Associate Professor Samantha Bennett receives Vice-Chancellor's Award for Educational Excellence

Professor Schmidt with Associate Professor Sam Bennett. Photo by Lannon Harley, ANU.
Friday 22 November 2019
Academic and professional staff have come together to celebrate the achievements of teams and individuals at the 2019 Vice-Chancellor's Annual Awards.
The 2019 cohort of finalists came from across the academic colleges and service divisions, showcasing the breadth and depth of talent and passion shown to the University in the true spirit of ANU.
The interview below was originally published here.


The 2019 Vice-Chancellor's Award for Educational Excellence recipient says it's an immense honour to be recognised for her work, but is just doing what she 'was hired to do'.

Associate Professor Sam Bennett says her passion stems from a deep and life-long connection with - and commitment to - writing, performing, recording and researching music - and far too much creative energy that has to go somewhere!

Over the past six years, she has introduced a reformed music technology program, Music Recording and Production Techniques; started the process of archiving the ANU School of Music's analogue recordings to a digital format while also creating a two-week course teaching students about archiving; created a world-class recording studio, and more recently; worked on a special ANU-branded app that takes music production beyond School of Music students. She has also continued to meet her regular teaching and research commitments.

For Sam, whose music background has seen her come to ANU from the UK, she sees her role as a facilitator of learning - giving students the space to explore their own ideas and projects so they can excel.

"I work with extremely creative and exceptionally talented people and my philosophy has always been to make the boundaries of their learning - to include content, outcomes, assessments, quality assurance - as flexible and student-led as possible," she says. 

Building the Music Technology program from scratch was extremely rewarding for the sound recordist, and guitarist, who is originally from London.

"It wasn't simply about authoring and delivering courses," she says.

"We had to build the underpinning facilities in our School in order to accommodate such programs, courses and learning.

"It meant building a resource base from scratch to integrate the courses into the curriculum."

That reform process began in 2013 with the construction of a 21-workstation lab for students to start creating music using technology.

"It grew from there - the major equipment grant in 2015 enabled the overhaul of our recording studio facilities," she recalls.

"Building a strong relationship with colleagues from the National Film and Sound Archive enabled us to collaborate on our sound archiving course."

Creating a world-class facility has had its challenges ranging from working to the confines of a heritage-listed building, through to time and budget, Sam says.

"But the work has been worth it."

"The impact of the facility and our work has been recognised worldwide, but most importantly, it has given the students the opportunity to work in a world-class facility and produce professional recordings." 

Ever since its opening in 2017, the recording studio - of which Sam was the lead coordinator on its overhaul and replacement - has become a warm sanctuary for students and staff to create inspiring works that utilise some of the best audio technologies and microphones available.

"More than that, it is a creative nexus in our School - everyone from our Indigenous Composers collective, to Classical piano trios and chamber ensembles, to our Jazz faculty ensemble, as well as leading commercial recording artists have recorded in our studio," Sam proudly says.

"It is one of the only flexibly acoustically treated studio floors intentionally designed to accommodate all musical styles and recording aesthetics. It really is one of the finest recording facilities in the world."

More than 2 years after launching it, Sam says she pinches herself every time she walks through the door, adding that it also happens to be her most favourite place on campus to hang out.

"I'm happiest when I'm with our students delivering a tutorial in our control room, working on a staff recording project or one of our Performance in the Studio events."

But the delivery of the reformed courses - and the infrastructure to help deliver on those courses - couldn't have happened without key stakeholders across campus, she says.

Those stakeholders include staff at the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, the ANU School of Music and the ANU Facilities and Services Division.

"Matthew Davies and Karen Hewitt were instrumental in the collaboration that led to our Sound Archiving course and we wouldn't have that in place without them.'

Associate Professor Royston Gustavson has also been an amazing education mentor for her during her time at ANU, she says, as have the staff at the ANU Centre for Higher Education, Learning and Teaching.

Kudos for the operations behind the recording studio need to go to the Senior Technical Officer Matt Barnes, she says.

"He's equally as deserved of an award since he makes sure everything is always in place, operational and maintained so I can deliver the courses. It's not easy to maintain a large-format Neve console, or to be fully across the breadth of software I teach on and, since 2016, the music technology program has thrived, largely because Matt's 'can-do' attitude means we can all aim high and deliver a world-class program.

"And of course I'd like to thank all our students. They are the people who make the job so rewarding and their passion for music is infectious!"

Sam says it's an immense privilege to hold the role she does at the School.

"I am often part of College or University-level committees and meetings where I am extremely fortunate to meet researchers from all over the University and learn from them. The research going on in our University is mind blowing; it's an inspirational place to work."

On a personal level, Sam says her passion comes from a life-long connection and commitment to music and all its facets.

"I don't think a day goes by where I'm not teaching, writing or performing, researching, listening to or writing about, music. I'm constantly looking to the future and what might be possible to achieve."

Updated:  26 November 2019/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications