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United States visit

Wednesday, 08 June 2011

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I have just returned after almost three weeks in the USA where I attended the International Association of University Presidents’ triennial meeting in New York and then visited universities in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington (DC), and El Paso.

The universities I visited were diverse in terms of their histories; local, national and international profiles; and, the communities they were established to serve. However, a common theme at each is their goal, especially in undergraduate programs, to establish a curriculum for particular disciplines and/or professional areas, which is greatly enhanced by the extra-curricular activities of their students.

These extra activities include volunteering, student leadership and civic engagement, and projects which were identified by students, as individuals or as groups, which were then undertaken to lead to positive outcomes for their communities.

I was impressed also by universities that were both striving to further enhance their international research profile, while at the same time increasing accessibility and support for students, particularly in the locale of their university.

At the meeting in New York I was struck by the argument that universities no longer have to decide between on-campus or online approaches to teaching and learning, but instead have to work out what is the right balance for a particular university with respect to the two approaches.

I was struck also by the rhetorical question put to the delegates, concerning the claim that youngsters these days do not have long attention spans. The question was: “...have you ever seen a young person playing a video game who is striving to move onto the next level?”

There is certainly no doubting the intensity or focus of a young person’s attention in that situation.

It is the case that the new technologies for communication seem to be everywhere; on escalators, in lifts, in trains and in buses, in restaurants and in the street.  Young people seem to be very skilled at using these new technologies, especially in comparison to an older person such as myself.

I have returned to Perth encouraged that during our first 20 years as a University, ECU has established an approach in terms of teaching, learning, research and service which would be well regarded in the USA.

I look forward to sharing my insights more fulsomely with our University community over the next several weeks.

It is nice to be back!

Professor Kerry O. Cox
Vice-Chancellor
vc@ecu.edu.au

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