The area of actor wellbeing has been of keen interest to Dr Mark Seton, lecturer in creative and performing arts at Excelsia College. During his own experience as an actor, Mark noticed how performing a role could have lingering effects and heard anecdotal accounts of actors who were traumatised by roles or experienced depression due to the uncertainty of their work. In his research, Mark identified a huge gap in addressing actor wellbeing. Mark perceived that actors are peculiarly different from dancers and musicians, not because of who they are, but because of what the profession asks of them. For over 20 years, Mark has steadily been gathering research, particularly around actors’ perspectives, on actor health issues including mental health issues as distinct from physical issues.
In 2006, Mark joined the steering committee of the new Australian Society for Performing Arts Healthcare (ASPAH), modelled on the American-based Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA). In 2009, supported by ASPAH, Mark was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to research the health and wellbeing of actors both in training and in the workplace. Through the fellowship, Mark travelled to the UK and spent five weeks researching at different acting schools. The report detailing his experience and findings motivated Actors Equity in Australia to conduct the first national study of actor wellbeing which, explains Mark, included ‘questions around actors’ quality of life, alcohol challenges, substance abuse and potential eating disorders, financial stress, relational stress, sleep deprivation and traumatisation of characters’.
Within his doctoral research, Mark identified that many actor training institutions actively promote vulnerability. ‘The capacity of actors to be vulnerable – their ability to affect and be affected – is what audiences go to see. They want to see authenticity or what might seem to mirror reality,’ explains Mark. However, this preoccupation with vulnerability can become a hazard if an actor doesn’t know how to process his or her character’s creation and emotional journey. This lack of process can create distress and dissatisfaction and the resulting pain can drive a desire for self-medication, including alcohol and both licit and illicit drug use. According to the 2015 Australian Actors’ Wellbeing Study, around 35 percent of actors surveyed reported alcohol consumption as a strategy for ‘letting go’ after a demanding performance (Maxwell, Seton & Szabo, 2015).
Mark is currently part of AusAct: Australian Actor Training Conference which is a collaboration of acting schools around Australia empowering teachers in the teaching of acting, voice, movement, holistic health and career development. Mark has also designed and facilitated foundational training in actor wellbeing at various tertiary institutions, including Sydney Acting School, Academy of Film, Theatre and Television, and at Excelsia College. Excelsia College’s Bachelor of Dramatic Art includes a unit focused on ‘designing my creative career’, which includes strategies for managing self-care in the entertainment industry, intended for third-year students preparing to graduate.
Mark has been seeking to bring an even broader notion of actor wellbeing and sustainable practice to drama schools. Questions have been raised about acting schools providing appropriate warm-ups and cool-downs at a physiological and psychological level. According to the 2015 Australian Actors’ Wellbeing Study, almost 40 per cent of actors surveyed had difficulty shaking off intense emotional and/or physical roles (Maxwell, Seton & Szabo, 2015). Within the acting community, this is sometimes known by the term ‘seepage’ (Taylor, 2017). Some drama schools still unintentionally traumatise students by giving them dramatic scenes and roles without teaching them how to take on a role in a respectful, careful way. Mark explains, ‘If actors are not given training for warming up and cooling down, they might not know how to let go of a traumatic character or scene. They can take it back home or the trauma it could continue into another job, or, because there is no next job, they may still be mulling over the character they played. It can seriously impact their personal relationships. I coined a term “post-dramatic stress” as a very deliberate provocation to start the conversation that I felt was lacking in the academic community and in the training community around potential for traumatisation of actors.’
Intimacy direction workshops, which Excelsia seeks to provide for its drama students, play a key role in helping actors cope with the potential trauma in their work. ‘Part of an actor’s warm-ups and cool-downs now involve working alongside intimacy directors who will help actors safely enact intimacy of a violent nature or intimacy of a loving or familial quality and how to play them without being confused about whether it’s the actor or their character being intimate with that person,’ says Mark.
Mark has written a paper with Excelsia College Bachelor of Dramatic Art graduate Courtney Patten on what happens when actors play morally questionable characters (Seton & Patten, under review). The pair will present their findings at the Australian Society for Performing Arts Healthcare (ASPAH) Conference this December. If you want to learn from amazing academics such as Mark, why not consider studying a Bachelor of Dramatic Art at Excelsia College?
