What is the Social Inclusion Program?

The History and CAHS Social Inclusion Program works to address the underrepresentation of students from low socio-economic and diverse backgrounds at the University of Sydney.

The History and Classics Ancient History Social Inclusion Program works to address the underrepresentation of students from low socio-economic and diverse backgrounds at the University of Sydney and in History courses especially. The Program not only initiates and strengthens connections between partner schools and the University, the Program is structured in such a way as to be of service to our partner schools, responding to the needs of both students and their teachers. By familiarising high school students from Mount Druitt, Parramatta, Granville, Campbelltown, Auburn, Liverpool, Coonabarabran, and Broken Hill with the University, the Program aims to foster the aspirations of students from these communities to pursue and excel in tertiary studies. Here is a summary of what we’ve been up to:
First in the Family (FiF)
Created in late 2015 after the schools outreach program prompted new efforts to support students at the University who shared backgrounds with the communities in which we were engaging, we are now spear-heading a Faculty wide effort to create a First-in-Family network among students and staff.
The network meets at least once a semester to invite student membership, with a view of becoming a university-wise, student-run society through the University of Sydney Union. The meetings, as well as promotion online and through student publications Honi Soit and the Student Representative Council (SRC)’s Counter Course Guide, have helped increase the visibility of the network as well as the unique experiences and perspectives of first generation students. In 2017, FiF partnered with a new SRC initiative, the Comprehensive High School Network, to connect first in family students to leadership opportunities in the university community. Run by SRC Education Officers, the Comprehensive High School Network is building a mentoring program where first year students of low SES, first in family or public school backgrounds receive support and guidance from senior students of similar backgrounds. We are currently working on a combined event for FiF and E12 scholarship recipients to help foster a community of support on campus for students from marginalised backgrounds.
School visits to the university
Piloted in 2011, the visits are usually structured around a short learning module consisting of 1-2 sessions. Sessions may involve mini-lectures from university staff and visits to university museum collections. Current postgraduate, honours and/or undergraduate students provide campus tours.
Previous examples include the Medieval Sydney history project (2013) with Granville Boys, Kograh High School and Malek Fahd Islamic School, and the Migrant Sydney history project (2014) with Chifley College. We have just wrapped up this year’s Museum Project Based Learning with Year 7 students from Granville Boys High School where students created virtual museums, presenting what they had learned about curatorial practices to their peers, teachers and parents. Students who give the best presentations receive prizes from the Department of History.
Year 11 Historical Investigation Program
The Department of History has operated the Year 11 Mentoring Program since 2012.
Taking place over 5 sessions, postgraduate research students visit low SES partner schools to mentor students in creating historical projects, with the students visiting the University to learn research and library skills and to present their projects before an audience of their peers, Faculty and students. Students who give the best presentations receive prizes from the Department of History.
This year’s program is currently underway; we have once again partnered with Modern History students at Granville Boys and Ancient History students at Miller Technology High School.
Year 12 History Extension Mentoring Program
Started with 2015 HSC students at Chifley College, this program is similar to the Year 11 Program: university students guide HSC Extension students in the research and writing of their History Projects
For the 2016/17 HSC year, we are working with Chifley College as per previous years. We have also partnered with a new school to the Social Inclusion Program, Cecil Hills High School. Students submit the best essays receive prizes from the Department of History.
Essay prizes to Department of History students
Initiated in 2016, History students are nominated by staff for the best essay on the topic of social inclusion.
Regional Program
Between 2013-2015, the program engaged with the following schools: Willyama High School, Broken Hill High School, Wilcannia Central School, Dubbo Senior College, Gilgandra High School, Coonabarabran High School. The Department of History and CAHS are working on reconnecting with regional schools for late 2017/2018.
We have seen increased enrolments from at least three of our priority partner schools who rarely sent students to Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney in the past. For example, two of the students with whom we worked intensively at Chifley College in Mount Druitt, which has a higher than normal Aboriginal student population, applied for and received E12 scholarships last year. This year, five students applied for the E12 program and have received offers, though not all are enrolling in an Arts degree.
But it is the community engagement aspect of the programs that has driven our efforts most, and regardless of the number of enrolments this engagement might engender, the programs have enriched the experiences of staff, students, and those in the schools while breaking down perceived barriers between an elite University and the communities that it is supposed to serve.
To find out more about the Social Inclusion Program or to get involved in one of its projects, contact Professor Michael A. McDonnell at michael.mcdonnell@sydney.edu.au

