Welcome back!

Welcome back!  I know it feels as if you haven’t really left….but just pretend.

New year –  new President of the USA –  new world order (maybe) –  new students –  and new challenges on the horizon that will enliven your time in SOPHI and the Faculty over the next few months.  The themes for this year will be a variation on the everpresent demands for us to go forth and teach and do research: we need to renew our thinking about the quality of our teaching, and we need to address the challenge of ERA (‘Excellence in Research Australia’).

The quality of our teaching always matters, but it has never mattered more. Many of you will by now be (very) aware of a surge of enrollments in SOPHI first year units this semester – which is wonderful -but will put us under considerable pressure in terms of the size of our classes and tutorials.  The Faculty as a whole is also under pressure somewhat, since we have slipped – slightly – in the rankings that the government uses to measure our teaching performance (to which serious $$’s are attached).  I’ve also felt for some time that we could do a much better job of supporting and mentoring our tutors: we need to integrate them much more fully into our Departments and provide much more disciplinary oriented advice, mentoring and training. So look for initiatives across all these fronts this year. The good news is that the evaluations we administer to our students (the ‘USE surveys’) are telling us that we’re doing a pretty good job; we’ve improved our mean scores across all of the key questions in each of the last 3 years…So there is much to build on.

The ERA is a slightly more complicated political beast. No new money rides on it, but reputation and the distribution of resources in the future may well be shaped by it. Social scientists make much of the concept of ‘path dependence’,  and I think we are seeing the emergence of a new ‘path’ for the way research will be funded in the future. As you know, the Humanities will be evaluated this year, and among other things they will be looking at publications between 2002-7 for each ‘field of research’ (mastery of  new jargon will be constant battle this year). So it is vital that we have as fully accurate a record of your publications during this period as possible. If you haven’t checked your ‘IRMA’ file yet (the university’s publication information data base) then please do so now, and let Julie-Anne know if anything needs to be changed or added (julie-ann dot robson at usyd dot edu dot au).

It’s a particular pleasure to welcome new appointees to SOPHI in 2009: In Archaeology, Nina Kononenko and Mitch Hendrickson joins us as  ARC APDs.   In Gender and Cultural Studies, Melissa Gregg joins us as ARC APD and then as Lecturer from July; Anna Hickey Moody took up a new Lectureship in January; Meaghan Morris takes up a new half-time positions as Professor of Cultural Studies (from July); and Fiona Allen joins us as a fixed-term Lecturer from this week. In  History, Ross Jones and Blanca Tovias de Plaisted take up their ARC APD and University Postdoctoral Fellowships, respectively; and Peter Denney joins us as Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow (from Dec 2008). In Classics and Ancient History, Anne Rogerson takes up the Tesoriero Lectureship in Latin in July; Hyun Jin Kim took up his University Postdoctoral Fellowship just this week, and Sebastiana Nervegna took up the Kevin Lee Postdoctoral Fellowship in January.  In Philosophy, Rachael Briggs, Patrick Greenough Aidan Lyon, Lionel Schapiro,  Zach Webber, and John Wilkins all join us as Postdoctoral Fellows.  Welcome one and all to the SOPHI team….

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