Category Archives: Informal Recreational Cultural and Vocational Discussions

Oasis and the proposed new Student Hub

What we take with us.

In 2013 we started with the idea that hospitality, understood as creating welcoming space, can be transformative. This was particularly significant in developing appreciative, respectful interfaith relationships among students. But we also found that such hospitality is actually a universal means of building relationships and community, providing empowering support for all  students.

Hence our Vision Statement:

Oasis is a welcoming and enabling community, open to all, contributing to personal and communal spiritual enrichment, while promoting mutual respect and appreciative understanding of diverse religious paths and cultural traditions.

The principles of how we go about it were summed up in the Oasis Hospitality Elements flowchart:

Oasis Hospitality Elements

What does Oasis do for students? It hosts.
What does Oasis do for the University? It collaborates.
What does Oasis do for the wider community? It tells its story, it demonstrates with participatory workshops and it conducts rituals and ceremonies by request.

Potential benefits include:
# making links & connections
# liaisons, cooperation, collaborations
# providing support, cohesion, continuity
# company, companionship, friendship, mutuality
# getting to know ‘others’, understanding, mutual acceptance
# developing cultural and emotional intelligence

We have every indication that the underlying strategy of Oasis has been successful, as students have encountered the unconditional welcome of Oasis. Recognition of success led to the creation of Oasis Ambassadors. Those transformed by the Oasis experience now give impetus to a vision for what might be achieved in the longer term – student leadership across the world committed to the practice and principles of hospitality, learnt informally at Oasis.

Accordingly, I believe we are now at the stage when we might recognise that Oasis is a centre engaged in informal learning.

How might this role of Oasis be extended in the proposed new Student Hub?

Recognition of the significance of informal, extra-curricular learning might take Oasis to a new level in the proposed new Student Hub.  However, the University must first recognise and value the significant place of informal learning as complementary to the formal learning process.

The edited video below makes a case for valuing informal learning for the 21st Century student. The points I have highlighted in the video suggest how the Oasis paradigm might be extended to provide safe, sanctioned ‘home’ environments that foster informal learning, extending the successes we have achieved over the last 12 months.

I am suggesting that Oasis, through its practice of hospitality, might provide an empowering ‘home’ environment for informal learning that may go beyond discussion and conversation to creative activity such as digital media, art, music and radio – spaces that provide connection, communication, collaboration and creation.

What else?

Because Oasis also engages with the wider community, access to its spaces in the proposed new Student Hub is a significant consideration – proximate parking and proximate loading.

External spaces linked to the internal spaces of the proposed Student Hub are significant for some cultues and religions.

I hope that consideration be given to externally linking Yunggorendi with Oasis to provide outdoor teaching space for Yunggorendi, native vegetation and an outdoor sacred ceremony site, which gives an unobstructed view to the western (sea) horizon. Consideration might also be given to a memorial site within this development.

Consideration might also be given to a western-facing balcony area linked with Oasis.

It is important that wherever possible, Oasis spaces have windows that look out to the western sea horizon or on to Flinders’ wonderful natural habitat.


Finding Common Ground

A heading in an email digest I received today from The Chronicle of Higher Education caught my eye.

Campuses Focus More on Meeting International Students’ Needs.

With more foreign students on American campuses, the conversation is shifting from recruitment strategies to practices that help them succeed.

Retention is becoming the name of the game.

This week I attended a staff seminar, Graduating Global Citizens in Science & Engineering, exploring the results of a research project initiated by Melbourne University’s Centre for the Study of Higher Education, ‘Finding Common Ground – enhancing interaction between domestic and international students’

Feedback from international students indicates that although they rate the courses they have undertaken in Australia highly, the one thing that they regretted was that they had not made lasting friendships with local students. Clearly, international students choosing to study in Australia hope that an important side benefit of their international experience will be an engagement with Australian culture, and friendship with locals in particular.

One thing from this seminar really stood out for me.

We know anecdotally that local students and international students do not tend to engage outside the classroom. Local students already have their own circle of friends. ‘Finding Common Ground’ suggests that cross-cultural engagement must take place in the classroom.

This has big implications for university teaching – now the teacher must not only be culturally intelligent, but value and structure for cross-cultural engagement within his or her curriculum and teaching practice.

Some Flinders teachers shared their practice.

Associate Prof. Kenneth Pope from the School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics told how one of the subjects he teaches is tied into Engineers Without Borders, an international organization that undertakes practical projects in developing countries. So  inter-cultural issues and cross-cultural experiences are actually embedded within the Flinders course itself.