Maxwell, I., Seton, M., & Szabo, M. (2015). The Australian Actors Wellbeing Study: A Preliminary Report. About Performance: The Lives of Actors, 13, 69–113
Seton, M. (2022). Mental health for actors. StageMilk. https://www.stagemilk.com/mental-health-for-actors/
Seton, M. & Patten, C. (under review). Wellbeing in enactment of morally questionable characters: Negotiating moral and spiritual values within professional identity formation. [Submitted for publication]. Excelsia College.
Taylor, L. (2017). Out of character – how acting puts a mental strain on performers. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/out-of-character-how-acting-puts-a-mental-strain-on-performers-86212
Not many aspiring actors can say they’ve played a centipede, old man, pastor, biblical character, and Shakespearean role, but Tim Lim can! Tim’s effervescent personality embodies every role he plays, both onstage and offstage. The Bachelor of Dramatic Art graduate most recently played one of the lead roles as Elihu, the comforter of Job and his three friends in Excelsia Productions’ movie 18. The Book of Job. It was filmed onsite at Excelsia College and saw the auditorium transformed into a desert setting, full of sand! For Tim, learning lines is part and parcel of being an actor but having to memorise five chapters of the biblical book of Job was no mean feat! Tim also graced us with his acting skills in last year’s inaugural CAPAxFest, which highlighted our creative and performing arts students’ works, and in Excelsia’s productions James and the Giant Peach, A Twelfth night and The Chairs. He also wrote a play, Rapture (2021), as part of his third-year major project, about a pastor who lost his family and cried out against God.
Since finishing the Bachelor of Dramatic Art last year, Tim now works as a student services assistant and receptionist at Excelsia College. ‘At Excelsia my days involve me greeting everyone that comes in and being the first point of contact for anyone who needs help with directions or information.’ In dealing with people’s inquiries on a daily basis, God has taught Tim the value of patience, revealed to him in his personal faith journey. ‘God’s grace has no bounds. He is always here even when he seems absent.’ It is God’s grace and character that Tim seeks to embody through trying to make everyone’s day a little bit better by being a positive force in the environment. ‘Carry yourself with love as if you were someone you were responsible for looking after and in turn you can look after others.’ This ties closely to Tim’s favourite Bible verse, Jeremiah 15:16, which says, ‘When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty.’
Tim describes Excelsia as inspiring, ambitious, and versatile and it is this passion for the College that makes him a perfect ambassador. ‘The sheer amount of diverse age groups, cultures, faculties and people create a fascinating environment where interactions, events and conversations are constantly riveting,’ he explains.
Earlier this year Tim was given a Bible reading plan from a friend which included a passage from Job. ‘This was a book I had been meaning to read for a long time since it dealt with the concepts of suffering and justice in the world. The timing was too uncanny and coincidental as I was then cast in Excelsia Productions’ 18. The Book of Job. I loved the idea of bringing this piece of biblical literature to a format more easily consumed such as screen or theatre, where characters can be seen living and breathing not just talking in biblical verses. I was satisfied to finally serve God using my craft.’
Outside of work, Tim likes to keep a busy and active lifestyle and boils down his interests to four Fs, ‘Faith, fitness, fashion, and food. When I’m not working, I’m trying to improve or explore these aspects of life. I like to try different restaurants around Sydney or make colourful outfits for going out. Then I try to exercise and pray that the clothes still fit!’ he explains. As for his acting aspirations, Tim says, ‘I mainly want to be in films and commercials or as a voice actor. For now, I’m just excited to see where the wind blows.’
We can’t wait to see Tim in 18. The Book of Job once the film is released next year! If you want to be part of a nurturing community where you can tap into your creative side and build your confidence, why not explore Excelsia College’s School of Creative and Performing Arts?
Combining her passions for teaching and dance and being able to juggle overseas work and study was what attracted Tracey McKenzie to Excelsia College when she commenced her Master of Teaching (Secondary) in 2019.
