Hear from UON Central Coast alumnus Tim Silverwood, as well as 24 other Central Coast alumni, who are sharing their university and career journeys as part...

Central Coast

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We're celebrating 25 years on the Coast and 50 years in the region. Meet our Central Coast graduates making a difference...


UON Central Coast: Celebrating Student Success

Transforming the lives of Central Coast residents through the delivery of world-class teaching, learning and research is a key focus of the University of Newcastle - Central Coast. In 2014 we celebrated our 25th anniversary of the commencement of teaching, at the Ourimbah Campus.

Explore the personal and professional journeys of 25 students who completed their university course or program at the Central Coast Campus.

Joanne McCarthy

Joanne McCarthy

Accidental journalist wins top media award

Winning Australian journalism's top award for her reports into alleged child sexual abuse would not have been possible for Joanne McCarthy, without the research and analytical skills she learned as part of her university degree.

Joanne McCarthy never wanted to be a journalist. She wanted to lead the quiet life of a librarian.

Growing up in a large Catholic family, living on the Central Coast, Joanne had always thought she would go to university one day.

But she had never thought that she would take on a role as a cadet journalist, undertake a Bachelor of Arts degree at her local university, and one day use those skills to report on alleged sexual abuse of children by the Catholic Church.

Working for The Newcastle Herald, Joanne's reporting of the alleged abuse by Catholic clergy in the Hunter, lead to a groundswell of public support for these crimes to be unearthed, through an inquiry and a royal commission.

"I relied on the skills that I learnt doing an arts degree, concentrating on history and English, when I began writing about child sexual abuse within institutions, primarily the Catholic Church, from June 2006," Joanne said.

"Those skills included sourcing material, weighing up evidence, fact-checking, interviewing, public speaking, and marshalling arguments based on the evidence before me."

Joanne's reporting of these alleged crimes, the impact on the victims and their families, lead to the establishment of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and won the humble mother of three Australian journalism's most prestigious award – the Gold Walkley.

"My proudest moment, professionally, are related to that work. They include giving voice to the many Australians whose lives have been devastated by historic child sexual abuse," Joanne said

"The most valuable thing that I learned at University was to value facts and primary sources.  The degree gave me the skills and the confidence to challenge the powerful NSW Government and politicians across the country – to achieve a royal commission."

When Joanne finished high school on the Central Coast, she had no idea what she wanted to be and had considered studying at university to become a librarian.

Her then boyfriend, had seen an advertisement in a local newspaper calling for applications for a cadetship. After applying and being given the role, Joanne immersed herself in learning her craft.

"I became the Gosford Star's first cadet based on no interview, and quite possibly the world's worst job application," Joanne admitted.

After establishing herself in the media, Joanne decided to pursue her long-held dream of studying at university.

"I had always promised myself that I would go to university when my children were old enough, when I could afford it, and when I would most enjoy it and get the most out of it, which is why I completed the Open Foundation course in 1996, through the University of Newcastle at the Central Coast Campus," she said.

"I then went on to study for a Bachelor of Arts degree, also at University of Newcastle, at both the Callaghan and Ourimbah campuses, and graduated nine years after I commenced my studies, in 2005."

A determination to get the best out of her studies, and to make the most of the skills that she had learned and honed through her degree and professional experience, will continue to drive Joanne to keep researching and reporting on difficult issues and problems that need solutions.

"I will continue my focus on these issues while the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse completes its work," Joanne said.

"I will remain a journalist with the Newcastle Herald and continue to write about historic child sexual abuse because it is a very complicated, legally challenging and emotionally demanding area.

"It is not necessarily the area I imagined myself working in, but it is the work I am best suited to."

Tim Silverwood

Tim Silverwood

Education is the key to cleaner oceans

Central Coast environmentalist Tim Silverwood, believes education is the key to reversing the threat plastics and other garbage poses to the health and sustainability of our precious marine environments.

Tim Silverwood wants to challenge the way that we think about waste, its effect on our environment, and how each of us has a role to play in building a better future for our world.

From his home on the Central Coast, Tim Silverwood is helping to spearhead an international waste reduction organisation, Take 3 - A Clean Beach Initiative, which is using education to beat plastic pollution, and to improve the health and sustainability of the world's oceans.

"We are at the beginning of a very long and exciting journey into developing solutions to the complex challenges created by past archaic practices, in regards to waste and its impacts on our oceans," Tim said.

"Marine debris, particularly plastic, has a disastrous impact in our oceans on marine life and, ultimately, us. 

"The message of Take 3 is simple. Take three pieces of rubbish with you when you leave the beach or waterway, refuse to use plastic bags and limit the amount of plastic that you use.

"If you can make these changes in your day-to-day life, than you have made a difference to the amount of waste that could end up in our oceans."

After graduating from the University of Newcastle's Central Coast campus in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science focusing on sustainable resource management, Tim travelled the world. He tried different jobs, mostly in the tourism sector, before deciding to put his knowledge and conviction to the test in co-founding the Take 3 initiative.

"After graduating I found myself in jobs that were in my 'field', yet I struggled to find contentment," Tim said.

"My passion was to get out there and change things for the better, yet most jobs in the government or corporate space were heavily restricted and I considered them thoroughly unappealing and unrewarding."

Tim continued to work in the not-for-profit sector until 2011 when he made the radical decision to "give it all up" and become a full-time environmentalist and manage the growth of Take 3.

This decision led Tim to study the infamous North Pacific Gyre, also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where he saw first-hand how plastic pollution is impacting on the world's oceans.

"The trip to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch provided me with an opportunity to expand my knowledge of marine conservation and ecology, and to build networks of like-minded conservationists," Tim said.

"We also filmed documentary materials on the trip, which are now being used as a catalyst to educate the broader Australian community on the wider implications of plastic pollution for the planet."

Since co-founding Take 3, Tim has invested countless hours furthering the plastic pollution cause, and has travelled across Australia to educate school and tertiary students, and the wider community, about plastic pollution and its impacts on the environment.

Tim has also been instrumental in driving legislative change campaigns in an attempt to encourage Australian government to ban the use of plastic bags and increase beverage container recycling.

"It's been a challenging few years since then, but I have no regrets," Tim said of founding Take 3.

"I honestly feel like that decision to leave full-time work and pursue my passion was the start of the rest of my life."

Tim believes that a zero waste future for our world is achievable if we work together to make small changes to how we deal with, and reduce, waste.

"As part of my degree I learned that there was a magnificent framework for existing in a balanced relationship with the earth," Tim said.

"I fully understand that the road towards a zero waste future will be bumpy, and there will be lots of roadblocks and detours, but I'm not deterred and am in this for the long haul."

Jo Heighway

Jo Heighway

Success is more than a numbers game

Jo Heighway was honoured to be named the Australian Young Business Women of the Year in 2011, after launching her auditing business seven years earlier, from her Central Coast lounge room. Today, the entrepreneurial mum is driven to grow her online firm to be the largest of its kind in Australia.

Growing up in Gorokan Jo Heighway, always knew that she wanted to be an accountant, but never imagined that she would one day be named the Telstra Young Business Women of the Year, and be at the helm of a fast-growing online auditing practice.

"I always knew that I was going to be an accountant, right from primary school. I can't explain it, but I was lucky that I always knew what path I wanted to take," Jo said.

"I was able to start my career journey straight out of high school, with a cadetship at Deloitte Sydney."

As part of the traineeship, Jo completed a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) at the University of Newcastle Central Coast Campus at Ourimbah. Juggling full-time work with part-time studies, Jo completed her program in 2000 in the same year that she welcomed the first of her three children.

"My daughter attended my graduation, and I finished my degree with a Dean's Merit Award for academic excellence, which I was very proud of," Jo said.

Establishing herself as a Chartered Accountant and CPA on the Central Coast, Jo recognised a growing need for accountants to have their work independently audited, which lead to her establishing ENGAGE Super Audits in early 2005, from her then family lounge room.

Engage Super Audits offers specialist auditing services for Self-Managed Super Funds (SMSF), to more than 3,500 clients across Australia.

"Our clients are accountants, so we need to be on the top of our game to audit our peers on a daily basis!" Jo said.

"Starting that business from scratch at the age of 27, with three kids to look after, was a huge risk, but I was very thankful that I had a degree behind me and could gain the trust of my clients to start growing my business."

In 2010 Jo's risk began to pay big dividends, when ENGAGE Super Audits was named the NSW Business Chamber NSW Business of the Year and was listed on the BRW Fast Starter league table of fast-growing commercial services firms.  

"Being named the 2011 Telstra Australian Young Business Women of the Year is my proudest achievement. The Telstra award journey was an amazing gift for me as a young entrepreneur who has not had many mentors or role models, especially female ones!" Jo said.

Life has rewarded Jo's hard work, determination and commitment to driving innovation in auditing practice, but she is not one to rest on her laurels.

"I am very happy to have three beautiful children and to have the luxury of being able to run the fastest growing on-line SMSF audit  business in the country from the Gold Coast, with accountants employed all over the country," Jo muses.

"I am committed to lead the firm until it achieves its full potential as the largest SMSF audit business in Australia. The SMSF industry is fast growing and has so many exciting opportunities for an entrepreneur with a passion for technology, so I plan to stick around for a while. I am committed to continuing to drive thought leadership in the area of audit automation and innovation."

