In a historic first for the University of Newcastle, the 2011 April/May graduation ceremonies will be held over two weeks.
A record 4,469 students will graduate this year, with 11 ceremonies to be held at the University’s Callaghan campus. Ceremonies begin Thursday 28 April and continue on Friday 29 April and Saturday 30 April with further ceremonies to be held on Friday 6 May and Saturday 7 May.
This graduation, the University is awarding four honorary degrees:
• Sister Maureen McGuirk AM – Doctor of Education honoris causa
• Mr John Olsen AO, OBE – Doctor of Letters honoris causa
• Mr Michael Johns – Doctor of the University honoris causa
• Professor Christopher Chen – Doctor of Medicine honoris causa
Information regarding this week’s ceremonies and graduation highlights follows. A second media release will be issued with next week’s graduation highlights.
NB: Wednesday 27 April is a University holiday. If you would like to pre-record an interview with Vice-Chancellor Professor Nicholas Saunders, please contact Media and Public Relations TODAY on 02 4921 5351.
► Thursday 28 April - Difficult decision delivers life-changing results
Five years ago Angelene McInnes made a decision that completely transformed her life. Today, that decision will be rewarded with a University Medal – an honour awarded to students who have achieved exceptional academic merit.
The single mother of one had always wanted to teach but didn’t achieve the required marks in high school. In 2006 she enrolled in the University’s Open Foundation program.
“Once I had completed my Open Foundation studies by correspondence and gained the qualifications needed to begin my degree, I moved from Forster to Newcastle to start a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Teaching degree specialising in special education. This was a huge decision to make, as I had a great job in Forster, but I have never looked back,” she said.
Ms McInnes now works across a range of special education programs, including English as a Second Language and integration programs, at Shortland Public School and enjoys every minute of her rewarding new career.
“I enjoy helping children become accustomed to school by giving them the skills to integrate smoothly into the mainstream classroom environment. At first some students cannot hold a pen properly and it is very rewarding to see them gain the practical and social skills needed for the classroom,” she said.
Ms McInnes will graduate on Thursday 28 April at 10am.
► Friday 29 April - Local crusader to help community’s disadvantaged
Rhianne Smith is driven by the fight for justice and the desire to represent the community’s most disadvantaged. Today she will receive a Bachelor of Laws and Diploma of Legal Practice, and she intends to stay in Newcastle to practice law in the city she loves.
“In my view, Newcastle has the best law school in the country. I chose to study here rather than Sydney because of its reputation and the way the course is structured around hands on experience,” Ms Smith said.
Ms Smith has landed a job with local firm Braye Cragg Solicitors where she completed her professional placement. She is practising criminal and personal injury law.
“Only a few months out of university I already have the opportunity to put my skills to use. Right now, I am leading in civil litigation and assisting in criminal matters – a rare break for a new graduate.
“Ultimately, I want to focus on criminal law and help the disadvantaged in our community get a fair deal. By the end of the year I hope to observe cases in the new Toronto drug court, which will expand my knowledge and experience of criminal matters.
“Most recent law graduates aspire to make a difference. My aspirations are the same, but to stay local and help my community.”
Ms Smith will graduate on Friday April 29 at 10am.
► Saturday 30 April – Massaging a new career in nursing
Joel Doherty, 25, once spent his time massaging the muscles of NRL’s superstar players. But he passed the ball on to go back to university and study nursing.
“As a massage therapist, I worked on players from the Melbourne Storm, Cronulla Sharks and the Queensland State of Origin team. I must admit I am more of a rugby union fan but it was a bit of a novelty to tell my female friends that I rubbed down Billy Slater,” he said.
“I went into massage because I wanted to help people but realised that I could help people a lot more as a nurse.”
Mr Doherty is now working as a nurse in the Royal Brisbane Hospital’s emergency department – the busiest emergency department in Australia.
“I have been thrown in the deep end but I really enjoy it. The human body is a puzzle and I really like helping to put all the pieces back into place.”
Mr Doherty’s younger sister Claire is also a nurse and works in an operating theatre at Canberra Hospital.
“There is a bit of friendly rivalry between my sister and I – I always say if there is an emergency I can step in and she can hand me the instruments!” he said.
Mr Doherty will graduate with a Bachelor of Nursing degree on Saturday 30 April at 6pm.
► Saturday 30 April - IVF pioneer to share 40 years of knowledge
Recognised as pioneer of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), Professor Christopher Chen has spent more than 40 years contributing to the knowledge and advancement of reproductive medicine.
The University will award Professor Chen with an honorary Doctor of Medicine.
