Southern Cross Matters
From the Vice-Chancellor
Last week I travelled to Canberra to meet with Australia’s Minister for Education, the Hon Jason Clare MP. I was very pleased, on our behalf, to have the opportunity to sit and reflect with him on some of the forces that are converging to shape the future of Higher Education in Australia, and some of the factors that are of particular significance to Southern Cross University as we plan for our role in that future.
I took the opportunity to explain to the Minister some of the challenges that we have been facing as an institution as a result of the Jobs Ready Graduate reforms, as well as the ongoing impact of COVID and this year’s floods.
I also outlined details of the journey we are taking as we continue to implement the Southern Cross Model and why we have elected a revolutionary rather than evolutionary path forward in learning and teaching. In addition, I explained our impact agenda in research, and why our engagement with industry and our adoption of a genuinely cross disciplinary approach to framing research opportunities through the Impact Clusters is such a core part of our strategy for excellence.
The Minister asked very pertinent and searching questions throughout our conversation, and it was clear to me in particular that he is very focused on academic success and completion, especially amongst those students from less privileged backgrounds.
Over the coming year, there will be a formal process of dialogue between Universities and government in relation to our role, our priorities, how we are funded for our work and how we may measure success.
It will be astonishing to me if the outworking of this process is accompanied by a major surge in resources invested into Universities by the Commonwealth. It will be far less surprising if there is a redistributive element to future funding architectures and still less if an even more overt link between funding and performance hurdles emerges in due course.
Over the past two years, through pandemic and natural disasters, we have worked hard as a University community to chart our own course to the future based on the things that matter most to us and that we understand to be consonant with our sense of purpose. As we move forward, it is that sense of purpose and our values that will continue to guide us and inform the choices we make. It is my conviction that these will also shine through as we engage in continued dialogue with the Commonwealth about ongoing support for our important and impactful work.
I hope you find this month’s edition of Southern Cross Matters enjoyable and insightful and as always, I look forward to feedback and ideas for future editions.
“This is why we do this”: Emotions run high at Sydney graduation
There were tissues and handkerchiefs aplenty at Southern Cross University’s Sydney graduation ceremonies last month. It was the first graduation event to be held in Sydney in more than three years and marked an important milestone for our new alumni.
Breaking records seemed to be the theme of the ceremonies on Saturday 20 August 2022. More than 530 graduates crossed the floor over the two ceremonies, which was the highest number seen at a Sydney graduation. Celebrations of record-breaking continued when four-time world-record-holding sailor Lisa Blair gave an occasional address.
The graduation event saw some inspiring stories come to light. Of note, law lecturer Dr Alessandro Pelizzon’s mother, 69-year-old Ida Piovesan, followed in her son’s footsteps by graduating the Bachelor of Laws. Meanwhile, a University Medal was also presented to Bachelor of Laws graduate Christopher Murray.
Over 20 staff members took part in the Academic Procession across the two ceremonies. Chair of Academic Board Professor Andrew Rose said for staff and students alike it was an emotional event. “There’s the graduates who get super excited and are skipping across the stage and the ones who look like they’re almost overwhelmed with emotion,” he said.
“That’s the reason why I try to make the effort to participate because it is such a big deal for the students involved and it signals to them that we care about it and we recognise the significance for them in their lives.”
Andrew said there was a strong sense of camaraderie among the graduates. “That really stood out to me, the closeness of the group that were graduating. All of the students who were sitting there waiting for their turn across the stage, they were really clapping and yelling out to support their fellow students,” he said.
The Sydney event was the first metro graduation ceremony to take place this year. Over a quarter of the graduates were from The Hotel School, a unique partnership between Southern Cross University and Mulpha Australia, with campuses in the heart of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and Hayman Island.
Andrew said it was important to celebrate the University’s presence in Sydney. “Our students are from all over Australia. I think holding a graduation event in Sydney says to the students that you care about them, that you’re going to go out of your way to have a graduation ceremony that they can get to.”
He said it’s inspiring to see students transition from starting their degree to graduating. “It reminds you that academia is more than just a day job,” he said. “It reminds you that universities have been around for centuries and serve this really important purpose in society and can transform people’s lives.”
Coffs Harbour graduations will be held this coming weekend.
Kicking goals with the barefoot biogeochemists
Dr James Sippo and Dr Luke Jeffrey have much in common. They share an office at the Lismore campus, launched their careers from unconventional backgrounds, are recipients of the Chancellor’s Medal, and belong to one of Southern Cross University's more curiously named research groups – Barefoot Biogeochemistry.