Without her university qualifications and professional and personal knowledge that she gained from her studies, Jo believes her life would be very different.

"Without the qualifications I was able to obtain in my time at university, I would have no career and no business! It really set the foundations for becoming a leader in my industry as a qualified expert," she said.

"My degree taught me really important skills in researching and organisation that have been vital to my success as an entrepreneur. I also learned that learning is a lifelong commitment that doesn't begin or end with your first degree."

Tim Knight

Tim Knight

Using science to give Mariners a winning edge

Central Coast PhD student Tim Knight has kicked a winning career goal, in his role as the Head of Sport Science with 2013 A League champions, the Central Coast Mariners Football Club.

When Tim Knight was a boy playing soccer for the Killarney Districts Soccer Club, he may never have imagined that one day his love of the world game would see him take on a key role with his hometown A League team, the Central Coast Mariners Football Club.

Growing up on the Central Coast in a soccer-playing family, Tim has gone from being a fan of the Mariner's to an important element of the 2013 A League Champion's winning formula, taking on the role of Head of Sport Science, not long after completing the Bachelor of Exercise Science degree at the University of Newcastle – Central Coast.

"My initial goal when beginning my Bachelor of Exercise Science at the Ourimbah campus was to work in professional sport, and to achieve that goal so soon after completing my degree, justified the years of hard work," Tim said.

Tim completed his undergraduate degree with an outstanding academic record, graduating with his degree and First Class Honours in 2012. His undergraduate success, lead Tim to be offered an invitation to study for a PhD in Exercise and Sport Science, and an opportunity to apply the knowledge he learned at University, assisting with an ongoing strength and conditioning research partnership between the Central Coast Mariners and the University of Newcastle - Central Coast.

Since 2007, the University's Exercise and Sport Science researchers and students have been evaluating the performance and training of the Central Coast Mariners players and have introduced unique testing to provide coaching staff with invaluable insights into a player's strengths and weaknesses.

Each week, the Mariner's coaching staff is provided with data from the University, which measures the levels of post-game fatigue experienced by each of the players. The information is used by the Mariner's coaching staff to design training regimes that are targeted to meet the needs of each player, to limit their possible exposure to injury, ensuring each player is available to play when needed.

"During this time I was also volunteering as the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Mariner's Foxtel National Youth Team and was responsible for coordinating the training regimes and meeting the sport science needs of the Under 20s team, working under the Club's then Head of Sport Science, Andrew Clarke," Tim said.

"It was beyond my expectations that I would have be given that opportunity so early in my career, to work as part of a professional sporting team, and be a part of the Mariners, who I have supported since the club was founded."

A change in leadership at the Central Coast Mariner's lead to an opportunity for Tim to take on the team's top Sport Science role, taking on the pivotal position of Head of Sport Science and Football Conditioning, in late 2013.

"My primary role as the Head of Sport Science and Football Conditioning is to improve the performance of these elite athletes through specific conditioning drills, and to ensure that the players are fit for play in both the domestic Hyundai A-League and international Asian Champions League competitions," Tim said.

"I also liaise with the coaching staff and manager, to provide up-to-date information on each player's wellbeing, their physical status and requirements for each training session.

"I coordinate and programme training sessions and training drills to target specific adaptations within the framework and philosophies of the team's style of play, with an aim of ensuring that each player is at their peak fitness and can give their best performance on the day."

With little downtime between A League seasons following the Mariner's third place finish in the 2014 A League Season, and the Mariners just missing out on a qualification for the final round of the 2014 Asian Football Confederation Champions League, Tim says he is keen to continue to pursue his PhD research.

"My PhD research is investigating the different cooling methods that may be used for training of team sport athletes, and how these methods may impact on their performance in hot temperatures," Tim said.

"I have never been busier, but the most valuable thing I learnt at university is to always apply ourselves 100 per cent. There are no shortcuts to success."

Bonnie Denness

Bonnie Denness

Helping to build Australia's prosperity 

University medallist Bonnie Denness is working alongside Ministers and senior public servants, as one of a handful of graduates employed by the Commonwealth Treasury. 

Before going to university, Bonnie Denness never imagined that she would be part of a team advising government on important economic decisions, which could affect the future prosperity of Australia.

Today, the young Central Coast woman is working at the coalface of Australian economic policy, as one a handful of talented university students, selected from across the country to be part of the Commonwealth Treasury's graduate program.

"Before beginning my degree, I never imagined that one day I would be working on some of the most important economic and public policy issues facing Australia," Bonnie said.

"The graduate program is an excellent opportunity for me to get a feel for the diverse work the department deals with.

"So far I have been offered the opportunity to manage the graduate program, assist at G20 events and the Budget Lock-up at Parliament House and prepare briefings for Ministers and the Secretary of the Treasury."

Undertaking a Bachelor of Business at the University of Newcastle Central Coast Campus at Ourimbah, Bonnie was driven to make the most of her University experience, and volunteered to take part in a range of local and international business projects and research, as part of her degree program.

A highlight for Bonnie was being chosen by her lecturers as one of a small number of students to take part in a study and research tour of China.

"University taught me a lot about myself. I learned how to push personal boundaries and have confidence in my abilities," Bonnie said.

"My undergraduate course at the University of Newcastle has taught me the value of engaging both within and outside the classroom, which has better prepared me for the professional world."

Not one for backing away from a challenge, Bonnie undertook a Bachelor of Business (Honours) degree, also at the UON's Central Coast Campus, while she was working full-time at the Treasury.

The former Mangrove Mountain resident completed her honours degree with outstanding results, earning her a University Medal in recognition of consistent academic excellence at the highest level.

"While I have faced some obstacles in my life, my proudest achievement is completing my honours degree while I was working full-time, and being awarded the University Medal," Bonnie said.

"My honours year provided me with independent research and critical thinking skills that has set me up to tackle any problem.

"It has also enhanced my professional experience, as I was invited to take part in a student exchange to the London School of Economics, and have conducted research with my honours supervisor that will soon be published in an international journal, which is very exciting."

Being the first person in her immediate family to graduate from University, Bonnie believes having access to the world-class facilities of the UON right on her doorstep at Ourimbah, opened her eyes to a world of new learning possibilities.

"The possibilities are significant with a university education and well worth the investment," Bonnie said.

"I would encourage anyone to take advantage of the many opportunities offered by the University of Newcastle."

Diane Bull

Dr Diane Bull 

Caring for the people who care 

After more than 30 years immersed in the practice, scholarship and teaching of psychology, Australian of the Year nominee, Dr Diane Bull is most proud of the close relationships she has nurtured with her colleagues and students.

Dr Diane Bull has spent her professional life unravelling how stress can impact on the wellbeing of people working in emergency and sometimes volatile situations.

Nominated for an Australian of the Year award in 2004, for her work in science, research and education, Diane says that her proudest achievement is maintaining relationships with the psychology students who she once taught, and some of whom are now her colleagues and friends.

"I am currently working in private practice and I am proud of the how many of my former students are now colleagues, it is very rewarding to see them develop into competent and capable professionals and to be part of their continued professional development," Diane said.

With more than 30 years' experience working as a psychologist, academic and researcher, in both private practice and as the inaugural lecturer of Psychology at the University of Newcastle Central Coast Campus, Diane aspired to be a doctor when she was young.

"Apart from an earlier wish to emulate famed dancer Dame Margot Fonteyn, I always wanted to be a doctor, but circumstances prevented me from attending university until later in life," Diane said.

Diane completed a Bachelor of Science, majoring in psychology, at the University of Newcastle Central Coast Campus, at Ourimbah, before graduating with First Class Honours in psychology, and a PhD from the university's Faculty of Medicine.

"As the inaugural lecturer and program director for the psychology program at the University of Newcastle Central Coast Campus, I have had a continuous business, collegial, and social relationships with my colleagues and students, well after they have left the campus, which is a testament to the wonderful sense of the community at the Ourimbah campus," Diane said.

Studying her postgraduate qualifications concurrently to lecturing psychology, Diane saw firsthand how students benefitted academically, when they enjoyed a close rapport with their lecturers and their fellow students.

After initially commencing her honours studies at the University of Newcastle's Callaghan Campus, she considered the feedback of her students, who spoke of benefitting greatly from the close relationships they formed with their lecturers and tutors, to continue her studies at the university's Ourimbah campus.

"The feedback from my students showed the close associations one develops with their lecturers is vital, and begins on the first day," she said.

"On larger campuses it may be many years before one can develop collegial and collaborative relationships with their peers and academics. The smaller size and intimate nature of the Central Coast Campus allows for a great sense of community, and the support I received was reflected in my achievements."

Diane's research investigating the psychological factors which effect an individual's wellbeing when working under conditions of both physiological and psychological stress, is internationally recognised, and has led to a better understanding of ways to help better manage stress for these workers.

"My prime interest is identifying those variables that will alleviate the adverse health effects of high-risk workers such as police, fire fighters, ambulance officers, and military personnel," she said.

"My research suggests that these workers need to be better supported to maintain wellbeing and an expected level of professionalism, which can be difficult in high-demand and emergency circumstances."

Continuing to learn more about psychology, as well as further developing her skills as a researcher and practitioner, continues to be Diane's professional focus, after decades as a leader in her field.

