Published on 26 April 2012
26 April 2012
A University of the Sunshine Coast academic who helped establish a raft of popular degrees and highly-successful scientific research groups has received an honorary award.
Professor Rod Simpson, who started at USC as Dean of the Faculty of Science in 2001, became an Emeritus Professor at the University’s Graduation ceremony on 4 April.
The Palmwoods retiree was one of three former academics to receive the award only presented once previously, to founding USC Vice-Chancellor Paul Thomas AM last year. The other recipients are Professor Pam Dyer of Pelican Waters and Professor Andrew Hede of Buderim.
Professor Simpson, an international expert on environmental and public health, air pollution and urban development, said a career highlight was starting new teaching programs at USC in response to a dual need in the community.
“People wanted to do these professional degrees locally and local businesses wanted to hire graduates from their own community,” he said.
“For example, students were going to Brisbane to do courses and placements in engineering or education and never coming back. Firms up here never had the chance to employ them.”
The new USC programs included nursing, education, nutrition and dietetics, occupational therapy, paramedic sciences, exercise physiology and engineering.
“The new degrees virtually doubled the size of the university,” Professor Simpson said. “The faculty had 700 students in 2001 and more than 4,000 when I retired last year.”
USC Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Hill, who presented the award, said Professor Simpson had led the expansion of the faculty until it became the Faculty of Science, Health and Education in 2005.
“Under Rod’s leadership, the faculty attracted a large growth in student numbers and research outputs for the University,” Professor Hill said.
“He has been instrumental in setting up strong faculty research programs in forestry, aquaculture and regional sustainability in collaboration with organisations including CSIRO.”
Professor Simpson, whose own research started in 1968, said the University’s genecology and sustainability groups had vital roles to play locally.
“USC is in a critical position to advise a region like the Sunshine Coast,” he said. “It’s important that our scientists and staff have input into how this community grows.
“The provision of health care, for example, does not just mean looking after sick people. It’s about promoting healthy policies and lifestyles. We don’t have to sacrifice human needs for environmental needs, they go hand in hand.”
Dr Simpson said he was proud to become an emeritus professor, which means he retains the title of “professor” even though he has retired.
— Julie Schomberg