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Community Connections

One Good Thing: 2020 Reflections

As we head into the last few days of this year, forged in flame and fear – is there anyone who finds themselves unchanged?

This has been a time of pivoting onto unexplored paths, creating new ways, leaping to meet challenges and jumping into the path of things in 2020 – it’s been a year of doing, amid fear and uncertainty.

For many of us though, the year has also been limned with light.

When staying physically apart is an act of love, that’s when people find other ways to come together.

When old means don’t work, new ways step into the light.

And resilience – whatever that may look like for each of us – is formed in the face of adversity.

Here are some members of the University of Canberra family, sharing their One Good Thing for 2020 (in many cases, “one of …”).

Professor Paddy Nixon
Vice-Chancellor and President

In the midst of 2020 I’ve met so many new people, reconnected to many more, and found renewed gratitude for simple experiences – but my one good thing for 2020 is the unexpected warmth and generosity of the welcome I’ve received in Canberra.

Dr Tahmina Rashid
Associate Professor in Global Studies, Faculty of Arts and Design

It’s been a tough year, but I’m grateful for the realisations it has brought.

I usually visit my parents in Pakistan every year, but last year I had surgery and couldn’t go – I thought I would just go this year, but of course that hasn’t been possible. I was feeling very low about that, because my father’s dementia has progressed, and he may not be able to recognise me when I am able to see him again.

But then I realised that my father is in otherwise good health and well taken care of – he lives with my brother, and my sisters are nearby. He is beloved, and not in pain. And even if he doesn’t recognise me when I can see him again, I have such happy family memories with him, and that is enough.

I have more than enough, more than I would wish for – a happy family life, good friends. My daughter graduated from UC this year, and she already has a job. Now, what I want is greater meaning, to reach out and help people wherever I can. My father always said, be like a post office – you’re blessed by God, and so you reach out and distribute those blessings where you can.

I’ve had glimpses of these realisations before, but the isolation that COVID-19 necessitated really made them clear. It has been a way to declutter not only in terms of things I don’t need anymore, but ways of thinking that no longer serve me.

I also found that when we moved to a virtual campus, the connection with students was different. I’ve found a lot of meaning in reaching out – and being reached out to – and relationships have grown beyond classes and subjects, as we connect as humans.

Professor Geoff Crisp
Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President Academic

My personal highlights this year have been the birth of a new grandson and the marriage of one of my sons.

I was not able to be physically present for my son’s wedding due to COVID-19 restrictions on travel and assembly, but I was there on Zoom. While this year has been particularly challenging for everyone, attending my son’s wedding that way made me reflect on how resilient we are as people – we found a solution to a problem that enabled people to still connect and be present for important life events. I felt like I was a real part of the ceremony, even though I was at a distance.

What was also remarkable about the wedding was the fact that my daughter-in-law’s family is from California, and while they were not able to come to Australia, they were also present on Zoom for the live event. We celebrated the marriage ceremony online and it brought us all together despite the difficult circumstances.

So, my takeaway from 2020 is that people are imaginative, resilient and will find a solution to any problem – no matter how difficult.

Mike Ferguson
Director, Global Student Recruitment

Despite its challenges, 2020 will always be fondly remembered as we welcomed our daughter, Amaia, who was born in June at Calvary Hospital.

Amaia is absolutely gorgeous and is certainly keeping us very busy! The birth went very smoothly (despite expectations, I didn’t faint!) and we were fortunate to have a couple of UC Midwifery students (undertaking their practical placements) on hand to assist – both of whom were fantastic and a credit to the University.

While we’re still waiting for the opportunity to introduce Amaia to family in Peru and the UK, the days are filled with numerous Skype calls, and when we are able to have a family reunion, it will be well worth the wait!

Glenn Mowbray
Commercial Project Lead, Campus Estate

Throughout most of my time at UC, I have been active on the Board of Directors of theTertiary Education Facilities Management Association (TEFMA), the preeminent sector association that brings together institutions, facilities-related practices and thought leaders across Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

This year brought the realisation that we were excelling in one of our primary objectives – harnessing the power of our networks throughout the tumultuous year of fires, earthquakes, hailstorms, floods, COVID-19, statewide power outages, major critical incidents and other disastrous events – to provide support, guidance and partnerships to deliver resilient, resourceful and innovative solutions to help our members get through the toughest of times.

Facilities, planning and project teams are often working away quietly in the background providing services we regularly take for granted, and this year they have pivoted to ensure safety of visitors to our campuses and delivered hybrid facilities to permit continuation of teaching and research objectives all while undergoing a significant head cull throughout the professional services sector.