"I am now in the later part of my career; but I plan to continue my work of putting my knowledge and training into practise to continue my service of the community."

Karen Minto

Karen Minto

Using people skills to facilitate better outcomes for the Central Coast 

As a young girl, Karen Minto wanted to work in a career where she could help to solve problems. Today, the State government senior officer is making use of her skills and knowledge to help drive solutions and better outcomes for the Central Coast.

Growing up on the Central Coast, Karen Minto was driven to help solve problems, and at one time considered becoming a school teacher to achieve her altruistic goal.

Attracted to the study of Human Resources and assisting people to make the most of their skills, and to build their careers, Karen deferred going to university to spend several years 'learning on the job', before commencing tertiary studies.

"I was keen to get straight into the workforce. But I also recognised the importance of university studies as a foundation for my career and I was keen to continue learning," Karen said.

"I then returned to university to study part-time in 1993 and continued to work, enhancing my professional experience."

Karen graduated from a Bachelor of Business from the University of Newcastle Central Coast Campus, at Ourimbah, in 1999, and was recognised for her academic excellence, by being named on the Dean's Merit Award list, for her final year of study.

After graduation, Karen continued to build her career in Human Resources, progressing through a range of roles and joining the thousands of Central Coast locals who commute to Sydney for work, before moving into a local government role, closer to home.

Today, in her role as the Assistant Regional Coordinator Central Coast, for the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, Karen is making use of her strong management, analytic and negotiation skills to collaborate with different groups in the region and facilitate better outcomes for the Central Coast community.

"I focus on working together at an agency level with all three levels of government, on priorities and outcomes that are important for the Central Coast," Karen said.

Working in partnership to facilitate the development of the Central Coast Regional Economic Development and Employment Strategy, which provides a framework for collaboration to create the right environment for local jobs growth and a strong local economy" and finish off with "is one of Karen's proudest achievements in her role.

"I am proud to be able to work together with other agencies and stakeholders on the Central Coast to lead, implement and participate in collaborative efforts to enable good outcomes for the Central Coast community."

Karen believes that her career success has been driven by her life-long commitment to skills and knowledge enhancement, learning from her mentors, and capitalising on her natural strengths and abilities, as a leader and facilitator.

"What I have learned over time and through my studies, is to recognise my key strengths and to focus on roles where I can best 'make a difference' using these key strengths," Karen said.

"I did not know that this was the path I would take in my career when I first began my studies. I believe your natural strengths and abilities, enhanced through study, experience and the opportunity to learn from great mentors, leads to evolution in your career."

Karen is proud to be helping to make a difference to the future of the Central Coast.

"I am proud to be from the Central Coast and am proud to have the opportunity to work here, and to raise my young family here, as part of this wonderful community."

Tim Lynar

Tim Lynar

Researching ways to limit waste and energy use in IT

Finding ways to limit the energy consumption of information technology innovations is at the heart of Timothy Lynar's work with IBM Research.

Timothy Lynar has a PhD in Information Technology and works as a research scientist for one of the world's top computing companies.

The Information Technology (IT) innovator may soon be able to add 'inventor' to his list of titles in his resume, after the patent for a device which he had helped to develop, has been approved by the US Patent office.

"In the workforce I have been applying research to find IT solutions for industry," Timothy explained.

"I have been researching the application of hyper-local weather modelling and energy conservation measures in high performance computing, such as cloud and grid computing environments.

"My research is about limiting the waste and energy use of these new technologies that will only grow in prevalence.

"I have recently had my first patent issued through the US Patent Office and have several more under consideration, which is very exciting."

Growing up on the Central Coast, like a lot of young boys, Timothy dreamed of being a builder, or maybe a firefighter. But in high school he discovered that he had a talent for, and interest in, IT.

"I always enjoyed solving problems and during high school realised I had a knack for IT. Hence it was natural to continue study in this area at university," Timothy said.

Timothy enrolled in the Bachelor of Information Technology at the University of Newcastle (UON) Central Coast Campus, at Ourimbah, and graduated from the program in 2006.

"I graduated just after getting married. I then signed on for an honours year and subsequently went on to do a PhD, also at the Ourimbah campus," Timothy said.

"My PhD examined the use of resource allocation to conserve energy in distributed computing environments, such as cloud and grid computing environments, which are increasing in prevalence as people are looking for easier and quicker ways to share resources and information.

"Successfully completing a PhD is my proudest achievement."

Since completing his PhD, at the age of 26, Timothy has been working as a research scientist with IBM Research in Melbourne.

"I was brought on board as a research scientist with IBM Australia's research division, taking on accountabilities in programing, modelling, simulation and analysis in support of proof-of-concept for new IBM products for energy conservation and weather modelling," Timothy said.

"While I was studying I didn't really imagine myself doing this type of work – it is amazing how one opportunity leads to another."

Timothy believes the best thing about studying at the UON Central Coast Campus is the dedication, skill and individual attention provided to students by the academic staff.

"Fundamentally, my degree provided me with foundational technical skills I needed to gain my first job," Timothy said.

"IT is a fast-paced industry that is driving innovations daily.

"The most valuable thing that I learned at UON was learning how to learn, and how to research. Learning how to learn has put me in good stead in a research career and the changing workplace."

Kazuma Honda

Kazuma Honda

Fostering a sense of belonging for better health outcomes

Encouraging a sense of belonging in nursing students is at the heart of Kazuma Honda's work as a clinical professional, and of his research as a Prime Minister's Endeavour Awards scholar.

Kazuma Honda has bridged language and cultural barriers to find his calling as a clinical professional and scholar, here on the Central Coast and in his homeland of Japan, after winning a prestigious scholarship.

Growing up in Nagoya, 'halfway between Tokyo and Osaka' Kazuma dreamed of being an inventor like Thomas Edison, before love changed his plans, and he followed his partner to begin a new life in Australia.

After eight years of living on the Central Coast, Kazuma decided to expand on his TAFE nursing studies and his Endorsed Enrolled Nursing (EEN) experience, to undertake a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Newcastle Central Coast Campus, at Ourimbah.

"I always wanted to study at university, but never thought I would be good enough. However, I was lucky enough to meet some good people along the way who gave me the courage to apply to university and fortunately for me I was accepted," Kazuma said.

Kazuma excelled academically, earning a Dean's Merit Awards and commendations from his Faculty, while honing his skills during clinical placements as part of his program and working as an EEN at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney.

His hard work paid off when in 2012 he was the first nurse to be awarded a Prime Minister's Australia Asia Outgoing Endeavour Undergraduate Award, to complete study and research as part of his University of Newcastle honours in nursing degree, as a guest of Yamaguchi University in Ube, Japan.

"My research explored the factors and the consequences that influence non-English speaking nursing students' sense of belonging in clinical placements," Kazuma said.

"I believe a sense of belonging is extremely important if we want to have, and keep, good competent nurses working for years to come.

"A sense of belonging to a team, who you can seek guidance from and who can provide mentorship in best practice, is an important element to the success of a nursing student on clinical placement.

While studying in Yamaguchi, Kazuma used his command of both Japanese and English to work as a casual academic, teaching Medical English Terminology and Basic Medical English Conversation skills to Japanese Nursing and Laboratory Science students.

Providing holistic patient centred care in a team-oriented environment where patient's rights to receive quality and safe nursing care is optimised, is Kazuma's objective as a clinical professional.

"In my role as a Registered Nurse (RN) I aim to apply safe and quality care to patients, and or residents, and to support my fellow nurses through mentorship programs, making them feel like they belong and are a part of a team," Kazuma said.

"Since working as an RN, I've realised that there is a big difference between knowing something as a result of 'experience' and knowing it because you have had a solid foundation in theory and can then apply that knowledge to your work.

"I believe this deep understanding and knowledge can only be gained through a nursing degree and that is how university has equipped me to be the professional I am today."

Jane McWilliam

Jane McWilliam

Embracing the transformative power of change 

Embracing change and driving herself to rise to new challenges, has defined the career of human resources professional, Jane McWilliam who has spent more than 30 years working in the local electricity industry.

Jane McWilliam has never shied away from a challenge. Motivated by her desire to build a rewarding career, in which she could make a difference, she has spent her working life rising through the ranks of the male-dominated electricity industry.

Commencing her work at Eraring Power Station in the 1980s as a clerk, Jane wanted more from her working life and decided to pursue a tertiary education as one of the first students to attend the University of Newcastle's newly opened Central Coast campus, at Ourimbah.

"I found myself in my late 20s with only a school certificate as a qualification and decided that I needed to gain some tertiary qualifications," Jane said.

"I wanted to be able to enhance my career options and undertake more challenging and rewarding work, so that my ideas might matter and make a difference one day."

As one of the first cohort of University of Newcastle students who commenced their studies at the Ourimbah Campus in July 1989 (my recollection is that there were only about 20 to 30 students in the only group to start in 1989, Jane managed her work, and university studies,  to undertake a Bachelor of Business, majoring in Human Resources (HR).

"I was in the very first class ever held on campus. At that time the whole campus consisted of one portable building with three classrooms, two farmhouses – one housed the library, and the other the administration offices," Jane remembered.

"There was no car park and sometime there were cows outside the door some evenings when lectures finished.

"I made some great friends during my time at university. We supported each other to get through and we all graduated together, which was a really great achievement for us as a group."

