Dear Friends of Aquinas,
Some months ago, I had the privilege of visiting my old school and to share with the students and staff my reminiscences of the ‘old days’. Things were certainly different then in a world without mobile phones, the internet and constant sources of communication. The experience made me think about how some things constantly change and yet other aspects of life, such as the value of relationships, friendships, and positive personal qualities, are just as important as they ever were.
As a young teacher, I had to do a test to get a license to operate a 16mm film projector so that I could show my Science students the latest educational films from the education department. It would take weeks to order the film, and then a courier from the local government office would pick up and deliver the films on set days each week. Too bad if you hadn’t the opportunity to show the film!
Fast forward another ten years or so, and I was fascinated by the invention of the Fax machine. It may well be nearly redundant these days, but what a marvel it was in its day. It was almost beyond imagination that someone could send a hard copy of a letter, or a detailed map, across the world in a matter of seconds, when only a century before it would have taken months to deliver by sea.
The dynamics of passing on information, teaching and learning, have certainly changed, over the years, but, I suspect that the positive learning environment that I experienced with my past students would be just as essential today, regardless of the means of communication.
Today’s students come to Aquinas, fully exposed to the world of social media, access to information at a moment’s notice and, for many, a plethora of choices when it comes to considering a career. All the same, as with their forebears, it is what they will learn along the way during their studies that will stand them in good stead as they focus on their goals for the future.
There are many good reasons to go to a university. The academic Adrian Furnham[i], started out his studies as an Economics’ student but he subsequently made a life as a university lecturer in a very different field. He has lots of valuable comments to make about what a student learns along the path of obtaining a qualification. Sure, there is a lot of knowledge acquired and many skills developed, but even more important is the acquiring of the ability to think, to analyse critically and the building of self-confidence, independence and responsibility. He believes that students who take on their studies seriously, develop a respect for the power of learning and effective communication.
For most students, the coming to university and to a residential College, such as Aquinas, is the first step to independence; it is a challenging transition that is made easier by the support that is available from fellow students and staff. For some, this is a period of searching, and they may even choose to change courses.
The key requirements to doing well at university seem to be self-evident, namely: a commitment to completing the assignments effectively – coupled with a good study routine, the sensible management of time, a proper diet and exercise regime, an inquisitive mind, where the answers to questions and issues are sought, and the diligent use of the resources that are provided, particularly tutors and the help of class mates.
In recent months, it has been delightful to receive news of our graduates who have found a place in the workforce – a couple are now teachers in the Iron Triangle in northern South Australia, one is nursing in Broken Hill, one has a place with a Commerce firm in Adelaide, one an engineer in Melbourne, another is now a paramedic in New South Wales, and others have gone on to higher studies. The development of these young people, from their time as Freshers to when they headed off to their future careers, was quite remarkable and rewarding to see. They had used their experiences at university and here at Aquinas, to forge a way forward, to aim high[ii], and to follow their passions.
Professional speaker, Robyn Moore[iii], spoke to Aquinas students during O-Week and encouraged them to be positive in their attitude about their future. She talked to the students about seizing their personal responsibility, and taking ownership of their attitudes and behaviour. She spoke about the bi-products of leadership, integrity and authenticity, when young people have goals and positive values.
Hopefully this first semester has been very productive for our students, as they continue to develop and fine-tune their abilities, and discover their vocations and passions in life.
Br Paul Gilchrist
[i] Furnham, A https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sideways-view/201403/why-go-university March 17 2014 (accessed 15/3/17)