‘I chose to study at Excelsia as it allowed me the flexibility of travelling and working overseas while completing my studies in my own time, with no locked in online weekly classes to attend and content delivered up front so you could work through the course at your own pace,’ explains Tracey. At the time she commenced her studies, Tracey was working as a professional dancer with contracts including Moulin Rouge in Paris, Benidorm Palace in Spain and Carnival Cruise Line, a role she had been doing for twenty years. ‘I didn’t always have a goal to work overseas, however getting paid to travel and do what I loved was a dream. I started studying for my degree while I was away on contracts as a plan for after my dancing career.’
Due to completing the course 100 per cent remotely, Tracey missed out on College experiences such as socialising with fellow classmates and teachers, attending Bible studies, chapel and onsite functions. Despite the distance, Tracey still found the College to be flexible, understanding and nurturing. ‘I always felt included as a valued student and part of the Excelsia community. I must give credit to all the teachers that checked in on me and took a genuine interest in my teaching specialty and professional career in dance. I could not have completed the course without their support,’ Tracey reflects.
Alongside her professional dance career, Tracey found content and coursework both relevant and relatable. ‘I was studying subjects such as “leadership, creativity and innovation” and “transformation in education”. In my first year of teaching, I found myself referring to teaching strategies and leadership tools I had learned during my time at Excelsia when I was managing casts of dancers and singers. These tools allowed me to successfully facilitate maximum growth of performers throughout the contracts and also ensured the cast stayed positive and motivated to achieve their own goals. Excelsia enabled me to see the value of my own skills I had acquired through dancing and apply them in an education setting, which is one of the greatest benefits I have found that assisted me through transitioning careers.’
Despite not coming from a Christian background, studying through a Christian framework at Excelsia College realigned Tracey with her core values in cultivating compassion and understanding, while also practising daily acts of gratitude. ‘I learned to trust not only in myself but the process, believing that the universe will provide me with the right tools in times of need and giving me purpose in my life once again,’ she explains.
Tracey completed her Master of Teaching (Secondary) in December 2021 and now teaches Dance at Strathmore Secondary College in Melbourne and works at The Australian Ballet.
If you want to study teaching in a supportive Christian environment and explore your faith, why not consider Excelsia’s Master of Teaching (Secondary)? You could combine your two passions just like Tracey has!
Filmmaking is a lifelong passion, and for students like Luke O’Donnell studying the craft now is laying the groundwork for a lifetime of screen storytelling.
As the inaugural winner and scholarship recipient of the Excelsia & Sydney Film School Award (ESFSA), Luke O’Donnell shares an update from his experience and journey so far as a first-year student studying the Bachelor of Screen Production:
‘Being a part of Excelsia College and Sydney Film School’s Bachelor of Screen Production course for the past year has been an absolutely fantastic experience. Being in an environment with like-minded students and teachers has been incredibly valuable and really contributes to the overall practicality of the course. Learning from teachers with years of industry experience and knowledge enhances our studies and provides a firsthand insight into the opportunities available within the film industry. The mix of both theory and practical classes and activities alongside the interactions with both Excelsia’s acting students and those at Sydney Actors School provides a fantastic learning environment where we can easily understand the broader aspects of the film industry while developing connections with our future colleagues.’
Luke’s ESFSA-winning film Until the End was predicated upon a longing for the past. It recalls the fleeting nature of existence within the human experience and seeks to lament the true reality of relationships which often mean so much to us.
‘Things come to an end. People move on, some for better, some for worse but memories linger and that’s what keeps us going, keeps pushing us forward until the end.’
If you have stories to tell and want to pursue a career in filmmaking like Luke, we welcome your submission to the Excelsia & Sydney Film School Award. Select award winners will receive a scholarship for their first year of study in the Bachelor of Screen Production.
Entries close 27 January 2023, find out more today! https://excelsia.edu.au/study/creative-and-performing-arts/excelsia-and-sydney-film-school-award/
On Thursday 10 November, accountants are celebrated during International Accounting Day. These individuals help businesses make critical financial decisions and keep checks and balances in place throughout the year. At Excelsia, we are thankful to have number crunchers who collect, track and correct the company’s finances, including Assistant Accountant, Niel Valdez. We chatted to him about his role and what he likes about accounting.
How long have you been working at Excelsia for?
1 year and 8 months.
What’s a typical day look like for you?
