Southern Cross Matters
From the Vice-Chancellor
In foregrounding last month’s edition of Southern Cross Matters, I noted the enormous sense of anticipation building around our campuses as we looked forward to the commencement of teaching in Term 1.
As I write today, term is in full swing, and we have enjoyed a truly inspiring and exciting period of student orientation and welcomes. This is so important. How our students begin their journey at the University matters enormously. A strong, engaged start is strongly determinative of future success, and the teams of colleagues – professional and academic, who’ve worked so hard over the summer months to make sure that we have had such a great start to the year deserve thanks from all of us!
We cannot achieve excellence simply by wishing it to be so. But we can achieve it through the aggregation of many, many, small steps within our grasp.
I wanted to share with everyone a powerful example of this that I learned of recently and that I think speaks eloquently to the kind of University we are working hard to become.
This year, just like last year, the overall level of demand for University places from domestic students has been subdued. This isn’t just a local phenomenon – it is a national one. Yet in the face of this, we have set ourselves the objective of being to a greater extent than ever, a University of first choice – and in effect determined to buck the trend. At this stage, whether we have or have not accomplished this objective is not at all clear. But what is clear is that a great many people have worked across portfolio and faculty boundaries to see if we can indeed defy the macro dynamics that I’ve described above.
Here's just one example of how. During the summer, our student recruitment team received a number of requests from students considering whether or not they would select Southern Cross University for personalised campus tours. In other times, it might have seemed disproportionate to organise a tour for just one prospective student. But this summer, the team went above and beyond and said “of course – we’d love to show you around campus”. One by one, little by little these requests came in. Not a huge number – in fact, 36 in total. This meant 36 occasions when one of our colleagues proudly showed a prospective student around and spoke about just how much Southern Cross University means to them, 36 occasions when effort was made to focus on an individual, to show them warmth and respect and kindness.
And the result? Every single one of those 36 chose to join us and is now enrolled.
I think this theme of doing things differently and doing them better with what we have at hand really resonates with the content in this month’s edition of Southern Cross Matters and with the way we’re increasingly doing things across our campuses. I hope you really find this volume engaging and look forward to suggestions from across the University in relation to areas for focus for future editions.
Transforming Tomorrow's Campus!
The University has been thriving recently, with numerous campus activities and events making life at Southern Cross University a treasured experience. Orientation Week saw hundreds of new students enjoying food trucks, henna tattoos, campus tours, photo booths, donut walls, and even free gelato!
The week-long event was the biggest one yet since the pandemic began and gained incredible feedback from students.
Ellen Fleeton, the Student Orientation Coordinator, said, "This was our first large-scale Orientation program since the pandemic, and the Orientation team was so excited to welcome our new cohort of students to the university community.
Orientation is such an essential step in the student journey, where a sense of belonging to their campus is fostered, and students can really connect with other like-minded students on a similar journey."
In addition to social activities, the Orientation team organised a huge range of essential workshops focusing on university resources, student support services, and study tips.
The Lismore campus also hosted the first-ever 'Anemoia' musical festival, where hundreds gathered to SCU Aardvark and danced the night away to student-led live music. Given the successful turnout, rumour has it, it could now be a regular event to enhance the vibrant music culture in the Northern Rivers.
You might have also noticed a few extra touches to our campuses, including new hangout spots in the Gold Coast marquee, a new outdoor bar vibe coming to Coffs Harbour, and a giant outdoor chessboard right outside the library for Lismore!
Prof Naumann on Faculty of Health’s transition to the Southern Cross Model
New year, new milestone for the Southern Cross Model as all remaining courses, including all Faculty of Health courses are finally delivered in the new 6-week Term structure.
Associate Dean (Education) Professor Fiona Naumann has overseen the re-design of nearly 200 units in the Faculty of Health. She said it had involved a massive amount of work from academics, course coordinators, curriculum and accreditation teams as well as staff coordinating the vast professional placement units that are delivered across the Faculty.
“It has been a real team effort, a mammoth piece of work to transform the way we design and deliver learning to students, empowering them to engage with their learning,” she said.
“Part of the attraction for me of joining Southern Cross was to lead this transformation to the Southern Cross Model, refreshing not only all curriculum design but improving student interactivity and connection with the learning and subsequently providing them with opportunities to apply the learning to real-world scenarios.