Miller Technology Prize Ceremony

In August this year, Year 11 students from Miller Technology and Granville Boys High School presented the results of their History Investigative Projects to their peers, mentors, and teachers. On Wednesday, 30 November, Miller Technology held a prize ceremony to acknowledge the best essays and presentations submitted by Miller students for their projects.
The school welcomed back former Miller student and USYD graduate, Annie Ha, to talk about her university experience after successfully completing a Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Science and landing a full-time teaching role at a nearby school. Annie also gave advice on applying for scholarships and encouraged the students to pursue their interests at university. Mike McDonnell followed Annie’s speech with a talk about the plethora of options available at university, and the many places that studying the humanities especially can take lead.
Mike and History teacher Tony Podolsak awarded prizes for the most outstanding Year 11 Ancient History essays. In first place was Lan Pham, who the judges found, ‘made a clear and compelling case for the the value of comparative history’ in her essay on the sun gods of Ancient Egyptian and Aztec civilisations.
Melissa Clement and Tanya Nguyen came in equal second place, with well-written and researched essays on Constantine’s role in Christianity, and the importance of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism in Chinese history, respectively.
The best presentations from August were also recognised during the prize ceremony: Gabriella Puruto won first prize for her extremely well-delivered presentation on Classical Greek architecture, with Marcelo Locardi-Rauth coming in a close second place. Marcelo’s presentation was on the topic of Pompeii.
To give an indication of the calibre of these presentations, Gabriella presented her work to the assembled students and teachers, as well as the principal, Ken Edge. As had been clear during her August presentation, Gabriella demonstrated that she knew her topic extremely well and displayed an enviable level of comfort with public speaking.
It was a fantastic note on which to end the year, and we wish the students all the best with their HSC studies in 2017.

Chifley College Prize Ceremony

Each year, Chifley College acknowledges its outstanding Human Society and Its Environment (HSIE) students in a prize ceremony. On Friday, 4 November, prizes were awarded to the best-performing Year 11 students in subjects such as Modern and Ancient History, Society and Culture, Aboriginal Studies, and Business Studies.
A select number of Modern and Ancient History students were also recognised for essays completed for their History Investigation Projects. These essays were judged by academics from the Department of History and the Department of Classics and Ancient History.
Jackson Clarke and Leilani Fakatava were joint winners of the Ancient History essay prize, and Kelsi Ryan placed third. Jackson, Leilani and Kelsi had tackled the topic of Roman Emperor Commodus, and the judges were ‘very impressed by the standard of all three papers.’ Each student offered a careful reading of ancient sources and engaged with the complexities of the narrative tradition about Commodus.
For Modern History, Leilani Fakatava and Shweeta Naidu were announced joint winners, with Jackson Clarke coming in third place. The judges found that Leilani’s work on indigeneity expressed ‘a range of sophisticated ideas about the multiple effects of dispossession – encompassing pride, pain, and resilience – and the complexities of racial identification.’ Shweeta’s essay on the Tiananmen Square massacre demonstrated ‘a great facility for historical storytelling, with a narrative that is clear, informative, and wide-ranging.’

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Prize winners Leilani, Jackson, Shweeta, and Kelsi with Dr Frances Clarke and Associate Professor Michael McDonnell

It was a wonderful occasion to celebrate the students’ achievements in the company of their parents, teachers, and peers – especially now that they have commenced their HSC studies.
Awards for the best HSC History Extension and Society and Culture major works were also announced on the day, with Juliana Campbell taking both titles. Juliana participated in the 2016 History Extension mentoring program.
We are excited to work with Chifley students Amber Leigh-Sanders, Jackson Clarke, Kelsi Ryan, Leilani Fakatava, and Shweeta Naidu as part of the 2017 History Extension mentoring program. Leilani is also participating in the University’s Year 12 Bunga Barrabugu Summer Program in the arts and social sciences stream, along with IT & Design student Justin Deville.
This year’s Extension mentors are USYD graduates Amelia Williams, Luke Cantrill, and Mirela Kadric, and they will work alongside Chifley history teacher Terri Katsikaros to guide the students’ research and writing skills over the next six months.

Parramatta High School visit

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Parramatta students handling artefacts from the Nicholson Museum

Just as they were submitting their subject preferences for years eleven and twelve, Year 10 students from Parramatta High School visited the University of Sydney in September to learn more about studying History. Associate Professor Michael McDonnell, along with Dr Elly Cowan and Professor Chris Hilliard, greeted the students and introduced them to the expansive range of topics that fall under a history degree, and the potential career options opened up by studying history at university.
A hands-on artefact session with the Nicholson Museum followed, and as the class examined a range of Ancient Egyptian artefacts, it soon became clear that we had an expert among us. Turns out one of the students could remember precise details about Ancient Egyptian funerary artefacts from a school project she had completed in Year 4. With a memory like that, she is well-placed for a career in archaeology.
Afterwards, the students were introduced to the main exhibit of Nicholson Museum by Dr Jelle Stoop of the Classics and Ancient History Department. This was followed by a campus tour led by USYD volunteers Emma Cleary, Anastasia Pavlovic, and Minerva Inwald. As they learned about and saw more of the campus, many of the students opened up a stream of questions on university life – about studying anything between journalism and music, about making friends and getting involved in social justice on campus. Others expressed uncertainty at making decisions about their futures – which, of course, is pretty normal, and there are few places better than university to embrace and explore that uncertainty.