I spend my days mostly making sure the vendor tax invoice gets approved and paid on time. Then during the first week of the month I prepare for College month-end reporting. This is the busiest week in my work schedule.
What do you like about accounting?
I always love working with data and interpreting it for users. This is the reason why I like accounting.
What made you want to work in an accounting-based role?
You can easily branch out to any field if you have an accounting background. The flexibility accounting professionals have is what made me decide to work in an accounting-based role.
What’s the most satisfying part of your role?
The most satisfying part of my role is knowing I have provided my services to the College through preparing accurate financial report/data which will form the basis for making important policies and decisions for the College.
What does International Accounting Day mean to you?
International Accounting Day is a day of recognition for accounting professionals and their contribution to our community.
The Student Representative Council (SRC) is a fantastic way to get involved in the heart and life of Excelsia College’s community. The SRC plays an important role in fostering good communication among students and staff and, more formally, it helps to run campus-wide student-focused programs and events like student cruises and orientations. Both Zoe Sadler and Tihana Vulcik were Presidents of Excelsia College’s SRC committee during their time as students and they both have gone on to serve as valuable staff members at the College. So why should you think about joining?
For Zoe, the SRC enabled her to engage deeper throughout her experience at Excelsia, as well as providing her with opportunities for self-growth. ‘Before being a part of the SRC, I’d never been particularly drawn to representative groups and certainly didn’t see myself as the leader of one. When I was encouraged by a staff member to run for SRC President, I was very hesitant, but it ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences I had as an Excelsia student.’ Zoe learned that there was space and use for every individual skill set and strength. ‘From creative to organisational, analytical to interpersonal, I can speak from experience that you don’t need to be a confidently assertive or extraverted person to contribute, or even to lead! There are so many different types of students, so what is better than seeing them and representing them by having a variety of different types of students on the team.’
A student’s time at Excelsia is about so much more than just the unit content that they study, and being involved in the SRC meant Tihana and Zoe were actively aware of ways to complement and enhance their fellow students’ experience. Zoe shares, ‘It became an absolute joy of mine to be able to love and support the students through both advocating for them and providing time for something on the fun side (which is equally as important, in my eyes). This kind of work and perspective can be transferred to any area of your life, and this has continued in how I approach my work as an Excelsia staff member. The students and their experience are still the core focus of what we do.’ On top of this, both Zoe and Tihana formed connections with staff and students they might not have normally interacted with outside of their Bachelor of Dramatic Art course.
Like Zoe, Tihana found the SRC a good platform to practise and learn leadership skills. ‘As an introvert, I wanted to challenge myself even though the idea of being responsible scared me. At the same time, I really wanted to make the student experience super fun, so that highly motivated me! A great skill I learned to implement was time managing well whilst studying full time, which serves me well in my admin job today at the College. I also got to practise not taking being a leader too seriously so I could enjoy experiences without feeling all the pressure on me. It was nice to be part of a good team where I could also distribute the load and each member was gifted in a specific area.’ Tihana also got to use her creative flair for student events. ‘My favourite events were “Just Dance”, which we put on as a casual way to end the week; it was very popular and requested by students. Seeing students have fun after a full-on week was cathartic, for myself included! This was a big highlight of my time at Excelsia,’ explains Tihana.
Being able to problem-solve and change the student culture one step at a time was also a rewarding by-product of Tihana’s involvement in SRC. ‘As a staff member now, walking through reception and seeing a student receptionist is a small way we changed the culture by bringing up the fact that we should produce student jobs to give jobs to current students. Another small way we changed the culture was to include more plants and greenery, which seems so miniscule, but takes me back to the meetings where we suggested more greenery in the College to bring more life and oxygen into the typical office building!’
If you want to bring your personality to the table, see real changes made to the College and help be part of the collaborative nature of the student body, why not consider signing up for the SRC? With Covid-19 restrictions now over, we are excited to bring more student events and initiatives back to the campus, so now is the BEST TIME to get involved!
If you would like to know more about what is involved, please contact Nicole O’Keeffe at email@example.com. You never know the skills or friendships you will develop!
