In September 2019, thirteen ACU staff participated in the ACU Study Tour to the United States. The study tour was sponsored and led by Professor Zlatko Skrbis, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education and Innovation) and directed by Professor Meg Stuart, Acting Director of the Learning and Teaching Centre. Each Faculty was represented with the following staff in attendance: Dr Maggie Nolan (FEA), Dr Paul Chandler (FEA), Professor Michele Haynes (FEA), Associate Professor Anthony Whitty (FHS), Associate Professor Gert-Jan Pepping (FHS), Dr Rett Quinney (FHS), Dr Bhavani Sridharan (FLB), Dr Md Akhtaruzzaman (FLB), Dr Janine Luttick (FTP), Dr Richard Colledge (FTP) and Dr Antonia Pizzey (FTP).
The aim of the study tour was to enhance knowledge, understanding and experience in the areas of innovation in learning and teaching; to explore strategies for student engagement, success and retention, focusing on online, diverse and international students; and to develop collaborative relationships between study tour participants and with the partner organisations. It is anticipated that further opportunities for partnership may arise as a result of the university visits.
The delegation visited two universities: DePaul University in Chicago and Boston College in Boston. ACU has prior partnerships with both universities and the study tour provided a welcome opportunity to reconnect with international colleagues. Strong connections were forged at each university based on common aims and challenges as faith-based tertiary educators, and discussions quickly turned to possibilities for future collaborations within Nursing, Education, Theology, Business and Exercise Science programs.
Our first stop was DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. DePaul, the largest Catholic university in America, is founded in the Vincentian charism and lives its mission through a focus on teaching and service. Their determined focus to educate first generation college students, especially those from the diverse cultural and ethnic groups in the metropolitan area of Chicago was evident in all their work. DePaul run a very successful Global Engagement Program and are known for their community engagement – a focus of the recent joint conference with ACU on the Melbourne campus. We learned of their student support mechanisms, their programs for professional development of staff and viewed innovations in the online teaching space. We viewed some of their innovative teaching spaces, including CineSpace Chicago Film Studies for their digital media and film productions students (worth Googling if you have five minutes).
The second visit was to Boston College, just outside Boston in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Boston College, drawing on the foundations of the Jesuit tradition, focuses on teaching and research with utility in the service of others. Their campus was a great contrast to the inner-city campus of DePaul and we were in awe of their grounds and sporting facilities. Lunch with the staff from the College of Nursing provided opportunities for far-reaching discussions and the beginning of some potential collaborations. Professor Betty Leask previously from La Trobe is currently visiting Boston College and spoke with us at length about professional development of academic staff at Boston College and internationally.
The delegation also managed to fit in sightseeing in Chicago where we enjoyed the incredible architecture, a small group attended an afternoon baseball game before we met for a group dinner. The weather was less favourable for sightseeing in Boston and with less time available, although some of the group enjoyed an afternoon walk on the Freedom Train.
The study tour provided a rare opportunity for colleagues from different faculties and campuses to come together and explore ways of working together for the benefit of students at ACU.