Championing independent minds

A message from Executive Dean of Education and Arts Professor Mary Ryan: ACU's Western Civilisation program continues to attract students in the pursuit of objective reasoning.

“To be a Ramsay scholar is to be curious – perpetually. To be a Ramsay scholar, you must have grit. To be a Ramsay scholar, you must be willing to be proven wrong. You must be ready to be a pioneer.” Emily Nix, Ramsay scholar

I am immensely proud to share that ACU’s Western Civilisation program continues to take exciting strides in 2023. Uniquely positioned, the Ramsay program offers students a diverse and comprehensive grounding in the major works of western literature, philosophy, art, politics, religion, history, and science, providing a deep appreciation of the ways in which these traditions have helped to shape the modern world.

In January, while 10 of our scholars were participating in an archaeological excavation at Tel Lachish in Israel, Western Civilisation hosted a three-day summer school for 59 Year 11 and 12 students at North Sydney. And on 1 March, we welcomed 34 new Ramsay scholars to the program. The Western Civilisation program also commenced the Alethia Speaker Series in May, boasting two distinguished guest speakers.

Building on this great start to the year, the new Master of Liberal Arts (Western Civilisation) degree will welcome its first intake of students in Semester 2, 2023. This latest offering, aimed at potential students who wish to pursue the study of western civilisation at a postgraduate level, compliments the exceptionally popular Bachelor of Arts (Western Civilisation) and the more recent ‘vertical double’ degrees; Bachelor of Arts (Western Civilisation)/Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts (Western Civilisation)/Master of Teaching (Secondary).

This year has also seen the expansion of our teaching staff. Three exceptional academics, Associate Professor Sarah Irving-Stonebraker, Associate Professor Johanna Harris, and Dr Anna Corrias have joined ACU's Ramsay program, bringing a new breadth of expertise.

Associate Professor Harris, whose teaching and research focus on the literature, religion, and politics of the early modern period, with particular interest in letters and devotional writing, said she was delighted to join ACU’s renowned Western Civilisation program.

“It is exciting for me to help establish what I see as a profound opportunity for university students to immerse themselves in the works of literature, history, philosophy, theology, and art that have shaped the western intellectual tradition,” she said.

Since its inception in 2020, ACU's Western Civilisation program has been attracting students from all over Australia, offering a comprehensive and well-rounded education. The small, focused group-style learning continues to be a major drawcard, with the program becoming quite a family affair.

This year, three sets of siblings are undertaking a Western Civilisation course, allured by the open inquiry approach of the degrees, which foster creative, thoughtful, and skilled minds, in the exploration of western traditions that have helped to shape our world.

Agnes, 19, is undertaking a combined arts and law degree, while her sister Millie Jee, 17, is completing a Bachelor of Arts degree. Meanwhile, close friends Domenica, 21, and Catherine, 20, are both studying a Bachelor of Arts, just as their respective younger siblings, Olivia, 19, and Brigid, 18, are following in their sisters' footsteps as first year students - Oliva studying arts and law, and Brigid arts.

“The lecturers are all very open-minded and the students are as well. So, the discourse has always been very free-thinking, very critical, and you’re never led to accept just one agenda or ideology,” Domenica said.

The attractiveness of Western Civilisation’s suite of courses is also the result of a philanthropic partnership with ACU and the Ramsay Centre worth more than $50 million over eight years. The generous partnership offers an opportunity to provide scholarships to elite students and engage leading academics from around the world.

Professor Mary Ryan

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