A generation 'appart'

Published: Wednesday 22nd April 2015

Some thought-leaders have commented recently that the most important thing a Catholic university can do is 'reflect the Divine'. This noble aim is most obviously and powerfully achieved on the Brisbane Campus by the mirrored wall of the new Saint John Paul ll Building, reflecting the campus' iconic Chapel and Tower with sublime reverence. It is undoubtedly a Catholic building, and in this context, a benchmark for future buildings of the University. And it will be further enhanced by the daring sculpture of Saint John Paul ll, commissioned by the Vice-Chancellor, portraying a youthful and engaging figure with back pack, hiking boots and sun glasses, as highlighted in the sketch below.

JPII sketch 

This refreshing project, on track to be completed later this year, will see this unique sculpture of Saint John Paull ll positioned within the Central Streets on the ground floor of His namesake building, which is located in the heart of the campus. It will provide intervention and inspiration to all generations who encounter it - even the most distracted texting, tweeting and instagramming members of our 'app generation', who are busily recording and rating their lives with constant immediacy.

The other significant project currently underway on the McAuley at Banyo Campus that captures the essence of ACU, is our new $7 million Student-led Clinic that expands clinical services to the community and provides real life curricula to our allied health students. This facility will be ready by Semester 1 2016 and will allow final year students enrolled in degree (and pre-degree) programs, such as speech pathology and occupational therapy, to apply their skills and expertise in a professional context that has real impact on society and serves the common good. A sketch of the Student-led Clinic is also included below.

Student-led Clinic

The Student-led Clinic will support the needs of users that are inter-generational. As a parent of two teenagers, I have come to regard myself as being at least four generations away from my son and daughter (they would say more), separated by the ubiquitous internet and its application, their smart phones and tablets. We live in a world with more than 600 million web sites containing 3,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pieces of information, where billions of people are online, and one out of every seven people on the planet has a Facebook account. This is a world where young people generally (and my two in particular) have developed a slavish reliance on their machines and apps. As opposed to the notion that this technology allows people to liberate and express themselves in ways previously unimagined, one inherent danger may be that (if left unchecked) young people could become reliant on their gizmos and gadgets to the point of dependency whereby they may be less capable of developing their identity and imagination. Some recent commentators have warned that this could create a conformist generation that may be more risk averse, shallow and self-regarding.

The life of Saint John Paul ll was notable for opposing qualities to these, including deep courage, self-reflection and reflexivity. These are qualities that I think are captured in His sketch above and that will hopefully engage and inspire all once sculptured - particularly our app generation who are still seeking (as they always did) a viable identity and meaning to their lives. In similar fashion, the culture of the Brisbane Campus will be further enhanced through the establishment of our innovative Student-led Clinic that will champion real and relevant curricula designed to nurture more autonomous, socially aware and reflexive learners capable of shaping their own futures (and controlling their own apps) rather than potentially being shaped and controlled by them.

Professor Jim Nyland
Associate Vice-Chancellor (Brisbane)