December 2016

Message from the Director; Staff Awards; Visual Arts Exhibitions; Comings and Goings; UON PREP; PD Retreat

Christmas Images

Message from the Director

2016 has been another enormously successful year for the Centre.

In the research space we obtained internal and external grants for research activities. The Centre received over $361,929 in external funding from the OLT, HEPP NPP, CEEHE, and NCSEHE.

A number of our staff were recognised for their excellence and commitment through a number of internal and external awards.  We also embraced the University’s Curious, Collaborative, Courageous, campaign with our Campus Conversations with Coffee. During the year we had a number of staff leaving or retiring; and a number or new staff joining the Centre.

It was a successful year for our enabling programs, with overall growth in student numbers of 10% across all our programs and campuses. The UON PREP suite of courses continues to thrive.

Overall there was a drop in ELICOS enrolment on both campuses in 2016. The Language Centre administered in excess of 2000 IELTS tests and over 170 families registered with the Homestay program and they accommodated 450 students in 2016.

Thank you to each and every one of you for your ongoing dedication and commitment to the Centre and our students.  You really do make a difference.  I wish you all a well-deserved break at Christmas, and look forward to catching up with you at the Christmas party on 16 December.

Seamus Fagan

To read the full end of year report that Seamus presented to the ELFSC Board recently, click here.",

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Excellence in Teaching and Learning - International Students

We are pleased to recognise Louise Pavey with the English Language and Foundation Studies Centre Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning – International Students in the category of approaches to teaching that influence, motivate and/or inspire students. Louise identified a problem some students had with their pronunciation and developed musical activities to enhance their pronunciation skills in a non-threatening environment. She refined the activities and greatly improved their pronunciation.  Louise’s work has a sound theoretical basis, she works collaboratively with staff in the Centre, and staff from Speech Pathology. She utilised feedback to continuously improve her offerings while sharing her work to much acclaim at a national level through a variety of conference and PD Fest presentations.

Vice - Chancellor's Award

Congratulations to Anne Burnett, the Language Centre’s Student Engagement Program Co-ordinator, who along with her colleagues from the Library have won the Academic Division Award for International Engagement for 2016 in the Team Award category for their Conversational English Program. (The team also won the Academic Division Award in the same category.) The members of the team are: Ms Rebecca Heath, Ms Anne Burnett, Mr David Probert, Ms Jacqui Harris, Ms Jane Neave, Ms Sarah Coleman, Ms Helen Robertson, Mr Benjamin Bourke, Ms Alison Edginton and Ms Shaista Poonawalla.

The "Conversational English Program" is a collaborative initiative between UON Library and ELFS. Members of two key units supporting international students recognised an opportunity to give a new vibrant student experience in developing conversational English skills in a neutral environment.

The Program is highly successful engaging both staff and students. The student spends one hour with the library staff member while they carry out their work and together they converse on undirected topics. This opportunity creates excitement for the students as they able to speak freely with a professional staff member; they share life experiences, culture and library information.

Anne has done amazing work in encouraging our Language Centre students to engage in a meaningful way with the University community as well as the Newcastle community. Anne is currently planning to roll out the Conversational English Program to staff in Student Central over the next few months.

The Vice-Chancellor's Awards ceremony is on Monday 5 December (5:30 - 7:30pm). More details here.

Academic Division Awards

A number of ELFSC staff and colleagues were recognised for their excellence at the Academic Division Awards and Recognition Ceremony on 10 November.

We would also like to congratulate our colleagues from the Centre for Teaching and Learning who provide amazing support to our students; Catherine Chinnery Doyle and Jenny Hyde who will also receive awards as well as Meg Vertigan who worked for the Language Centre for a number of years.

Academic Division Award for Teaching Excellence and Contribution to Student Learning (individual): Ms Jenny Hyde, Centre for Teaching and Learning.  Jenny has made a significant contribution to Ourimbah students' learning in her role as Mathematics Learning Adviser with Learning Development, Centre for Teaching and Learning. Starting in 2009 at the Ourimbah Campus, Jenny has established and delivered a range of teaching programs and resources for numeracy support, targeting the unique needs of our Ourimbah cohorts.

