Southern Cross Matters
From the Vice-Chancellor
Universities are enormously special places where people from diverse backgrounds, talents, interests and perspectives come together to learn with and from each other. At Southern Cross University, we are drawn together to work towards the fulfilment of our purpose of changing lives through revolutionary learning and research with real impact. We do this on the bedrock of values including excellence, boldness, caring, trust and ownership, and we see our youth and relatively small size as an institution as enablers rather than impediments.
Each edition of Southern Cross Matters, more than anything else, evinces these core ideas and ideals, bringing them to life through authentic stories about significant accomplishments by members of our university community – students and staff alike. More than this, Southern Cross Matters can only ever represent a sample of the life of the University. It is not intended as an almanac of each month’s achievements. Thus, as we celebrate the Psychology Honours Conference that is directly reported on in this edition, we can be mindful that in recent weeks we have also hosted a number of other nationally significant events, including in the domain of Natural Products and Law & Justice. There is just so much activity taking place across our campuses, and this reminds us of the dynamism and diversity of our culture, capabilities and the growing esteem in which we are held as an institution.
You will find in this edition of Southern Cross Matters, as you do in each edition, stories that speak to our character as an institution that are very relatable to people from within the community who are not directly connected with the University. As always, I encourage you to share the information you glean in the pages that follow broadly – they often make for great conversation starters, and explaining to our community who we are, what we do and why we do it is something that everyone at Southern Cross University has within their gift.
I trust you very much enjoy this month’s edition and look forward to your feedback about themes or topics you’d like to see reflected in future.
World rankings success reflects the revolutionary teaching we provide and the research we do for a better world
While we don’t do what we do for rankings, the recent results of the Times Higher Education (THE) World University rankings reflect that we are delivering on the University’s strategy.
Southern Cross – already among the top 200 Young Universities in the world – leapt 80 places in the recent release of THE.
The result mirrors a strong upward tick with the QS rankings earlier this year.
Within the overall result, Southern Cross is up an impressive 139 places in THE’s measurement pillar for Teaching rank, and 76 places in Research quality, where it now sits at 667 globally.
“I’m very proud that Southern Cross’s strategy, and the efforts of our people to deliver it, are being reflected in measures such as these rankings,” said Vice-Chancellor Professor Tyrone Carlin.
“Constant improvement in teaching quality is at the heart of our innovative Southern Cross Model, which is also reflecting in our student success and retention data.”
“And for a small, young, regional university, we’re making a significant contribution in terms of teaching and research citations from other researchers from world-class institutions.”
Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Academic Quality), Professor Mary Spongberg, said there was deep gratitude to everyone who was driving the success of the Research Impact Clusters.
“The Clusters will enhance the significant impact our academic researchers are already making in investigating numerous factors in today’s environment, such as marine plastics pollution, pesticide run-off near coastal agriculture and damage to breeding corals,” she said.
More about THE here.
Honorary degree for Shelley Odewahn at the final graduation ceremony of 2023
There were smiles all round for more than 220 graduates who stepped out of their mortarboards and robes and into a long weekend following the final graduation ceremonies of the year at the Northern Rivers last month.
Whitebrook Theatre was filled with proud family members and friends who cheered on their loved ones as they crossed the stage.
The event showcased the research strength of our regional campuses, with 16 HDR students graduating.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Academic Quality) Professor Mary Spongberg congratulated the graduands on their outstanding achievement.
“It is inspiring to see so many higher degree researchers graduate at our Northern Rivers campus,” she said.
“From the influences of legal frameworks domestically and abroad to renewable energy resources and the chemistry of Australian Tea tree, our graduates are producing research of local and global importance.”
The graduates were championed by the academic procession, with more than 60 staff members taking part.
But it was not just academic staff who were highlighted at the ceremonies. Former professional staff member Shelley Odewahn received an Honorary Bachelor of Community Welfare for distinguished achievement during her more than two decades of service at Southern Cross University.
“I am quite humbled to be awarded this honorary degree,” she said. “I worked alongside and in support of Southern Cross students in many different roles and, to be honest, this was the greatest honour.
“I worked across almost all administrative areas at Southern Cross during my 23 years, but mostly within Student Services and Student Support. I spent a lot of time in Admissions and Enrolments before I retrained and moved to Equity & Inclusion.
