Who Do You Think You Are – Exploring Students’ Pacific Island History

On Tuesday, seventeen boys of Pacific Island heritage made their way to the campus from Granville Boys High School. The Social Inclusion program hosted a “Who Do You Think You Are” event, facilitating the boys in exploring their personal cultural histories.
The day involved presentations from a number of experts on different pacific island histories. Jude Philp from the Macleay Museum facilitated the day. Writer Jo Kamira spoke about her Maori history and family treasures with the boys. There was a talk by James Flexner on archaeology, oral traditions and written histories, as well as a talk on the history of migration by Matt Poll.
The boys enjoyed lunch out in the sunshine, and the afternoon comprised of a visit to the Nicholson museum to view the Pacific treasures. Finally, we rounded out the day with the boys interviewing one another to find out about their own histories and their family’s migration to Australia. The boys asked each other questions like “Are their any treasures that have been passed down through your family?” and “When did your family migrate to Australia and why?”. A few students presented their stories to the group, making the boys feel a bit like celebrities.
Alongside getting to share their stories, the boys were exposed to a talk by Edie Griffin about her experience as an undergrad students at the university, and options for affordable housing (STUCCO Student Housing Co-op at Sydney).
Best of all, the students were looking through the undergraduate degree guides and discussing options for their own tertiary education on the train ride home.
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Chifley High + University of Sydney Essay Competition

On the 26th of October, Bridget Neave and Mike McDonnell attended the annual Chiffley high school humanities award ceremony. The day marks the culmination of a year of hard work for the senior Chiffley students. Students are awarded in areas from business studies, to society and culture, and history. Bridget and Mike were there to award the students for the essays they wrote as part of the University of Sydney’s Essay Writing Competition. This competition has been held jointly by the University and Chiffley High school for the past 5 years.
When it was time for the history awards, Mike was invited to give a talk to the gathered students, teachers and parents on the merits of tertiary education for people of all walks of life. Following this, the highly commended and best essays were awarded. The essays were judged by a number of the history staff including James Tan and Frances Clarke. This years lucky winners were Holly Towner and Grace Major. After, Bridget gave feedback and commendation on two high achieving Personal Interest Projects (the society and culture major work). Which were of an impeccable standard this year.
Following the ceremony, the students, parents, teachers and guests enjoyed a pizza lunch together. Discussing the future plans of the year twelve students. Lucky for us, many of them plan to go to the University of Sydney next year.
The social inclusion program looks forward to working with Chiffley college again in 2019!
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Presentation Day – Year 11 program

On the 31st of August students, professors and staff gathered in the Wooley Common Room to observe presentations from Year 11 students from Granville Boys and Miller Technology high. Their presentations and speeches were on a range of topics, from the importance of the Samuri in Japanese history, to the changing role of Pharos in ancient Egypt. The day day also involved a speech by current student Taban Alnafta about her experience on campus a Muslim student from Western Sydney. As well as a talk about student housing by STUCCO representatives (the student-run housing co-operative affiliated with USYD, which offers subsidized accommodation and facilities at $100 per week for low-income students). To end the day, the students all received congratulations and a bag each filled with USYD merchandise and information on applying to university. The teachers and volunteer mentors were extremely impressed with the quality of the presentations by their year 11 students, not far away from first year university work from my perspective!

Social Inclusion program day – Essay Writing

Last Friday the 27th of July thirty students from Granville Boys and Miller Technology high schools came to campus for their last mentoring session. The students met their volunteer mentors at 10am, heading to Fisher library for a full day of working on their major essays (interrupted only by a short break to refuel with some pide). The students and mentors have been working together for a total of five sessions now (some relationships have sustained three topic changes, thanks to the patience of our mentors!). The students are kept with the same mentors to assist the building of strong relationships, and many students and mentors keep in contact via email between visits to sustain the academic relationship. For the high school students, the academic relationship with their university mentor may be the only relationship they form with a university student during their school experience. This is important in opening up the possible future opportunities these students perceive are available to them.
Most students are well into the process of writing their essays now, which will be submitted in the next fortnight. Followed by an presentation day in the end of August.
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More to come!