Academic Division Award for Teaching Excellence and Contribution to Student Learning (team):Writing Drop In Team, Centre for Teaching and Learning (Dr Emma Joel, Ms Catherine Chinnery-Doyle, Ms Meg Vertigan, Mr Michael Kilmister, Ms Carol Martin, Ms Mata Taulilo, Ms Carol Lindell, Ms Amanda Clark). The successful implementation of the Peer-supported Writing Drop In (Writing Drop In) program is a courageous initiative in establishing a model of learning support that is unique to the Ourimbah Campus and our students' needs.

Service recognition

A number of ELFS staff also received awards for service to the University. Congratulations on your commitment to the University over many years: Mandy Finch (25 years), Teresa Balfour Brown, Catherine Burgess, Sharon Cooper, Sally-Anne Curzi, Troy Duncan and Tony Morison (all 15 years).

UON Academy Sessional Staff Excellence

Congratulations to Megan Sharp, one of our Open Foundation sessional teachers.  At the end of year UON Academic function on 3 November, Megan was announced as the runner up in the inaugural UON Academy Sessional Staff Excellence award.  Megan was nominated by a colleague for her exceptional contribution and innovative approach to teaching Social Enquiry this semester. Megan created a safe learning environment, developed new resources and adopted flexible teaching methods, which significantly increased the engagement of her students.

Megan Sharp

Study New South Wales 2016 International Student Community Engagement Awards

Recently , two of our engagement programs from our Sydney ELICOS Program were nominated as finalists (we had 2 out of the 3 finalists)for the Study New South Wales 2016 International Student Community Engagement Awards at the Opera House. Doris Ayala, our Student Experience Program Co-ordinator attended with 5 of our students, and The Welcome Dinner Project, which the Sydney Centre has been running since March, won the award. If you watch the video below , the main student who is interviewed in the YouTube clip, Tiantian Wang, is now a postgraduate  student but she was an ELICOS student when she got involved in the Community Engagement Program

The other program Communicate at Beehive Industries features more of our ELICOS students. This program runs every second Tuesday and as you can see from the YouTube clip below it is enormously successful

What is amazing about the Sydney  Student Experience Program is that the UON Sydney is mainly an international student campus and with hard work  and great perseverance,  Doris has managed to conduct a number of innovative community activities that ensures our students have meaningful engagements with the Australian community.  Congratulations Doris.

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Open Foundation Visual Arts Exhibitions and Scholarships


This year’s Ourimbah Art Exhibition was a special event for both students and staff of Foundation Studies and the broader University. In addition to celebrating the work of the 2016 Visual Art students, Dr Susan Ryman arranged to exhibit works of former students to honour the memory of our friend and colleague Dr Ibtihal Samarayi who passed away in December 2015. The exhibition included some of Dr Samarayi’s own art, kindly loaned for the occasion by her family Sadraddin, Mustafa and Deyar as well as a portrait of her by artist Greg Somers which was part of the ‘Multicultural Australia’ exhibit at Parliament House in 2013. During the evening guests went on a twilight tour of the campus to view additional works Ibtihal had donated to the University and to view the site of memorial seats and table to be erected near the lily pond where Ibtihal took her students to practice drawing.

A musical accompaniment by Adrian Bell, with one very special piece he composed to honour Ibtihal entitled The scorched carpet, was played during the evening and was very much appreciated by the audience. Associate Professor Seamus Fagan opened the event; Dr Ryman praised the work of the 2016 students; and Rosalie Bunn spoke about Dr Ibtiahl Samarayi’s contribution to the Open Foundation and Newstep programs since 2002. This was followed by the inaugural presentation of the Open Foundation Visual Art Scholarship by Sadraddin Ahmed Aziz, Ibtihal’s husband, to Lachlan Gittins, and a generous voucher provided by the Coop Bookshop went to Karen Stewart. It was a wonderful evening and time for family, friends and colleagues to reminisce and share stories about Ibtihal who is sadly missed by us all.


The students of Callaghan Open Foundation Visual Arts, 2016 were proud to present an exhibition of their work, which was held in the Fine Art Building on Friday 11 November and officially opened by A/Professor Seamus Fagan.

The evening event was a wonderful way to celebrate the significant achievements of the students by exhibiting their artwork for families, friends and staff to enjoy. Each student was responsible for displaying his or her work in a professional manner. For many of them, it was the first time their work had been on public display and they embraced the opportunity with enthusiasm.