“The name came after Luke and I and some fellow biogeochemists were discussing ways we could support each other’s research,” said James. “At one stage, we happened to look under the table and saw that not one of us was wearing shoes.”
Before coming to Southern Cross University, James worked for Greenpeace – “hounding people in Brisbane’s CBD”, while Luke travelled the world as marketing manager for iconic surf brand Billabong. From such diverse backgrounds, two significant research careers have emerged.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Environmental Science – followed by Honours and a PhD – James began his career studying mangroves in Australia’s Top End in relation to mangrove dieback, carbon sequestration and ocean acidification. His latest research is focused on blue carbon, highlighted by a major role in the development of BlueCAM.
“BlueCAM is an accounting model that allows farmers, businesses and industries to earn Australian carbon credit units by establishing and rehabilitating ecosystems such as mangroves, saltmarshes, seagrass and Melaleuca forests that sequester carbon,” he said.
Luke transitioned from big waves and Billabong to his own Bachelor of Environmental Science, also completing Honours and a PhD. His research into tree-based methane emissions – or ‘treethane’ – represents a new frontier for the global methane and carbon cycles.
“Although trees are capable of releasing methane from their trunks, we recently discovered ‘methane-eating’ communities of bacteria living within the bark of the common Australian paperbark tree,” said Luke. “By converting the methane to carbon dioxide, the bacteria are mitigating about a third of the total methane emissions.”
James’ and Luke’s research is typical of the world-leading standards being delivered by researchers within the Faculty of Science and Engineering who, barefoot or not, are kicking goals as they lead the next wave of knowledge and action on the environment.
Partnership with Byron Writers Festival flourishes like a (solar-powered) sunflower
The pen proved mightier than the sword at this year’s Byron Writers Festival, which saw progressive and dynamic discussions take place across 26-28 August. Southern Cross University further established itself as a significant partner of the event with students, staff and alumni involved throughout the festival.
Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Academic Capability) Professor Mary Spongberg, Course Coordinator for the Associate Degree of Creative Writing Dr Lynda Hawryluk, media and journalism Lecturer Jeanti St Clair and Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson all spoke at various panel discussions. Meanwhile, alumnus Emily Brugman, author of The Islands, and Jessie Cole, author of Darkness on the Edge of Town, Deeper Water, Staying, and Desire, were also featured onstage.
The Southern Cross University Student Reporting Hub was a hive of activity. Students were set up in the University’s electric Kombi recording podcast interviews with authors such as Evelyn Araluen, Jessie Cole, Matthew Evans, Saul Griffith, Dylin Hardcastle and Ben Quilty. Member of the student reporting team and Bachelor of Education student Blake Skuse said it was a fantastic experience. “I learnt so much from such a wide range of people. Talking to Evelyn Araluen, she was just great because she had so many different bits of inspiration,” he said.
The conversations continued on-campus at the University’s satellite event, ‘How Do We Transform the Future’, which took place in the Whitebrook Theatre on 25 August. More than 100 people gathered to listen to Saul Griffith, author of The Big Switch, and Claire O’Rourke, author of Together We Can, discuss how to achieve a green future. The panel was moderated by Ben Roche, Vice President (Engagement).
Dr Hawryluk has been the Southern Cross representative on the Byron Writers Festival Board for nine years. She said it is a beautiful festival of words. “It’s a bit like a country fair for books, language, talking, communicating and storytelling,” Lynda said. “I love that aspect of it.”
“Our students have been involved from the ground up from the beginning as interns, volunteers and doing paid work. In the past, one of our students wrote the welcome letter to writers that was put in their welcome package. An Arts/Business major organised the green room and opening night party. Our students have also been involved with the SCU Sunflower, with blogging and the music students worked on sound production,” Lynda said.
“Being part of the board, I love that I’m able to provide opportunities for students to get involved with the festival, including being on the stage when they publish their work.”
Kylie Day engages Aboriginal high school students in science and maths through dance
Engaging Aboriginal high school students in science and maths through dance, art and storytelling inspired Dharawal woman Kylie Day to complete her Doctorate of Indigenous Philosophies (DIP) with Gnibi College.
What are you researching?
I am in the final stages of my DIP which is titled ‘Realising the potential of cultural safety in the classroom’. My aim is to create better ways of enhancing learning in the classroom for Indigenous students by privileging the voice of local elders and knowledge holders. My research is positioned in the fields of Indigenous Knowledge education and pedagogy development to address a distinct need to honour the students' own reality into their learning.
What inspired you to pursue this area of research?
