The Catalyst Clemente program at Edith Cowan University is an innovative university education program delivered in partnership with the St Vincent de Paul Society WA and funded by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training’s Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme (HEPPP).
The program teaches humanities and arts subjects to adults who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to complete university studies, tracing its origins to Earl Shorris’ Clemente program in New York in the mid-1990s. Participation in Clemente enhances the development of stronger social networks, formal and informal, along with increasing resilience. Other benefits include increased self-esteem, more structured lives, and an opportunity to exercise the intellect and imagination.
Clemente’s philosophy is that tertiary-level education in the humanities can assist people facing additional challenges – which could encompass financial constraints, health and social issues, and other factors – to make positive changes in their life.
The delivery model of Clemente involves a university teaching a unit of Humanities or Arts studies at a location within the community that is easily accessible by people who may not be able to arrange transport to and from a university campus, and considered more approachable than a university campus.
The program is set up so that non-government organisations and universities work together to deliver the program and provide support to the participants.
Clemente was introduced in Australia in 2003 by the Australian Catholic University and has since expanded to nine locations.
In 2008, ECU’s School of Communications and Arts partnered with Mission Australia to coordinate a version of the program for Western Australia, called Catalyst Clemente. This program ran from 2008 to 2013 in Maddington at Mission Australia’s facility, Wattle House.
As of 2016, ECU has partnered with the St Vincent de Paul Society WA to deliver the program from Ozanam House, Vinnies’ head office in Belmont, giving students from the earlier years of the program a chance to complete their final units. Four students have completed the program and are now set to attend ECU’s mid-year graduation ceremonies in September to collect their parchments, while new students are now enrolling for the semester 2, 2016 classes.
Students have studied a range of subjects and units since the program’s inception in 2008, including:
- Health Journalism
- English and Media
- Literature & Social Change
- Introducing Gender
- Children, Youth & Global Media
- Special Topics in History
- Criminal Underworlds: Crime and Society
- Home & Away: Introducing the Humanities
- Introduction to Journalism
- What is Knowledge?
- Representation and Interpretation
Students completing the four-unit program can obtain a University Certificate in Humanities and Arts, becoming eligible for admission into an ECU undergraduate degree.
For student Dayle, the unit provided her not only with additional knowledge in a subject she was interested in, but had many positive benefits for her life.
“I like the atmosphere in class – we all help and support each other, and we laugh a lot,” Dayle said.
“There’s a mutual co-operation, rather than competition. Catalyst Clemente has really given me the idea that I am intelligent and I do have something worth saying.”
ECU’s Dean of Arts and Humanities Professor Clive Barstow praised both the individual and communal benefits of the program.
“An education in arts and humanities empowers people to make positive changes in their lives and enrich their communities,” Professor Barstow said.
St Vincent de Paul Society CEO Mark Fitzpatrick said it was great to be partnering with ECU to offer this program for people experiencing disadvantage.
“The St Vincent de Paul Society is dedicated to helping people who are marginalised or disadvantaged and education is an important way that we can help lift people out of poverty,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.
“This program provides an invaluable opportunity for people who may otherwise never have the chance to undertake tertiary study, but more than that, it will help instil confidence and hope.”
In 2016, ECU’s School of Arts and Humanities, St Vincent de Paul WA and the ECU Engagement Unit continue offering the Clemente program. The program is free for participants with ECU covering the tuition costs and fees.