March 2016

It's wonderful to have our students back on campus, clearly enjoying themselves as they explore the opportunities available to them at La Trobe. Simpson Lawn was a hive of activity in O week, with our student Clubs and Societies working hard to recruit new members. From Pipe Bands to Quidditch, the choice on offer was extraordinary, and reminds us that student clubs and societies contribute so much to the vibrancy of life on campus.

 In that context, it is timely to update you all how we are progressing with enrolments for 2016.

Enrolments Update

It is encouraging to see that the hard work done last year to refresh our degree offerings has produced some very promising results for 2016. There has been strong interest in our new undergraduate courses in Criminology and Engineering (Honours), while new postgraduate coursework programs such as the Juris Doctor and Master of Business Analytics, both being offered in 2016 for the first time, have also been popular.

Our first major foray into wholly online undergraduate provision has been a spectacular success – the Bachelor of Food and Nutrition, offered in partnership with Open Universities Australia, has received many more applications than originally projected, and illustrates the power of digital technology to bring a high quality education to students at scale. More degrees are being developed in this mode for launch later this year.

Overall, we are tracking well against the load targets set for this year, though much hard work remains. Thank you to all staff for their hard work in recruiting and welcoming new students over the last few months. 

On The Couch

To coincide with the new academic year, I recently sat down with Catherine Garrett from the Media & Communications team to discuss La Trobe's focus and priorities for 2016.

I invite you to view this message here.   

Transforming our Campuses

On their return from the Christmas break students will have noticed a number of construction and refurbishment projects under way across our regional and Melbourne campuses.

Melbourne Campus – the new Science Drive bus stop is now up and running (though work is continuing) and represents the first in a series of projects (collectively known as the Western Gateway Project) being undertaken along the western corridor of this campus.

Work on the new bus stop coincides with the launch of a pilot of a high frequency shuttle bus between the campus and Reservoir station, designed to reduce journey times between the campus and the CBD. It also reduces rail journey times from the Bendigo campus to Bundoora. State Transport Minister (and alumnus) Jacinta Allan joined us to celebrate the arrival of this much needed addition to public transport options for the Melbourne campus.

Please consider using the new service, details of which can be found here, instead of using your car to get to the Melbourne Campus – we have to establish a strong case for public funding of the service beyond the pilot phase.

The bus stop will be finished in the middle of the year.  This will be followed by an upgrade of the Thomas Cherry Forecourt and the refurbishment of Level 1 of the Thomas Cherry Building. Beyond that, further stages of the Western Gateway Project will include the revitalisation of Thomas Cherry Courtyard and the associated retail precinct in the Agora West, in 2017. Staff and students will be consulted on all these developments.

The Eastern Campus Redevelopment includes the full refurbishment of the Donald Whitehead Building and partial refurbishments to the Martin and Social Sciences Buildings. We will be transforming these spaces into dynamic teaching and learning environments with modern workspaces for staff and students. With demolition work on the Donald Whitehead Building now complete, main refurbishment works are due to start very soon and will be finished early in 2017.

2017 will also see the re-opening of the Reid Building, which will house modern teaching and research laboratories for staff and students.

New and upgraded spaces that will benefit the University and local communities are also underway.

The refurbishment of the Union Hall will increase its capacity as an event space for University and community users, while the creation of the La Trobe Tan track will be an important sporting, social and free recreation destination for Melbourne's North. The first stages of the three kilometre walking and running track are currently under construction. The upgrade of the Sports Centre forecourt is due for completion in March and works on the Trendall Walk are planned for completion in July.

Ticketless parking using licence plate recognition technology is being introduced to the Melbourne Campus in 2016. Parking permits are now virtual and can be purchased quickly and easily through a new online system. This offers greater flexibility in relation to payment options and users can manage their permit online.

As of 11 April 2016 casual parkers will be able to use CellOPark Pay-As-You-Go parking. This is an easy alternative to parking meters, allowing users to pay for their parking by app, phone or online. Fees are charged by the minute so users pay only for the time they park. The current ticket machines will be replaced by ticketless Pay by Plate Parking Meters from the 11 April 2016. Users will simply enter their registration, select the period of parking required and pay by cash or credit card. There will be no need to return to the car to affix a paper ticket.