“It has been one of the largest projects I’ve ever overseen, and perhaps one of the most rewarding as an educator,” said Professor Naumann. “By far and away the most challenging aspect was re-imagining what the teaching and learning could look like within the Southern Cross Model and comprehensively upskilling academic staff so that they could create some fantastic opportunities within the courses. The key to building academic teaching and learning capacity has been the genuine partnership with the Centre of Teaching and Learning. We were able to take a whole-of-course approach to course design, working in course teams to genuinely co-design the curriculum renewal.
“I think the result will have even better outcomes for students, both while they’re at university and also when they enter their professional careers. As an academic it has been very fulfilling to oversee this process and I am looking forward to monitoring the outcomes this year and into the future as we further refine the Model.”
Health is the final Faculty to fully transition to the Southern Cross Model in 2023.
New Chair of Science isn’t bugged by beetles
Professor Nigel Andrew is determined to remove the ‘creepy’ from creepy crawlies.
Recently appointed as the Chair of Science, Nigel is an entomologist trying to change public attitudes towards bugs, which play an important role in the environment.
“With insects, a lot of people have the ‘ew factor’ against them. They either really like them or really hate them. Most people don’t like insects because they don’t know much about them. For example, people generally hate cockroaches but we have some absolutely gorgeous native species of cockroaches,” he said.
People also tend to associate dung with ‘ew’ but for Nigel, dung beetles spark a particular interest. In fact, they may be vital to reducing carbon impacts on farms.
“We’ve been assessing how far dung beetles have been burying dung on cattle farms because that can lock away some of the carbon and greenhouse gases,” said Nigel.
“The dung beetles make farms more productive. Rather than a cow pat sitting on the surface of a farm for months on end and killing off the grass, the dung beetles break down the dung, put the nutrients back into the soil, and essentially work as a fertilising mechanism.”
Nigel’s research extends from the Northern Rivers of New South Wales to across Australia and abroad. His work has been recognised by the Australian Research Council who have appointed him to their College of Experts for 2023 – a prestigious role which offers a say on which research proposals receive funding in Australia.
Nigel will join Professor Bradley Eyre, who continues as a member of the ARC College of Experts this year.
“I’m looking forward to promoting peer-reviewed research and working with some of the brightest and best minds in Australia,” Nigel said.
“It’s a great way to give back as well because I feel that part of my role as an academic is to mentor, train and promote research in all its forms.”
While he may be fresh at the University, Nigel is already living our purpose: changing lives through revolutionary learning and research with real impact. Congratulations!
Flood film by two alumni scores multiple international awards
Southern Cross alumni Dr Yantra de Vilder and Dr Leigh Carriage are earning international acclaim for a stunning film and musical tribute to the resilience of the Northern Rivers.
A composer, musician, sound artist and filmmaker, Dr de Vilder is the creator of short film After The Flood, which recently won the Best Composer and Best Experimental Film categories at the New York Independent Cinema Awards, and Best Music Score at the Berlin Shorts Awards. It is also in the running at other international festivals.
Visually spectacular, After The Flood also has a score highlighted by the ethereal and beautifully layered vocals of Dr Carriage, a renowned singer, composer and educator who this year celebrates 25 years as a music lecturer at the University.
After The Flood was filmed around Mullumbimby in 2022 and is centred around young actor Jade Lee. Ideas such as 'we rise up' convey how hope, resilience and optimism can flourish from tragedy. The project comes as the Northern Rivers marks a year since the devastation of the 2022 floods.
“To have composed After The Flood in the Northern Rivers, it really showed me the importance of spirit of place,” said Yantra. “I could feel it in the earth. The music came through like a lament, but also as a dynamic expression of hope.”
Leigh agrees, saying: “I think the success of the film gives an ongoing voice to all those affected by the floods.”
The pair met as music students at Southern Cross University in the early 1990s and found an immediate connection.
Watch After The Flood on Youtube.
University Showcase 2023
Our Future Students team (Office of Engagement) has been out and about for the past few weeks visiting schools from Stanthorpe in the south-west of Queensland to North Lakes, north of Brisbane. A busy agenda for the 2023 edition of the University Showcase.
Along with six other universities, Southern Cross has participated in several events across NSW and Queensland. The Future Students Officers along with Student Ambassadors have already visited 65 schools this year with another 11 schools next week located between Warwick and Ipswich.
A highlight in this year’s edition has been the Showcase at the Gold Coast. “It was a fabulous opportunity for school students to connect with Queensland universities to discover all the options available to study after Year 12,” said Jodie-Anne Mak, Future Students Officer.
Season 3 of SCU Buzz podcasts kicks off, featuring Grayson Cooke
You may know him as the Chair of Creative Arts at the University but Associate Professor Grayson Cooke is also a renowned media artist who started his creative journey as a trumpet player.