Year 11 History Presentation Day

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Student Melissa Clement with Tatiana Bur and Miller Technology History teacher, Tony Podolsak

Three months of preparation culminated on Wednesday 31 August when twenty-two Year 11 students presented their history research to an audience of their peers, teachers, and university mentors. Part of the Social Inclusion program run by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, these presentations were the end result of History Investigative Projects completed by students at Granville Boys and Miller Technology high schools.
During a series of school and university visits, the Year 11s refined their research methods and essay-writing skills with the help of volunteers from the University of Sydney. This group of volunteers consisted of several postgraduate and honours students, led by PhD candidates Hollie Pich (History) and Tatiana Bur (Classics and Ancient History): The Miller students were mentored by Rebecca Geogiades, Alfred Johnson, Vivienne Joncourt, Mirela Kadric, Meg McLellan, Ethan McKenzie, Laura Signorelli, Joanna Slomka and Simon Wyatt-Spratt; this year’s Granville mentors were Ryan Cropp, Nico Bell-Romaro, Emma Kluge and Marama Whyte.
Covering a vast array of modern and ancient periods, the students explored their wider interests through their History Individual Projects. Presentation topics included Classical Greek architecture, Chinese philosophies, and biographies of Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. The first presentation of the day detailed the history and significance of the Haka, and the audience was treated to a spontaneous performance of the Sipi Tau from four of the Granville students.
The Year 11s demonstrated an ability to relate the topics of their research to present-day issues, and to deftly communicate these complicated subjects in ways that were easy to understand. A Miller student’s presentation on Constantine’s role in the development of Christianity revealed a thorough consideration of how definitions of religious faiths and practices influence the way historians assess Constantine and his influence.
In a presentation on Tonga’s precolonial history, one Granville student showcased his extensive cultural knowledge, while another drew on his own personal experiences of racism before launching into a history of the Ku Klux Klan in the nineteenth century. It made for a richly informative day where each student brought something new to their area of research, framing their topics with a fresh set of questions and comparisons.
The Granville and Miller students show a lot of promise as researchers, and their presentations highlighted the importance of their own contributions to, and perspectives within, studies of the past.

Granville Boys High School Museum Visits

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Year 7 Granville students at the University

Over the past four years, several groups of students from Granville Boys High School have visited the University of Sydney as part of the Social Inclusion program – usually Year 11 students completing individual research projects. On the 12th and 17th of August, the university hosted four classes of Year 7s in a pilot for a Project Based Learning program.
For this new project, Granville students will be investigating ancient artefacts and human remains, particularly looking at how remnants of the past are used to bring history to life in the present-day. Their case studies will include Ancient Egyptian mummies, Otzi the Iceman, and closer to home, Mungo Lady and Mungo Man. The students visited the Nicholson and Macleay museums to get a closer look and a better understanding of the importance of artefacts and remains, as well as the processes of preservation, storage, and presentation.
At the Nicholson Museum, the students handled artefacts such as canopic jars, ceramic sherds, mummy wrappings, grave-robber lamps, and Sumerian tablets. While handling these collections, they applied a series of questions to determine each object’s material, date, and place of origin. In the end it was the two swords – one Cypriot, the other Mycenaean – that drew the most attention from the students.
The staff at the Nicholson Museum were terrific guides and hosts for the boys. Craig Barker also took a group for an impromptu chat about the mummies, but quickly found out that at least one of the boys had been doing a little work on his own, and could describe the process of mummification down to the finest detail. His friends, along with us, were amazed.
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Dr Craig Barker with students in the Nicholson Museum

After learning about the material cultures of ancient civilisations at the Nicholson, the students explored Macleay Museum’s natural history collection. Upon their arrival, Jude Philp, Senior Curator at Macleay, tasked the students with locating the oldest and weirdest objects on display. Several of the students were also determined to find fake objects – but turns out the entire collection is real! Even at the end of what was quite a long day, the students were bursting with questions about the scientific instruments and animal life on display, how they were collected, and what it is like working in a museum.
We are looking forward to seeing their projects at school. And judging by their enthusiasm for learning about the history of the University and how we study history at the University and Museums, we are also looking forward to having them as students in a few years’ time.