“I’ve always been passionate about creating a space that empowers and supports students with disability. It is incredibly rewarding to work alongside these students, to amplify their voices and to be inspired by their successes. Students with disability are the experts; they have a valuable lived experience that can enrich the learning environment for all.
“To be able to play a part in helping students to achieve their potential when the cards were stacked against them was an immense privilege.”
After her remarkable years of service at Southern Cross, Shelley continues to share her expertise and assist students with disability at a metropolitan university.
Deep partnership at the heart of Southern Cross digital currency pilot with the Reserve Bank
In an Australian-first, Southern Cross, in collaboration with ANZ, has wrapped-up a pilot in which students used central bank digital currency (CBDC) – known as eAUD – at campus vendors over an eight-week period.
The pilot was delivered by researchers and professional staff, examining the use of CBDC to solve a range of issues including safeguarding public trust in money, efficiency in the delivery of currency, and resilience and innovation in payment systems.
Southern Cross prides itself on its ability to partner within and beyond our institution.
Both of these formed the hallmark of this research project by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) as it weighs up digital alternatives to physical bank notes and coins.
Richard Jones, Director of Financial Services and project lead, said: “During the catastrophic floods of February and March last year, the NSW Northern Rivers region was without power for several days. This meant bank ATMs and vendors’ EFTPOS were unusable.
“The aim of this pilot was to demonstrate how an organisation – like a university – would be able to step in and provide immediate financial support through the disbursement of CBDC in emergency situations.”
“This pilot has been the result of an incredible partnership between the banking industry, local on-campus suppliers, and both the professional and research arms of Southern Cross University.”
Students were given smart cards, each pre-loaded with eAUD to spend at selected vendors at the University’s Gold Coast and Northern Rivers campuses.
In conjunction with the pilot, Southern Cross conducted a research study, led by Professor Darshana Sedera, Professor of Information Systems.
“We looked at the technology platforms supporting CBDCs, the trust that customers and vendors have on this new technology, spending patterns, and the overall satisfaction of using such a new product. We observed in our research how the technology acceptance and innovation adoption are a socio-technical process,” Professor Sedera said.
Ayodhya Wathuge, a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Business, Law and Arts, said she was thrilled to be testing aspects of this innovative payment technology.
“It was very easy to use eAUD to buy goods and services. As seamless as paying using my bank card or mobile phone, but with the certainty that, if and when the internet is down, then transactions are still possible,” Ayodhya said.
The participating vendors were Quick Brown Fox and SCU Gym and Pool (Northern Rivers campus) and SCU Health Clinic and Green Room Café (Gold Coast campus).
The Reserve Bank has issued a report saying more research is required and that “serious policy consideration of issuing a CBDC in Australia is still some years away”.
PhD candidate Meryl Larkin maps the sex life of endangered coral, giving hope of clawing it back from the path to extinction
At Southern Cross, we aim to provide an outstanding environment for researcher development, so a recent paper led by one of our PhD candidates was especially exciting.
For the first time, scientists have mapped the reproductive strategies and life cycle of an endangered coral species, offering hope it can be clawed back from the path to extinction.
The purple cauliflower soft coral, Dendronephthya australis, is endemic to south-eastern Australia, with the largest populations historically found in the Port Stephens estuary in New South Wales. It is one of the 100 priority species on the Federal Government’s Threatened Species Strategy.
Not only is the future of the coral at stake – having experienced the complete loss of aggregations (clusters of colonies) in the estuary over the past three years and other locations of the NSW coast – it serves as vital habitat for other species, including the Endangered White’s seahorse and baby snapper.
A groundbreaking study published recently – ‘A glimmer of hope for an Endangered temperate soft coral: the first observations of reproductive strategies and early life cycle of Dendronephthya australis’ – has researchers excited these discoveries may help pave the way towards securing a future for the species.
Lead researcher, PhD candidate Meryl Larkin, said the paper was a welcome turnaround from her earlier work, which showed how badly the species had been decimated by shifts in sediment and La Niña flood events.
“Our discoveries open new doors for conservation strategies, including potential restoration efforts,” she said. “It has given us real hope we can keep this coral off the extinction list.”
The sex life of corals can be a complicated thing – differing both across various species and sometimes within the same genus. Reproduction can be both sexual and asexual. Parents can be male and female, or hermaphroditic.
Prior to this research, the reproductive strategies of Dendronephthya australis had not been observed or documented.
