14 January 2017
A time to celebrate anniversaries – 20 for USC, 30 for U3A and 50 for the Sunshine Coast. And a good opportunity to reflect on U3A and its contributions to our community.
The U3A/USC partnership has been in place since the university opened in 1996. It has been a successful relationship for both parties and I’d like to expand very briefly on a few aspects of why it’s been a productive partnership from the USC perspective.
- USC’s mission is about engaging with our community. For a regional university to be successful it has to be loved, wanted and valued by its community. You can’t achieve that via newspaper advertisements or slick marketing. You have to be connected to the people and U3A is an important part of our connectivity. There are approximately 2,500 U3A members out there, all over the Sunshine Coast and beyond. They talk about the university, what is happening and how it’s growing – you’re great ambassadors. And, of course, you’re education ambassadors. U3A members were into lifelong learning before the term became trendy, so you’re trendsetters and role models. And after becoming a grandparent for the first time in 2015, I’ve spent more time thinking about the education of the next generations. Having U3A as a capstone educational experience sends out a powerful message to the younger generation.
- Another facet of U3A is that there are members here on campus all the time. Universities want “sticky campuses” – i.e. they want the campus to be a place where students prefer to be. Students who spend more time around campus are likely to have a more positive experience and get better grades. An important component of the sticky campus is having a critical mass of people. Humans are social animals and, for the majority of university students, the more the merrier. So, while it may sound a bit silly, just having U3A people wandering about, sitting in the coffee shops or having a quiet time in the library is good for USC.
- Other Vice-Chancellors often question me about the U3A partnership and why we’d be allocating precious space resources to an external group. In explaining it, I usually mention “lab rats”. Members who have participated in the health program simulations will know what I’m talking about, but I doubt they describe themselves in my vocabulary. U3A members volunteer to role-play in undergraduate practicum classes. And given many U3A members have had careers in the health professions, they’re very good at it. It’s become a very distinctive part of how we teach at USC.
- And finally – a bit of philosophy. Educators talk about lifelong learning. We know that the majority of our graduates will not stay in the initial career their degree prepared them for. They will re-train. Even if they don’t change careers, they will constantly upgrade their qualifications.
So, congratulations on your 30 years of service to the Sunshine Coast community and I look forward to continuing the partnership.