal Town Planner, Damian Chapelle and Business NSW Northern Rivers Regional Director, Jane Laverty who gave occasional addresses. 

RISING to the challenge: postgraduate research conference

Microplastics, ocean warming, mercury, dolphins and beekeeping: the 2022 RISE conference was a window into the depth, breadth and quality of postgraduate research in the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

There were plenty of opportunities for socialising and sharing the war-stories of a life in research during the two-packed days of programming at the Lismore campus. 32 students, from Honours through to doctoral-level, rose to the RISE challenge of presenting their research to peers and senior academics in the Faculty. 

The conference, now in its 11th year, was organised by a dynamic group of students, comprising of: Miranda Altice, Micha Nebel, Mona Andskog, Sophia Ellis, Daven Gopalan, Parth Patel and Colleen Rodd, who said holding the event in person had been an important decision. “The last couple of years have been very challenging for researchers, with lockdowns and this year with the floods. We are now rebuilding that campus culture and it’s great to be together to do that,” she said.

Addressing the conference, Vice Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Carlin, encouraged researchers to embrace the process of academic enquiry and to never lose hope. “This is an exciting point in your journey... and you never know where this journey is going to take you. Be relaxed about that. The skills you are building along the way are so valuable – practising how to communicate your research and sharing that intellectual spark,” he said.

Lecturer Nicole Graham (left) and Partnerships Officer Jodie-Anne Mak at the Gold Coast Women in Business Fearless Females event
Lecturer Nicole Graham (left) and Partnerships Officer Jodie-Anne Mak at the Gold Coast Women in Business Fearless Females event

Resilience comes with self-care: quick workplace guidance from Lecturer Nicole Graham

It is OK not to be OK. Many of us are still dealing with the mental health fallout from the pandemic.

In celebrating Mental Health Week, Southern Cross Lecturer from the Faculty of Health, Nicole Graham joined a panel discussion at the Gold Coast Women in Business: Fearless Females breakfast, to discuss mental health in times of chaos. 

Whilst Mental Health Week is over, the importance of self-care is a timeless matter. For that reason, Nicole has kindly written a few words to share with colleagues:

“It is not uncommon that we sometimes feel the stress of everyday life. After all, we are amid a pandemic and going through significant changes in how we connect with people and deliver services. 

The question often asked is, how do you know if it is more serious than everyday stress? To simply answer, if you are asking, it is time to discuss how you are feeling with someone. Especially if it affects elements of your daily living, such as appetite, sleep, motivation, health, or relationships.   

Many of us struggle to balance a busy professional and personal life. A key ingredient to building and maintaining resilience is self-care. You must prioritise time for yourself just as you would for a meeting with your manager or a scheduled class.

I challenge you to find moments of opportunity:  

  • Arrive to work ten minutes earlier and find a quiet place for a meeting with yourself 
  • Engage in a brief mindfulness activity before attending a meeting
  • Prioritise your lunch break
  • Get creative with meeting spaces – do you need to be inside or could you perhaps host a walking meeting?
  • Connect with someone regularly and share achievements and challenges

Mental illness does not discriminate. Southern Cross University has a wealth of health and wellness resources available at Health and Wellness.

Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Professor Mary Spongberg
Mary Spongberg, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Academic Capability)

Professor Mary Spongberg appointed to ARC expert group

Congratulations to Professor Mary Spongberg, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Academic Capability), who has been appointed to the expert working group charged with developing a new data-driven approach for Excellence in Research Australia (ERA).

Professor Spongberg will be part of a 14-member nationwide panel drawn from research, education and government. Her appointment reflects Southern Cross University’s highly regarded research outputs.

ERA is Australia’s national research assessment body and is administered by the Australian Research Council (ARC). It identifies and promotes excellence in research in Australia’s higher education institutions, through comparisons with international benchmarks.

“ERA has been a very important vehicle for driving research quality in Australia and has demonstrated that research excellence can be found across the sector. It’s great to have a regional voice on this important working group,” said Mary.

ARC Chief Executive Officer, Ms Judi Zielke PSM, will chair the expert group and said: “The ARC recognises the importance of working with experts across the higher education and research sectors, especially with the diverse range of research disciplines that ERA covers.”

The transition plan is scheduled for delivery by December 2022 for implementation in 2024-25. The working group comprises senior academics from universities around the country.  

Senior Lecturer in social work Dr Kathomi Gatwiri
Senior Lecturer in social work Dr Kathomi Gatwiri

ARC DECRA funds investigation into racial dignity for Africans in Australia

Senior lecturer in social work, Dr Kathomi Gatwiri has plenty to celebrate after receiving the Australian Research Council’s highly prestigious Discovery Early Career Researcher Award.

Kathomi has received a mighty $456,600 in funding to examine the challenges Black Africans face integrating into Australian society. Her research project is titled Beyond Inclusion: Belonging and Racial Dignity for Africans in Australia.

“This project is a culmination of the gap I observed within this space over many years, where African communities expressed their concerns with the ongoing negative discourses about them. The concerns moved beyond inclusion and belonging to longing for dignity within their everyday lives as Australians from a minoritised community,” said Kathomi.

An example of the negative discourses is the ‘#AfricanGangs’ social media hashtag which went viral in 2018 and prompted national debates about ‘failed multiculturalism’ and led to calls for Africans struggling to integrate within Australia to be deported.

Kathomi’s project aims to identify significant African practices that foster wellbeing, resilience and dignity. She defines racial dignity as “the immutable, unconditional worth of Black people as human beings. It is to be seen through a humanised lens and to be afforded basic respect in private and public relationships within a complex society that predominantly mistreats the Black body.”

