Ellen O’Brien interviews Simon Evans, the new Pro Vice-Chancellor of the College of ASSC.
While students are busy learning new things, feeding their curiosity, working on assignments and making friends, it’s easy to forget all the hard work that staff from across the university put into making the university experience the best it can be.
Last week, Professor Simon Evans, the Pro Vice-Chancellor of the ASSC College, joined us to discuss his hopes for La Trobe University, his opinions on how technology can support education, and to share advice for current students.
During our meeting, Professor Evans discussed a few of his priorities for his time as Pro Vice-Chancellor of the ASSC College. He explained:
We want to give the best possible education to our students in a way that’s relevant for them as people who are entering the workplace, and as people with an understanding of how their skills and knowledge fit into a broader context. We’re striving for a rich university education, not a narrow technical education.”
He says other priorities include encouraging excellence in research across all facilities and building a positive culture for both students and researchers:
We want to create a culture in which people feel supported and want to innovate, to do things better, to bring new ideas to the table. We want students to feel that their time at La Trobe is part of an academic community, that they’re enriched by their classes and teachers, but also by each other.
Professor Evans also hopes to continue encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration, drawing researchers from different faculties together to tackle big problems like climate change. As he says:
So many of the important questions facing our society are at the interface of technology and society. Tackling climate change is not something that scientists or engineers can do alone. We need to understand its impact on society, on human relations, and how climate is part of the lived experience of farmers and people in the cities.”
He also identified technology as one of the main areas where humanists and technologists can work together to create a better society:
Over the last few decades, new technology has arrived and we’ve adapted to its social implications. We’ve become a society that’s always switched on, a society that’s always craving the next dopamine hit from likes on Facebook or Instagram. [Humanities scholars] can help us to shape technology and understand our society so that technological interventions are targeted at the real needs of human societies.
He also discussed the advantages of using new technology to benefit students, and the importance of avoiding the downfalls it can sometimes bring. He observes:
Now, we flip classrooms, we blend teaching and learning… We use recorded videos to help students navigate readings before class, we use online chatrooms to enable students to ask questions and get feedback… We can’t use the technology to strip out and reduce the scope of the engagement with the material or the students…It is our obligation to make sure we use it a pedagogically sophisticated way so that it supports learning rather than distracts from it.“
Towards the end of our interview, Professor Evans reflected on his own time studying at university and offered advice to students looking to make the most of their time at university.
I took a very conventional set of subjects… Physics, chemistry, computer science and maths. I didn’t step outside of my comfort zone. I didn’t add in something new and different. I didn’t add in any philosophy, literature, linguistics or a language, even though all of those subjects were interesting to me.
So that’s my first piece of advice: think outside the box when choosing subjects. Don’t just go for the conventional, cookie cutter, typical subjects. Think about the myriad opportunities available to you. Think about studying a language with your business degree. Or about studying IT. Because the skills that you will potentially acquire are relevant, enriching and they broaden and contextualise what you study.
He also urged students to get involved with the different clubs and communities at university. He said, “The connections that you make outside the classroom are just as important and long-lived as those you make inside of them.”
Finally, he encouraged students to “Give the university experience all the energy that you can give. You get out of it what you put in. It’s a cliché, I know. But there’s so much potential for building life long connections and networks by investing in that.”
The ASSC faculty is very lucky to have such a dedicated and passionate Pro Vice-Chancellor working to make La Trobe an even more interesting and inspiring home.
To take Simon’s advice on maximising your university experience, check out the La Trobe University Students website to explore what’s on offer to you for Study Resources, Help & Support, and Career Opportunities.