Community engagement emphasised at UNE Graduation

Published 07 October 2011

ingridIn her Occasional Address during a graduation ceremony at the University of New England today, Professor Ingrid Moses spoke about the importance of productive, cooperative activity within the community (the development of ‘social capital’) in the educational experience.

Professor Moses (pictured here), the distinguished educationist who was UNE’s Vice-Chancellor from mid-1997 to January 2006, said: “There are many opportunities to acquire social capital at the University of New England. The residential colleges with their communal living and their multitude of sporting, academic, cultural and social activities, lead to very strong networks and bonding. The alumni functions of the different colleges bear vivid witness to the enduring strength of these networks.”

She went on to talk about the role of volunteering in that process. “Again, in the residential colleges – but also in the various general student societies – there are numerous opportunities to volunteer in sporting and cultural competitions, in college events, and in fundraising,” she said. “And external students will have opportunities in their work, family, and civic lives.”

Professor Moses mentioned UNE’s New England Award program as one element in the University’s provisions for encouraging its students to be active participants in society. This program, initiated by Professor Moses about eight years ago and developed by Dr Robyn Muldoon, encourages students to engage in – and reflect on – a range of extra-curricular activities, including community work. After the ceremony, Professor Moses met and congratulated UNE’s latest recipient of the New England Award – Michael Griffith, who graduated today with a Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning (First Class Honours) degree.

Today’s ceremony also saw the presentation of special awards to two people whose careers exemplify the development of “social capital” as well as pre-eminence in their chosen fields of activity. In introducing Professor Gisela Kaplan, who received the honorary degree of Doctor of the University (Science), the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jim Barber, outlined her long career in research and teaching at UNE in the fields of education, sociology and political science, and animal behaviour. “As a teacher, she has given supererogatory assistance – especially to her many postgraduate students,” Professor Barber said. One of those students, Nicole Austin, graduated today as a Doctor of Philosophy cum laude with a project supervised by Professor Kaplan and Professor Lesley Rogers.

Professor Barber said that Professor Kaplan was “among the most prominent researchers in avian behaviour, her work having been recognised to be at the cutting edge of the discipline”. He mentioned her many scholarly publications, including her authoritative studies of the behaviour of Australian magpies and tawny frogmouths. He also spoke about her important work in communicating her discoveries and insights in the popular media.

The other award recipient was Dr Arthur Rickards OAM, who was honoured with the title of Distinguished Graduate Fellow of the University. “This year marks the retirement of Dr Rickards as Managing Director of the Agricultural Business Research Institute, and more than 40 years in a distinguished career,” said the Chancellor, the Hon. Richard Torbay. “It is an appropriate time to recognise Dr Rickards as a distinguished graduate of the University.”

“Dr Rickards has been a leading agribusiness innovator,” the Chancellor said. “Among his achievements are developing financial benchmarking of farm businesses, establishing Australia’s National Beef Recording Scheme, introducing electronic selling of livestock, international commercialisation of a genetic evaluation system, and developing the infrastructure for international marketing of quality-assured Australian cattle genetics.

“He was honoured with the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1996 for his service to primary industry as foundation Director of the Agricultural Business Research Institute.”

The Chancellor went on to mention Dr Rickards’s “outstanding service to the community” – including “helping to establish the New England Conservatorium of Music and subsequently becoming Chair of that organisation”. “This has had a significant impact on the arts and cultural opportunities available in Armidale, and extends access to music to students throughout the region,” he said.

During today’s ceremony the Chancellor presented testamurs to 143 people graduating from academic programs within UNE’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Tomorrow (Saturday 8 October), during the ceremony for the Faculty of The Professions, he will present about 330 new UNE graduates with their testamurs.