The St Andrew’s College community was privileged to hear an engaging lecture delivered by Associate Professor Rufus Black, the current Master of Ormond College in Melbourne, as the final event of the Life of Mind Week series. Drawing upon his immense experience as an educator and advisor, Rufus discussed ‘The Role of the College in the 21st Century Australian University’. The lecture was well-received, and the Kinross-Mackie Chapel was filled with current residents, staff and guests, including the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney Dr Michael Spence, Chair of Council Charlie Taylor, College Principal Wayne Erickson, former Governor and Chancellor Dame Marie Bashir and former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Liz Broderick.
Among the topics touched on by Rufus included the history and the relationship between St Andrew’s and Ormond, as well as the unique and diverse educational model that influenced these colleges (namely the ‘fusion’ of learning styles of Scottish and Oxbridge). Rufus argued that the synthesis of the two systems could offer a model of great value to higher education. One theme Rufus spoke of within the model was the value of peer-based and personalised student learning; he believed that colleges are institutions where “ideas-centered interpersonal interactions” can be fostered, rather than embracing the lecture-based passive learning style offered commonly by universities. Moreover, he placed emphasis on the value of learning through active college communities and highlighted the values of students cultivating leadership skills through student governance at college.
The post-lecture conversation which ensued between students is a testament to the potency of Rufus’ vision of colleges in the 21st Century. Sally Judson (fr 2016), believes that Andrew’s already provides opportunities for peer-learning. For example, she said that “there’s always someone with an interesting and new innovative project or technology they’re off to test, or stories to tell after a trip away or a new job. Personally, I have learnt a lot about ideas from other people in subject areas I would never looked at in the degree I am studying”. Sally believes that a learning in this peer-driven approach promotes a “sense of collaboration and synthesis of different ways of thinking and knowledge”, and will enable students to foster skills crucial to cultivating an increasingly diverse and engaged college community.
Following a brief hiatus, staff, students and guests of the College gathered in the Reading Room for dinner and speeches from Charlie Taylor and Michael Spence in response to the lecture. Fresher Xavier Eales recounted that this dinner provided him with an opportunity to talk to various members and guests of College, including the Vice-Chancellor, Michael Spence. Xavier expressed that it was “encouraging to hear the personal thoughts of a leader who is so positive about the contribution a college can make in the modern university”.
In the spirit of fervent dialogue alluded to by Rufus, one final round of conversation was enjoyed in the Senior Common Room. All involved agreed that this was a night for the history books; one that will, on the College’s 300th Anniversary, be read fondly.
Photos from the night can be viewed at our Facebook page.
- Minami Takahashi