Home' Link : Learn Issue 2 Contents When you're a busy academic, caught up in the
day-to-day grind of lectures, exam marking
and research, sometimes it seems there's not
enough time in the day to think about life beyond the
campus gate. However, in our post-GFC and increasingly
technology-reliant world, industries are changing
more rapidly than ever before and it is imperative that
academics stay on top of industry trends, to ensure
they are giving students a true-to-life understanding of
their chosen profession -- and the skills required to gain
It's a phenomenon that CQUniversity's Professor
Melanie Birks knows all too well. A nursing lecturer,
Melanie says her discipline is becoming increasingly
complex with the advent of new technology, increased
regulation and the changing health profile of an aging
population. "Changes in society have seen the public
become more informed about their health and their
rights in regard to health care, which is an important
phenomenon for new nursing graduates to be aware of,"
"The Internet has contributed to the increased
knowledge base of the public and has also changed the
way in which health care is delivered. In addition, the
industry faces issues in respect of an aging population
and the increased incidence of chronic illness that
accompanies an increased lifespan and changing
lifestyles, not to mention longer hospital waiting lists.
"All these factors contribute to the complexity of the
environment in which nurses practice. That's why it's so
important that lecturers remain engaged with changes
in the profession, because ultimately their teaching
impacts on the care that graduate nurses deliver at the
Another industry undergoing major transformation
is journalism and public relations. According to Kate
Ames, CQUniversity's head of program for the Bachelor
of Professional Communication, the rapid rate of change
in the industry -- including the recent restructuring of
media juggernauts Fairfax Media and News Limited, and
the rise of social media as a powerful news source -- has
meant that employer expectations of graduate skill sets is
evolving all the time.
Kate says lecturers who preach the gospel of 'old school'
journalism to the detriment of new media and 'multi-
tasking' could be doing their students a disservice in
the long run. "The industry is always changing, and
the broadness of skills required for graduates looking to
enter the industry covers the whole gamut, from digital
production, social media skills, and abilities in film,
TV and print. Gone are the days where you work in one
medium and stick to it."
Practicing what she preaches, Kate keeps her finger
in the pie by working as a public affairs officer with the
Army Reserves and writing for external publications
while carrying out her academic duties at CQUniversity.
She says graduates should also expect to juggle multiple
jobs across different news outlets and different mediums
-- something that is becoming the new norm in an
So what's the secret to remaining relevant in these
ever-changing times? Kate says reviewing graduate
outcomes is a good place to start.
"When we reviewed our program (previously the
Bachelor of Journalism) a few years ago, we took a step
back and looked at where graduates were going. We
realised that there were more going into public relations --
they were still getting to use their journalistic skills, but
they were operating in a corporate environment.
"We remodelled the course to make public relations
the core area of study, but students could also specialise
in traditional journalism, digital media and business,
allowing them to gain a more well-rounded qualification
instead of pin-holing them into certain areas. It's a way
of learning that is perfectly suited to the current model of
journalism and public relations."
Meanwhile, one of CQUniversity's most celebrated
and innovative lecturers, Dr Kerry Reid-Searl, keeps
her skills sharp by continuing to work one shift a week
at the Rockhampton Hospital Paediatric Unit. As one
nursing unit manager at the hospital remarks, "I have
often witnessed the glee expressed by the students when
they find out that their favourite lecturer also works on
It's this 'practice what you preach' ethos that keeps
academic talent like Kerry, Kate and Melanie at the
cutting edge of their professions.
Dr Melanie Birks keeping up-to-date with changes to nursing education
during a visit to Trinitas School of Nursing in New Jersey.
Photo: Peter Lawrence
9 | Learn
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