Picking up PACE
Picking up PACE


Picking up PACE

Since it began six years ago, PACE has become a signature feature of undergraduate learning at Macquarie.

PACE, which connects students with partner organisations to gain real-life experience that prepares them for work and life beyond the campus, was the brainchild of former Vice-Chancellor, Judyth Sachs. She wanted to rethink the way undergraduates were taught and what the curriculum was achieving.

“After university, students go out into the workplace with well-honed cognitive skills, but we wanted to give them more than just academic smarts,” says Lindie Clark, PACE’s Academic and Programs Director. “This program allows them to learn how to relate to others and deal with situations where they have to understand and resolve a problem.”

“PACE is about learning, applying that knowledge and delivering something for partner organisations, wherever or however that may be,” she says.

In 2014 more than 5,500 students will enrol in PACE units in 57 subject areas across all four faculties; by 2016 all newly enrolled undergraduate students will have PACE units integrated into their program of study. With almost 600 external partners, participating projects might be local, regional or international, and private enterprise or community-based.

“There’s only so much you can get from reading course texts and writing essays,” says Mridula Amin. Putting yourself into a crosscultural working environment teaches you how to work in a team and understand others, step up to the plate when the job demands it and to think on your feet. I was working outside of my comfort zone learning and applying new skills. This wasn’t
a simulation, it was the real thing and a test of character.”

Undergraduates invariably come to the organisation with enthusiasm and passion, says Lindie Clark. “They’re often in the third or fourth year of their studies – not fresh-faced, wide-eyed undergrads but well-prepared individuals with knowledge gained in an academic environment and the hunger to apply this to a professional or community setting.”

“By choosing to do a PACE program, you make the choice to step out of your comfort zone and adapt to new situations and experiences,” says Hannah Lai, a social studies graduate who volunteered at Manila based development organisation, Bahay Tuluyan, at the end of last year. Lai helped develop a learning library at Bahay Tuluyan’s emergency shelter for girls, worked on a children’s rights festival and helped develop an electronic database. “Nothing can prepare you for the steep learning curve of actually being in the workplace in a different culture, but once you start job-hunting and taking part in interviews, it will be these experiences that make you stand out, rather than textbook answers from a lecture.”

For partnering organisations, it’s like striking gold. Not only do they get a dedicated, enthusiastic student but they get projects done that might not otherwise be possible. Brands as well known as The Salvation Army, City of Sydney and Microsoft have already joined, and, with PACE’s continued growth, the University will look to alumni to become more involved.

“We’re starting to work more closely with our alumni through invitations to special events and other engagement opportunities,” says Jayne Denshire, Marketing Manager. “Many are already great supporters and we’d love to grow these relationships.” 

Get involved in the PACE program through your place of work or a community organisation of which you are a member. To register your interest, go to mq.edu.au/partner-with-pace

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