After graduation, Jane gained a position in HR at the power station, and has worked in various HR and Organisational Development roles since then.

"At present I am working in a small transition team following a recent acquisition of our company," Jane said.

"My role is focussed on integration of change management and communication initiatives. I love this role as it is different from my past roles and has plenty of variety and challenge.

"I am happy to be working towards the end of my professional career, and am enjoying coaching and mentoring some of the newer and younger people, and sharing my experience and insight."

Citing her proudest achievements as her two children, and taking part in a charity walk in Ireland, when  she and four friends walked 100km in 26-hours, to raise money for Oxfam, as part of her 50th birthday celebrations;  Jane says the most valuable thing that she gained from her university experience, was a self-belief.

"I think that the most valuable thing that I learned at university is to believe in yourself and your goals and that with the support and help of academic staff, and your fellow students, you can be and do your best – that is all any of us can expect of ourselves – to believe in ourselves and to do our best."

Ibtihal Samaryai

Ibtihal Samarayi

Unlocking human potential with art 

One-time refugee Ibtihal Samarayi is using the power of art to encourage healing and new beginnings for others.

When Ibtihal Samarayi was a young women growing up in Baghdad in Iraq, she dreamed of spending her life immersed in education and creativity.

Under the tyrannical shadow of the Saddam Hussein regime, Ibtihal had begun her learning journey, completing a degree in cinematography at Baghdad University, before the threat of unrest and persecution lead her and her new husband to leave their families behind, and flee from their home, towards an uncertain future.

For the next three years, Ibtihal and her young family, her first son being born between refugee camps in Turkey, lived in squalor alongside thousands of other refugees, who longed to experience freedom and lived in hope of being given an opportunity to start a new life in a country that was free from war and terror.

"I left Iraq during the first Gulf War in 1991, and we gratefully arrived in Australia in 1994," Ibtihal explained.

"When I arrived in Australia I enrolled in a Diploma in Fine Art at Hornsby TAFE – keen to pursue my interest in sculpture, painting, drawing and photography, with plans to become an Art teacher.

"I then enrolled in the Bachelor of Fine Art at the University of Newcastle at the Central Coast Campus at Ourimbah, to develop my interest in painting, sculpture and printmaking."

Since then, Ibtihal has completed her Masters and PhD in Fine Art, also at the Central Coast Campus, using her personal experiences as a catalyst to explore how art and creativity can be used as a medium to encourage healing in traumatised people.

Ibtihal's harrowing refugee experience, and her journey to healing, is chronicled in her autobiography: Refugee to Resident.

"Some prominent and world-renowned psychiatrists believe that suffering ceases to be suffering in some way at the moment it finds a meaning," Ibtihal writes.

"This being said, my journey to the point of being able to co-exist with my atrocious experiences as part of my life's history, and to be able to move forward with healing through my art, has been both graphic and traumatic. Fortunately for me, I had this outlet deep inside me. Others were not so lucky."

The social, political and psychological issues of refugees in Australian detention centres are at the heart of Ibtihal's Masters and PhD research, and as her work as volunteer providing art therapy sessions for children formerly in refugee detention.

"I believe I have managed to take these life threatening experiences and turn them into the subject matter of research, to help to better inform the community of the experiences of refugees and immigrants."

As part of the practical component for her PhD, Ibtihal created an installation Locked Inside, which featured eight large locks, made of wood and foam; with each piece featuring an image of a detained refugee who she interviewed as part of her research.

"The locks were a visual representation of the hopes, fears and frustrations of these detainees, drawn from their lived experiences," Ibtihal said.

"The keyholes of the locks were located at eye level so that the observer can look through them, as if they too are imprisoned. The locks were placed in a circle, and a large key hung from the ceiling as an out-of-reach symbol of the asylum seekers' never-ending battle with unattainable freedom."

In 2008, Ibtihal's Locked Inside exhibition was selected by the Australia Council to be exhibited across Australia, with exhibitions in Alice Springs, Darwin, Adelaide and Canberra.

"The audience response to that exhibition was so great. One of the visitors to my show in Darwin came to me with tears, saying that they 'used to refuse to accept refugees coming to Australia', but my show had changed their heart, which was a proud moment for me as an artist and a one-time refugee."

Helping to empower others to unleash their potential, is what drives Ibtihal in her work as a Fine Arts academic with the University of Newcastle's Foundation Studies, enabling programs, which provide alternative entries to higher education, and learning support, for students who may have missed the opportunity to study at university.

"With the nature of these programs, in that they provide a second-chance of sorts for people to study at university, and with my background as a refugee, and specialisation of teaching Fine Arts, I feel, I am the ideal academic to be working with these students," Ibtihal said.

"It is an honour to be a catalyst in building confidence in learning for these students, to see art and learning empower them, just as it had done for me."

Ginny Gallegos

Ginny Gallegos

Creative use of management skills   

Ginny Gallegos likes to 'think outside the box'. Using the business knowledge and skills she gained from her university studies, Ginny is helping to manage and grow an international award-winning Central Coast creative agency. 

When Ginny Gallegos completed her business degree, she never imagined that she would soon be using her marketing and management skills working in the creative industries, as part of an international award-winning Central Coast agency.

With skills in management and marketing, Ginny worked in different marketing roles before she was offered an opportunity to manage the business of Central Coast filmmaker, Jason van Genderen from Treehouse Creative, whose films have won awards at TropFest New York and Sundance London film festivals.

"I wouldn't have dreamed that I would be doing this kind of work when I first started my degree," Ginny said of her career since completing her Bachelor of Management degree.

"My degree gave me a great knowledge base that I've been able build on, and adapt to take on new roles.

"As Treehouse Creative changes, I'm skilled-up and hungry to change with it."

Ginny describes her role at Treehouse Creative as 'eclectic and exciting'.

"I wear many hats; producer, production manager, marketer, social media manager, account manager, office manager, client liaison, and all round gatekeeper and whip cracker," Ginny explained.

"I've been part of the business transition from a local creative studio, to a business with national clients, and now to respected international brands with global projects and clients.

"As a result, our studio's pace is every bit as manic as it sounds."

Working in marketing and business management was not Ginny's first choice of career, with a love of the ocean she aspired to study Marine Science. But the limited number of employment opportunities in this field, especially at home on the Central Coast, led Ginny to rethink her options.

After finishing school without the University Admissions Index (UAI) needed to transition straight from school to tertiary study, Ginny learned about the University of Newcastle's Open Foundation enabling program, which gives students of all ages an alternative entry to undertake university studies.

"Open Foundation was attractive as there was no prerequisite to undertake it, and it gave me the avenue that I needed to go on to study an undergraduate degree," Ginny said.

Ginny then went on to commence a Bachelor of Management, with a double major in marketing and management, at the University of Newcastle Central Coast Campus, at Ourimbah, and made use of the university's flexible learning delivery options, to manage her studies with full-time work.

"The flexibility of the degree and online units was paramount for me to be able to integrate my studies with my work and lifestyle."

Group work, research and industry case studies were elements of the degree program that Ginny believes provided her with a professional knowledge base and skills to adapt to the fast-pace of change in the creative and marketing industries, which is driven by innovation and new technologies.

"The shift from traditional forms of marketing to online, along with the rapid uptake of mobile devices, and the continuing rise of social media and video as communication platforms, has completely re-shaped our direction and continues to challenge our business world daily," Ginny said.

"For the first time in our commercial history our audiences have become an integral part of our broadcast network, so our power as communicators and storytellers has shifted dramatically. It's a space of constant evolution, innovation and adaption.

"I see myself continually growing with these changes as a professional and a member of the Treehouse team, and I hope to always call on the core skills, knowledge and confidence that I gained from my time at university to continue to think 'outside the box' to help to drive the business and my career further."

Ben Wiggins

Ben Wiggins

Giving children the right tools to succeed in life

Ben Wiggins is driven to be a positive influence in the lives of the young children that he teaches, providing them with the foundations in learning that will last a lifetime.

When Ben Wiggins was young, he wanted to be a children's television presenter and work with young kids. Today, the Central Coast early childhood educator, is engaging with young children not in their lounge rooms, but from his classroom.

While growing up in Wamberal, Ben showed an interest in animation and had a flair for art, which led his teachers to encourage him to a Diploma in Graphic Design when he left school. Ben then went on to find full-time work as a designer, for a Sydney council, but found himself still longing to gain 'something more' from his work.  

"I soon found out that the world of design was too deadline driven, and I felt socially detached from the world as a result of sitting at a computer screen all day," Ben remembers.

"So I decided to leave my job, to travel and live abroad for a year. The time overseas only reinforced for me that I wanted to work with children, and make a difference, so when I returned to the Central Coast, I was determined to follow my goal and I auditioned for a role as a host for a new children's program. However, I was too nervous in front of the camera and did not get the part."

Ben was undeterred by this experience, and rethought how he could have a meaningful impact on the lives of young children, which led him to consider undertaking a teaching degree.

"I still had a drive to work with children, and be a positive influence in their lives in some way, so I decided to enrol at the University of Newcastle Central Coast Campus to study teaching. It was close by to home and had all the facilities that I needed.

"I wasn't sure what type of teacher of wanted to be, but the Bachelor of Teaching (Primary)/Early Childhood Studies program stood out to me, so I enrolled and just got started.