Hailing from a musical family, Grayson says his first aesthetic language was music and it continues to influence everything he does. “What I do now is make music between image and sound, exploring natural phenomena and… interests that have become obsessions,” he said.
Grayson has exhibited his work around the world, including at the last COP27 meeting and he is the first guest of Season 3 of the SCU Buzz podcast where he chats to student host River about his work making films with satellite data, music and cloud fantasia, not to mention how human beings can be a geological force of nature and how art can make science more digestible and emotive for non-scientists.
One for both artists and scientists interested in the boundaries of their disciplines and what happens when they dissolve.
PhD Q&A: Mona Andskog on the magic of seagrass
Southern Cross PhD candidate Mona Andskog is fascinated by marine plants. Recently she was co-lead on a paper published in PNAS showing that the fucoidan compound found in brown algae (seaweed) is a powerhouse in removing carbon.
What is the title of your PhD and what’s it about?
‘Carbon cycling in seagrass beds – the effects of anthropogenic nutrient enrichment’. Seagrasses are amazing at storing carbon in their sediments for a long time, but they are also threatened by human activities such as nutrient pollution. Our understanding of the effects of nutrient pollution on seagrass beds is largely limited to the extremes – we know how excessive nutrients lead to the overgrowth of algae that smother seagrass.
However, we have limited knowledge about the effects of moderate nutrient levels in seemingly healthy seagrass beds and their carbon balance. Carbon cycling is the result of many complex processes that either capture or release carbon; thus, I will use stable isotope techniques to track the movement of carbon through all of those processes.
Tell me about your experience working with your supervisors Professor Bradley Eyre and Professor Joanne Oakes.
Both are leading experts in their field of coastal biogeochemistry and stable isotopes, and their research fits perfectly to my interests. The Centre for Coastal Biogeochemistry (Brad’s research group) consists of many great fellow PhD students and researchers, and we explore a broad range of research topics within the group. When I started, I didn’t think it would be important to have a female researcher as a primary supervisor, but it’s actually been really valuable for me to have Jo as a role model as a woman in academia, in addition to her scientific supervision. She also gets nerdy about seagrass like me, so what more can I ask for in a mentor!
How have you found the experience so far?
Starting my PhD was a bit chaotic, as I arrived two weeks before the 2022 Lismore flood. Luckily, my house didn’t get flooded, but it was a sad situation to arrive in. The seagrass around here also seemed to take a hit from the floods, so we chose our field site in Moreton Bay near Brisbane. One of the highlights is definitely doing field work there. What an epic place! Swimming in the vast seagrass beds in the bay brings me a lot of joy.
Tell me about your fascination with seagrass and seaweed.
They are amazingly productive and provide food and shelter for a lot of marine life. Seagrass capture nutrients and prevent erosion, keeping our coastal waters clean. Both are sinks of carbon and they convert millions of tonnes of CO2 to carbon that can be stored for thousands of years. These are all services which we benefit from in some way, whether it is locally like fisheries, or globally like climate change mitigation. They’re also accessible to everyone, just step into the water in a sheltered bay or rocky shore, and they’re there.
What are your hopes for the future for these plants?
I hope that people and governments recognise these habitats as fundamental for healthy coastlines. Many seagrass and seaweed habitats have declined over the last few decades, and we need to bring them back through restoration efforts, reduction in polluted waters, and by halting climate change and warming oceans. The healthier we make these habitats, the more capable they become at providing us services back.
You’re a long way from home. What do you miss about Norway? And what do you like about Australia?
Norway and Australia have in common that there is a lot of nature for every inhabitant, which I really appreciate and value. I definitely miss my family and friends the most, and after being overseas for a lot of the last decade, I was actually planning on staying close to home for my PhD. But I absolutely love it here, and quality of life is so good here, just like in Norway.
Did you know...
Social Work Professor Mark Hughes has been appointed as the new Editor-in-Chief of the prestigious Australasian Journal on Ageing (AJA). This is the first time one of our academics has been appointed to this role.
John Palencia, a third-year nursing student at Southern Cross, has been selected for the highly competitive 2023 Regional Youth Taskforce for the North Coast Region.
Jaye Purea, Events Officer, Office of Vice President (Operations)
Sue McIntyre, Administrative Assistant, Southern Cross Analytical Research Services
Keely Elliott, Workplace Relations Specialist, HR Services
Aida Hurem, Lecturer, Faculty of Education
Sam McLeod, Administrative Assistant, Governance Services