“This DECRA research project will apply a unique and innovative Afrocentric methodology to generate a new understanding of racial dignity as key to belonging for Black Africans in Australia,” Kathomi said. 

“This knowledge will be used to develop a tailored, culturally appropriate practice framework for relevant human service organisations.

“I am always excited about telling and hearing the stories of Black communities both as a researcher and as a psychotherapist. It is quite common for the stories of marginal communities to be told by others. So, in a way, this is a reclaiming process and a creation of space where we can engage with Black experiences through dignified sociological framework and cultural nuance. I hope the presence of more Afrodiasporic stories in academic literature will promote more community, healing and a sense of collective worth.”

Leah Fitzgerald at the Berlin Marathon's finish Line in front of the Brandenburg Gate
Leah Fitzgerald at the Berlin Marathon's finish line in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Credit:

From campus services management to run around the world

Our colleagues based in Coffs Harbour might be familiar with Leah Fitzgerald, the Campus Services Manager there. What you may not know about her is that she has completed more than 20 marathons around the world, including five out of the six ‘World Marathon Majors’. 

A few weeks ago, Leah travelled all the way to Europe to compete in Berlin and London, two of Europe's most renowned marathons. Not only did she come back home with a luggage full of memories, she returned with a personal best. 

“It was the first time for both cities. In Berlin, nothing felt more spectacular than seeing the Brandenburg Gate and running through it to the finish line. The crowds were massive and the cheering was unbelievable, deafening. London was similar to Berlin, with its iconic landmarks towards the finish line. I ran a personal best in Berlin, with a time of 2:46:21 finishing 56th female and 3rd Australian. It was emotional and empowering. An amazing feeling.”

Leah is a mother of three beautiful children and began running when she had her second child. Running became her outlet from the world, her ‘me time’ with no interruptions.  

“When my third child, Leo came along, I decided to run in a 10km race. Progressively, I continued to move up in distance, competing in a half marathon and then a full marathon. I fell in love with the sport of running, in particular marathons, and I have just continued to do them. I love a goal and something to work towards, I thrive on challenging myself physically and mentally.”

Success usually comes with effort. Leah confesses that the early mornings are the hardest part. “If I have a work commitment or a work trip, I will get up at 3am to get the training in. I am always up early, but before 5am just hurts a little more. Also, runners are famous for terrible feet, so let’s just say I won’t be getting a pedicure any time soon.”

To date, Leah has run 21 marathons, the New York one being her favourite. “There were 50,000 runners, the largest number I have ever been amongst and by far the largest spectating crowd. Over one million people line the streets! The spectators set up stages and perform, they play music like you are at a concert; they dance, and they cheer and party on the sidewalks as you run along. It is the most incredible atmosphere, you almost forget you’re running a marathon – almost.”

With only one World Marathon Major to tick off the list – Leah has already run Chicago, New York, Boston, London and Berlin - it’s no wonder that her current goal is to compete in the Tokyo Marathon. “Not only am I hoping to complete the Tokyo Marathon in 2024, but I am also aiming to do them all in under 3 hours!”

Lucy Shinners, Course Coordinator of Nursing
Leah Fitzgerald at the Berlin Marathon's finish line in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Credit:

PhD Q&A: Lucy Shinners investigates the role of artificial intelligence in healthcare

Currently working as the Course Coordinator of Nursing and with an ICU nursing background, Lucy is used to working with technology in a clinical setting. Her interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) began as it started to gain prominence at industry conferences. After realising the considerable evidence-gap in related research, Lucy decided to centre her PhD around the current perceptions of AI in the healthcare industry.

Lucy’s research aims to identify how clinicians can bridge the gap on Artificial lntelligence, contribute to AI development, and harness its power in the delivery of care.

Do you find there is a lack of understanding of what AI actually is? 

In the studies we conducted, there was this real ‘Hollywood’ idea of artificial intelligence, but there is also a degree of ‘social sense-making’ that is occurring. Some healthcare professionals perceive AI as robots, others believe that it is computer technology that can think and act like a human being with emotions, insight and intention, for others again it is just a piece of technology that sits in the store room. 

At the moment, AI is just a series of computer algorithms wholly reliant on the data it receives and the human that informs it, which we’re essentially already using in day-to-day technology without even knowing it. It has huge potential in informing healthcare delivery, but a long way to go yet.

What have you found to be the biggest concerns about using artificial intelligence by healthcare workers?

The main concerns are education and training first and foremost. Healthcare professionals want to know more before they will trust it! However, interoperability, organisational support, privacy, liability and policy are equally important and as yet unresolved in the complex space of healthcare.

What are you most excited about with your research? 

For me, it’s always this altruistic idea of positively impacting people’s lives somehow. It would be awesome to see clinicians make better-informed decisions because this technology was developed by them and is safe to use, which would ultimately improve quality of care and patient outcomes. If I can do my little bit to help keep the clinician front and centre in the development and implementation of AI, then I’ll feel like I’ve really achieved something. 

You have almost finished your PhD. What is next for you? 

I see myself as an interpreter for both sides of the health-tech divide so I think eventually I’d like to get into a space where I can assist both types of organisations to understand the healthcare problem, participate in creating the solution, and prepare the workforce through training and education.

Welcome to the team

Courtney McGowan, 
Lecturer, Faculty of Health 

Sam Lapkin, 
Associate Professor, Faculty of Health 

Adriana Ikeda, 
Administrative Assistant, SCU College

Evelyn Barnes, 
Data Coordinator, Office of Business Intelligence and Quality

Linda Collins,
Finance Business Partner, Financial Performance

Tiffany Phan,
Reporting Performance  Analyst, Office of Business Intelligence and Quality