These teams and their partners deserve our recognition, congratulations and thanks.

Mikaela Dockrill
Student Transition and Retention Coordinator, Student Equity, Participation and Welfare

There are currently 98 UC Student Mentors in the UC Thrive program I coordinate – and they are an incredible group. They represent the diversity of UC, coming from every cultural background, studying in almost every course – and all so passionately committed to supporting their peers and building this sense of community.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to isolate and move into a virtual campus this year, it didn’t diminish that passion in any way. We worked together to reach out and support other students who were experiencing isolation or needed any type of support.

Check-ins were tailored to individual students’ needs, and the Student Mentors conducted follow-ups and were able to connect students to support services if necessary. We’ve received amazing feedback from the students we helped as well.

When we were able to start delivering on-campus activities again, the Mentors were so excited.

None of our connection has been lost over this year, because of their commitment, and the amazing sense of closeness and community we enjoy. Working with them has truly been one of the best things I have experienced this year!

Dr Michael Walsh
Associate Professor in Social Science, Faculty of Business, Government and Law

‘Now divine air! Now is his soul ravished! Is it not strange that sheeps’ guts should hale souls out of men’s bodies?’ – Much Ado About Nothing

This line from Shakespeare – thought to have been first performed more than 400 years ago – captures the most grateful thing that for me endures as significant during this uncanny year.

Music, a thing we seldom pay that much attention to in our modern times, has become so routine and conveniently woven into our everyday existence, that we almost don’t realise how astounding it is. While it continues to still surprise me, because of its miraculous qualities, this year has thrown into sharp relief the fundamental role music plays in my life in helping me to relax, contemplate work and assist in centring me during a time that appears hell-bent on throwing everyone and everything off balance.

In this respect, Shakespeare’s witticism resonates with me despite its age because it captures how music’s qualities – irrespective of whether we make it, listen to it, or even dance to it – can move listeners not merely physically, but in a way that helps preserve our psyches.

Geetha Krishnakumar
Manager, Inclusion and Engagement

This may not be something unique, but my unexpected realisation was that location doesn't matter – we can still do great work and support our students to be successful no matter where we are.

We may need to think carefully about how we harness this ability in the future to benefit our community, but I think it was great to develop the skills and knowledge to believe that this is possible.

A big shout-out to colleagues and students – so many of whom taught me so many things, so we could overcome the little bumps along the way. In the end, I now know how to work in multiple, varied ways and I think we'll all benefit from these learnings in the long run!

Professor Michelle Lincoln
Executive Dean, Faculty of Health

I don’t know if I can pinpoint just one good thing from this year – there have been quite a few.

I think 2020 has seen us all prove that we can be agile, and nimble, and step up to cope with seismic change. It may have worn us all out a bit, but we’ve done it! And I think it would be great if we can carry that belief in ourselves forward, into whatever we face from now.

This year, we were necessarily inward-focused, so next year, I’m looking forward to focusing more externally with our many partners.

From a work perspective, I saw colleagues really step up this year, in terms of taking care of each other. Checking in, reaching out, making that extra effort to keep in contact. Making sure no one was isolated. I don’t think we’re conscious enough of that in more “normal” times.

I’m very thankful to be living in Canberra, which is full of beautiful spaces – so that even when we had to work from home, it was possible to be outdoors and still be safe.

And this year, we got a puppy! Dennis is six months old, was on #petsofUC on Twitter, and makes regular appearances in my online meetings. We were able to get him through the puppy stage because we could be at home so much with him – so, definitely one of my “good things” for this year!

Dr Siew Imm Tan
Lecturer, Faculty of Education

This certainly seems to be a good time to take stock of all the help that I have received in developing the online version of 10436 Critical Reasoning and Academic Literacy this year.

Jennifer Smith and Peter Fock spent a lot of time sharing their expertise in education technology with me. I started out with little knowledge but thanks to their patience and generosity, we have a Canvas site that I am very proud of. Jennifer’s pedagogical insights have been tremendously helpful!

Because a significant part of the unit is self-paced, the Faculty was able to implement a late offering of this unit in Semester Two. That’s agility in the time of COVID-19!

Judy Currier’s patience in negotiating with publishers meant that I did not have to compromise with textbooks. Her help checking terms of use for materials sourced from the Internet allowed me to include e-resources that are of high quality.

I am, quite simply, humbled by such collegiality.

This will be the last UnCover article for the year – we’d like to thank you for clicking through the pages with us throughout 2020, and we look forward to walking with you in the new year.

Till then, we wish you time spent with your tribe, easy breathing, and well-earned rest and celebration.

Words by Suzanne Lazaroo, photos: supplied

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