Meryl’s PhD project is jointly funded and supervised by Southern Cross and the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Ongoing work for this project has been supported with funding from the NSW Environmental Trust.
Unsurprisingly, Meryl’s work attracted plenty of attention. Analysis of resulting media – including a piece in The Conversation – shows the story reached an audience of more than 260,000.
Biggest ever Psychology Honours Conference a credit to students and staff alike
Psychology Honours students from Southern Cross have been turning their bright minds to subjects as diverse as GP burnout, the restorative impact of connecting with nature, and women’s self-esteem and body satisfaction in Australian gyms.
More than 80 students presented their Honours thesis recently as part of the 19th annual University Psychology Honours Conference.
Faculty of Health Executive Dean, Professor Julie Jomeen, said the conference program was brimming with fresh ideas and thinking from the next crop of Honours graduates.
“The quality of the conference and the amount of work that goes into bringing it together is really tangible evidence of our University’s commitment to providing immersive, real-world experience for our students,” Professor Jomeen said. “It is a source of great pride and excitement for our staff, and a wonderful opportunity for our students as they grow their research skills.”
Psychology Honours Co-ordinator Dr Eric Brymer led the effort to deliver the conference, which was held at the Gold Coast and Coffs Harbour campuses. An online stream of the presentations was also made available.
"From creating better workplaces to the motivation of thrill-seeking behaviour, our Psychology Honours students are tackling an incredible range of subjects,” he said. “Along the way, they are learning the research skills they will need once they graduate, together with those all-important skills in communication, presentation and professional exchange."
Here’s a sample of some of the tropics our students looked at:
‘Burnt out: An exploration of the job demands and resources effecting GP burn out and well-being post COVID-19’
Tyler Lloyd surveyed more than 130 GPs using a method that assessed whether they were experiencing burnout across a range of factors. He found 86% of respondents were experiencing at least moderate burnout in one or more of the areas, while 34% reported high level burnout on at least one of the scales. Importantly, Tyler’s work also showed people with higher levels of self-compassion are more resilient to burnout. Self-compassion is something that can be taught and supported through processes such as debriefing, mindfulness and journaling.
How does nature-based physical activity enhance psychological well-being? A phenomenological investigation
Tina Prassos, who chose Coffs Harbour campus because of the region’s beauty, interviewed people about the impact of being in natural places. She coded and modelled the responses across three themes: perceptual richness; danger and discomfort, and unification, and considered the psychological well-being benefits of each. The benefits to those interviewed included reduced stress, progression and self-improvement, and improved relationships with others.
‘If I don’t lift no one will love me! Assessing perceptions of self-esteem and body satisfaction among women in Australian gyms’
Sahar Moktarpour interviewed a series of long-term female gym members about their relationship with the gym, self-esteem and body satisfaction. Her research uncovered a series of themes and connections between women’s experiences of belonging to a gym, as well as changes in their attitudes to themselves and their bodies over the duration of their membership. Sahar found numerous things gyms could do to improve the experience of female members, including women-only areas and trainers, how the equipment is configured, and even the style of posters on display.
Values in action
Occupational Therapy student Georgie Collis will be running in the New York Marathon to raise funds for type-1 diabetes
“This cause is really close to my heart. As someone who has had diabetes since the age of one, I’ve never known life without it. I’ve fundraised every year in Australia as part of the Walk for a Cure, but to be invited to run as part of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Team at a major event like the New York Marathon, to raise money towards finding a cure, is a dream come for me.”
“Having diabetes means there’s a bit of extra effort and preparation before a race."
“I’ve never let diabetes stop me, whether that’s studying Occupational Therapy (OT) with an Indigenous Health major at Southern Cross to one day working in a person-centred healthcare role, to running in the New York Marathon to encourage other people that this condition shouldn’t stop you from chasing your dreams.”
We own it.
Find out more, and support Georgie here.
Did you know...
We value the strength that diversity brings, and support of the festival of lights is an opportunity to engage with our Indian students and diaspora during this important community celebration.
The events will be run by the Federation of Indian Communities (Brisbane) and the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (Gold Coast).
Further information will be provided soon across our social media channels. Stay tuned!
Julien Tempone-Wiltshire, Lecturer - Faculty of Health
Rick Delboux, Senior Engineer - Data/Software - Technology Services
Caroline Thompson, Manager, Recruitment and Engagement Technologies - Technology Services
Natalie Campbell, System Analyst - Technology Services