His initial research into sperm cryopreservation led to the establishment of Asia’s first sperm bank in Singapore. In the early 1980s, Professor Chen’s team at Flinders Medical Centre in Adelaide became only the third centre in the world to achieve an IVF pregnancy. He went on to assist the conception of the world’s first IVF triplets in 1983, the world’s first frozen egg pregnancy in 1986, and Asia’s first set of sextuplets in 1998.
Professor Chen’s further scientific achievements identified the exact time of egg fertilisation and, as a result, pregnancy rates through IVF increased using his technique of assisted egg retrieval and delayed embryo transfer.
His research into cryopreservation paved the way for medical specialists across the world to begin freezing human eggs, and he was the first to identify the Early Pregnancy Factor that can detect a successful embryo transfer within hours of the procedure.
Professor Chen is the occasional speaker at the graduation ceremony on Saturday 30 April from 2pm. He is available for phone interview prior to Saturday and in person on the day.
OCCASIONAL SPEAKERS AND HONORARY DEGREE RECIPIENTS
►Thursday 28 April
10am: Faculty of Education and Arts
Occasional Speaker: Ms Robyn McKerihan. Ms McKerihan is the Hunter and Central Coast Regional Director for the NSW Department of Education and Training. She is responsible for the leadership and management of some 300 schools, delivering quality education to the region’s 110,000 public school students.
2pm: Faculty of Education and Arts
Occasional Speaker: Sister Maureen McGuirk AM. A Sister of Mercy since 1949, Sister McGuirk has been a prominent influence in the NSW education system as a teacher, school principal and researcher. During her 21 years as the Headmistress of Monte Sant’ Angelo Mercy College in North Sydney, Sister McGuirk transformed the century old traditional curriculum, introducing technological-based education and diversifying the student population.An honorary degree will be awarded to Sister McGuirk at this ceremony.
Mr John Olsen AO will be awarded an honorary degree at this ceremony. Mr Olsen is an internationally renowned artist who was born in Cooks Hill, Newcastle. Recognised for the inherent Australian qualities in his painting, he was awarded the 2005 Archibald Prize for his controversial self-portrait ‘Janus Faced’. One of Mr Olsen's most successful artworks, the mural Salute to Five Bells, hangs in the Sydney Opera House.
6pm: Faculty of Education and Arts
Occasional Speaker: Dr John Doyle AM. A University of Newcastle alumnus, Dr Doyle is an award-winning Australian actor, writer, radio presenter and comedian and has made an outstanding contribution to the nation’s cultural scene. He began acting in 1980 and appeared in various theatre productions before creating the character of Roy Slaven for ABC Radio in 1985.
►Friday 29 April
10am: Faculty of Business and Law
Occasional Speaker: Dr Geoff Leonard AM. Dr Leonard has been associated with the University of Newcastle for more than 40 years. During this time he has made significant contributions to teaching and learning, commercial engagement, philanthropy and University governance.
An honorary degree will be awarded to Mr Michael Johns at this ceremony. Mr Johns has recently retired as Deputy Chancellor of the University, having served as a member of the University Council since 1990. Over the past 20 years, Mr Johns has dedicated himself to the University community and has become a crucial link with the broader Hunter region.
2pm: Faculty of Business and Law
Occasional Speaker: Mr Bob Cameron. Mr Cameron is the founder, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Centennial Coal Company Limited, a major exporter and supplier of coal to the NSW power industry. Mr Cameron has had a highly successful career as a senior manager in the coal industry which began with Hunter-based business Coal & Allied Industries before founding Preston Coal Company.
►Saturday 30 April
10am: Faculty of Health
Occasional Speaker: Professor Ian Wronski. Over the past 30 years Professor Wronski has played a leading role as a health academic and advocate in Australia. He initiated and led the development of a rural and indigenous-focused tropical health, education and research hub at Queensland’s James Cook University.
2pm: Faculty of Health
Occasional Speaker: Professor Christopher Chen. Professor Chen’s has made many outstanding contributions to the knowledge and advancement of the field of reproductive medicine and is acknowledged as a pioneer of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). For further information about Professor Chen and his achievements, see the graduation highlights section of this media release.
An honorary degree will be awarded to Professor Chen at this ceremony.
6pm: Faculty of Health
Occasional Speaker: Professor Louise O’Brien. Professor O’Brien is the University of Newcastle’s Professor of Mental Health Nursing and was responsible for the development of the first specialist mental health nurse practitioner course in Australia – the Master of Nursing (Mental Health Nurse Practitioner) course at the University of Western Sydney.
Media contact: Megan Cunneen, Media and Public Relations, on 02 4921 5351 or 0448 369 871.