They successfully campaigned for a complete Psychology degree to be available in Cairns, raised community awareness of James Cook University’s presence in the city and created an annual debate that has sparked public interest for 21 years.
James Cook University’s Psychology students have proven they are masters of their destiny, but will revisit the question for their 21st anniversary debate on October 28.
JCU Student Psychology Association Treasurer Robert Gronbeck said the idea for the annual debate was born in 1992 when psychology students were able to start their degree at the crammed JCU Cairns campus facilities at Cairns TAFE, but had to complete it at the Townsville campus.
Associate Professor Deborah Graham and Dr Nerina Caltabiano encouraged the students to form a student psychology society and put together an event for the community.
“They called themselves the Cairns Student Psychology Association, or CASPA. The ghost wrapped around a psychology symbol on the T-shirts represented the Psychology offerings inCairns at the time,” Professor Graham said.
“Nerina and I had thought that 1st Annual Psychology Debate would be an event held in a TAFE area, demountable building or local hall.
“The first monthly meeting we had with the students was hair-raising - they had gone ahead and booked the ballroom at the Hilton to hold the first debate.
“The students had attracted sponsors, had a 10-year trophy donated by QTV (whom they outlasted) and were actively promoting the debate in the media as much as possible.
“Thanks to their commitment, there was standing room only at the 1st Annual Psychology Debate. What a success! This event also helped to raise community awareness about JCU in Cairns.
“The members of CASPA created a lot of local support and never tired of getting together petitions and taking opportunities to call for complete degree offerings in Cairns. They also started to lobby internally.
“Fortunately, within 12 months, we were offering the complete Psychology degree. While the students did not achieve this outcome single handed, their input certainly did help to facilitate change.
“The Student Psychology Association (now known as SPA) is the oldest student organisation on campus – something that we, in Psychology, are very proud of – and has many activities across the year, including careers evenings and the Neuron Art Competition.
“For 20 years the debate has been a first year student event organised by SPA (or CASPA or SPAC). While often nerve racking for students and staff alike, it provides a wonderful forum for community members and psychology staff and students to get together and has become a thank you to the Cairns community.
“The debate has also acted as encouragement for first year psychology students to get involved with their peers, their university and the community. Many very senior and well-respected psychology professionals have been a part of past debates.
“While the nature of the debate has ranged from hilariously funny to quite serious, one thing is always certain; everybody will be entertained.
“The 21st Annual Debate will have teams of mixed year levels - a special celebration for a special event.
“Happy 21st birthday to all who have made this event possible over so many years.”
The 21st Psychology Debate, “We are masters of our destiny’, and lunch will be at the Shangri-La, Cairns, 12.30-4pm on October 28.
Issued October 19, 2012
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