‘A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.’ – Luke 6:40
The theme for World Teachers’ Day on Friday 28 October 2022 is ‘Hats off to teachers’. This is a fitting theme considering the disruptions our educators have faced throughout the past two years of the pandemic and their ongoing support to the lives of students and their families (The Sector, 2022). Excelsia College is proud to see its education graduates making a positive impact on the lives of children within early childhood, primary and secondary school settings. Take Darren Walker, Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary) alumnus, for example. Darren is the upper school principal and former mathematics teacher at Cair Paravel Latin School, a Christian school in Topeka, Kansas. For Darren, teaching is a lifelong process, and this is an attitude that is fostered in his school’s students. ‘We don’t want our students to just learn what they need to do so they can graduate and go to college and get a job. This is about teaching kids to love learning.’
In his role as principal, Darren is passionate about transforming teachers into the best educators they can be and he trains teachers how to educate more effectively. ‘As a principal, I consider it my job to make it easier for my teachers to do their job, that’s my number one goal and when I can do that, I have no desire to do anything else.’ Darren always had a calling to teaching but he took a detour on this journey there. ‘After initially starting out to be a mathematics teacher, I felt the Lord change my direction and I went to law school and practised in the field for 15 years.’
It was at a Christian Schools Conference in Sydney in 2011 that Darren saw advertising for the then Wesley Institute’s (now Excelsia College’s) education programs, which piqued his interest. When he found out he could complete the majority of his studies remotely and in his own time, Darren was sold on the course and commenced in 2012. ‘I’m a self-paced and voracious learner so online learning is a really good fit for me. I joked with a couple of people that I was working full time and spending the whole weekend doing a week’s worth of Excelsia to get it all submitted and head back to work on Monday!’ Despite studying remotely, Darren still felt supported by his lecturers. ‘I always felt if I needed something or had a question that they were always accessible. Given my background, I found staff to be very helpful and solve the problems that needed solving.’
Close-knit relationships and open communication between staff and students have influenced the way Darren engages with his students. ‘As a teacher, one of the verses I find to be particularly important is Luke 6:40 which says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”’ Darren continues, ‘As teachers, we don’t just impart information to students. A teacher, whether intentionally or not, demonstrates to their students how to become like them and, God willing, forms virtue in their students’ hearts. That’s why a close relationship between a teacher and a student is really important and, in my opinion, indispensable when it comes to successful teaching. I see that at Excelsia and in the desire that a lot of the lecturers have to be well engaged with their students.’
For Darren, the Christian framework at Excelsia was also a key reason for wanting to study there. ‘A lot of my undergraduate and graduate work wasn’t in a Christian context, so I really appreciate the solid Christian world view that pervades everything that Excelsia does. As I have gone into Christian education, it’s important to me to have an education that has a Christian world view behind all the theory we confront.’ Darren also enjoyed the broad cross-cultural mix of students which opened opportunities for him to meet different kinds of people. ‘The cohorts are fairly small so I had the opportunity to really get to know people and most importantly get to know my lecturers in the way I wanted to.’
Darren completed his studies in 2014 and sees his investment at Excelsia in terms of time and money as relatively small but huge both personally and professionally. ‘I personally am really interested in educational theory and philosophy, and Excelsia helped me to develop and expand those ideas and think more deeply about what it really means to be a Christian teacher and to have an educational system that’s infused with Christianity.’
In terms of his future, Darren wants to stay firmly planted at Cair Paravel Latin School. ‘Someone once said fulfilment in life comes from finding the thing that you really love doing and finding somebody to pay you to do that, and that’s where I’m at. I’m just blooming where I’m planted and really enjoying it. The Lord has taken me through a lot of winding roads to get where I am, and I can see His leading all along that pathway.’
Teachers are highly sought after and play such a vital role in the life of a child and in transforming their future. If Darren’s story has inspired you to play a role in the lives of young adults, it’s never too late to consider teaching. Why not explore our Master of Teaching (Primary) or Master of Teaching (Secondary)?