June 29: Year 11 Program day and Extension History Program mentoring day

On June 29th Fisher Library was graced by thirty high school students, from Miller Technology High School and Granville Boys High School. They were there to work on their year 11 history projects, with the assistance of volunteer history student ‘mentors’ from the university. They have been partnered with these student mentors for three sessions now, ensuring supportive relationships are being formed. The school students enjoyed an introductory talk on how to use the library, and correct research techniques given by Simon Wyatt-Spratt. Then they were off to work! The students’ topics cover a broad range of ancient history areas, from ancient Egypt to the historiography of David and Goliath.
Meanwhile at Cecil Hills High School in Western Sydney, Professor Michael Mcdonnell met with student volunteers for the extension history mentoring program. The volunteers have been helping the Cecil Hills history extension class put together their major work, whilst communicating to the students the wealth of possibilities and opportunities for financial assistance available to students who choose to pursue higher education.
That concludes the social inclusion program for Semester 1, and we have a lot of plans underway for Semester 2!
Project manager for social inclusion
Bridget Neave

Stage 4 Open Day with Cecil Hills

On the 6th of April, 50 students from Chifley College public school came in busloads to campus. This was for the Stage 4 Social Inclusion in History Open Day for 2018. The purpose of open days like this is to introduce the idea of studying at university to students for whom this may not be the typical trajectory.
The day started with a welcome by Michael McDonnell. He spoke of the importance of education and how it can enhance the quality of life and opportunities for persons from a range of backgrounds. The students were split into four groups, and participated in four different educational and historical activities in a round robin. A campus tour was led by USYD student volunteers, who showed the high school students their favourite places on campus. The students experienced a treasure hunt and historical quad tour, as well as a talk about First Nations history in Sydney. After lunch, there was a theatrical demonstration by the Society for Historical Anachronism. All the students received show bags before a final wrap up.
The day only came together with the help of the amazing USYD student volunteers who led the teams. As well as the co-operation from Cecil Hills’ teachers, and our experts Craig Barker and Simon Wyatt-Spratt.
The teachers and students were incredibly pleased with the outcome of the day. Cecil teacher Steffanie Haskett expressed to us that introducing kids to university at this point of their education can make a crucial difference to decision-making later.
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We will be following this up with a Stage 5 Open Day in July!

Student Equity Alliance debuts at O-Week

For the first time at O week, a student society which focuses on bringing together students that are First in Family to attend university, or are from a low socioeconomic background, was showcased. The “Student Equity Alliance” (SEA). The society aims to start the conversation about the experience of students who fall into this category, to build a community for these students (who can be very isolated by the prestigious nature of University of Sydney), and to encourage the University to be more systemically supportive of their low ses student population.
The society has been started by students Shayma Taweel and Bridget Neave, the previous and current Project Managers for Social Inclusion in History respectively. Mike Mcdonnell and Frances Clarke have been supporting Bridget and Shayma in their endeavour to set up a student community around this social issue through the Social Inclusion Committee.
The society is off with a bang with 40 members in its first week in action!
Staff are also encouraged to become a part of this community, Bridget and Shayma invite you to like the Facebook page and come to events to be announced in future.
Pictured above are Bridget Neave (SEA President) and Jordan Watkins (representative of the student-managed affordable housing co-op – STUCCO) at O week.

Cecil Hills High School Mentoring 2018

On Tuesday, February 13, seven volunteers from the University of Sydney ranging from undergraduate to postgraduate student visited Cecil Hills High School to kick off our 2018 History Extension Mentoring Program.
This is the second year we have run the program with Cecil Hills and we were delighted to see that the program had grown from three students to eight this year.
In this session, the students gave our mentors a tour of the school, introduced themselves and their chosen topics, and then worked one on one with the volunteers to refine their questions and think about sources. The topics ranged widely, from representations of Cleopatra and Catherine de Medici in history and film, to communist art in China, to genocide in Serbia. The mentors were impressed by the students’ interests, and knowledge.
The program consists of five school and university visits over a six-month period, where the mentors also provide guidance on applying to and studying at university. We are looking forward to hosting the students here at the University of Sydney in March, when they will meet up with their mentors and get a chance to tour the campus before doing some research in the library.

