The Australian | 21 November 2012
When James Arvanitakis’s students go online for one of his lectures, they won’t get a dull recording. They may find him wearing a motorbike helmet and sunglasses in a library as he discusses appearance and racism or doing a jig in front of the Eiffel Tower as part of a tutorial on globalisation.
For this sociology academic at the University of Western Sydney, it’s about thinking like a “pirate” and plundering experiences to captivate students.
And it involves going where the students are: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
On Monday, Dr Arvanitakis was presented with the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Award for Australian University Teacher of the Year.
“We live in an environment where there are heaps of things going on for students and they need to see that we are keeping up with what is happening,” he said.
A senior lecturer in humanities, Dr Arvanitakis was a banker, then a human rights activist in the Pacific, Indonesia and Europe before going into academia.
By bringing his own experiences into his teaching and making room for students to value their own experiences, he aims to make students feel “safe” to participate without fear of being made to look stupid. He says it is a message that is particularly important for first-year students, especially those that are first in their family to go to university.
For a full list of recipients of teaching awards see