RESIDENTS who engage with the Centre for Participation, Uniting Wimmera, Northern Grampians and Ararat councils will be among those to benefit from Federation University Wimmera's first cohort of Bachelor of Social Science students.
On Wednesday, seven students presented the findings from their major independent research projects, an initiative collectively known as the Capstone Project.
The project involved the students engaging with organisations to deliver a project to address an issue, or they undertook independent research for the Rural Incubator for Social and Economic Research.
Ms Clarkson evaluated the success of the Laneway Cafe run by the Centre for Participation in Horsham, and the realities of opening a cafe in Horsham.
"I was interested in how social enterprises might be applicable to our region, because they're commercial businesses that exist for public good," she said.
"They can be place-based responses to gaps in services. It's a really excellent model creating employment training for young people with disabilities and migrant women.
"There can be operational tensions when you're trying to run a business and do social good at the same time - they can be quite different skill sets that you need. Really the central lesson of social enterprise is keeping a good balance there so you can stay financially viable and achieve the outcomes you're after."
Ms Champness, of Kaniva, reviewed the Victorian Government's careers advisors strategy and its effectiveness for rural students.
Ms Champness has herself been the careers advisor at Kaniva College for eight years.
"I looked at the knowledge I had gained in that time and areas where students were excelling and some of the perceived disadvantage," she said. "I can take that information going forward now to change the way I actually do some things and do them better.
"We looked at some of the opportunities they had to go into tertiary education, I looked at the statistics on employment and the number of apprenticeships coming through - we have a high level of apprenticeships in the area.
"The most important thing is we try to keep making sure it stays one on one, because that's where I can actually find out what students' ideas are, and that way if there are any misconceptions I can pick them up fairly early. That's one of the big opportunities we have at a small rural school.
Mr Flaherty worked on the DeckHeads project, getting students at Horsham College's McKenzie Creek campus to paint skateboards with themes of what made them happy.
Thablay Sher Khinshwe
Ms Sher Khinshwe investigated the successful Nhill settlement of Karen refugees. She said one of the challenges for the community remained the availability of settlement processing services.
"The government should invest more in the settlement process - things like workshops on how people can become more independent - and services need to be trained in how to cater for people from non-English-speaking backgrounds, she said.
"There are not many settlement services in Nhill at the moment: We've got a support at the learning centre, but that's something that needs to be implemented in the future if we are to have more people coming into the town."
Ms Anderson studied the patronage of the sports and acquatic centre in Stawell for Northern Grampians Shire Council.
"My goal was to find out how (the council) could increase community participation at the centre," she said.
"There were a lot of comments about programs being specific for age groups and programs people wanted to see in particular - injury prevention and recovery programs and things like that.
"Outside of this course, I'm hoping to move into a social work position, but this has given me confidence to communicate and make social connections with people in local government and local organisations."
Northern Grampians mayor Kevin Erwin said the research would contribute to a review and redevelopment of the facility into the future.
Another student, Rachel Loffler, worked with Ararat Rural City Council chief executive Tim Harrison to develop an engagement strategy and plan for arts and tourism.
Michelle Hair looked at a strategy at Uniting Wimmera to evaluate the hours allocated to out-of-home care.
Federation University doctorate researcher Cathy Tischler said almost all members of the class were employed in professional positions in the region.
"Most of them as a result of their studies," she said.
"We've identified there is certainly a need for people with these skills in the region, which is one of the reasons why we brought this course here."
On Wednesday October 23, Federation University Australia said it would continue offering the Bachelor of Social Science program at its Wimmera campus.
Ms Tischler said the university would also offer an honours course to graduates in 2020.
"What would be really exciting is if we can create pathways for people in our region to become doctoral students and work through that higher degree of research," she said.
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