Victoria University Wellington

Team Members: Isabella Lenihan-Ikin, Brad Olsen, Kathryn Sutherland, Marc Wilson
Supporters: Sabrina Kirby, Beth Marquis

Project Description – Victoria Values

Victoria University of Wellington is based in the capital city of New Zealand. Our vision, as outlined in our Strategic Plan (, is ‘to be a world-leading capital city university and one of the great global-civic universities’. With this in mind, at the start of 2016, the newly-appointed Provost, Professor Wendy Larner, proposed a ‘distinctive academic emphasis’ for the University, reflecting the endowments of place that come with being a capital city university and the attendant opportunities for civic engagement. The discussion paper (available upon request) proposed several options for what is now named ‘Victoria Values.’ These options included the following: curriculum-embedded civic engagement opportunities for students (possibly grouped around key themes); a ‘grand challenge’ flagship minor; and/or a requirement that all students complete a capstone research project.

Throughout 2016, the University’s Learning & Teaching Committee considered the possible purposes of and frameworks for ‘Victoria Values’ and settled upon a focus for 2017 on developing a university-wide ‘Civic engagement for transformative learning’ opportunity for all students. Clarifying what these opportunities might look like in practice is the focus of our Change Institute application. We hope to achieve the following:

  • assist in clarifying the purpose of ‘Victoria Values’ and options for its development and delivery
  • identify current and potential ways of incorporating ‘civic engagement’ within curricula across the university, while at the same time supporting co-curricular activities focused on civic engagement and learning
  • identify the institutional resources (leadership capacity, learning spaces) that will be needed to support, scaffold and sustain ‘civic engagement’ initiatives, and
  • identify steps forward for the rest of this year and into 2018.

This is obviously a big project with broad scope that is in need of more clarity. The University’s Learning and Teaching Committee will shortly release a consultation document that will seek to build that clarity. We see the Change Institute as helping us to narrow down the scope appropriately, and to work with students to make sure that whatever we propose will be both acceptable and readily taken up by students when we are ready to introduce any particular initiatives that might arise. From the outset, we want to make sure that we involve students as genuine partners in the development of ‘Victoria Values’. We see the Change Institute as an excellent opportunity, at just the right time, for us to move forward some of the ideas that have already been generated at the Learning and Teaching Committee (a committee that includes student representation).

Our team consists of two academic members of that committee – one an Associate Dean and one a member of the Centre for Academic Development – and two students who are representatives with the Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA). We believe that this particular team of four, given their roles across the university and the wide variety of disciplines they represent, will work well together to take the ideas generated at the Change Institute back to the Learning and Teaching Committee and to the wider University.

In terms of how the attending team members will benefit from participating in the institute, both Marc and Kathryn see the Change Institute as an opportunity not only to work towards creating an important initiative for the university, but also as related to their own research interests: Kathryn in student learning and faculty development, and Marc in social psychological theory and science communication. Both are Teaching Excellence Award winners and Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Learning & Teaching graduates who care passionately about the student experience, and attempt to involve students in all aspects of their teaching. However, both agree that they would benefit immensely from hearing people who have been deliberately developing a ‘students as partners’ approach, and they are excited about drawing on the expertise of the Change Institute facilitators. For Isabella and Brad, both third year double-degree students, who are already actively engaged in the Victoria University community, the Change Institute represents an opportunity to contribute to the development of a university-wide initiative and to enhance their own understanding of, and participation in, ‘civic engagement’.

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