06 February 2023: “I loved how so many people from around Australia came together to share their passion…I found it to be an incredible experience.”
This was a common sentiment among the approximately 60 high school students from across Australia who attended a special residential Summer School hosted by Australian Catholic University (ACU) last month. The program, which ran from 18-20 January, allowed students to experience the unique type of university study that ACU’s Bachelor of Arts (Western Civilisation) offers.
The event was led by Dr Tyler Paytas, Senior Lecturer in ACU’s Western Civilisation Program, along with Program Director Professor Robert Carver, Associate Professor Johanna Harris, Associate Professor Andrew Poe, and Dr Kishore Saval. Ten current ACU Ramsay Scholars served as volunteer assistants while key administrative support was provided by ACU staff members Mr Francisco Dominguez and Ms Anne Foubister.
Opening ceremonies included introductory remarks by Professor Carver and Ramsay Centre Academic Director Professor Diana Glenn, as well as a keynote lecture by Ramsay Centre CEO Professor Simon Haines. After a tour of ACU’s North Sydney Campus and afternoon tea in the University’s Ramsay Lounge, staff and students travelled to Benedict XVI Retreat Centre in Grose Vale, NSW, where they stayed for the next two days.
The heart of the Summer School was a series of lively seminars on two of the most influential texts of the Western tradition on the topic of love: Plato’s Phaedrus and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Each seminar consisted of approximately twelve students and one academic staff member. Together, students and staff engaged in vigorous discussion and debate about the ideas and insights contained in these works while also examining their literary qualities and exploring a variety of interpretations.
ACU’s Bachelor of Arts (Western Civilisation) is billed as a course that ‘exposes the brightest young minds to the most vital works of art, culture, and thought in the Western tradition’ with an approach that ‘values rigour and creativity; diversity and dissent; deep learning and thoughtful, critical questioning.’ Attendees of the Summer School experienced this first-hand as they explored some of the depths of Plato and Shakespeare with world-class scholars and like-minded peers from around Australia.
This unique opportunity had a profound effect on the students. As one student remarked:
“Honestly it was amazing. I learnt a lot about myself as well as literature, the ideas discussed applied to more than just academia…. A genuinely life-changing experience.”
Students were especially appreciative of the open discussions:
“I thought the discussions were extremely engaging and insightful. Another layer of depth was added to texts I knew, and it was a very positive learning experience.”
“I loved discussing the texts – especially with people who don’t necessarily have the same views as myself.”
“I’m leaving with more questions than answers and that’s the beauty of this course.”
Thanks to the generous provisions of a philanthropic agreement between the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation and ACU signed in 2020, thirty ACU Ramsay Scholarships (worth $32,000 p.a.) are available each year to support high-achieving students entering one of three degree programs: the Bachelor of Arts (Western Civilisation), the Bachelor of Arts (Western Civilisation) / Laws, and the Bachelor of Arts (Western Civilisation), Master of Teaching (Secondary). Funding continues for the full duration of the single or double degree course (to a maximum of $160,000). A fourth Honours year will be available from 2024. Students are taught in small-class groups and receive academic mentoring. There have been two cohorts of ACU Ramsay Scholars since the launch of ACU’s Western Civilisation Program in March 2021.
For more information about ACU’s Western Civilisation Program go to the ACU website.