"From the very beginning of the program I knew I had made the right choice, as I found I had a love for learning about child development, educational psychology, philosophy and the many theories of teaching and learning – particularly in early childhood."

In 2011, Ben's passion for teaching earned the dedicated student a University of Newcastle Faculty of Education and Arts Work Integrated Learning Student of the Year Award, in acknowledgement of the outstanding feedback and learning outcomes he achieved from his compulsory teaching placement in a Central Coast preschool.

Ben worked part-time at the preschool while completing his studies, taking on a full-time role at the facility in the final year of his program, when each day he enjoyed having fun with the children, providing fundamental learning tools to children in the four to five-year-olds room. It was during this time that Ben was headhunted by the NSW Department of Education and Training, and was offered a targeted graduate, permanent teaching position at Harbord Public School, in Sydney's Northern Beaches.

"Now that I have a permanent teaching role in a great school, I would like to teach across all infant grades to consolidate my ability of teaching young children in a holistic and meaningful way. I would also like to undertake a Master's degree program in the future, to research how best to bridge the gap between primary and early childhood education, to encourage best outcomes for all children."

Being 'a big kid at heart' and having a spirit of fun is a must when it comes to his being an engaging teacher, Ben says.

"In my role, I get to use the diverse knowledge and skills that I gained during my degree, to find the best ways to encourage in them a love of learning.

"The skills that I am passing on to these kids today are the essentials of learning and are tools that they will take with them for the rest of their lives, and I look forward to continue the development of  my skills so I continue to meet the changing needs of my students into the future."

Erin Taylor

Erin Taylor

Driven to improve oral health for Indigenous kids

Erin Taylor is the first in her family to complete a university qualification. Now the Oral Health Therapist wants to use her skills to establish a charity to improve the dental health of Indigenous children.

Working in regional NSW as a dental assistant at an Aboriginal Medical service, Erin Taylor saw first-hand how poor oral health was affecting the wellbeing of Indigenous children and adults.

This experience, coupled with research that indicates the oral health of Indigenous people is far below that experienced by non-Indigenous Australians, motivated the young Gamilaroi Aboriginal women to complete two University qualifications, to achieve her goal of using her skills to establish an oral health outreach service to improve wellbeing of her people.

"It is more common for tooth decay among the Indigenous population to be left untreated, which leads to more extractions and health issues in the long-term," Erin said.

"Research reveals that this discrepancy can be attributed, in part, to the fact that it is difficult for Indigenous people, in particular those from rural and remote areas, to have access to culturally appropriate and timely oral health care. So their issues go untreated, which in turn affects their overall health and wellbeing."

Inspired by the work of an Indigenous Dental Therapist that she assisted to care for patients of the Tobowabba and Biripi Aboriginal Medical Services, on the NSW Mid-North Coast, Erin enrolled in the Bachelor of Oral Health program at the University of Newcastle Central Coast's Ourimbah campus.

After graduating from her undergraduate program in 2012 with an excellent academic record and having had the opportunity to participate in an international outreach trip to orphanages in West Timor, Erin then went on to enhance her skills further, by completing the Graduate Diploma of Oral Health, at the Ourimbah campus.

"I knew I wanted to help to bridge the huge gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous oral health and to help my people to achieve a long and healthy life," Erin said.

"My long-term goal is to be involved in establishing an oral health program for Indigenous children throughout Australia. The program would involve a whole-team approach to meeting the health needs of these kids, and would include a dentist, oral health therapist, doctors, nurses and other allied health professionals, who would head out to remote parts of Australia to provide for their overall health needs."

But it is not just the oral health of Indigenous people that is the focus of Erin's current work as an Oral Health Therapist with the NSW Health – Central Coast Local Health District, based at Wyong Hospital.

"It is a fantastic place to work as I am learning so much every day.  I love treating both children and adults, who are from diverse backgrounds and have different care needs." Erin said.

"Working for a clinic such as this is what I wanted to achieve when I started university," Erin said.

"Meeting the children and their carers, and seeing how thankful they were for us being there and providing this help, has reaffirmed for me that I want to use my skills to make a difference, and to help people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds."

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Kylie Nowalinski

Kylie Nowalinski

Inspiring a love of learning 

Fostering a life-long love of literature and learning in her students, is the focus of University of Newcastle medallist Kylie Nowalinski, who is helping to grow the minds of secondary students on the Central Coast.

With her curly red hair and love of the literary arts, Central Coast teacher Kylie Nowalinski aspired to be an actress like Nicole Kidman when she was young girl.

But life had other plans for the now St Edward's Christian Brothers College English teacher, who worked in marketing and event management and raised a young family, before taking her first steps towards an university education.

"I can remember wanting to be an actress from a young age. I grew up watching Nicole Kidman in BMX Bandits, a proud redhead, and wanted to be like her," the mother-of-two, said.

"Dreams of becoming an actress were left in childhood and when I left school, were quickly replaced with more practical aspirations. After getting married and having children, I wanted to have a career that I enjoyed and valued, as well as being in a position where I was able to support my family in a meaningful way."

After years of deliberating whether to enrol in university, and after the birth of her second child, Kylie, who lives on the Central Coast with her family, decided to take the plunge.

"I'd always thought that I would go to university and decided that this was the right time to get started. Even though I could foresee many challenges in balancing both the demands of home life and study, I knew enrolling to study at university was the right choice for me and I was committed realising my career.

"I was also driven to set an example for my children that, no matter what stage of life you're in, you should always move forward and challenge yourself."

Kylie enrolled in the University of Newcastle's (UON) Open Foundation enabling program, at the Central Coast Campus, which gave her the foundations of learning that she needed to commence a Bachelor of Teaching/Bachelor of Arts (Secondary) degree, also at the Ourimbah campus.

"When I began the Open Foundation Program, all I really knew was that I wanted to study English Literature and History. The program was fantastic as it not only prepared me for university study, but gave me time to consider what profession I wanted to enter," she said.

"I had always had an interest in teaching and have very fond memories of some amazing teachers from my time at school that inspired and supported me. Now I want to be one of those teachers making a difference in the lives of young people."

In 2011, with her proud family in the audience, Kylie graduated with an outstanding academic record, completing her degree with First Class Honours, and as a recipient of the University Medal, an honour that is only given by the UON to its exceptional undergraduate students.

"I never imagined when I commenced my studies that I would achieve a University Medal. I am very thankful for the high level of support that I received from my fellow students, and the teachers and professors that I met while at the Central Coast Campus," Kylie said.

"The teachers and professors that I met at university not only supported my learning, but inspired and enhanced my own love of literature. Through them I learnt the tools of my profession that I have honed in my practice and will continue to build upon throughout my career."

With plans to continue her postgraduate education with more university study in the future, Kylie imagines herself always being in a teaching role.

"Each day I am inspired by my students to learn more about being the best teacher that I can be and I am hopeful that maybe one day, one of my students might say that I inspired them to follow their dream."

Karen Dimmock

Karen Dimmock

Age is no barrier to studying your passion 

Age is no barrier to pursuing a passion. This has been the motto of Central Coast grandmother Karen Dimmock, who came to university studies at a time in life when others may begin to think of slowing down.

Karen Dimmock has always been at ease with a brush in her hand and paint on her clothes, but building a career in the Arts was something that always seemed out of reach as she raised her family.

Today, the Central Coast grandmother is looking forward to spending the last years of her working life doing 'something that she loves', after undertaking studies at the University of Newcastle Central Coast Campus.

"I didn't get the opportunity to study at university when I was younger; it was much later when an older woman, that I met one day, inspired me and I decided I wanted to study at university."

Following on from that meeting, Karen learned of the University of Newcastle's enabling program, Open Foundation that helps to prepare mature age students for university study.

After completing Open Foundation, Karen enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts program at the University's Central Coast Campus at Ourimbah, and is now undertaking an honours degree in Creative Arts, with plans to pursue a career in curation.

"To return to studies as an older woman and to have successfully completed my Bachelor of Arts degree is a huge achievement for me," Karen said.

"I have taught many people to paint over the last 20 years, and enjoy the great sense of achievement that others gain when they are able to produce something they didn't think they were capable of," Karen said.

"But if you had told me ten years ago that this is what I would be doing now, I would not have believed it.

"The course that I studied on the Central Coast Campus has informed me a great deal within the Arts, as well as improving my skills in the Arts, and in writing. But most importantly, my University studies have given me a great deal more confidence and an increased ability to step outside my 'comfort zone'."

Karen commenced her degree with plans to study history and visual arts, but was lured towards the creative arts after participating in drama courses as part of her program.

"I had no intentions to work on the stage, but I have become fascinated by the creative processes, and I now aim to spend the last five to ten years of my working life in a position that I enjoy - working in the Arts in some capacity," Karen said.

"In the final year of my degree I had the opportunity to be part of a directed studies course, where I was able to use my knowledge first-hand, to curate an exhibition as a part of the Grotto Project, which is held annually on the Ourimbah campus.

"It was a very exciting and satisfying project, though at times it was a little overwhelming as I had to decide the theme for the exhibition, as well as curating the exhibition, inviting artists to participate, as well as marketing and promoting the event."

Karen's successful curation of The Grotto saw her nominated for a UON Work Integrated Learning (WIL) Award, which is given annually by the University to high-achieving students who have completed a practical element in their degree program.

