During the third week of March, the meeting of the Asia-Oceania regional hub was held at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia.
Participating in the visit were director Juanito (Jon) Alcazar and coordinator Niku Vicente, Center for Social Concern and Action (COSCA) of De La Salle University, Philippines, a reference institution of the regional hub for Asia and Oceania as well as of the universities supported by the program. Professor Riju Sharma, director of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Don Bosco University of Assam, India and Dr. Miao-Ju Chwo, director of the Service-Learning Center, associate professor, Department of Nursing, Fu Jen Catholic University School of Medicine, Taiwan also participated. Maria Rosa Tapia, coordinator of the Uniservitate Program, and Candelaria Ferrara, coordinator of regional hubs, participated from the Latin American Center for Solidarity Service-Learning (CLAYSS).
The activities began on Monday, March 20, with a welcome meeting where Dr. Jen Azordegan, manager of Community-Engaged Learning in ACU Engagement, gave an introduction to the team working on the ACU campus. This was followed by a walking tour of the Fitzroy neighborhood where the university has been working with institutions and community organisations to meet the needs of the neighbourhood.
Tuesday, 21 March began with an introduction to ACU’s overall community engagement approach and community-engaged learning with presentations by dr. Matthew Pink and dr. Azordegan, and the Stakeholder Engaged Scholarship Unit by Vivien Cinque. The day continued with a tour of the campus and its different spaces for faculty and students. Following the campus tour, a lunch meeting was held with leaders from across the university, including prof. Abid Khan, ACU Deputy vice chancellor (Research and Enterprise; Prof. Anthony Whitty, director, Centre for Education and Innovation; assoc. prof. Christian Lorenzen, manager, Student Engagement and Success; and Sue Bolt, director of Portfolio Strategy and Operations. They discussed issues related to the role of service-learning in Catholic Higher Education and the importance of its institutionalization, and the first and second phases of the Uniservitate program. In the afternoon, ACU staff member Anna Vandierendonck shared the community hub project developed between ACU & Order of Malta, and the day ended with a visit to the “Read to Learn” program at Sacred Heart Primary School where ACU students volunteer to promote reading to children in the Fitzroy community. The delegation had the opportunity to visit the facilities and participate in the students’ space for reflection after their community service activities.
Wednesday, 22 March began with a space for reflections from academic staff from the ACU Community Engagement Community of Practice in which there was an enriching dialogue and exchange with members of the Uniservitate program. Dr. Michelle Smith-Tamaray, senior lecturer (Speech Pathology), Dr. Paul Taylor, assistant deputy head, Behavioural and Health Sciences and Laurine Hurley, Lecturer (Science) participated. Following this, professor Tim McKenry, Chair of the Academic Board had a conversation with members of the Uniservitate Program in a rich exchange regarding the institutional review of community engagement in the ACU curriculum. Afterwards the attendees had the opportunity to attend the daily Mass celebration and visited the Campus Ministry space, where the Melbourne campus team was introduced. Fr. Anthony Casamento, ACU vice president, hosted a lunch for the the attendees, and this was joined by prof. Bhavani Sridharan, associate dean, learning & teaching and accreditation, Faculty of Law and Business.
In the afternoon, projects under development in the community engagement courses were presented by Dr. Michelle Smith-Tamaray, senior lecturer, Speech Pathology, Dr. Paul Taylor, assistant deputy head, behavioural and health sciences and assoc. prof Sharon Croxford, nutrition & dietetics.
On Thursday morning, 23 March, a community partners roundtable was held, and also attended by ACU Community Engagement Officers: Lisa Carzino, Eleanor Duggan, Jake Stavrou, and Maggie Muller. The dialogue revolved around student involvement in community projects, learning in such spaces, and links between the university and its allies.
The week of activities concluded with a series of talks entitled “Service-Learning in Higher Education – International Perspectives”. In a hybrid format, delegation members presented and shared their experiences in an exploration of the role of service-learning in higher education and its transformative capacity as a pedagogy.
Throughout the week, the delegation experienced valuable global exchange and international collaboration to celebrate cultural diversity in a fraternal encounter.