Improving tertiary pathways by improving support for prospective students

Associate Professor Delene Weber (University of South Australia)

Associate Head, School of Natural and Built Environments
University of South Australia

Associate Prof Weber is a passionate teacher who cares deeply about student learning and is constantly looking for opportunities to encourage and inspire students to achieve their potential. Before beginning work with UniSA, Assoc Prof Dr Weber coordinated a large outdoor education program for the State of South Carolina. She was given a Palmetto Award by the Governor for her role in strategic planning and developing education programs for youth at risk. Assoc Prof Weber has spent much of her 16 years at UniSA as the undergraduate program director for environmental science and in that role has been has been involved in student recruitment, retention activities (including a four day student engagement project during orientation week), student counselling, and industry mentoring. She has received numerous teaching awards from UniSA including a UniSA citation for outstanding contribution to student learning. In 2008 she received a Carrick Citation for outstanding contributions to student learning. Her commitment to education is evidenced by her membership (since 1991) of the National Association of Interpretation, a lead international body in outdoor education. She has also served as a state chapter coordinator for Interpretation Australia Association, and is a member of the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication.

Assoc Prof Weber’s research focuses on three related areas – behaviour change, protected area planning, and community engagement. She is particularly interested in moving behavioural research beyond the theory of planned behaviour and exploring the role of emotion and trust in behavioural choices. She has published book chapters and journal articles in the area of emotional attachment and trust. Much of her recent work in community engagement has focused on the use of innovative web-based platforms to map how people value public lands. These include interactive respondent feedback mechanisms that encourage ongoing dialogue with stakeholders.

Assoc Prof Weber is currently involved in an ARC grant – Bushfires and Biodiversity – Optimising conservation outcomes in peri-urban areas at risk. Her role on this project includes managing the budget and investigating the level of trust community members place in fire related authorities, as well as the importance of the emotional, and arguably irrational decision, to locate in high fire risk areas. Delene’s students (honours and PhDs) associated with this project are examining various aspects of public education and appropriate media for disseminating fire related information. Other current projects related to behaviour choice include an analysis of water compliance behaviour for the SA Government as part of its commitment to reducing water theft as defined in the new Water Resources Act. Two recent examples demonstrating ability to engage large audiences in short time frames and with small budgets by using an innovative and interactive web-based survey include a study of the values Victorians associate with public lands (Sponsored by Parks Victoria: $25,000, 6 weeks, 1950 respondents mapping 45,000 points) and Operation Outdoors – a joint initiative of ABC Radio and UniSA that in the space of 4 weeks achieved 790 respondents, thousands of hits on the website and a strong following on Facebook. Her research record given teaching responsibilities also demonstrates her strong project management skills. Delene is excited by the prospect of working on such a meaningful OLT project.

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