The Sector (2022). World Teachers’ Day is coming up, and AITSL says ‘hats off to teachers’. https://thesector.com.au/2022/10/19/world-teachers-day-is-coming-up-and-aitsl-says-hats-off-to-teachers/
Every year during the fourth week in October, for Children’s Week, we turn our attention to children and their right to enjoy childhood. The national theme for 2022 is based on UNCRC Article 27, which says ‘Children have the right to a standard of living that is good enough to meet their physical and mental needs’ (UNICEF Australia, 2022). This theme touches on wellbeing which has featured prominently in national conversation over the past 12 months, including the impact of decreased socialisation on the mental and physical wellbeing of a child (Branley & Duffy, 2021). A child’s physical and mental needs are becoming more diverse as we become an increasingly multicultural and globalised society. According to research conducted between community organisation Settlement Services International (SSI) and Telethon Kids Institute, in 2018, almost 1 in 4 (24 per cent) of children starting school across Australia were from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, an increase from 17 per cent in 2009 (SSI, 2021).
Nadia Di Martino, Associate Lecturer and Course Coordinator for Bachelor of Early Childhood Education at Excelsia College is currently conducting research on early childhood teachers and their cultures and how they are best placed to support children and families who come from multiple backgrounds in Australia. As part of her research, Nadia has seen that there is not only one pedagogy or right way of teaching. ‘One size doesn’t fit all and teachers’ pedagogies need to be flexible and culturally appropriate. In early childhood education, we say that all learning happens in relationships and if I do not understand why my colleague, a parent, or a child is doing things in a certain way, there’s a lot of ethical issues and misunderstanding and internal conflicts that could happen.’
In her research, Nadia wants to look at teachers’ pedagogies, that is, what they’re doing and the rationale behind it. ‘When teachers understand more about their own cultural background, they can undertake critical reflection and see how their own world view affects the way they do things. For example, I was looking at teachers putting food on the table without a plate, and I thought that was disrespectful for the child but then I spoke to the teacher and she explained to me in her culture it’s an important part of food sharing. For children’s mental health, I think we should be open to different ways of teaching children but also caring for children. I see some early childhood services now that let children sleep outdoors which is culturally appropriate in Sweden and Denmark for example, or some children sleep on the floor and that’s acceptable.’
Local, Indigenous, and international teachers need to be understood better when they go into a preschool environment, and global competencies need to be intentionally developed. ‘Mental health is a lot about belonging and feeling like your identity is understood and included. We have the Western model of family that assumes the parent is the primary carer of a child. However, in the context of Indigenous families, for example, we’ve seen that relatives might look after the children, but we still lack that cultural understanding of what the family unit is doing and their roles,’ says Nadia. ‘We need to develop an understanding of other cultures and ways of doing things. It means teachers don’t have to change their ways, but they need to accept and appreciate why others do things certain ways. We want children to have the best opportunities in life and the best learning, so we need to unpack cultural differences and similarities. In New Zealand there is already some wonderful research being conducted with Samoan infants and toddlers, which helps develop culturally appropriate and innovative practices and philosophies for teaching.’
We can’t wait to see how Nadia’s research impacts the future of early childhood educators and the wellbeing of children. If you’re interested in studying from forward-thinking and innovative educators such as Nadia, why not explore the Bachelor of Early Childhood Education (Birth to 5)?
Branley, A. & Duffy, C. (2021, September 1). How to tell if lockdowns are affecting your children and what you can do about it. ABC News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-09-01/how-to-tell-if-lockdowns-are-affecting-your-children/100421580
Children’s Rights Queensland. (2022). Right to Mental Health Support. https://childrensrightsqld.org.au/right-to-mental-health-support/
Matapo, J. & Utumapu-McBridge, T. (2022). Pepe Meamea as a Framework for Samoan Infants and Toddlers in Aotearoa New Zealand. World Studies in Education, 23(1). pp.97–114. https://docserver.ingentaconnect.com/deliver/connect/jnp/1441340x/v23n1/s7.pdf?expires=1666065262&id=0000&titleid=72010110&checksum=7E65A31AAE7787F67AB4D194DCED8BD1&host=https://www.ingentaconnect.com
Settlement Services International. (2021, March 24). Culturally diverse children missing out on early childhood education are more likely to face vulnerability. [Press Release]. https://www.ssi.org.au/news/media-releases/2606-culturally-diverse-children-missing-out-on-early-childhood-education-are-more-likely-to-face-vulnerability
UNICEF Australia. (2022). United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Children. https://www.unicef.org.au/our-work/information-for-children/un-convention-on-the-rights-of-the-child
Excelsia College attended the inauguration of the 10th President, Dr Jonathan Kulaga of Indiana Wesleyan University on Thursday 20 October.
