Academy U, delivered through Western Sydney University’s Future Student Engagement unit, is a four-year program for high potential high school students, designed to empower the next generation of global citizens, leaders and changemakers.
Working with 15 Western Sydney high schools, Academy U challenges students to embrace sustainability and provides enriched learning opportunities including undertaking a university level subject (leadership in complexity) whilst in high school. Academy U allows Western Sydney University to embrace the core institutional value of integrity by really listening to future students and youths from Western Sydney communities and allowing their perspectives to thrive and be incorporated in the university’s ways of teaching, learning and thinking. Furthermore, the program sees students develop the skills and capabilities to take action and affect positive change across the local and global communities beyond Western Sydney University.
The program helps school leavers prepare for a successful transition to university and beyond.
Finalist: Jim Micsko, Alicia Pinning and Ciaran Smyth
"I am writing to recommend the Western Sydney University AcademyU program, a unique and innovative initiative that aims to inspire and support high potential high school students to reach their unlimited potential. The AcademyU program offers students the opportunity to engage with more challenging and relevant content than what the traditional curriculum can offer and prepares them for a successful transition to university and beyond.
As a teacher and school leader at Our Lady of Mercy College Parramatta, I have witnessed the positive impact of the AcademyU program on our students. The program has enabled them to access state-of-the-art facilities and connect with academic staff and industry partners at Western Sydney University's on-campus experiences. They have also been able to complete a first-year unit at Western, obtaining academic credit towards a corresponding Western course. This has given them a taste of university life and a head start in their chosen field of study, which enables them to make better decisions about their journey into further education.
The AcademyU program has also enhanced our students' personal and professional development through online learning modules, masterclasses and Western events. They have learned valuable skills such as critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration and leadership, demonstrated through live presentations at Hackathons and being groups in multi-school teams. They have also developed a global perspective and a sense of social responsibility by engaging with local and international communities and issues, in particular with reference to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The AcademyU program aligns with the vision and mission of Our Lady of Mercy College Parramatta, which is to provide a contemporary Mercy education that empowers young women to lead with courage and act justly, making a difference in whatever sphere of life they choose to move. The program also complements the offerings of The Academy at Western Sydney University, which is a place to learn, grow and transform as a leader and changemaker.
I strongly believe that the AcademyU program is an invaluable opportunity for high potential high school students to discover their passions, pursue their goals and achieve their full potential. I highly recommend the program to any school that wishes to participate in it and provide their students with an enriching and rewarding educational experience."
Director of Innovation and Partnerships, Our Lady of Mercy College Parramatta
"I am delighted to provide this letter of support for the Academy U teams application for the Shaping Australia Award. I have had the pleasure to work with the Academy U team over the last two years in the Academy U Hackathon as a keynote presenter and a judge. Working with 10-15 local high schools targeting high achieving year 10 students this program exemplifies engagement and outreach at scale across the region.
The program works to make the United Nations SDG 2039 agenda meaningful at a local level for youth while still embracing innovation, entrepreneurship and big picture thinking. The students embrace the challenge and are invigorated by the scaffolded activities. The preparatory work undertaken by the students through Leadership in Complexity and for 2023 the ‘SDGs and me’ a purposely developed Western Edge playlist. The event is one of the highlights of my year and the reason for this is the work in planning and delivering a high-quality program that is purposefully linked to the SDGs. Alicia and CIaran and both extremely professional and committed to their work."
Ms Jen Dollin
Director, Sustainability Education and Partnerships, Western Sydney University