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Academic’s Dedication to Refugees & Students Recognised

Academic’s dedication to refugees and students recognised

A University of Auckland academic whose career has been centred on working alongside refugees has been recognised with a national Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award.

Associate Professor Jay Marlowe from the Faculty of Education and Social Work has received a Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award in the 2017 round in the General category.

The annual awards aim to recognise and encourage excellence in tertiary education, at a national level.

Jay’s primary area of research interest focuses upon refugee settlement, social inclusion and ways that migrant communities can participate within civil society.

He received his award at a special awards dinner in Wellington last night.

“It was a great night and a privilege to be honoured in this way,” Dr Marlowe says.

“I am incredibly honoured and humbled to receive this important award. And I need to clearly signal that this award sits on the shoulders of many people who have provided me with the support and sustenance to approach tertiary teaching from a possibility focus.”

Jay was nominated for the award by the University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon.

Dean of Education, Professor Graeme Aitken, was also behind Jay’s nomination.

“Jay’s teaching is based upon the most fundamental of educational principles – that it is our responsibility as teachers to be genuinely interested in and know those we teach, to draw from them what they already know and to scaffold them from there to new and empowering insights and understandings,” Professor Aitken says.

“Through the regular use of such approaches as metaphor, stories, role play and video he engages his students with real life experiences that through their authenticity and emotional connection motivate students to engage and learn. He not only teaches well, he understands how he is doing so and as such has a constant basis for personal reflection on his ambition to continuously improve as a teacher.”

Jay joined the University in 2010 and has developed a track record in preparing students for sound professional social work practice in the Faculty.

This is not the first time he has had his work recognised.

Jay has secured (as principal or associated investigator) numerous external grants worth more than $2.2 million. These activities include collaborations across Europe, Australasia and North America. In 2015 he received a $300,000 Marsden Grant to examine how refugees practise transnational family and friendship through social media.

Within the University Jay has assumed a leadership role in advocating for the recognition of students from refugee backgrounds as a University equity group. He has been a board member of the Auckland Refugee Community Coalition, advancing capacities and educational opportunities for numerous refugee-background communities.

He was drawn to tertiary teaching through his experiences working with homeless children in Guatemala, indigenous communities in the Amazon River basin of Ecuador, refugees resettling in Australia and young people from gang-related backgrounds in the United States. He states, “It was in these contexts that I realised how people’s histories and narratives can be so starkly different from my own, and yet, it was still possible to develop amazing relationships provided that safe and respectful environments were negotiated.

“A possibility focus in tertiary education requires open dialogue with colleagues, students, families and communities. It necessitates the recognition that learning occurs well beyond the classroom and that education can take us to places and understandings not previously imagined. Tertiary education connects people. It promotes understanding, tolerance and a capacity to critique taken-for-granted assumptions about our society. Inculcating a possibility focus within tertiary education feels more pressing than ever with the challenges facing the world today.”

In the faculty, Jay’s contribution is in scaffolding students’ understanding of important social issues (including migration, addiction, mental health, and poverty) which are often grounded in uncritical assumptions. By connecting students to people’s life stories, Jay is particularly effective in providing students with a gateway to social work education and the possibilities of anti-discriminatory and culturally responsive practice.

Jay is the designer and co-ordinator of courses on working with loss and grief, youth justice, addiction, and migration, which achieve consistently high student ratings.

He is highly valued by students for his innovative teaching style, commitment to experiential learning, constructive feedback and supervisory support.


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