This year, our Education & Student Life Department has welcomed a new academic learning model in which Heads of Faculty have been appointed. Each Faculty Head is responsible for leading a team of Senior Academic Tutors and Academic Tutors, some of whom are senior students of St Andrew’s College. In addition to overseeing the delivery of subject tutorials, academic mentoring sessions and academic skills workshops – staples of the College’s Academic Program – they will also contribute to the College’s innovative new courses (such as the Certificate of Cross-Disciplinary Problem Solving) and develop academic policy that will ensure the ongoing improvement of the College’s educational offerings. We look forward to introducing each of them to our community.
Meet Dr Chris Roche, our Head of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
What is your official full title?
Dr Christopher Roche MA, MBBS, MRCS
What drew you to the position as a Faculty Head; what most interests you?
I have always been interested in teaching and mentoring, which is an integral part of surgical work – to train the next generation. I am also very aware that I would not have achieved anything without the help of my own mentors over the years, so I am very keen to pass this on by mentoring and assisting others. I knew about the Sydney colleges as a special environment for learning from a former degree (before I converted from the Arts to Medicine in 2008). I recognised that they are amazing places which foster academic achievement, learning and intellectual collegiality – something I was privileged to become involved in when St Andrew’s College offered me a position as a tutor in 2019, when I embarked on a PhD in cardiac surgery at USyd and UTS. Since then, I have become more involved, taking on the Head of Faculty position for STEM subjects this academic year.
What are you hoping to achieve as Head of Faculty?
As the first Head of STEM overseeing the transition to the faculty model which the College undertook this year, I wish to establish the new faculty experience and embed it into the way College works. Specifically, I want to foster independence in my team of specialist tutors (I am fortunate enough to have a teaching team including the very highest-achieving of former students and postgraduates) so that their excellence is allowed to flourish and be passed on to the College undergraduate students they teach in my faculty.
I want to offer the students themselves a world-class academic programme, which goes well above that offered by most educational institutions, for example, by rolling out a student-centred tutorial programme based on flexibility and near-instant access to some of the best minds and tutors in the country. Beyond tutoring, my vision is for students to become accustomed to accessible, comprehensive and compassionate mentoring tailored to their needs. From the highest achievers to the students who are struggling for one reason or another, I would like every STEM student to feel that they are in an intellectual milieu, centred around their aspirations and where everyone is welcome.
What has been a highlight so far in this role?
I have been privileged to work with an excellent, well-functioning team. One highlight has been to receive formal student feedback in which current students repeatedly expressed appreciation for the flexibility of the tutorial programme and the high standard of the tutoring which is freely available, even to be arranged last minute, tailored to their learning needs.
What are some of your recent professional achievements and goals?
I am in the final year of a PhD in cardiac surgery (bioengineering) and there have been many achievements such as publications as part of this. These have always been a team effort – no one can achieve anything on their own without other people’s help. As an extension of my St Andrew’s mentoring, I set up a mentoring website (underdogmentoring.com) with the aim of broadening out access to mentors and giving something back to disadvantaged students beyond the College. My goals are to do whatever I am currently doing as well as I can: whether that be in the family sphere (being a good dad or husband), in my Head of Faculty role at St Andrew’s (earning my keep as a worthwhile member of the community), or as a surgeon in pursuit of the research goal of regenerating damaged heart muscle – if I can juggle these three and do well in each one – that will be my goal for the moment!