Dr Ingo Koeper, Senior Lecturer in the School  Chemical and Physical Sciences, told of a weekly two hour discussion session he set up for a small group of postgraduate students from diverse backgrounds. While the students may have expected the session to have focussed on improving their understanding of course content, as the teacher, he had put this to one side and encouraged the students to talk about themselves. Only when content issues were raised by the students themselves did he go there. The main thing was for the students to interact with each other.

This is hospitality, as we understand it in Oasis, in the classroom!

June 24, A Nokia Conversation


Last night we went to dinner to catch up with friends of our son Nick. They are both working with Nokia in Berlin.

During the evening Kevin and I got into conversation about our respective work. He is in middle management overseeing a number of Nokia project teams. As he went on describing what he does, I was struck by how similar his work is with mine. He likened his position to being horizontal and facilitating a number of vertical projects – or rather, facilitating the people involved in these projects – being ‘across’ it. He says it takes a lot of listening. When he perceives any blockage he takes that person out for lunch or a coffee and listens to them. He offers any help if that is asked for. He doesn’t want to construct any ‘glass ceiling’ but really wants everyone to be turned on to doing their best. He described his role as very complex and nuanced. How he may speak in one context may be different to another, depending on what needs to be done or said to serve the best interests of the other –  a service model. More often than not, it is a listening and discerning process. He immediately made the connection that in my role as coordinating chaplain, he supposed that I work across the diversity of faiths, encouraging each to be the best they can be by listening to the leadership of each to facilitate their development. I’ve never before had anyone actually ‘get’ (comprehend the subtleties of) my job in five minutes!

I asked him how this part of the company fits into the overall Nokia management structure. Again, I was struck with similarities. The top level of Nokia have decided on an overall purpose and culture. This is transmitted to each of the Nokia development areas – phones, I.T. etc. So the various parts of the company all know the direction they are going; interconnections can also be made within this common purpose and culture. I take this to be like our University’s Strategic Plan that tells us what kind of university we want to be and how we intend to get there. The key to the Nokia culture is communication so that accountability to business goals is part of the process. Although there are goals, it is wonderfully open-ended and vision-driven; failure can be as important to growth as success.

I went away remembering conversations with Onno, the App developer, in whose flat I stayed in Delft, and with my sons’ Nick and Andrew in the way they approach their work. In all cases, having a university degree had little to do with what they have learnt, to be where they are in their fields. In Kevin’s case, he resisted all my attempts to have him name management books so I could get some short cuts. All he had learnt, he had learnt on the job, mentored by a good manager – learning by doing – praxis.

My Helsinki Hosts

My hosts in Helsinki

Jussi and his wife Marjukka ala are my hosts in Helsinki. They have three children, 12, 15 and 17.

Jussi heads up Further Education in the Finnish Lutheran church. With 4.1 million members, (76% of the population of Finland), the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is one of the largest Lutheran churches in the world. Jussi’s main task is to look after the many university chaplains.

Marjukka ala works in the Ministry of Finance.

We have breakfast on Saturday morning which continues in conversation and coffee until lunchtime, when it is time for Jussi to take me to the western city of Turku. There we have a lunch until 5pm. Mia, who is translating my book, and was to host me tonight, is ill, so Jussi helps me find lodgings in a monastery for the night. It is now 9pm but outside it looks like Australia at 4pm! Tomorrow I will take the day ferry on the Viking Line to Stockholm.

June 6 The Great Divide

Start-Up Underground

Sitting on the balcony of Onno’s apartment in Delft, looking in two directions. Inside, Onno and his partners are working on their App. – “Ding Dong”. They have signed the contracts with their investors In Berlin and will move there soon. We have talked about the culture of the “Start-Up” – just such a different approach to the traditional heirarchical institutionalised approach. It’s fluid, open and what matters is getting something innovative ‘out there’ as soon as possible – even if the main idea needs to have some work done on it later. Failure is learning. The idea is what counts.

In the other direction we have the huge 10 year underground development in Delft, which divides the city, both physically and also politically. MoTiv are chaplains to the development. Among other things this means encouraging the churches to invite key planners to talk about their plans in the churches – to share their hopes and dreams and so for the churches to embrace the innovators and affirm the spirituality of innovation.

Careful, methodical planning is evident in the construction site – nothing is left to chance. The culture of engineering values not only imagination and creativity, but must bring those hopes to physical reality. I have watched the careful erection of the large red steel structure that sits perfectly in place; it must be immensely satisfying for the architects and engineers to now see it bolted into position.

So, on both sides of me, I have innovation being enacted. I suspect that the spirituality of both sides has similar elements. But I think we can say that ‘command and control’ authoritarianism is either dead or at least transformed to a more open approach. ‘Closed’ is helpful to get things done in an agreed way, ‘Open’ is the space where imagination roams free.