"My proudest achievement while studying was when I received the WIL Student of the Year Award for the Faculty of Education and Arts," Karen said.

Karen is keen to encourage other 'older' Central Coast residents to consider what new doors could be opened for them with a University education.

"Several doors have been opened for me; doors that I was unaware of before I commenced my studies," she said.

"But, the most valuable thing that I have learned from studying at University is to believe in myself and to know that I can do anything if I put my mind to it, which is such an important lesson for anyone, no matter what their age."

Belinda Thompson

Belinda Thompson

Harnessing the power of exercise to change lives

Belinda Thompson has seized the opportunity to gain a tertiary education later in life, and is now researching ways to use exercise to improve lower back pain as part of her PhD studies.

Belinda Thompson has used her passion for fitness, as a catalyst to build a new career as a clinical professional, who uses her knowledge of exercise to empower her patients.

Like many parents, the Central Coast mum, delayed her tertiary studies, to focus on raising her four children. Now she is embracing the opportunity to build a new future for herself, by undertaking a PhD in Exercise and Sport Science at the University of Newcastle (UON) Central Coast Campus, at Ourimbah.

"As my children were all getting older and more independent, I looked into university options," Belinda explained.

"When I discovered that the Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science is offered by the UON at the Central Coast Campus, at Ourimbah, which is nearby to my home; I decided that was the course that I wanted to pursue."

Not having studied for some time, Belinda took advantage of the Open Foundation enabling program, offered by the UON at the Central Coast Campus, to better prepare her for tertiary studies.

"I commenced my university journey at the age of 38, and have not looked back," Belinda said.

After completing the Open Foundation course, Belinda went on to enroll in her desired program, graduating with Distinction from a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science, in recognition of her outstanding academic achievement.

"A part from providing me with the formal qualification that I needed to work as an Exercise Physiologist, my studies at the UON have given me the knowledge and confidence to work with patients with a wide variety of conditions," Belinda said.

"As an Exercise Physiologist, I work with individual patients as well as running classes for Pilates, yoga, back pain rehabilitation and specialised exercise classes for people with Parkinson's disease, at an East Gosford practice.

"It's a demanding and challenging role, but it is one that I thoroughly enjoy as I use my skills to help people to improve the quality of their lives through targeted exercise."

In 2013, Belinda was awarded the Exercise and Sport Science Australia Graduate Student of the Year award, after completing a Masters in Clinical Exercise at Charles Sturt University.

"During this time I also continued to assist with research projects at the UON, which enabled me to apply for a scholarship to study a PhD in Exercise and Sport Science at the Central Coast Campus," Belinda said.

Finding ways to use exercise to alleviate and better manage low back pain is the focus of Belinda's PhD research.

"Studying for a PhD is not something that I thought I would ever be doing," Belinda said.

"I became involved in research at the university in my second year of the Exercise and Sport Science program, firstly volunteering as a research participant then as a research assistant.

"My participation in the research has led to some amazing opportunities and experiences for me to expand my knowledge in exercise science, such as working with the Australian Judo team and with the Central Coast Mariners FC, to presenting research at international conferences, tutoring other students, and receiving a PhD scholarship."

The analytical and research skills that Belinda has garnered from her university experience are invaluable to her future as an aspiring academic in her field, but pale in comparison to the self-motivation and self-pride she has gained from her learning journey.

"The most valuable thing that I learned at university is that age, being a mum and being out of study for many years, were not barriers to being a successful university student," Belinda said.

"The only real barrier to your success is yourself - so make the most of the opportunity when you get it."

Mandi Palmer

Mandi Palmer

Whetting appetites with science  

Working behind the scenes for some of the world's biggest food companies, Mandi Palmer has combined her love of food science and nutrition to create a dynamic career that has her creating products to help feed the world.

Mandi Palmer has taught many Central Coast residents how to cook in her role as a Food Technology teacher. Now, the Central Coast mum is more likely to wear a lab coat than an apron, working in the food science industry, creating products to whet the world's appetite.

"After teaching for many years, I realised I was not satisfied with just teaching about food and started to look at opportunities in the food industry," Mandi said.

"After considering studying nutrition and dietetics, I came across the Food Science and Human Nutrition program that was offered at the UON Central Coast campus at Ourimbah. I was living nearby so I thought I would enrol and see if it was what I was looking for."

"I started my degree believing I would end up in a nutrition-based role but I grew to love the science of food and being in the laboratory. I was lucky enough to be selected to do a six-week placement with the Department of Primary Industries as a Post-Harvest Research Student, which gave me a taste of what it would be like working in a food science environment, and I have been hooked since."

During her professional placement with the DPI at its then Narara facility, Mandi worked with a team of scientists, testing changes in the physiology of cherries kept in different storage conditions.

"The Food Science and Human Nutrition course opened my eyes to many possibilities in the area of food and allowed me the confidence to try anything. I like working hands-on with food and I want to be kept interested and challenged by my work."

Amanda's first challenge saw her take on a role with one of the world's biggest food producers – Heinz - before she had completed her degree program. In her role, Mandi worked at Heinz's Wagga Wagga plant as a Thermal Processing Technologist, assisting in the testing and development of food products, which are then sold across the globe. Later, she found herself at a Sydney meat processing and manufacturing company BE Campbell, in a Product Development position.

"Product development can involve initiating ideas that you think are suitable for the market, as well as responding to briefs for specific products that are provided by the customer or initiated by the company's sales and marketing department," Mandi explained.

"One of the things I enjoy most about my field is that I have never been out of work and have experienced such diversity in the roles I have been employed in."

Seeing the products she and her team have helped to develop delivered to the market, and on the supermarket shelf, is a highlight for the mother-of-two.

"A standout moment for me was seeing my first product advertised in an ALDI catalogue. I was working with meat processors and manufacturers BE Campbell, at the time and was awarded Employee of the Month in recognition of my hard work and results in product development. It was a very proud moment for me."

Returning to study almost a decade after completing her first degree in education with a specialisation in Home Economics and Design and Technology at the UON's Callaghan campus, Mandi believes the intimate nature of the UON Central Coast campus at Ourimbah assisted in her success.

"For me, studying the second time around was much different to my first degree. I wanted to make the most of every opportunity offered to me by applying for scholarships and seeking professional experience in my study breaks," Mandi explained.

"I think I became a hard-working and dedicated student as a result of this, and this level of professionalism has translated into and benefitted my professional life."

In her current role as a Food Technologist for poultry manufacturers Baiada Poultry at Beresfield, near Newcastle, Mandi is working in a demanding role with the product development team.

"Every day is different and challenging. To be honest, I love what I do and can't wait to see my next product on the supermarket shelf."

Ron McGregor

Ron McGregor

Education is the key to better work-life balance 

University study has given Central Coast marketing and event management expert Ron McGregor greater freedom when it comes to balancing the demands of his growing business and his desire to spend more time with family.

Ron McGregor has enjoyed several diverse careers in his working life. He has taught agriculture to secondary students, managed a software distribution business unit,  operates a successful event management and marketing business, and has played a hands-on role in raising his two, now adult, children.

"I have always sought to seek a balance in life. To be able to achieve for myself, and to support my family in their success," Ron said.

"My proudest professional achievement is that I have established two small businesses that are operating and growing 10 years later, despite the odds that the majority of new small businesses fail.

"But my proudest achievement is on a personal level, that our family has worked to support each other  to raise two now adult children, who have both gone on to pursue a tertiary education."

Ron emigrated to Australia with his family and was always drawn to the rural lifestyle. Having grown up in Leppington in south western Sydney, he decided to develop his interest in agriculture into a career in teaching.

After spending a number of years in secondary schools, Ron and his teacher wife Virginia moved to the Central Coast, both taking on positions at local schools, before he decided to seize the opportunity to undertake more study, when the University of Newcastle announced plans to open a campus on the Central Coast, at Ourimbah.

"I developed an interest in computers and marketing and when I heard the University of Newcastle was opening a campus at Ourimbah in 1989, I was keen to enrol in the Bachelor of Business program," Ron said.

"I enrolled as a part-time student and attended the first lecture in business marketing with approximately 35 other students, given in one of two portable classrooms which made up the new campus."

Ron continued to work as a teacher while he completed his degree, and in 1994 graduated from the Bachelor of Business program, alongside four other students who he had met on his first day at Ourimbah Campus.

In 1995, Ron accepted an appointment as a software sales and product manager at Scholastic Australia, based in Lisarow.

"I grew Scholastic Australia's software distribution business by identifying and negotiating with a number of international software publishing and established distribution agreements across Australia," Ron said.

"I was then appointed as the Scholastic New Media Business Unit Manager and led the unit to achieve record sales, sales growth and increases in profit margins.

"The business unit's work was recognised at the time by winning the managing director's award for best business unit performance within Scholastic Australia."

In 2003, Ron decided to take the plunge and follow his passion to operate his own business and established Central Coast event management company, ActionBrands.

"ActionBrands has long-established relationships with events and conferences operated nationwide and in the last 10 years we have helped to deliver more than 100 industry events," Ron said.

"In a nutshell we are organisers who plan and find solutions to whatever is required to ensure that a trade show or conference runs smoothly and effectively."

