The impact of the humanities and social sciences in fostering progressive educational and social change has been boosted, with up to $400,000 made available by donors to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
The generous gifts will support a variety of initiatives during the next five-years, providing access to outreach programs in local schools as well as scholarships for prospective and current students from diverse backgrounds.
The Nelson Meers Foundation’s leadership support of the Widening Participation project has assisted the Department of English long-term outreach program to inspire passionate students from local low SES (Socioeconomic Status) schools to study the subject.
Up to $150,000 will be committed by the Foundation over three-years to develop on-campus programs to frame and communicate literary classics from Shakespeare to modern favourites, including To Kill a Mockingbird and Puberty Blues.
University of Sydney alumna Samantha Meers, Executive Director of the Nelson Meers Foundation and INSPIRED campaign board member, has enthusiastically thrown her experience and support behind the project.
“The project is a fabulous example of the way in which the University proactively seeks to build productive and sustainable relationships with the community” said Samantha.
A number of factors played an important part in the Nelson Meers Foundation’s support of the program including the foundation’s philosophical commitment to supporting pathways for children for tertiary education, and the fact that the department designed the Widening Participation Program in consultation with the communications and the schools in which is is being delivered. The foundation was also keen to encourage people to appreciate the arts from a young age.
“The teaching staff in the Department are the most wonderful advocates for the joy of immersing yourself in the humanities!”
“The fact that the teaching staff involved from the Department were so committed to and inspired by the project – and we knew this was the key for student engagement. So for us, it was a project that delivered a broad range of outcomes” said Samantha.
The generous contributions also include an anonymous donation of $150,000 establishing the Equity Scholarships in History, targeting prospective students wanting to study a major in history.
Isabella Barrett and Sophie White were the inaugural recipients of the scholarships, each receiving an award valued at $5,000 per annum, tenable for up to 3 years study.
Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) student Isabella Barrett who is specialising in History in the program, says this scholarship has helped her to settle in her first semester of study. “If I didn’t have this scholarship, I would have struggled to find a balance between paid work and getting settled into my studies. It is also helping me with the move from the country to the city”, says Isabella.
On top of this, the scholarship has helped her to enthusiastically engage in her passion for debating. “I’m not top notch, but I’m determined to improve. It really helps me to be involved in extra-curricular activities.”
For second-year Bachelor of Arts student Sophie White, the scholarship has helped her to focus on her passion for history and to consider teaching the subject in future.
“I loved ancient history in school and I started learning about historical fiction, including Philippa Gregory who got me interested in the middle-ages and early-modern periods. I hope to teach this as well,” says Sophie.
The scholarship proved to be an added blessing and encouragement for her, after her handbag was stolen before semester started. The stress of accessing course related materials and dealing with other expenses was made easier thanks to the award.
2015 also saw the establishment of the Gwen & David Moore Aboriginal Scholarship, thanks to a visionary testamentary trust worth over $850,000 in support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students studying a major in Archaeology, Anthropology, History, or Sociology, with a focus on Aboriginal Heritage and Australian Pre-History. The Trust will operate in perpetuity to support Aboriginal students and has committed up to $100,000 to support the inaugural scholarship recipient Kirsty Mitchell through her undergraduate degree.
Both Gwen and David had a passion for Australian pre-history and Indigenous Education. They met in 1950 when they were both working on location filming ‘Bitter-Springs’, which told the story of an Australian pioneer family moving to the outback in 1900 and learning, after some conflict, how to work alongside local Aboriginal people. David later worked as an editor for The Australian Encyclopaedia, and he acquired an interest and love of Australian pre-history, anthropology and indigenous Australians. Consequently, David enrolled at the University of Sydney in a Diploma of Anthropology and after graduation he was appointed as the Curator of Anthropology at the Australian Museum. In this role, David organised many events and exhibitions displaying indigenous art and artefacts. He also carried out excavations in the Hunter Valley, but primarily his focus was in the region of the Torres Strait where he was concerned with evidence of the first entry into Australia by the Aboriginal people. David’s work in Australian pre-history inspired Gwen and David to establish through their will, the Gwen & David Moore Aboriginal Scholarship.
Being able to study full-time has now become a reality for Bachelor of Arts student Kirsty Mitchell, who values the scholarship to realise her passion in Archaeology and volunteer work.
“I am going to start volunteering at the Australia Museum in their Indigenous unit so I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to volunteer otherwise I would’ve had to continue working” says Kirsty.
Kirsty also believes the inaugural recipient of the scholarship believes the support from the trust will prove beneficial for the indigenous culture.
“Not many people are doing indigenous heritage and I think it is important especially to preserve our history. At this vital time as elders are getting older and no one is there is record anything, I think it is important that young indigenous people go on that path so this scholarship is good for that.”
Kirsty would like to pursue in future studies in Postgraduate Law and develop a leadership role with indigenous communities.
“I am interested in Law to complement the Bachelors degree so I can focus on being a diplomat between indigenous communities and government because there is a need for local people to liaise with government organisations because if you don’t have someone there, things can get stopped and opportunities get lost because there is no one there to communicate.”
“Each one of these gifts will enable us to do amazing things for our students” says Professor Duncan Ivison, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
“The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Sydney is regarded, not simply as a field-leader in these disciplines, but as a pro-active partner in driving change.”
“The gifts from the donors further demonstrate the confidence that alumni and the wider community have in the effectiveness of the humanities and social sciences as a partner in promoting positive social and educational transformations”