A major part of the evening was the presentation of the inaugural Open Foundation Visual Art Scholarship. This award was established in honour of the late Dr Ibtihal Samarayi, a respected colleague who contributed significantly over many years to developing the artistic talents of her Open Foundation Visual Arts students, through encouragement and her dedication to teaching. We were honoured to have Dr Samarayi’s husband, Sadraddin Ahmed Aziz, attend and present the scholarship.

The scholarship acknowledges dedication and commitment to creative achievement in Open Foundation Visual Arts and was awarded to Ksenia Wells. Throughout the year, Ksenia developed a methodical, consistent and enthusiastic approach to research and establishing her emerging art practice. She also demonstrated fine drawing and painting techniques, which are the foundations of artmaking, along with a unique style of expressing ideas using her cultural heritage as a primary source of inspiration.

The University Co-op Bookshop generously donated an additional prize, which I was delighted to present to Raylea Weiss, for consistent and considered application to all tasks and projects.

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Comings and Goings - Welcome to Ben and farewell Helen

The Centre offered a warm welcome to Ben Doran at a function in the Language Centre on 21 November.  Ben is the new ELICOS Convenor at Callaghan.

After 3 ½ years in the Centre, Helen Cameron has moved on to a new role as Executive Officer to the DVC (Research and Innovation). Staff will know that Helen has played a pivotal role in getting our research profile recognised both within the University and nationally and also played a key role in ensuring that we won external and internal grants to the value of $1.5 million.  Helen contributed to our research effort in multiple ways; established our popular brown paper lunch seminars on both Callaghan and Ourimbah campuses, published a research newsletter ensuring we were all up-to-date with happening in the research area, and along with Anna Bennett has ensured that the Journal, International Studies in Widening Participation we run in partnership with CEEHE is published in a professional manner.

Helen has been very active researcher in her own right, being part of teams that brought in $600,000 worth of grants to the Centre.  Staff in the Centre engaged in research have greatly appreciated her assistance with literature reviews, grant applications, ethics approvals etc., Helen was always known to go well beyond the call of duty. We wish Helen well in her new role and look forward to opportunities to work together in the future.

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A full suite of courses for undergraduate and enabling students will be offered at Callaghan, Ourimbah and Port Macquarie during the period from 30 January through to 24 February. Overall there will be 50 courses offered involving 30 academic staff.

Based on feedback from student surveys, academic staff and faculty, several changes have been implemented for the 2017 offerings.  In consultation with Faculty staff, the UONPREP Physics Courses were reviewed to develop a more targeted approach to better support the transition in to the STEM Courses. A new suite of UONPREP physics courses have been designed. These courses will introduce students to the Physics needed for Medical Radiation Science, Health Sciences, Engineering and Science and Foundation Physics.

As a result, there will now be three physics courses offered to students.

  1. Physics for the Medical Radiation and Health Sciences (PREP9700)
  2. Foundations of Physics. (PREP9000)
  3. Undergraduate Physics for Engineers and Scientists (PREP9100)

There is also another online offering PREP1030 Maths for Science.-0

Enrolments for UON PREP courses open on 9 January 2017.

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“PD retreat – enabling online teaching, learning and support”

The halls of McMullin were unusually quiet for four days in November as 25 staff members engaged in online teaching, learning and support activities were involved in a professional development retreat.

The focus of the retreat was peer-review of courses in the Open Foundation Online program and we were lucky enough to secure the expertise of Professor Ian Solomonides—Victoria University’s PVC Learning Innovation and Quality— to guide us into the process on Day 1.

Days 2 and 3 saw groups of staff from professional, teaching and academic backgrounds review and reflect on their own and others’ online teaching, learning and support practices in a collegial, relaxed environment.

The final day of the retreat was a time for further reflection and an overview of retention initiatives and accessibility obligations. We were also treated to demonstrations in online teaching and learning innovations from our colleagues Amanda Morris (School of Nursing and Midwifery) and Dr Shamus Smith (School of Electrical Engineering and Computing).

Feedback from the peer review will be weaving its way into course design and program curriculum over the next year.

Many thanks to our Director, Seamus Fagan, for supporting the event, and our dedicated staff for making this event such a meaningful professional development opportunity.

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