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Chief Scientist visits SCU

NSW Chief Scientist Mary O'Kane.
NSW Chief Scientist Mary O'Kane. supplied

THE NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, Professor Mary O'Kane, is the guest of honour at the Southern Cross University Vice Chancellor's Awards for Excellence gala function being held at the Lismore campus tonight.

The MC is ABC North Coast Breakfast presenter, Justine Frazier.

The Southern Cross University VC Awards for Excellence, now in their second year, recognise excellence by researchers, academics and professional staff across the University's key areas of teaching and learning, research, performance, and community engagement.

Professor O'Kane acknowledged the critical role the University played in instilling excellence in its students by highlighting outstanding contributions made by the students' lecturers and researchers.

"I encourage the University to build on this excellence and embrace the notion of 'innovation education'," she said.

Professor O'Kane said innovation education was one way to address Australia's productivity growth problem and improve the country's capacity for innovation.

"In essence, we are good at teaching and generating knowledge but not good at translating knowledge into wealth, turning it into skills, products and services," she said.

Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Lee welcomed Professor O'Kane to the University to help acknowledge and celebrate excellence.

"The University strives to develop a high performance culture in an environment which encourages collaboration and the free exchange of ideas," he said.

Professor O'Kane was appointed NSW's first Chief Scientist and Engineer in 2008. Among her responsibilities are to lift the quality and level of scientific activity in NSW, and champion the state's future workforce needs across science, engineering and innovation.

Southern Cross University is offering a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) from 2013 to equip students with the relevant skills and knowledge to provide a range of professional services in civil engineering, and in particular, those skills of most relevance in regional and rural communities. The degree is being launched at the Northern Rivers Science and Engineering Challenge on June 7.

Professor O'Kane is an advocate for a more innovative education and research and development system - what she calls a 'knowledge generation framework' - where students of all ages are taught generic skills to help foster a culture of entrepreneurialism in our country.

"By fixing the problems of tomorrow and building the companies, leaders, products of our economic future, this means working out the skills, capabilities and attitudes that we need to teach today," said the state's top scientist.

Awards will be given for staff contributions in five categories at the Southern Cross University VC Awards for Excellence in 2011:

• VC Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning
• VC Award for Excellence in Research
• VC Award for Excellence in Early and Mid Career Researcher
• VC Award for Professional Staff Performance
• VC Award for Community Engagement

The finalists in each category follow.

FINALISTS

VC Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in 2011
Dr David Lloyd and Dr Kristin den Exter from the School of Environment, Science & Engineering
For sustained innovative approaches to authentic learning in support of a trans-disciplinary discourse in environmental science and management.

Dr Kathryn Taffs from the School of Environment, Science & Engineering
For creating a pathway to a profession, using community engagement to motivate, inspire and prepare students for careers in environmental science.

The Work Integrated Learning Team from the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management: Andrea Boyle, Julia Caldicott, Joanne Cooper, Vashti Stival, Maree Walo, Leanne Baker, Sarah Biersteker, Rebecca Brown, Sharen Nisbet, and Dr Matthew Lamont
For pioneering and sustaining student-centred, transformative, work-enriched experiential learning opportunities in tourism and hospitality management.

Raina Mason, Tim Comber and Joanne Phythian from the Southern Cross Business School
For successfully reaching out and empowering current and future female students to pursue Information Technology studies.

VC Award for Excellence in Research in 2011
Professor Anne Graham in the Centre for Children and Young People in the School of Education

Professor Nerilee Hing in the Centre for Gambling Education and Research in the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management

Dr Scott Johnston, Associate Professor in the Southern Cross GeoScience special research centre

VC Award for Excellence for Early and Mid Career Researcher in 2011
Dr Isaac Santos in the Centre for Coastal Biogeochemistry Research

Dr Joanne Oakes in the Centre for Coastal Biogeochemistry Research

Associate Professor Anja Scheffers in the Southern Cross GeoScience special research centre

VC Award for Professional Staff Performance in 2011
Dr Alison King from the National Marine Science Centre

Danielle Scott from Financial and Business Services

Zoe Platt from the Office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor

Margie Wallin from the University Library (Coffs Harbour campus)

Yolanta Higgins from HR Services

VC Award for Community Engagement in 2011
The finalists are recipients of the inaugural 2011 Excellence in Community Engagement Awards.

Academic Impact: Professor Baden Offord, School of Arts and Social Sciences
For activating citizenship in regional high school students by inspiring their commitment to human rights, social justice and freedom of inquiry through a student led human rights forum.

Leadership: Dr Judith Wilks in the School of Education
For Coffs Harbour's Young Ambassadors for Design: Promoting confidence, active civics and citizenship, and raising the higher education participation aspirations of young people from backgrounds of disadvantage.

Community Engaged Learning: Dr Kathryn Taffs in the School of Environment, Science & Engineering
For a collaborative community partnership providing inspirational student learning experiences that promote successful careers in wetland management.

Community Engaged Research: Dr Frances Doran in the School of Health and Human Sciences.
For collaborative research with Lismore and District Women's Health Centre to evaluate a community based pregnancy and postnatal group and establish a similar group with Aboriginal women.

BIO FOR PROFESSOR MARY O'KANE
Professor Mary O'Kane is the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer and also Executive Chairman of Mary O'Kane & Associates Pty Ltd, a Sydney-based company providing strategic advice to governments, universities and the private sector.

She is also Chair of the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy, Chair of the Development Gateway and the Development Gateway International, Chair of the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Spatial Information, and a director of PSMA Ltd, the Capital Markets CRC and Business Events Sydney.

Professor O'Kane was Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Adelaide from 1996-2001 and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) from 1994-96. Before that, she was Dean of the Faculty of Information Sciences and Engineering at the University of Canberra. She is a former member of the Australian Research Council, the Co-operative Research Centres (CRC) Committee, the board of FH Faulding & Co Ltd and the board of the CSIRO. She is Vice President of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering and a Fellow of Engineers Australia.

Topics:  education science southern cross university



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