In 2005, Ron established the Business Factory, which is a business which offers serviced office space to small businesses in the Tuggerah Business Park.

"These two businesses keep me well occupied while allowing me time to follow various personal and family interests."

As a small business owner, Ron believes you need to be across all the aspects of business operations, from sales and marketing through to financial planning and compliance, to ensure that your business continues to grow.

"I liken a university education to cooking. School and trade courses give you the recipe and show you how to cook. Whereas when you attend university you may learn analyse and take it further, giving you the skills to not only cook, but to maybe cook up something new," Ron said.

"Business management is part science and part art. University helps to develop your ability to think strategically and to effectively plan and assess when contingencies need to be implemented.

Ron said the UON Bachelor of Business program provided him with a host of tools and ideas that he will continue to use to continue to grow his business interests, as he moves forward to the next chapter of his life.

"I am looking forward to finding more work-life balance, by cutting back on working hours and building towards an early retirement," Ron said.

"My university journey has given me the confidence to follow my passions and to find a better balance in my life; to have my career and to have an active role in my family, and for that I am very thankful."

Carli Westmore

Carli Westmore

Education pathways lead to dream career in health

CJ Westmore is testament to the adage that with hard work and commitment you can achieve any goal. After finishing up her schooling early without year 12 high school qualifications, CJ found her future at university, and is now working in her dream job as a doctor.

On CJ Westmore's first day of university, she had to ask for help to log into her computer correctly.

Since that day, the now doctor has continued to learn, completing an enabling program to prepare her for her university studies, two health degrees, and plans to further her studies to achieve her dream career as a specialist Dental Surgeon.

"Growing up in the bush and finishing my school studies rather early due to family responsibilities left me without a Year 12 TER qualification, and my dreams of becoming a doctor and surgeon seemed impossible," CJ remembers.

"My first day at the University of Newcastle (UON) was hilarious. I had to ask where the Control, ALT and Delete buttons where located on the computer keyboard, so I could get started."

CJ enrolled in the UON's tertiary preparation program, Open Foundation (intensive) at the Callahan Campus, where she was given the foundations of knowledge that she would draw from as she continued her studies at the Ourimbah Campus, undertaking a Bachelor of Oral Health degree.

"Some of the most challenging yet rewarding study I have ever done was in my first six months of university through the Open Foundation program," CJ recalls.

"Learning the periodic table and taking science classes for the first time, writing all of those assignments and preparing for exams was hard work; but the more I studied, the easier it became."

CJ graduated from the Bachelor of Oral Health program in 2008. The Oral Health program provided CJ with an avenue to study health sciences, and knowledge that would be invaluable as she continues to build her career, towards her goal, of become an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon. This dual medico-dental specialty helps people with diseases, injuries or defects in the head, neck, face, jaws, teeth and soft tissues of the mouth.

"The Bachelor of Oral Health has provided me with the dental skills I can build on for surgery one day," CJ said.

"I hope to pursue a career in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery if I am able. This means a little more study in Dental Surgery and a competitive training program, but I am up for the challenge."

After graduating from the Bachelor of Oral Health program, CJ launched into her next university program, enrolling in the Joint Medical Program, Bachelor of Medicine degree at the UON's Callaghan campus.

"I am really pleased to have graduated from Oral Health and Medicine and to be working as a doctor in our local hospital now," CJ shared.

Now working as a Resident Medical Officer, CJ says that she is still learning more practical skills on the job each day, and has gained great knowledge and experience working through different rotation, in a number of various hospital departments and wards thought the Hunter region.

When invited to deliver an address to the 2013 UON Open Foundation and enabling program graduates, at their graduation ceremony last year, CJ shared one of her first graduate experiences.

"I can still remember how steep the learning curve from theoretical knowledge to practical application of some of the skills was for me," she recounted in her address.

"On one of my first days working as a new doctor in a local hospital emergency department, a patient came in with anaphylactic shock and a nurse turned to me saying: 'What would the doctor like to do' I almost replayed, I'll just go ask them, before realizing that she was referring to me, and that I was actually the doctor now.

"Thankfully, my training kicked back in and I managed to ask for adrenalin and oxygen in time for my patient to recover safely.

"This goes to show, that even when you know your stuff, it can be a big jump from life as a student to life as a graduate and that learning is a lifelong journey."

CJ says that one of the best thing about being a doctor is the numerous options and career pathways that you can pursue.

"The marvellous thing about being a doctor is that there are so many options and pathways to pursue. There are simply so many doors and adventures to be explored," CJ said.

"But the thing I like most about being a doctor, is that every day I can use the skills, that I once thought out of reach for me, to help make a difference in the lives of others, and for that opportunity, I thank God. I am so grateful someone encouraged me to give university a go.

Jennifer Mankelow

Jennifer Mankelow

Better health begins with good oral health 

Helping adults and children to find a better quality of life, by taking care of their oral health, is the professional focus of Golden Scaler Award winner Jennifer Mankelow.

Jennifer Mankelow has found her calling empowering her patients with information, on how best to care for their oral health, to improve their overall wellbeing.

After leaving high school Jennifer (nee Blanch) was unsure of her career direction, and took on work as a dental chair side assistant, to discover that she thoroughly enjoyed working in the health field, and most importantly that she found great satisfaction in helping people.

"After five years working in that role, I decided to further my education and pursue dental hygiene, so I enrolled in a Bachelor of Oral Health program at the University of Newcastle (UON) Central Coast Campus," Jennifer said.

"The degree was a new program offered by the UON and the dentists that I was working with at the time, highly recommended the course, so I was confident that I had made the right choice, and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience."

 Jennifer graduated from the Oral Health program in 2010, with a Dean's Merit Award in recognition of her high-level of academic achievement. She was also acknowledged for her exemplary clinical skills, displayed during her practical placement; beating other dental hygiene students from Australia and New Zealand, to win the Golden Scaler Award.

"All aspects of the Oral Health program have been fundamental in moulding the dental hygienist I have become. The degree involves numerous courses in public health, human bioscience, oral health and nutrition," Jennifer explained.

"I was given skills to educate and motivate individuals to improve the oral and overall health. It also taught me how to communicate with, and respect those around me; my patients, my colleagues and the community.

"I was supported by highly motivated and inspiring clinical tutors and lecturers and I value the influence that they have had on the professional that I am today."

Immediately after graduating, Jennifer began full-time employment at Morrin Dental, in the heart of Newcastle, and 'has not looked back'.

"I work as a Dental Hygienist in a general practice in Newcastle, alongside the principle dentist Mark Morrin," she said.

"I assess an individual's oral health status and educate them about oral health diseases in order to develop and implement treatment plans, with the overall goal of improving their oral health.

"My position also involves visiting local schools and pre-schools presenting educational programs to improve children's knowledge and habits in regards to healthy eating and preventing dental disease."

Jennifer is thankful that she took the advice of her early career mentors, and decided to take the plunge and leave work for full-time study.

"I did not realise how rewarding this profession would be and every day I am thankful that I took the step and begun full-time study," Jennifer said.

"I have found my passion and a career where I can empower people to improve their quality of life.

"I thoroughly enjoy the career I have chosen and can see myself happily continuing in this profession."

Vincent Candrawinata

Vincent Candrawinata

Passionate about improving the value of our food 

The apple juice of tomorrow may be better for us, and generate more profits for producers thanks to the work of Vincent Candrawinata and researchers who are part of a ground-breaking Central Coast research partnership.

Working as part of a university and industry research team, Vincent Candrawinata has learned the value of making the most of what is made available to you.

By pressing whole apples, Vincent and the joint research team from the University of Newcastle and the NSW Department of Primary Industries, have found a way to enrich the nutritional and economic value of its juice.

"Having access to the combined knowledge and expertise of my University supervisor and other academic staff and the DPI researchers has been invaluable to developing my project to ensure that my results will be useful for industry," Vincent said.

"To be able to work in a field that I am fascinated by and to use my knowledge to help to develop a way to enhance the production of an everyday product, is something that I am very proud to have achieved."

The UON Central Coast Campus Food Science Research Higher Degree (RHD) student, was so successful in digesting his research on apple juice, into a 180 second presentation, he was named the winner of the University of Newcastle Three Minute Thesis competition in 2012.

The Three Minute Thesis is an annual competition that tests the capacity of PhD and RHD students, to effectively explain their complex research to a lay audience within a three minute timeframe. Vincent's presentation on apple juice polyphenolic, saw the Indonesian student, and was a semi-finalist, selected from the group of competitors representing many Australian and New Zealand universities, at the competition's 2012 Trans-Tasman Final.

Today, Vincent is working towards the submission of his thesis as part of his PhD in Food Science, at the University of Newcastle Central Coast Campus, after completing his undergraduate and Honours degree programs, in Food Science and Human Nutrition, also at the Ourimbah campus.

"I am currently at the final stage of completing my PhD in Food Science. These past three years after graduating from my Honours degree have been amazing," Vincent said.

"I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to design my research where I work together with the food industry and government body, to provide me with the valuable experience I wanted while doing my PhD.

"Recently, part of my research results was submitted for patent registration, which is exciting."

Working as part of a highly-skilled research team, and working in partnership with industry to innovate and encourage the evolution of the fruit juicing industry, was not the type of project Vincent imagined he would participate when he started his undergraduate degree.

