Students in academic dress through trenchers in air

Graduation milestones and memories

Monday, December 14, 2015
Record number graduate; most with jointly conferred awards

Degree students at Avondale received the college of higher education’s first jointly conferred awards during a ceremony on Sunday for a record 361 graduands.

Jointly conferred awards a first

The Jointly Conferred Award Scheme is one of the key principles of Avondale’s memorandum of understanding with Charles Sturt University. “It marks a new milestone in our relationship,” says Professor Jane Fernandez, the Vice-President (Quality and Strategy) at Avondale. “It will also bring significant advantages to our graduates, who are the real winners here.”

The scheme sees a single qualification jointly conferred and accredited by both institutions. Graduates of a degree award will receive a testamur carrying the seals of both institutions. “The scheme provides tangible endorsement of the comparability of standards and awards between the two self-accrediting institutions,” says Fernandez. “Charles Sturt’s involvement reflects its strong mentoring capacity and its goodwill to the sector, principles from which we have benefitted.”

The scheme is a first for Charles Sturt. “We usually enter into joint conferrals with other universities only when we’ve shared teaching,” says Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Academic) Professor Toni Downes. “This is the first time we’ve entered into a joint degree with a non-university and when we’ve not conducted any teaching. In this case, we’re sharing and benchmarking our quality assurance mechanisms.”

Avondale’s progress in “seeking to improve its quality assurance mechanisms for the benefit of its students” has built trust with Charles Sturt, says Downes, who also sits as an external member on the Academic Board at Avondale.

The collaboration between the two institutions, which the memorandum is fostering, has reciprocal benefits. “Charles Sturt benefits by being part of a sector that is stronger,” says Downes, adding that the university also benefits directly “because our involvement in cross-institutional benchmarking raises the quality of our learning and teaching.”

Master of the College

Avondale honoured quality and commitment by awarding an honorary Master of the College to Alan Thrift during the graduation ceremony. His tenure as head of music, which began in 1957, spanned 34 years. Thrift expanded the choral repertoire into a broader range of styles and genres, producing highly accomplished, technically challenging performances. His choirs were broadcast on radio and television, toured every state of Australia and to New Zealand and the United States.

“Alan’s artistic and ministry connections in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and among Avondale alumni and his profiling of Avondale in Australia’s performing arts community make him a living legend,” says Dr Lyell Heise, Director of the Institute of Worship at Avondale. Thrift’s mentoring of young musicians is perhaps of more importance, adds Heise. “It’s due largely to his influence that many ministers, music professionals and teachers have made and continue to make their mark around the world.”

Record graduation class and more PhDs

A record 361 graduands were eligible to march during the ceremony, held in the Chan Shun Auditorium on the Lake Macquarie campus, December 13. Among them: Avondale’s third and fourth Doctor of Philosophy graduands—the first graduated in 2011; 37 others are enrolled in the degree. Harvey Henderson, originally from Malawi, explored how adolescents in Botswana understood the risk of their peers contracting HIV and AIDS and suggested strategies for reducing the spread of the disease. Medical practitioner Dr Elizabeth Ostring studied the theology of human work as found in the Genesis narrative compared with a co-creationist theology of human work. The ceremony also saw the graduation of Avondale’s first Master of Philosophy student, minister Pr Mark Turner.

And Avondale awarded a posthumous degree to Danielle Bradshaw, a final-year Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood) student. She died from cancer in July this year before completing her course. “Even in illness, Danielle did all she could to keep making progress on her degree,” says Academic Registrar Dr Gwen Wilkinson. “She valued education and demonstrated persistence and resilience in her studies. These characteristics are worthy of recognition.” Bradshaw’s family received the award on her behalf.

Swelling the size of the class this year: 35 graduands who completed a Certificate IV in Presenting Community Health Education Programs. The course was developed by Sibilla Johnson, the Director of Adventist Health Ministries for the Adventist Church in Victoria. Students enrol with Avondale but complete the course at training programs presented by Johnson. Avondale is the registered training organisation services provider for the course.

Ethos and mission remain the same

The joint conferral and higher degree by research graduands are further signs Avondale has found its place in the Australian higher education sector, says President Professor Ray Roennfeldt, “and that place is well recognised by other educational institutions.”

Avondale is like the universities in the sector as it continues to offer quality in learning and teaching, increases its research output and collaborates “more often than not as equal partners” with other higher education providers, says Roennfeldt. But it is distinctive, he adds, and it is “determined to maintain that distinctiveness. We’re proudly Christian and Adventist, we focus on holistic education and we have an intentional orientation to service.”

Roennfeldt presents each graduand with their testamur during the ceremony, a role that brings feelings of pride and hope. “I’m proud they’re joining the thousands of students who’ve gone before them and made a great difference in the communities in which they’ve lived and worked. I’m hopeful they’ll fulfil the potential that’s been sharpened at Avondale.”


Brenton Stacey

Brenton Stacey

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Brenton is Avondale University’s Public Relations and Philanthropy Officer. He brings to the role experience as a communicator in publishing, media relations, public relations, radio and television, mostly within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific and its entities.