It is a great pleasure for me as the new Dean of Arts to greet our superbly diverse group of alumni by introducing the first edition of Articulation for 2019.
As the first person in my family to go to university, I'm keenly aware of the transformative possibilities that studying and working in higher education can open up. I'm a modern linguist by training: I studied French and German as an undergraduate at Oxford in the early 1990s, and between my first and second years I visited France for the first time. I spent the third year of my four-year degree program in France, where I had a job teaching English in high schools, and in Germany, where I was able to study at the University of Heidelberg.
Studying languages is a life-changing experience, giving access to new worlds, and the same may be said for the study of the humanities and social sciences more generally. We can imagine, flexibly and sympathetically, the position and predicament of others, now and in the past. We can learn to be more self-aware and more aware of others, and expand our horizons towards those of humanity itself. We learn – and learn to evaluate – the art of compassion and empathy, which our world needs urgently today.
Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Duncan Maskell, wrote inspiringly recently of the transformative power of great education and of the big themes that will matter to him and to the University in the coming years: internationalisation, interdisciplinarity, diversity, the student experience, and place. The Faculty of Arts, working with our partners and, increasingly, with our alumni throughout the world, is in a strong position to deliver in all those areas. International opportunity is especially close to my heart because of the positive impact it has had on my life and career. What if we could offer this experiential learning overseas – in Europe, Asia or the Americas – to all our Arts students? Currently just under a third of our students have an international experience as part of their degree. This is a significant proportion of our cohort, but it would be wonderful to see it increased, diversified, and given an interdisciplinary flavour while retaining the distinctive aspects of a Melbourne BA.
I've been much struck by the possibilities and challenges of engaging with Australia's rich Indigenous culture during my first weeks in the country. This is an area where the Faculty has done great work, but the future potential is for Melbourne to become an internationally acknowledged centre of excellence for Indigenous Studies. This might include the study of Indigenous languages and an exemplary and innovative program of 'two-way learning', combining both Indigenous and what we might refer to as 'western' knowledge.
We want our graduates to be the best they can be: the end goal for them is not just about how to make a living but also about how to live – and how to live well in a humane world that they've helped to build. And yet the way in which our society is enriched by the study of the humanities in particular remains poorly understood. A growing element of that contribution will be the emergent field of digital humanities. Our graduates will be looking to pursue their careers in a digitally disrupted economy – a major factor in our helping them to be ready for the future. More profoundly, given that the term "digital humanities" can describe not only new research methods but also new forms of public outreach, what would our investing in it mean for our capacity to engage with communities far beyond the confines of this campus, for example in remote Australia and across the world?
I look forward to sharing with you our progress on these and other initiatives and ideas over the coming years. In the meantime, it was with great delight that I read the stories in this edition of Articulation, all of which showcase the diversity of perspectives available to us through study and research in the humanities and social sciences. They share an emphasis on community building, and a desire to achieve public good and impact.
Among these stories is that of Kareem El-Ansary who has been appointed as Australia's 2019 Youth Representative to the UN. Kareem's journey leading the country's largest ever face-to-face consultation with young people speaks to adaptability, communication and critical thinking skills – all of which he credits to his Melbourne BA. His inspiring story is also a wonderful example of the ways in which Arts disciplines can provide a lens through which we can view and hope to understand some of society's complex challenges.
Master of Journalism student Jack Bannister is also featured in this edition of Articulation. Jack's work on the Deaths Inside Project, facilitated through the Guardian Civic Journalism Trust, has recently been recognised through a Walkley Award.
The Faculty's research expertise is profiled through several articles: Lucky discoveries of lost ancient history details important chance discoveries of historical artefacts and objects, and the stories behind them. Louise Hitchcock uncovers the important work being done in archaeology to make the women of history visible, while Talking Indonesia: environmental activism and art features Dr Edwin Jurriens, Senior Lecturer in Indonesian Studies, in conversation regarding levels of plastic pollution in Bali. Finally, those of you who are familiar with the fate of the Corkman Hotel in Carlton may be interested to read History lecturer James Lesh’s recent article in the Conversation on this building.
I hope you enjoy this edition of Articulation.
Professor Russell Goulbourne
Dean of Arts