“Never let a serious crisis go to waste”

A message from the Associate Vice-Chancellor (Qld) Professor Jim Nyland:

I am pleased to report that ACU Brisbane is in the fortunate position of welcoming hundreds of new students and thousands of returning students to campus this week. They join our ACU Brisbane staff, including our essential services team who have worked selflessly to ensure the McAuley at Banyo campus has remained open during the past six months, as well as all other academic and professional staff who returned to campus on 1 July. I am grateful to our entire academic community who have worked tirelessly to further develop and support their courses both online and on-campus, giving our students the choice to continue much of their studies at McAuley at Banyo or from a distance.

A number of our key stakeholders are also beginning to re-engage with our Brisbane campus, including the Queensland Government Education Minister who joins a group of local principals in our Gaudete Centre later this week, and our strategic partners involved with the Veterans Transition Program who I had the privilege of welcoming face-to-face here on campus earlier this month.

This first week of Semester 2 in the third decade of the 21st Century is proving to be a time of great contradictions. The future seems set to be one of social crisis which at the same time is an educational crisis. In such a time, one is reminded by Rahm Emanuel’s oft-repeated quote:

“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” 

Amid the carnage of the worldwide health pandemic Coronavirus (Covid-19), which has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, is the paradox that we have vastly more education and learning than our forebears could ever have possibly imagined. Formal and informal learning opportunities have exploded into possibilities via the digital revolution. Theoretically and almost practically it is possible for educators to communicate with every living human being on the planet. This juxtaposition presents new opportunities as well as threats for higher learning that are expanded upon in my recent op-ed piece in Campus Review.

Socially, there is an ongoing sense of solidarity in the face of the current crisis. “We are all in this together” is a sentiment that continues to be widely desired and shared across our academic community and beyond. One example of the importance of creating opportunity through adversity is the opening of the Maryamana Hospital in Erbil-Iraq that took place this week. This much-needed health facility was the vision of Bishop Warda, Chaldean Bishop of Erbil-Iraq, who was a frequent visitor to the ACU Brisbane campus (when borders allowed) where the Iraq Scholarship Program was formed. Saveen and Ban Oghana, two recipients of this program and now alumni of the Faculty of Health Sciences, have leading roles in the new Maryamana hospital, located in one of the most dangerous places on earth – higher learning at its very best!

Hope through opportunity is a definitive part of ACU’s new Vision Statement. There is hope available to us in this current crisis that we will surely shall find some scientific and medical solutions which work; this is within our capacity and resources. There is also hope in the fact that the pandemic is a spotlight which illuminates the key social and educational wicked issues that face us, that have shaped the real meaning of this crisis and that continue to shape what higher learning should and can be.

Professor Jim Nyland
Associate Vice-Chancellor Qld

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