"To be honest, this is not even close to what I imagined when I first started university. I never thought that I would stay after my bachelor degree, because I thought that while formal education is important, so is experiencing the real world," Vincent mused.

"The faculty members in our program have worked hard to ensure that the Food Science program gives us as much relevant knowledge as possible to the student and throughout the three-year degree we had plenty of exposure to the food industry and hands-on experience in the laboratories, which meant I was prepared for entering a future workplace."

Vincent believes not wasting any opportunity and ensuring you are passionate about your choice of field of study, are essential ingredients to a successful university journey.

"I believe that a higher education gives a tremendous advantage in one's career pathway and gives you the skills you need, before jumping right into the work force," Vincent said.

"But you need to be passionate about what you are doing, because when times get tough, focusing on your goals is the best motivator."

Annie Vanderwyk

Annie Vanderwyk

Ensuring need for change is not lost in translation

Helping to overcome cultural differences, to facilitate better outcomes for Aboriginal people and whole communities, is the focus of Annie Vanderwyk's ground-breaking work with the Australian Red Cross.

Annie Vanderwyk has found a new sense of belonging and has discovered her true self, working as a cultural interpreter, translator and facilitator of positive change in Aboriginal communities.

Drawing from her vast personal knowledge as an Aboriginal women, and from the skills and learning she gained studying anthropology and law at the University of Newcastle, the Central Coast grandmother plays a pivotal role helping to empower communities in New South Wales, to devise whole-of-community solutions, for local problems.

"My role as the Aboriginal Programs Implementation Manager NSW, for the Australian Red Cross, is primarily as a facilitator," Annie said.

"I work alongside Aboriginal groups who are engaging with government and non-government agencies, and the greater community, about the use of the culture and lands of the local Aboriginal Nation.

"The key focus of my role is to help to drive change in Aboriginal communities and to work towards a new model of self-governance and independence, to allow for more problem-solving decisions to be made at a local level, rather than from the top down."

Annie had always aspired to pursue tertiary education, in science or literature, but after leaving school after completing the School Certificate in year 10, she was encouraged by her family to pursue work in business administration.

In her twenties and with a young family to support, Annie was a successful business woman operating beauty salons on the Central Coast, when a meeting with an older, lady client, motivated her to reconsider her options and pursue the university experience she had long desired.

"I was cutting the hair of a 75-year-old lady, who was telling me that her greatest dream was to live long enough to complete the Masters in Shakespearian Literature, which she had just commenced," Annie explained.

"That conversation got me thinking about how I would regret not following my passion for reading, history and literature, and my desire to pursue university studies.

"So I decided to go for it, and with the support of my husband and family, I sold my businesses and enrolled in the Open Foundation course at the University of Newcastle (UON) Central Coast Campus, at Ourimbah, and I have not looked back."

After completing the course that provides aspiring undergraduates with the foundation skills needed to undertake their university studies, Annie went on to undertake a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in anthropology and English literature, at the UON Central Coast Campus.

"I loved studying for my undergraduate degree. As a university student I had tapped into my true passion, which showed in my results as I was listed on the Dean's Merit List for my academic achievement for each year of my degree," Annie said.

With a desire to know more, Annie continued on her scholarship of anthropology, and expanded her knowledge base, studying for an Honours degree in Arts and Law, also at the UON.

During her Honours studies, Annie was invited to assist internationally-renowned anthropologist, Dr Diane Bell, in ground-breaking research that aimed to create a framework, for the interpretation of Aboriginal cultural knowledge and the spiritual importance of place to these communities, for the understanding of government and the law.

It was while on a research trip with Dr Bell to the Coorong, at the mouth of the Murray River, in South Australia, that Annie unexpectedly discovered the family of her father, and her Aboriginal origins.

"I was just so thrilled to have, by happenstance, discovered where I belonged, who were my people, and from there everything just seemed to make sense to me – it was definitely a life-changing and life-defining moment."

Annie says her university education had been critical to her gaining the tools and most importantly, the language needed to accurately interpret Aboriginal cultural knowledge, for non-Indigenous communities, law enforcement and government and non-government agencies.

"My education is such a powerful tool for me to express my culture and to connect to my mob and to my place," Annie said.

"It has played an enormous role in my life, having given me the skills to communicate about the issues that matter to Aboriginal people, in a way that the cultural significances and nuisances' are not lost in translation.

"I know that my work is part of a momentum to empower these communities, and that I am helping my people to look to a better future. This is what my university experience has gifted me - a true sense of belonging and an ability to use my knowledge to make a difference."

Eleanore Turvey

Eleanore Turvey

Building a career in caring, one step at a time 

Caring for the foot and lower limb health of the community, while focussing on the development of the next generation of podiatrists, is at the heart of Eleanore Turvey's work as a clinical professional.

Eleanore Turvey is a young professional whose passion for her work is driven by the relationships that she builds with her patients, colleagues and through her mentorship of the podiatrists of tomorrow.

"Throughout my career, I hope to be involved in student supervision, which is an area I enjoy and find very rewarding," Eleanore said.

"I find spending time with students helps to drive my passion for my work and I really enjoy being able to impart knowledge to the podiatrists of the future, just as I gained a significant amount of knowledge from my clinical supervisors and educators at university."

After completing her Higher School Certificate, Eleanore left her family home in Muswellbrook to undertake a Bachelor of Podiatry at the University of Newcastle Central Coast Campus, at Ourimbah.

"I graduated from a Bachelor of Podiatry in 2009, as part of the first cohort to graduate from the program at the UON. I then graduated from a Bachelor of Health Science (Honours) in 2010," Eleanore said.

"After graduating, I became a sole practitioner podiatrist for NSW Health in the Upper Hunter as part of a rural primary health service. "

Eleanore describes her time, working as part of a multidisciplinary team, caring for the foot and lower limb health of the community, of which she grew up, as the most rewarding of her career so far.

"This role forced me to get out of my comfort zone, to trust my judgement and to truly apply everything I'd learnt throughout the course of my university degree," Eleanore said.

"This position gave me a lot of confidence to then go on to work in a position on the Central Coast with NSW Health, which had a greater focus on supporting patients with diabetes and wound care. I was also involved a lot of undergraduate podiatry student supervision, which I thoroughly enjoyed."

Currently working for a private practice, which operates three clinics in the Newcastle area, Eleanore is honing her clinical skills and knowledge, providing treatments for clients with a broad range of health issues.

Eleanore believes the strong clinical placement focus of the UON podiatry program, had helped to the lay the foundations for her to become a confident and capable practitioner.

"At university I really learnt how to stand on my own two feet, step out of my comfort zone and follow my aspirations," Eleanore said.

"The podiatry program involves a lot of clinical placement, at the UON student clinic, now at the Wyong Hospital, in the Ourimbah Campus skills lab and on placements in both the public and private sector.

"The diverse clinical experience that I gained from these placements, as well as the theoretical learning and support of the lecturers, I believe, really helped me in transitioning from university to the working environment, and helped to set me on the path to become the professional that I am today."

Jaculin Perceval

Jaculin Perceval

Fear is no barrier to single mum's success

Jaculin Perceval overcame a phobia of needles, to graduate as one of the top nursing students in her university cohort. But for the single mother, her greatest achievement is how her success has inspired her children to reach for the stars.

Being a single mother to five children presented some challenges for Jaculin Perceval, when she enrolled to complete a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Newcastle – Central Coast.

The Central Coast mum, not only needed to balance the demands of parenthood and family life, with her studies, but she also had to overcome a dilapidating fear of needles, to complete her nursing program.

"Undertaking the Bachelor of Nursing program taught me that life has so many opportunities - you just have to want them bad enough," Jaculin said.

"Whatever your fears, they can be overcome with commitment and the right attitude."

"I have had a severe phobia of needles since I was young, so nursing was not naturally my first choice of career. So I was extremely surprised that in nursing, I had found a career that I not only enjoyed, and found challenging, but through my studies I had found the motivation to overcome my childhood fear."

 After graduation, Jaculin was selected as one of a handful of graduates to be appointed to a graduate nursing position at the John Hunter Hospital, in Newcastle, working in the busy paediatrics unit for a year, before taking on a role as a nurse, undertaking general nursing duties, at the Wyong Hospital.

"Since graduating, I have discovered nursing to be an incredibly diverse occupation with a considerable amount of flexibility in working hours and locations, which helps to balance the demands of work and home life," Jaculin said.

"University study has also given me the confidence and knowledge to consider all sorts of future career options, not just how I can build my clinical career.

"I am very keen to combine my love of finance and business management, with my nursing qualifications, to forge a new career for myself in healthcare management and corporate healthcare, and I am currently considering further university studies to achieve that goal."

Jaculin describes herself as being "empowered and transformed" by her higher education experience, but says this pales in comparison to the pride she has in herself for setting a positive example for her children, of how they too, can transform their lives through education.

"One of the most valuable things that I took away from completion of my studies, other than my qualification, was the knowledge that I achieved such an accomplishment while being a single parent to five children," Jaculin said.

"When I was completing my program, my children saw firsthand the commitment that is required to succeed.  They had no aspirations to study at university before I enrolled, and through my experiences they have learned that university study is not just for intellectuals; it is for everyday individuals like me, and them.

"I am very proud to have been an inspiration to my children, who now all say that they want to be like mum and undertake a university degree."