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Social Inclusion awards ceremony at Miller Technology High School (December).

On the 6th of December Frances Clarke, Michael McDonnell and Bridget Neave visited Miller Technology High School on behalf of the University’s Social Inclusion in Humanities Program. Miller Technology is a unique school as 40% of its students are refugees.
The attendees partook in the Stage 6 humanities awards afternoon. The essay winners of the year 11 mentoring program were Wasan Al Zuihari for first prize and Dylan Demerovich for second prize. They had investigated gender roles in Spartan society and Julius Ceaser, respectively. The winners were recognised by the department representatives, their teachers and peers. They were congratulated by Mike and Frances and awarded with bookstore vouchers. The winner for best presentation, Dylan Demerovich, gave his presentation on the life of Julius Caesar to the gathering.
Mike and Bridget followed with short presentations on the value of tertiary education, the challenges that face first in family/low ses students, and how students can find support and opportunities.
The day ended with afternoon tea and the opportunity for the visitors to talk with the students. It was enriching and challenging to learn about the life experiences and future plans of the diverse group of students. Mike, Frances and Bridget all reflected on the infectious enthusiasm and ability displayed by the students in their studies and towards tertiary education.
Unfortunately, Miller Technology has a very low rate of sending students to the University of Sydney. Tony Podolsak, headteacher of history, spoke anecdotally of students giving up places at USYD due to not knowing anyone who had gone there and a perceived lack of support they would have. Barriers like this are what the Social Inclusion unit seek to challenge with the Year 11 Mentoring Program.
A big thanks to our partners at Miller Tech, especially Tony Podolsak, who make the Social Inclusion visits so meaningful to both the students and staff involved.
For anyone interested in being more involved with social inclusion in history and becoming part of the committee for 2018, don’t hesitate to email the project manager Bridget Neave at bnea3448@uni.sydney.edu.au.
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By Bridget Neave

Year 11 Mentoring Program Presentation Day (August)

To celebrate the culmination of the 2017 Year 11 mentoring program, approximately 40 students and teachers from Granville Boys and Miller Tech joined with History department staff and students at the University. The students gave presentations on the interest-based projects they had been working on with their mentors throughout the year. Students, teachers and mentors alike were impressed by the breadth of projects – from Australian Republican debates to Spartan social class distinctions.
The presentations marked the end of the social inclusion program for 2017 which has been in operation since May. The purpose of this program is to pair high school students with university mentors to assist with their independent project for Year 11 history. The process starts with picking a topic and framing a question, moves into gathering sources and conducting research, then to structuring the essay. Finally, the writing the essay occurs as well as the transformation of the essay into a final presentation.
The program also provides the chance for the Year 11 students to become more familiar with the University of Sydney and creates a space where the students can ask mentors questions about their university experiences. Unofficial connections between the university, and students from a diversity of backgrounds and areas, is what the social inclusion program seeks to create and enhance. Mentors of the program report coming away from the presentations uplifted, and with a sense that they are helping to steer Sydney University’s educational outcomes in a meaningful direction. The connections between the student, the mentor, and a love of history were described as beneficial for all involved.
Frances Clarke, Social Inclusion coordinator, commented on the project:
“Listening to the history presentations is fun as well as enlightening. It actually feels a bit festive. The students seem excited to be here, telling us about the projects that they’ve been working on for so long. The Usyd student mentors are in the audience to see the culmination of all their mentoring work. And the teachers look proud to see their students at a podium, giving a mini lecture in front of an audience of strangers (something that I couldn’t have imagined doing in high school). I always learn something from the students’ papers but, more than that, I find their courage inspiring. It’s a reminder that history can be empowering in more ways than one—not just through uncovering unique pasts or contextualizing the present, but also simply through the act of sharing compelling material. The first time that I attended a presentation day, I decided it was one of the best things I’d ever been to on campus, and this year’s presentations only confirmed that conclusion.”
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Social Inclusion in History looks forward to continuing and building on work like this, in the 2018 Program!
By Bridget Neave & Emma Kluge from the Social Inclusion Unit