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Monash academic honoured with top national teaching award

Monash University 3 mins read

A Monash academic has been presented the prestigious 2023 Australian University Teacher of the Year award for her outstanding contributions to teaching excellence. Associate Professor Zala Volcic has been recognised nationally for an exceptional record of advancing student learning, educational leadership and scholarly contribution to learning and teaching.


As the Director of Teaching Innovation within the Faculty of Arts, Associate Professor Volcic brings a wealth of expertise to her role, particularly in media studies. At a time when it has become crucially important to understand and respond to dramatic changes in the media environment, she has made significant and distinctive contributions to teaching media theory and practice.


Associate Professor Volcic said her teaching philosophy is rooted in a commitment to democratic media institutions and practices, largely informed by her own experience living through and studying media propaganda during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. 

“My teaching is devoted to building the deep sense of connection to the richness of human cultural achievements: for one another, for the range of human achievements and their limitless potential, for a better society and world. Teaching for me has always been about strengthening a sense of community and inquiry in the classroom. In the field of media studies, I provide our students with a rigorous combination of theory, history, and hands-on practice while expanding their intellectual horizons through interactions with each other, educators, and media industry partners,” Associate Professor Volcic said. 


“My teaching approach fosters a sense of the teacher ‘being there’ for the students, recognising education as a relational endeavour where students develop and thrive within learning communities, shaped by in-class experiences and assessment practices that nurture their thinking and reflection.”


Monash University Vice-Chancellor and President, Sharon Pickering congratulated Associate Professor Volcic on her award and well deserved recognition for her commitment to teaching. 


“Associate Professor Volcic has been an international leader in bringing together the fields of media studies and intercultural education, pioneering a model that balances flexible, empathic teaching with rigorous academic expectations”, Vice-Chancellor Professor Pickering said.


“She goes above and beyond to ensure her students receive the best possible educational experience – from nurturing a sense of belonging to cultivating strong relationships with industry partners.”


The Bachelor of Media and Communication degree (BMC) at the School of Media, Film, and Journalism (MFJ) that Associate Professor Volcic has run demonstrates the value of linking media theory and practice to foster a strong and consistent connection between students and teachers. 


Her original and award-winning curricula and resources have been globally implemented based on their ability to promote academic achievement, to develop care and collaboration and to build a sense of community in the classroom and beyond.


Monash educators recognised in three further awards


Three other Monash academics were recognised for their outstanding contributions to teaching at the Summit in Canberra, further cementing the University’s reputation for excellent educational outcomes.


Dr Lisa Powell (Monash Business School) received the Award for Teaching Excellence. Dr Powell’s innovative teaching approach of ‘rewilding’ was recognised for empowering accounting graduates to thrive in increasingly uncertain business environments and ensuring they are better prepared in contributing to sustainable futures.


Dr Filippe Oliveira (Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences) was recognised with a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning. Dr Oliveira’s teaching reaches a broad spectrum of learners, including health professionals in women’s health. His practical teaching style has shown meaningful and sustained positive impacts in learning and workforce development in this field. 


Dr Jess Co (Monash Business School) was also awarded a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning. Dr Co was recognised for her work that intentionally designs and creates educational environments that facilitate students’ transition into university, enhancing students’ coping skills, engagement, and self-efficacy, which supports improved learning outcomes. 


The awards were presented at the Universities Australia Solutions Summit in Canberra on Monday 26 February at a welcome reception from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.


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Media Enquiries

Kim Loudon

Media and Communications Manager (Arts)

Monash University

T: +61 458 281 704



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