I recently reported on student feedback for the unit HSTY 3902: History Beyond the Classroom (see: http://bit.ly/220TqsV). The feedback we have collected from the community and local organisations that students have worked with over the semester have been overwhelmingly positive, too. While survey results are still coming in, we have heard from fourteen of our thirty-three partner organisations, or just over 40%.
Over 90% said they were satisfied with the way in which our history students engaged with the organization, with one neutral on the subject, and one unsatisfied. Over 70% were happy with the amount of information they received about the course, and why students were engaging with the organization. One was neutral, and two others said they would have liked to have known more about the course. Gratifyingly, all of the organisations who have responded so far said they would be interested in working with history students from the University of Sydney again next year.
For most students, the community engagement was the best part of the course. See their comments here: http://bit.ly/220TqsV
Some of the qualitative comments from partner-organisations are listed below, but highlights included a note from Gay Hendrickson, from the Parramatta Female Factory Friends, who said that student Michael Rees was making a “real difference” to the organisation and “his approach was exceptional in the way he related to the individuals involved.” “I would also like to commend you and the University of Sydney for providing a subject with practical experience of history in action as well as making a real difference to communities such as the Parramatta Female Factory Friends.”
Mary Oakenfull of the Marrickville Heritage Society wrote that they appreciated the “deep interest and assistance” and “genuine enthusiasm” of student Margaret Bester, and “hope to have an ongoing relationship” with the History Department and the University of Sydney. And the North Parramatta Residents Action Group reported that Katya Pesce was delightful to have on board, her enthusiasm and dedication was a joy to be around….It is great to know that Katya has become so engrossed in our campaign that she has asked to stay on and help outside the course.”
And Sharon Laura of the West Connex Action Group, Haberfield/Ashfield, wrote about Lucy Hodgkinson-Fisher that: “I was delighted and surprised by her thoughtfulness and integrity, by her pursuit of information from many others, as well as from me/us. I have been blown away by what she has produced – it is insightful and timely. Her project really has connected a past community struggle to a present day battle by residents. Good on you all at Sydney Uni and good on Lucy. Thanks.”
There is obviously some work we can do to improve the unit next year, though as several students point out below, much of the uncertainty students felt this year will be resolved next year as we all have a much clearer template to work from, and a clearer idea of where we are heading, thanks to the great work of this year’s organisations and students. We are already working on a website where everyone can view the work from 2015, and this blogsite will also remain available.
Certainly next year, I will be sure to include much clearer guidelines about expectations about the community work and the projects in the initial outlines and throughout. I will also try and provide clearer guidelines to our community partners as well and keep in touch with them from an earlier date.
Next year, we will also have a number of examples to draw from in terms of engagement, and also more links with organisations who are familiar with what we are doing. These will remain options for students, but I am a little loathe to stop students from being able to choose their own organization. And while some students did have a pre-existing connection with their organization, most had never done anything in a historical sense with them. Significantly, it is probably also worth pointing out that most of the best projects produced came from students working with organisations with whom they had no prior connection.
Once again, many thanks to all who have made this course so interesting to teach, and a success for just about all concerned. This includes all of our pioneering and patient community partners. Many thanks!
Community Partner Qualitative Feedback:
I just wanted to say that Michael Rees has been very helpful for the Parramatta Female Factory Friends and is making real difference, particularly through his recent work relating to our Parramatta ‘Its a Riot’ advocacy day. He produced both an historic record of the event and a tool we can use in a practical way. His approach was exceptional in the way he related to the individuals involved, from the members of the friends, bureaucrats to politicians and notable ‘ambassadors’ for our group such as Jack Mundey. He was professional, ethical and equitable which I think bids well if he chooses history as a profession.
I would also like to commend you and the University of Sydney on this subject providing a subject with practical experience of history in action as well as making a real difference to communities such as the Parramatta Female Factory Friends.
– Gay Hendrickson, Parramatta Female Factory Friends
It was fabulous and Michael Rees was exceptional in his approach, commitment and giving practical support for our critical heritage activities. Given I have supervised many interns in my professional museum capacity that is real praise. I think this is one of the best courses I have seen linking heritage and community. As a museum and heritage professional with over 25 years with local, regional and national projects I would give my support for continuation and promotion of this subject initiative.
– Parramatta Female Factory Friends
It was a great pleasure to meet Maggie Bester at our Committee meeting and we have appreciated her deep interest and her assistance with our blog. We were impressed with Maggie’s willingness to assist in any capacity. She showed genuine enthusiasm in genera, accepted an invitation to attend a committee meeting and contributed an article based on her research to the Society’s blog.
We will be happy to complete your feedback form and hope to have an ongoing relationship.
– Mary Oakenfull, Secretary, Marrickville Heritage Society
Over the past couple of years, I have been approached by a number of students, from various organisations requesting information about our No WestConnex campaign. I have cheerfully supplied this, as much as possible – always hoping, that at some time the campaign group might get something back- somehow, and in some form. I was always prepared that nothing might come back to our campaign from helping out on a student project. However, I hopefully anticipate that the student’s engagement with us might positively inform them in their life or future career. This is a long way of saying that I had no particular expectation of what might result from responding to the request from Lucy to engage with our campaign. I was delighted and surprised by her thoughtfulness and integrity, by her pursuit of information from many others, as well as from me/us. I have been blown away by what she has produced – it is insightful and timely. Her project really has connected a past community struggle to a present day battle by residents. Good you all at Sydney Uni and good on Lucy. Thanks.
– Sharon Laura, WestConnex Action Group Haberfield/Ashfield
Very engaging and loved Ryan Cropp’s work.
– Hurlstone Park Wanderers Football Club
Katya was delightful to have on board, her enthusiasm and dedication was a joy to be around. I fear that I didn’t utilise her skill and time to best potential as so much of our campaigning to save heritage is political lobbying. It is great to know that Katya has become some engrossed in our campaign that she has asked to stay on and help outside the course.
– North Parramatta Residents Action Group
Our first contact was from the student. Some other faculties have used the strategy of the academic staff making the first approach so that the organisation is prepared, has a clear idea of what is expected (on both sides) and the timetable for the project. The follow-up, on the other hand, has been good.
– The Glebe Society
Very positive experience.
– The Temple Society
Glad to see the powers that be can recognise the hours and hours of voluntary work that has created a mostly untapped resource. Just because its not available electronically doesn’t mean the information does not exist.
– Hills District Historical Society
We are happy to work with history students who are working on projects concerned with the local area.
– Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society
It was a great way for us to capture all of our history in one document; pulling it together with Francis was rewarding and his enthusiasm rubbed off. Great way to engage with the community as his legacy will go down in the basketball history books.
– Parramatta Basketball Association
It was great to be working with a young enthusiastic worker who happened to have a background knowledge of the area.
– Lennox Head Heritage Committee