The St George Illawarra Dragons and University of Wollongong have announced an extension of their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), where their longstanding partnership will extend until at least 2020.
The partnership provides for a range of joint initiatives of mutual benefit and for the community including a program within the St George district focused on inspiring school students to become leaders, set long term education and career goals, discover pathways to achieve them, develop study skills and build resilience to overcome challenges.
The Dragons and UOW initially formalised their association in 2009, committing under a MoU to collaboratively pursue positive outcomes for both organisations regarding research, scholarships, community programs, internships, promotions and facility use.
UOW Vice Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings CBE said the partnership would continue to open doors for collaboration and engagement within the wider community.
"The collaboration between our two organisations has increased over the years and this extension of the agreement opens further opportunities. Not just for the Dragons and UOW, but also for the wider community," he said.
"We work closely to deliver a comprehensive range of programs and resources for primary and secondary schools across our communities, particularly through UOW’s Kids In2Uni initiative. We are thankful that players and staff have made themselves available for appearances as part of our mutual programs.
"By extending our partnership with the St George Illawarra Dragons we are reaffirming our commitment to this great club and to our shared objectives and I look forward to seeing how much more we can do together for the wider community in coming years."
St George Illawarra Chairman Brian Johnston said the successful and proud history between the Dragons and UOW can only lead to continued positive outcomes moving forward.
"We are very proud to continue our formal association with the University of Wollongong, this extension is a significant positive for our organisation and the local community," said Johnston.
"Having worked cooperatively together across a range of areas since 2009, the new MoU enables us to strengthen and further develop the opportunities and potential of the partnership for all involved.
"The outcomes to date have been extremely positive and we are excited about the future together with UOW."
The Dragons currently have 17 players enrolled at the University studying a broad range of degrees as part of the acclaimed Graduates of League (GOL) program. The GOL program was established in 2012 as a way to increase the university entry, retention and completion rates of elite athletes and professional sports people.
The program provides athletes with support from the university as they balance rigorous training schedules and travel commitments with tertiary studies.
Over the past five years, the UOW GOL program has supported 63 student-athletes, employed 81 students as peer mentors and had 10 graduations (with eight more expected in 2017).
In 2017 UOW also welcomed the first postgraduate GOL student, Dragons international prop, Russell Packer.
"The Graduates of League program provides a powerful support network that ensures NRL players reach their academic goals while still playing and training full time," Professor Wellings said.
"At UOW, we are proud to be able to support our Dragons partners in their studies to set them on course for a career after rugby league."