Bendigo Campus - the briefing stage of the Bendigo Campus Transformation Program is also underway. There will be a new Engineering Building, a new arrival plaza including a new Bus Interchange, a library upgrade, sporting field lighting, and a bike and sports training change facility.

Works are also under way at our Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton Campuses to provide improved facilities for growing numbers of students, and to improve staff work areas.

These important infrastructure projects are long overdue, and will help to improve the quality of life for everyone on our campuses. They are tangible evidence of the hard work that has gone into transforming the University over the last two years. My thanks go to Paul Farley and his I&O team for their high levels of professionalism, and for their willingness to adopt new fast track project methodologies to ensure that works are completed as quickly as possible. I'd also like to pay tribute to the patience of staff whose offices have had to be relocated to make way for these moves.

Leading the way on access

Warm congratulations to Dr Andrew Harvey and his team in the University's Access and Achievement Research Unit (AARU) who recently received $237,000 in funding from the Federal Government's Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme to support projects investigating how to re-engage low SES students who have withdrawn from university studies; the best ways to attract and support care leavers from low SES backgrounds; and how to improve the employability of students from low SES backgrounds.

The funding awarded to La Trobe represents ten per cent of the total national pool, and is a credit to Dr Harvey and the AARU's national standing. The team's work supports the development of programs to improve educational access and participation across the sector. 

La Trobe leads on national Safe Schools debate

You may have read recently of the controversy surrounding the sex education material for schools produced by researchers in our own Australian Research Centre in Sex Health and Society, especially as it relates to young LBGTI people.

This work has attracted much praise in Australia and internationally, but has also been the target of some unfair and ill-informed criticism in the media and elsewhere.

The work is solidly based in evidence showing that bullying and prejudice against LGBTI school students is a major contributor to poor mental health for these students. In many cases, these student have nowhere else to turn to but their school for advice and support.

Our researchers cannot ignore what they find – and they have done a great job of translating that research into practical assistance for these vulnerable communities.

The head of ARCSHS, Professor Jayne Lucke, is doing a terrific job of calmly setting out the evidence in an opinion piece running in The Age online today and reproduced on our own opinion website.   

Vale John Kingston 

One of the University's foundation staff members, chemist Professor John Kingston, passed away late last year.

Professor Kingston was born in Ireland and is remembered as a spirited and sociable colleague by those who knew him during his time at La Trobe. At its inception, the University's inorganic chemistry staff of seven included five people from Belfast and, as one might imagine, feisty discussions amongst the group were a feature of their work.

After leaving La Trobe in 1969, Professor Kingston went on to work at the University of Jordan and then at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, where his experience with La Trobe was invaluable in engaging Australian scientists to deliver programs across Asia. He had a distinguished career with UNESCO, eventually becoming the head of the regional office in New Delhi before he retired to southern France.

Professor Kingston is one of many great people to have spent time at La Trobe. You'll be hearing more about our people during the University's 50th anniversary celebrations next year.

Exhibiting Culture: Marilyn

La Trobe University's successful partnership with regional galleries continues to bear fruit.

As the exclusive higher education partner of the Bendigo Art Gallery and Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA), La Trobe is presenting Exhibiting Culture: Marilyn, a multi-disciplinary subject that will provide a unique learning experience for La Trobe students and the general public.

Exhibiting Culture: Marilyn runs alongside two blockbuster shows at the Bendigo Art Gallery and MAMA that examine the personal aspects, cinematic achievements and artistic interpretations of Hollywood's most iconic star, Marilyn Monroe.

In conjunction with the exhibitions' displays of artworks, photography, textiles and personal items, leading La Trobe scholars and industry experts will guide participants in an exploration of the Marilyn phenomenon through the lenses of history, politics, fashion, cinema, visual arts, psychology, gender relations and the law.

Members of the general public (and staff) are invited to attend and may register for either one or both weekends.

Partnership with Go Get

It's not often that Directors of Procurement make the news, but Andrew Peacock succeeded with a recent story in The Australian about our innovative partnership with the car sharing service, Go Get.

This is a really clever idea that will allow the University to sell off some of its car pool vehicles, while improving convenience and flexibility for staff. Students and the general public will also have access to the booking system; and we hope to reduce the number of cars needing to find a parking space on campus. So, a win for all members of the La Trobe community. The new system goes live in April.

Have a great March.

John