Excelsia College has a long-term partnership with Indiana Wesleyan University and partnered together to create the Lumen Research Institute, a research collaboration that pursues questions of social concern through global collaborative and interdisciplinary research efforts (Indiana Wesleyan University, 2022).
President Kulaga has a career spanning over 34 years in higher education and is an advocate for Christian higher education. He most recently worked as President and Chief Executive Officer of Ohio Christian University for five years. He also has a diverse range of study experience including a PhD in Higher Educational Administration from Kansas State University, Master of Arts in College and University Administration from Michigan State University, and Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Contemporary Ministry from Spring Arbor University.
Peter McKeon explains, ‘It is a privilege to have been able to attend the inauguration of President Kulaga. We look forward to our strengthening our partnership with Indiana Wesleyan University through global Christian research in a variety of vocations’.
This is an exciting new chapter for Indiana Wesleyan University and Jonathan will use his leadership experience and commitment to God to further grow a Christ-centred university.
Indiana Wesleyan University. (2022). Dr. Jonathan Kulaga named Indiana Wesleyan University’s Tenth President. https://www.indwes.edu/news/2022/06/dr-jonathan-kulaga-named-indiana-wesleyan-university-tenth-president
Associate Professor George Odhiambo first joined the Excelsia College team in 2018 as the Chief Academic Officer, having previously held academic positions at the University of Sydney in the field of educational leadership and policy for nearly 15 years. After George decided to join Excelsia, God used his worried state about future career opportunities as a reminder to trust Him with everything that happens in life. ‘Over the years, I have not only shared with colleagues my academic and research skills and abilities through the job that are valuable but have also developed my skills and abilities and remembered to trust Him,’ explains George. George describes himself as ‘an enthusiastic, creative, and passionate educator, researcher, mentor, advisor, and leader who believes that all students can learn and thrive in a learning environment that is stimulating, comforting and appropriate to their unique talents and abilities’.
George’s philosophy of education is governed by equity, social justice and democratic values and he applies this same attitude to the way he engages with his colleagues. ‘God wants to teach leaders many things through our job. One of them is to learn to love people even though I might not agree with their points of view! People you lead and colleagues may not necessarily be people you would choose to be with five days a week, eight hours a day but each relationship I have built with each individual has added certain values and support to my achievements.’ A Christian workplace is similar to secular organisations in the sense that individuals have to deal with conflict and navigate different working and communication styles; however George believes Christians should pray and advocate for moral consistency. ‘Not just for our sake, but also for a just and good outcome for all of society. The important thing is to remain faithful to God in whatever situation He’s called you to,’ he says.
It is this faithfulness that George seeks to carry out in his role as an academic leader. ‘I have learned that people want to know the yard sticks you will use to assess situations and assess their contribution and see that you hold yourself accountable to these measures in everything you do. I have learned that teams will have people with different styles, skills, situations and needs, and my job as leader is to understand that and then adapt my support and coaching to fit the individuals. I have learned the importance of building effective and respectful teams; avoiding doing other people’s jobs for them; being clear about the outcomes needed as well as being humble and keeping a sense of humour.’
George takes Jesus’ commandment seriously to love one another, explaining, ‘Almost every job places you in the company of other people, and you have the privilege, the great opportunity, to learn to love people with God’s kind of love. That means you become more and more like Jesus.’ This theme of love carries through to George’s favourite book of the Bible, 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 which he says, ‘teaches us the true definition of love’. The passage says, ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.’
Spiritual growth doesn’t just occur through Bible studies, church attendance or prayer, even though they are all important activities in the lives of a Christian. George has learned that a workplace can be a place of spiritual growth, sometimes having the biggest impact on an individual’s walk with God. ‘I have come to look at Excelsia College as a classroom and a mission field, where I have grown much faster and in so many diverse ways. The College is a friendly place, challenging, motivating, engaging and nurturing.’
If you are interested in becoming a leader within the field of education, why not explore our Master of Educational Leadership? The course could open doors to roles such as school principal or curriculum leader.