Through developing a relationship with an Aboriginal Reference Group, I realised the potential of cultural safety in the classroom. This underpinned my inquiry about how to make education more engaging for Indigenous students, promote quality teaching, and build cultural identity.
What does cultural safety in the classroom look like in practice?
I have looked at how Aboriginal culture and tradition can be incorporated into pedagogy to enhance student learning. So, through dance, art, storytelling, weaving and yarning students can follow my design but also add their own creativity, critical reflection and cultural reality into what they’re learning about. As I come from a science background, I am looking at incorporating totems such as the white owl into STEM learning as they are an example of amazing aerodynamics.
I also recently co-delivered a workshop with local Elders and Gnibi staff for Year 10 history students from Trinity Catholic College where we incorporated yarning and weaving into their learning about the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
What I have learned from the Bundjalung Elders is that these need to be long term workshops to provide students with consistency and positive role modelling.
What has been your highlight while researching at Southern Cross?
Learning with Elders, localised knowledge and feeling a strong sense of cultural safety. I find that when you feel culturally safe you don’t have those glass ceilings that can exist in other institutions. I love that there is so much space and potential to showcase the culture of our University and it’s very much appreciated by the students and Elders.
Professor Richard Dunford begins Interim role
Professor Richard Dunford joined Southern Cross University in August as Interim Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business, Law and Arts. The six-month appointment will alleviate the transition to the next Executive Dean, when he or she is appointed.
His outstanding career has featured leadership roles across education, industry, research and business. Highlights include the University of Newcastle (Pro Vice-Chancellor, Business & Law) and senior positions at Macquarie University, the University of Sydney, and the University of NSW.
Nationally, he has been an active member of research assessment panels, most recently as Chair of the Social Science Panel in the Australian Research Council's Engagement and Impact process. He was also twice a member of the Business Panel for Excellence in Research, Australia.
Internationally, Professor Dunford has served on business school accreditation panels in the UK, Europe, Asia and Australia.
He was attracted to Southern Cross University in light of opportunities and challenges arising from the dynamic environment provided by the Northern Rivers and Gold Coast regions. Factors include the new Business course offering at the Lismore campus in 2023 and the unique nature of the University’s ongoing role after this year’s floods.
Professor Dunford is also eager to make the most of life outside the University.
"Like a lot of Australians, I’ve only experienced the Northern Rivers and the Gold Coast through the fleeting perspective of a holiday-maker, so I’m looking forward to a more enduring engagement with such a great part of Australia.”
A multidisciplinary approach to solve complex problems
Appointed Chair of Discipline of Engineering and Information Technology in August, the same month he relocated to the region with his family, Professor Charles Lemckert brings to Southern Cross University a multidisciplinary approach along with a broad range of experience in the higher education sector.
“I became an academic to pursue my strong interest in solving problems and to help educate undergraduate and postgraduate students as this in turn helps us improve our society,” said Professor Lemckert.
“I like the challenges and opportunities academia brings. We have a lot of freedom to pursue areas of interest which doesn’t really occur in other jobs. In academia I get the opportunity to engage locally, nationally and internationally to learn, investigate and solve various problems.”
Asked about some of his goals in the new appointment here at Southern Cross, Charles affirms that he would like to “grow these society-important disciplines, enhance staff engagement with industry and our external communities, deliver high-quality education so that our students are our stars and excelling ambassadors, support the development and growth of the wonderful staff we have, so they can achieve their desired goals, and have fun!”
Charles said his biggest career highlight so far has been seeing students and staff succeed. He’s also taken part in coastal engineering research using one of the world’s largest wave tanks (in Hannover, Germany); working with a multidisciplinary team to help improve the design approaches for wastewater treatment maturation ponds; supervising an array of HDR students on projects such as understanding whale migration patterns, bull shark movements, spanner crab catchability, improving engineering teaching/learning approaches using new techniques and approaches, and even how to design better office spaces.
Professor Lemckert said his family was his pillar: “The absolute and most important thing for me has been my family. Without them I would never be where I am today. They are a great bunch of eggs and Susan (my loving wife) has led the charge and been my rock, partner and better three-quarters throughout. Our five (yep, five!) children have been exceptional, and are really great people who have achieved so much already in their lives”.
Welcome to the team
Director, Student Support, Office of VP (Students) & Registrar
Administrative Assistant, SCU College
Lecturer (Teaching Scholar), SCU College
Data Coordinator, Office of Business Intelligence and Quality
Finance Business Partner, Financial Performance
Reporting Performance Analyst, Office of Business Intelligence and Quality
Lecturer, Faculty of Health
Associate Professor, Faculty of Health